The Nigerian university system has a governance problem. There must be sincerity on the part of all parties. The buck of resolving the governance issue stops at the President’s table. President Buhari needs to take responsibility. University autonomy says that the governing council is in charge of the University, but I am not sure that within the present model, the Governing Councils are autonomous or independent. Everyone is shouting autonomy; the university workers do not want it implemented. If it is, take for instance staffing, many of the staff would be retrenched as they have no business in the university. Only one third of workers are academic staff. Take the bull by the horn and retain only relevant staff. This is not what any government is bold to implement. Not even Buhari government is showing that type of courage.
Also take the case of tuition fees. The fact is that government is the one who put a cap on what universities can charge. If government is sincere, it will come out in clear terms with a policy on the fact that universities must charge fees. Government can then put a range and cap on the amount as a sort of regulations. Nigerian government have also not shown enough courage to do this, and the present government is also not showing enough courage. University workers who also want to enjoy nearly free tuition are also silent. Sincerity is also missing at both fronts.
Take also the autonomy of Government Councils. The reality is that Governing Councils are government and government is Governing Councils. Toothless Governing Councils will not do anything outside the directive of government. There is no autonomy in the sense that people always cry about. Accountability of Governing Councils should be entrenched in the setting up and implementation of Visitation Panel Reports to uncover bad governance, corruption and vices in the university system. This is the one of the key issues in the 2009 agreement. Unfortunately, neither govt nor management is interested in the implementation of Visitation Panel reports as many could be indicted including high offices in government and the university. Another sincerity issue. This is where to resolve the problem. Like I said earlier. It’s a governance issue.
If University workers want universities to autonomous, they must accept optimal staffing structure, private funding of universities through fees tuition fees and ensure that self-serving policies are removed. If government wants universities to be autonomous, they should take the bull by the horn. Give its stand that students should pay fees, do the correct rightsizing of staffing structure, ensure that accountability and transparency are upheld backed up by credible visitation panel reports. But are the two groups really sincere in resolving this. Government (or maybe govt officials) want to continue to have its hold on the university system The Yoruba says if you desire to give someone a goat, you cannot continue to hold its rope. Govt should allow the autonomy in its correct sense in addition to academic staff autonomy to conduct credible research and report research output without hinderance. Government that has explicitly asked universities not to charge fees is the same government that would turn round to say it does not have money and then blackmail university workers that they are the one preventing it from charging. If government is sincere, let it send a circular that University should charge tuition fees. This is a governance issue.
The issue of salaries is also a big issue in sincerity. Govt has different salary structure and staff of agencies such as NIMC, NITDA, EFCC etc who are also not income generating agencies earn more than university workers. A big one is that the salary of a Chief lecturer in a College of Education is higher than the salary of a University Professor at bar by more than 100,000 naira. This is also sincerity issue on the part of Salary and Wages Commission. Is this also a financial issue that cannot be resolved. Even with the proposed increase in the salary of university workers, the salary of a university professor will also be less than that of a Chief lecturer in College of Education by about 100,000 naira. Can this be a sincere solution?
Many universities are understaffed by academic staff because employment is scheduled from Abuja. The issue of Earned academic allowance is based on the fact that the academic staff should take more load than what their condition of service says they should take. Government agreed that those who teach more than required number of courses (known as FTE) should receive allowance for doing so and not allowing the system to collapse. Insincerity of government then came as government refuses to pay the staff the earned academic allowances as it is called. There is also insincerity on the part of the university workers who did not do any extra job to warrant any additional allowance but will want to enjoy the allowances. Insincerity at both ends.
Government says that IPPIS is illegal and is amenable to high level corruption. Is it appropriate to still insist on the use of a bad product if there is sincerity. If the issue is about discrepancies in salaries occasioned by IPPIS and removal of credible allowances, is it really difficult for any financial apps to be amended to capture these deficiencies. If there is sincerity, this is not difficult.
Sincerity of purpose and sincerity of action are missing, and it appears that *we do not have elders in the country that are respected enough to intervene in the matter*. The Yoruba proverb says that where credible elders are missing, the town becomes desolate. It’s a pity our university is approaching being desolate. Where are the Nigerian elders. People can continue to vilify university workers, but government holds the largest blame. We can be autocratic and try to whip university workers into line. Will this ensure motivation and good service delivery in the university that is already challenged. Are we sure we can still ensure staff motivation for credible service delivery? If the strike ends today, are we sure that that the workers will still be committed to the University system?
Apparently, the present government neither wants to solve the financial issues, nor solve the problem of accountability and transparency in the universities. Incidentally, only GOVERNMENT HOLDS THE KEY. *My take is that it is time CREDIBLE ELDERS IN THE COUNTRY STOOD UP TO INTERVENE*. They should discuss with both parties showing sincerity of purpose and action. Nobody should talk down on the other group. I look around the country and wonder. Who are these CREDIBLE LEADERS? Who are the mentors and wise elders that both government and university workers respect? Everybody is trading blames. Every side is passing the buck. But the buck stops at the President’s table. Laissez-faire leadership will not resolve it. Leaders don’t sit on the fence. They act and take action. Is our President also ready to come down from the emperor status where kings talk down on subjects? Are the subjects ready to crawl before the emperor? I can only be worried as someone whose life revolve round the university system as a university worker, father of three university students who are at home and relation to many whose business is dependent on the university system. Anyway, no problem goes on forever. This one will also pass. Leaders look for solutions. They think about solutions, and they think about the welfare of their followers. Sometimes in the future, we will look back and tell the story. A story of survival. A story the way we endured wickedness. *Whether we believe or not, there will be a solution to this one too. There are always solutions to every problem. The solution to this one is also nearby. If not now, then soon. Maybe, very-very soon…*
Lanre Olaniyan, University of Ibadan, 05 September 2022