In our parlance, the appellation, “market woman” is generally suggestive of an uneducated, loud-mouthed, uncouth local petty trader that is evidently bereft of sophisticated ideas on any issue beyond her wares.
When the other day a former minister referred to a serving minister of the federation as acting like a “market woman”, I didn’t quite get the pejorative connotation of that statement until I saw the uneducated analysis of Ms. Felicia Sanni, a self-styled market woman, of the ongoing ASUU strike on TV.
Desperate situations call for desperate solutions and there is no doubt that the crises that are presently bedevilling the higher education sector in Nigeria are such that require some unorthodox prescriptions. For more than three months now, public universities have been shut down due to the inability of the feuding parties to reach a compromise. The battle line is well-known: ASUU is demanding that government fulfils an agreement it reached with it in 2009 on how to save the nation’s universities from collapse. On the other hand, government is proposing a piecemeal selective approach. That is what has created the debilitating impasse.
We have argued on this page that education is too vital to the survival of any nation that it should be treated as a subject beyond politics or evasive polemics. It is not deniable that Nigeria is presently not doing enough, by world standards, in the funding of her children’s education. As far as the government is concerned, there are other competing items for the limited funds available but that is where the question of priority comes in.
Closing the campuses down for too long is bad for the simple reason that even if government decides to assume its responsibilities today and meet all the demands of ASUU, as legitimate as they are, the lost academic ground will never be recovered and the bad image that the nation’s educational system has fallen into will take a much longer time to redeem. That is why many Nigerians of goodwill, including yours sincerely, have been pleading that all parties should find a middle ground and end the strike.
It is therefore regrettable, to say the least, that rather than sit up and tackle the problem squarely, all that seem to be taking place are crude name-calling and some uncanny stratagem designed to paint the other side black. The other day, the government alleged that ASUU is politically motivated in calling for the repairs of our dilapidating campuses. Such claims betray serious misunderstanding of the depth of the rot that our educational system is in. In the same vein, it should be clear to anyone now that Nigeria is not as rich as she is supposed to be due to several factors such as the expanding corruption, oil theft and the lingering insecurity that has imposed a war-like economy on the nation, irrespective of the baseless official claims of “all correct.”
The whole thing took a dramatic dimension last week when a group of women, obviously hired, going under the name of “market women” stormed Abuja, feigning the prolonged closure of the universities for their asoebi outing. They lounged into some stupid rationalisation of the crisis at hand. From the statement made by their spokeswoman, Ms Felicia Sanni, it is obvious that they have no idea of what the problems on our campuses are all about. Typical of a “market woman”, she gloated that, “We have seen their secret, how can state universities be demanding equal salaries with federal universities, they want to close Nigeria down, if we protest they say America, America is over 360 years since it gained independence, we are just 53…The President has grown grey hair overnight due to incessant strikes…” She added that, “We all know what they do with our year-one daughters in the university. We equally know that they sell hand-outs and handbooks.” Really?
She sounded like a puppet under the pull of some rough strings. The sad part is that whoever engaged her didn’t quite brief her well. The solution to the crisis on our campuses cannot be resolved through an “Area Girls” abusive approach. Neither is the blame allotment that one-sided. Such may work in the crude Nigerian partisan politics arena but it is totally off the mark when we are dealing with issues about the future of our children. The way she made her case based on faulty factual declarations is yet another reason why we should invest a lot more in education. It is quite obvious that ignorance is a disease worse than cancer.
Our “concerned mothers” ought to have been told by those who sponsored them that a university degree without the requisite competence and skill will not fetch their children jobs neither will it prepare them for self-employment, a worse outcome than the present annoying stay-at-home. They should also have been educated about the fact that Nigerian employers do not yet discriminate between graduates from a state university in the village and a federal university in the city. What is more, professors are not just local or even national commodities, they are actually international hot cakes and all universities strive for universal status.
My good friend, Dr. Reuben Abati, in trying to undermine the spontaneous character and the legitimacy of the last fuel price hike the other day alluded to some rioters at Ojota who were handed over designer T-shirts, supplied with jollof rice and wine as well as serenaded with high quality pop music as incentive for rallying against the government. Someone must have learnt a trick from that episode and decided to rent some chubby-looking women, obviously “empowered” beyond their wildest dreams, to embark on an Aluta against ASUU. I must say here that there is really nothing new about that as we have been dealing with shameless crowd renting since the Daniel Kanu concessioned three-Million-Man March of the heady Abacha days. It is probably now the turn of market women, be they at Kokori or at Abuja. Same motive: Kudi.
The market women have threatened to deal with ASUU ostensibly on behalf of Mr. President whose expanding grey hair they found worrisome. They certainly want him to look a bit of an “a-young-e”. Good. But uneasy, they say, lies the head that wears the crown. From the tone of their threat, I won’t be surprised if these market women force their way into our classrooms and laboratories and start to pontificate in place of those professors whose “secret” they have since discovered.