An intervention by the Nigerian Senate and a Non-governmental Organization, Vision Africa, has forced the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) to suspend the planned shutdown of Abuja.
NANS, through their National President, Sunday Asefon, had threatened to shutdown Abuja and ensure that political parties did not hold their primaries election in Abuja.
But looking at the implications of the protest by the students that have been out of school for over three months, the founder of Vision Africa and the Bishop, Methodist Diocese of Umuahia, Dr Sunday Onuoha intervened.
The Bishop who had a series of meetings with the leadership of NANS, initiated a discussion with the leadership of the national assembly which led to the suspension of the planned protest.
Speaking when the convener of the Vision Africa, Bishop Sunday Onuoha lead them to meet with the leadership of the National Assembly, the National President of NANS, Sunday Asefon, said they planned to shutdown Abuja because the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, who apparently don’t care about how they can resolve the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government face-off.
“We decided that no political party will hold a primary in Abuja because the issue of the strike action embarked upon by ASUU for months has been neglected. But with the intervention of Vision Africa through Bishop Sunday Onuoha, we want ASUU and the federal government to go back to the negotiation table so that we can go back to school. The Senate has done it before, we are ready to allow for such an atmosphere,” Asefon said.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who promised they are going to intervene, said the 2009 agreement shouldn’t have been signed.
“There is no way the government can handle that agreement. It is a contentious issue because some people only wanted ASUU to go back to the classes. The federal government must always remain truthful because I don’t see how they will get that money.
“We must be truthful. We sit here because we were able to go to school and no nation can develop without giving education to its citizens. You have to educate the people and get them ready. Education institutions generally must be alive to the reality. We must be ready to spend on educating our citizens. Malaysia and other countries are developing because they invest in education,” Lawan said.
“We are going to intervene. We will bring ASUU and the federal government back to the negotiating table. Stop the planned protest so that we can bring everybody to the table. Give us a chance to do that believing that we are going to find a solution. We will start the negotiation again,” Lawan assures.
“Don’t disrupt the activities of political parties. We don’t need to do that. Let’s avoid confrontation. When we emphasize consultation, it is much easier for us. We will be together with you. We have taken the prayer, we have endorsed it and we will work for it.
“Let me call on ASUU to suspend this 12 weeks strike period. There is no way they can negotiate when they are on strike. I want to promise you that we will push from the legislative angle so that together, we will resolve the issue.
“We are not happy that you are at home. This is a country where we expect youths to be very educated because we are supposed to export skills and labour to other countries. I want to thank Bishop Sunday Onuoha for his patriotism.
“I hope you will get a national honour for your patriotism and statesmanship. We thank you for intervening. The Bishop is here because he doesn’t want you to go the wrong direction. For him to be a shepherd, you must give him that opportunity. Allow us to go on consultation and not confrontation,” Lawan added.
Speaking, the founder of Vision Africa, Bishop Sunday Onuoha said if one pretends a boil is not there, it does not go away by being ignored.
The Bishop who said the issues raised in the 2020 FGN/ASUU Memorandum of Action (MoA), declared on 14th March 2022, can be laid out, reassessed, and revisited with a view to possibly implementing what was agreed on, added that: “the nation is unfortunately faced with the serious challenge of keeping ourselves, and our young, safe, so it is disheartening to have to grapple with the neglect of the only sector, that not only will keep them gainfully engaged, but will ensure they don’t miss out from the advancements happening in other albeit peaceful or calm nations.
“We can feign helplessness with the “enemy outside” as if the wailings of a nation is music to the ears; but our negligence in letting the lives of our young generation waste away, while they watch some of the political-elite do the dance of shame, to drums beaten by monsters we created ourselves, is like feeding the “enemy within”, and pointing fingers at the forest as the criminal,” Bishop Onuoha said.
“Where are the children of the elite and the affluent right now? They have been whisked away abroad, to learn in better managed institutions, with money that can feed an entire village fat. They have little worries about tomorrow, because the present is almost sure as they look into the horizon from a clear prism.
“But the average Nigerian youth worries about the next school fees, his parents’ unpaid salary arrears, unpaid pensions, ‘bad market’ and poor business turnover. For those who scale all of that hurdle and gather the fees and the gumption to face school, they are locked out of the only institution that promises a pathway out of the maze.
“How will they catch up with their peers around the world, when they are shut out from learning? Are we not politicizing their future over very petty and flimsy arguments? Will we ever be able to fully assess the long-term impact of these recurrent and counter-productive ASUU strikes? What does their future look like as these prolonged kitchen fights continue to endanger their future and truncate their ambitions and life goals?
“For those who take the Israelite journey in the wilderness called school, and finally graduate, only a handful make it to the labour market while a majority make up our overflowing unemployed demographic. What is the weight of the certificate he spent 7 years, instead of 4 to achieve, even while spending most of that time at home doing nothing?
“Where is the middle line? Can the parties regroup at the dialogue table and find an agreeable mid-course? Can we sheath the swords and resolve all outstanding issues, so that our children can resume in these institutions.”
“The issues raised in the 2020 FGN/ASUU Memorandum of Action (MoA), declared on 14th March 2022, can be laid out, reassessed, and revisited with a view to possibly implementing what was agreed on.
It is criminal to ignore, neglect or mismanage the educational sector, as we are headed towards a state of anarchy if not nipped at this stage. A well moderated dialogue, with well-intentioned and empathetic mediators/leaders appears to be the way to unravel this deadlock, and provide amicable solutions.
“I plead with all parties involved to look back on the streets and see our children out there, under the rains of our indecisions. We can make this work if we are determined to work at it, so our students can be brought back inside, to study and be empowered to equitably compete Bishop Onuoha said adding that he has confidence it can be achieved.