Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Nigerian President-elect, made some promises to Nigerian students.
One of which was that his administration would put an end to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) incessant strike, has elicited mixed reactions from students. While some students doubt the promises, some hope for the best and its fulfilment.
The President-elect Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, during his acceptance speech in Abuja, after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared him the winner of the February 25, 2023 presidential election, made some promises to students.
Tinubu promised to work with youths, stressing that he would pay undivided attention to their education.
“I will pay undivided attention to your education, four years course will be four years course, no more strike, your universities will have autonomy, no more selling of handouts, our lecturers must be authors. I know where it pains you and I believe you will see the reward of your election,” he said.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) last year embarked on a nationwide industrial strike that lasted for eight months resulting from the failure of the government to reach an agreement with the union.
The prolonged strike caused a drastic setback on the academic calendar of federal and some state universities which joined in the struggle. One of the effects of the strike is the unsavoury occurrence which made a four-year programme become a six-year programme and even more.
According to a report, ASUU has spent over four years on strike since 1999 and if care is not taken it might linger for more years.
However, students gave their views about the promises while hoping that the President-elect will fulfill his promises.
Mohammed Taoheed, a Law student at Usmanu Danfodiyo University (UDUS), Sokoto State, said it’s a welcome idea if Tinubu will stick to his promise.
His words: “It’s a welcome idea because many students are tired. I keep missing many opportunities because I’m not a graduate yet. I can’t just wait to be out of the four corners of the university.
“It is one thing to promise, it is another to fulfill it. The promise, if fulfilled, is a good thing because it will benefit all and sundry. Many firms out there need qualified graduates to work for them, but these students are delayed for years because of the inconsequential demands of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
“I implore Tinubu to keep to this promise so that we can have a prosperous nation.”
Sophia Adinlewa, a 300-Level student of Mass Communication at Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko narrated how she was affected by the previous strikes.
“The strikes were unforgettable ones. I remembered that I was admitted for a four-year course, only for (ASUU) to shatter my plans. It’s so annoying to see your colleagues in private institutions graduate before you. At times, it leads one to start learning handiwork. Sometimes after the resumption, reading for exams becomes difficult and the course looks strange to you because of the prolonged strike.
“I’m indifferent about the promise of the President-elect, Tinubu. He’s not some miracle worker, but who knows? V He can surely put things in place, but until I see it happening, I’m not moved by the promises,” she said.
Also, Adefila Ademola Oluwatobi, an Accounting student at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), said he has given up on Nigeria’s educational system for some reasons, but towards the promises, positivity should be sustained.
“Well, I feel it’s easier said than done. This is not the first time I would be hearing there would be an end to the endless ASUU strike. I lost trust and belief long ago in Nigeria’s educational system, but then, let’s be positive like I said, it’s easier said than done,” he said.
Peace Oladipo, a Mass Communication student at the Federal University Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) said with Tinubu in power, he will influence policies in favour of students and make the educational system of the country better.
“What I know about Tinubu following his antecedents is that he’s a worker, a strategist and aside from that he loves when things are working. I have seen how the works of his hands are, I mean the organisations he is running, they are working well.
“So, I will say that almost every sector of the government will work with Tinubu in power. About schools, I believe with the power that Tinubu has as the President, he will be able to influence policies that will favour students and of course, achieve a better life for students.”
She added: “Someone once told me that no matter who emerges as the next president of this country, students will know the difference. The new president will bring in better things and joy for students, not the sorrow and delay they’re experiencing. So, I believe in Tinubu that he will better the lives of students and also make the educational system of this country better when he fully becomes the president.”
Samson Isaac, a 100-Level student of Mathematical Sciences at Bayero University, Kano State, said: “Well, we have experienced so many failed promises as students from our leaders, particularly in Nigeria, so we can’t put our hopes on the promises of anybody, but it’s better to have a positive mindset than a negative. Overall, we pray for a better Nigeria and a good education.
“The strike for me has done more good than bad, it has affected my spiritual and mental growth greatly in a positive way, the only negative thing about the strike is that it has delayed students academically,” he said.
As far as Williams Owoeye, a student at the University of Ibadan (UI) is concerned, where will students get the means to pay back the loans if granted according to promises?
His words: “Where will people get the means to pay back the student loan? Even in the US, they are clamouring for loan relief. None of these things makes sense to me. Also, does operating independently mean privatisation? If not, what purpose will independence serve? It’s a political gimmick at best and I’m certain an average Nigerian student is more aware of his erroneous declaration of eight years for undergraduate studies during one of his campaign rallies than the so-called promises.”
Opeyemi Oladapo, a student at the University of Lagos, Akoka, Yaba, Lagos, said: “Well, such a statement, I believe, is no doubt a reassuring one as it saves lots of stress and time-wasting in one’s life.
“As a fact, if such a pronouncement is made to give education loans to students, and allow federal universities to operate independently, it should give way to sure job opportunities after school because such students will be obligated to refund the loan which can only be done if he or she is working and earning well. So, I practically believe that if such a policy holds then we are looking at exponential mindsets towards development,” she said.
Meanwhile, Chika Igba, a student of Mass Communication at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka (UNIZIK) said: “I think it’s an empty promise to raise citizens’ hope and get youths’ support. That would be very unlikely but of course, this is a biased point of view because, with the numerous failed promises, I don’t exactly put my hope in what they (the government) say.”
Another student, Richard Aladejana at AAUA is hopeful that Tinubu can halt the incessant strikes plaguing the academic system in the country.
He said: “Well, I will say the promise of no more strikes to me is very much obtainable in a nation such as ours, why because the causes of the incessant strikes have been based on the government not fulfilling promises to the universities.
“When he says there won’t be a strike any more, I think he knows what he is saying because from what we had about him, he has a track record of fulfilled promises.”
Adelaja Oluwasegun of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at FUTA said: “On hearing his promises for Nigerian students. I wasn’t moved and I’d implore my fellow students not to build on it because it is political. We’ve heard several promises from past presidential candidates with little or no results.
“I believe so much that the President in Nigeria is just like a figurehead, they’re not the one in total control as most people think; so they have very limited impact. The main issue is the laws and political structures that govern the activities of the president. The president can budget $1 billion for a project, but the Senate can decide to cut it down to S500 million or less which directly/indirectly means the President’s goodwill for his people can’t be accomplished (most times results in incomplete projects and more).
“In essence, Nigeria’s policies, systems and political structure need to be restructured from the Senate down to the local government authorities before we can make progress in the educational sector,” he said.
There is hope, say lecturers
An Associate Professor at the Department of Mass Communication, UNILAG, Olunifesi Adekunle Suraj, said Tinubu is burdened with the challenges of the university system as such, he is going to address the problems that affect students.
His words: “Tinubu’s promise is borne out of his desire and his concern for tertiary institutions in Nigeria. It’s something we all know that four years is no longer four years because of so many issues, either ASUU strike burn out of lack of funding for education, dilapidated and congested classrooms, no money to do research, outdated equipment and so many other things. These are some reasons for the strike and most of the programmes are interrupted.”
“So, he (Tinubu) is going to address all those problems that will affect students not graduating at the right time. What he’s saying is that he will probably attend to funding issues, infrastructural problems, staff welfare and all the problems confronting education. Why I want to believe him is that, before the election, Tinubu gave about N1 billion to LASU for infrastructural development. Such a person like that who doesn’t have a university called his own like other people do and he’s not doing business with university. We can say that such a person might likely mean what he’s saying because he’s burdened with the challenges of the university system.”
He further stressed that strike does not help any institution or the academics of students. He said academic staff are at a loss when institutions are being interrupted by strikes.
“No lecturer has to be on strike because the reason why lecturers are in the system is for the students, to teach them, and one of the joys of lecturers is to successfully shun out products that meet the quality outside there. So if students are having an intermediate break in between their studies, it doesn’t portray the university well. When a university is not stable, it will not attract good grants from international bodies, not bring multiculturalism, and not enable a well-planned exchange programme. In a way, a strike does not help any institution or academics. The institution and academic staff lose a lot when institutions are being interrupted by strikes,” he said.
A Web Master at Adekunle Ajasin University, Mr. Yinka Fadayomi also said: “All I know is that Tinubu will surely deliver on all his promises. There is hope.
“Our universities can now be globally competitive. In what way? Funding of universities will put an end to strike. Then, there will be stable academic calendar.”
Source: The Nation