This headline came from a friend who has been in the police force for 15 years.
He said this when I told him that I have a brother who earns N176, 000 monthly in his ten years of service as a lecturer at the Nigeria Police Academy.
My police friend laughed but would not disclose his salary. He said, “We are poorer than lecturers, yet we don’t go on strike.”
He lamented that his two children had been home for about three months now because of the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities
“You may allege that many police officers take bribe, there are some who do not. Some lecturers do take bribe too in cash and in “kind”, he said.
Nigeria Police Academy is like a federal university for the police. I also learnt that lecturers at the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna do not get big salary too and they do not go on strike.
Many of my colleague journalists who had worked for more than 20 years still earn as low as N100, 000 compared to N176,000 my lecturer brother is getting after 10 years.
Journalists hardly go on strike even now that “brown or white envelope” had eloped with President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. There are lesser randy journalists than lecturers based on media reports.
As a matter of fact, the media industry is not only affected by the current economic situation, most professionals who work with private companies do not have their salaries reviewed. They stay on the same salary for years. The policy of the International Labour Organisation does not work here.
A few of my colleagues who left journalism for lecturing, except those in private institutions are now complaining seriously about being in academic, even though they left due to low wages or their passion for academic.
Some of them who hardly complained about poor finance as journalists had since embraced the obsolete striking idea of our varsity lecturers to raise their pay and working standard. What they could tolerate in the media industry has suddenly become alien to them because strike is a culture in our university.
My brother at the police academy also told me that the younger lecturers in the university did not like this archaic industrial action by ASUU but the old ones among them who had projects outside the university community to deliver. A few of them who do not believe in this incessant strike came together to form Congress of Universities Academics, CONUA sometime ago.
Another young lecturer who is now an associate professor at one of the first generation varsities described the old academics as the loudest who always claim to be more patriotic than any other Nigerian.
He said, “Like our politicians, these old timers make money either as consultants for government or private companies and also enroll their children in foreign universities. They turn their place of primary assignment to relaxation centre to discuss politics and go back home.”
No doubt, the Federal Government is not doing enough to lift the country’s education out of the present predicament, we must also know that its ineptitude is not limited to this sector, it extends to all sectors, including health, power and security.
Nevertheless, many professionals in other sectors have realised that strike would not help their agitation but continuous engagements with the government, perhaps things will change with good leadership and their own personal resolve to make this country work again. The strike, for me is like helping the government to destroy public institutions the more and creating opportunity for private institutions to thrive to the detriment of poor parents.
As far as this country is concerned today, the most challenging profession is soldiering and policing where the officers are not well equipped and not well paid, yet they give it their all to protect the sovereignty of the country, lives and properties of the citizens.
For instance in the eastern part of the country, some police officers dare not put on their uniforms because of the attack by IPOB militants. At some police divisional offices in the east, only five officers resume for duty with limited number of bullets in their guns, yet they cannot go on strike because of the nature of their trade.
Bandits, terrorists kill our soldiers at will because the military lacks the weapons and personnel. These set of people have family, yet they dare the killers, most times lose their lives while protecting the lecturers and their children.
For me, it is not illegal for some of our agitated lecturers to change trade if they cannot tolerate the stinking education sector and move to a better sector that can sustain their economy. Let them turn their gowns to towns by not only deliver to us theory but practical that will grow our schools and businesses.
In one of his numerous writings, the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo said that he quit journalism because the money in the profession would not make him to accomplish his dreams. He ventured into business and was successful.
The lecturers of today are not fighting for the country but their purses and have contributed immensely to the fall and fall of tertiary education by their strike action. The best of them who really love the profession steadily raise their game either by moving to private institutions or foreign universities.
What is it that the lecturers are asking for that cannot be resolved. It is about money not about quality education after all.
Having reported education for some years, what I observed was that there were exceptional academics who would go out of what government could provide to attract foreign research grants because of their brilliant proposals. They are few in number just as in journalism too where some are keen in writing award winning stories and some do politics to get promotion.
There are many of such in public universities, yet they weaponise the strike action to mortgage the future of Nigerian youths. ASUU should come out with new weapon of negotiation, enough of strike.