President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Friday, received a damning verdict from the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
The administration has failed the people, ASUU said.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, was represented at the event by his Special Adviser, A.B. Baffa.
The president of ASUU, Nasir Isa, while addressing the conference, said, Mr. Buhari was waging a “half-hearted” fight against corruption, and that the poor was getting poorer, while “a tiny club of nouvea riche, treasury looters, phantom contractors, subsidy scammers and rent collectors are flowing in scandalous opulence and manipulating the legal structures of the state to escape.
“One year after, there has been no positive change in the major indices of growth and development, be it poverty reduction, safety and security, disease control or access to basic amenities and public good,” he said.
Mr. Isa said the government appeared to have no direction in its policies, thereby causing Nigerians to be disillusioned with it.
“The disappointment of Nigerians stems from the fact that we have a government whose leadership promised change but which is not practising transformation (deep, fundamental change).
“Democracy in Nigeria is still seen superficially as what leaders do for the people rather than government by the people,” ASUU said.
Mr. Isa, whose tenure as ASUU president comes to an end at the two-day conference, said the Nigerian government has abandoned a socialist welfare state prescribed by the provisions of Chapter Two of the 1999 Constitution, and embraced unfavourable policies handed down by IMF and World Bank.
“As intellectuals, we know the Nigerian condition is a reflection of the conspiracy between African rulers and agents of Bretton Wood Institutions particularly the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB),” Mr. Isa said.
“The conspiracy was consummated in the 1980s when these institutions for the protection and advancement of capitalism, came up with their ‘standard reform package’ now known as the ‘Washington consensus.’
“This package was designed for the African and other underdeveloped economies in order to perpetuate their enslavement to the capitalist world. Many of us would recall General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s debate on this ‘consensus’ in 1985/86.
“Even though the Nigerian people overwhelmingly rejected the IMF/WB loan, the Babangida Government still went ahead to implement the key neoliberal prescriptions of devaluation of the Naira and trade liberalisation.
“President Olusegun Obasanjo and his successors from 1999 have unabashedly intensified the implementation of this package through criminal privatisation and commercialisation of public assets, in faithful surrender to the Washington ‘consensus.’
“In all of these, the Nigerian ruling class is unmindful of stiff resistance by the labour movement, civil society groups, the media and other progressive forces in the country.
This is much unlike what obtains in other climes such as the Asian Tigers (Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea) who got industrialised without surrendering their economies to the prowling reach of local and foreign marketers of the ‘Washington consensus’,” the union said.
Mr. Isa said ASUU must not relent in working with other progressives to fight for the common good of Nigerians.
He announced that ASUU has donated an initial sum of N20 million to help ameliorate the sufferings of Nigerians displaced from their homes and communities in the North East, due to the insurgency in the region.
He said the amount was in addition to the N5million earlier donated by the union to the National Hospital, Abuja, for medical assistance to the victims of the Nyanya Motor Park bomb blast.
The ASUU president paid glowing tributes to late Eskor Toyo, a revered professor of economics, whom he said was “a great institution on his own right”.
Mr. Isa said of late Toyo: “He was a grand meteor, an economist who attained an unparalleled height in the discipline, a historian’s historian, an unusually endowed political iconoclast who offered himself to the vagaries of life and yet remained a credible spokesperson for the voiceless members of our world, an Africanist, a rare intellectual warrior, a writer who wrote to right the wrongs of his time, an educator who spoke to conscience.”
The Minister of Education, Mr. Adamu, in his goodwill message to the conference, said the Buhari administration was “peerlessly committed to the resuscitation or restoration of the Nigerian Project by confronting the evils of corruption, unemployment, insecurity and indiscipline”.
Mr. Adamu called on ASUU to support his Ministerial Action Plan, which he said was designed to reposition Nigeria’s ailing education sector.