Mr. President, please do not mistake this piece for an attack on your person because it is not. Neither would I want you to see me as one of those attention-seeking people because I am not. Of course, Sir, I am also not the son of any governor, senator, local government chairman or any political office holder, otherwise, I would have no business writing such an open letter to you because it is against my family’s ethics to ‘talk while eating’. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness of educational misery, saying, “Prepare the way for either a future of political stability and economic boom or prepare for worse than what religious extremists are meting out to our country now”.
As I write on this sultry day, I am completely at a loss to know what to make of my future from here. If this were just the case, it would, probably, be an insignificant reason to go on the rampage with the sword of the pen. But, I write on behalf of the millions of dreams that are getting squashed by the day as the total shut-down of our universities persists. I write on behalf of the future of the several hundreds of thousands who have been privileged, amidst the stiff competition for admission, to grasp tertiary education but may end up worse than their disadvantaged counterparts, since they may never finish, much less finish on schedule their educational pursuits. The handwriting on the wall, clearly now, more than ever before foretells a dangerous twist to the continuing imbroglio between your administration and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). I do not know if the public keeps the date as much as we do but it is well over 75 days already and I cannot help but wonder if anyone really cares what becomes of our street-wandering undergraduates. If I had a next life, I hope to never be a Nigerian or be born with a silver spoon because the poor are really just ‘on their own’ as long as our government is concerned. Mr President, in three simple words, “We are tired”. We, the students in the federal universities, are always at the receiving end of every impasse between ASUU and the government and all I can ask for now is that you and your think tank reconsider your stand on the matter. We can only bear this much!
I am not ASUU’s spokesman but it is only logical that I expect your administration to honour the 2009 agreement with the Union so normalcy can return to our campuses and of course, our disenchanted academic lives. Personally, I have spent more years than is required to have my first and second degrees and yet I am grappling to take a Bachelor’s degree out of an institution that only recently had an internal strike because you would have our name ‘rebranded’. Mr President, every day this strike continues, more dreams die and more future riff -raff are born. It is my firm belief that children still do bear the sins of their fathers and even when you are no more, posterity will remember your progenitors for good or ill based on how you handle this national educational crisis we suffer now. It goes without saying that for 14 years that your party has held sway over the affairs of this nation, we cannot boast of a Nigerian university (not a single one) amongst the first 2000 in the world. This is more than enough reason to release the requisite fund for the upgrade of our educational infrastructure as well as the welfare of the future’s moulders. It will only be emphatic to say that we can get out of our educational system as much as we invest in it and though investment in educational is long term, it is also long-rewarding. Your administration will only be breeding poor intellectuals, who will, in turn, produce another generation of mediocre graduates and in 10 years, what do we have, sir? A national carnage! Our unborn children are in jeopardy of being societal scum even before their conception. But you can change all of this!
The greatest weapon of mass destruction is to put a teacher who knows nothing before the students. This will be the case if your administration does not honour the 2009 agreement with ASUU such that lecturers’ welfare gets taken care of.
Mr President, the one second of your time which I asked for is almost up but I am optimistic that if you give utmost diligence to putting an end to the incessant strikes that have been plaguing our tertiary educational system as much as you do to security matters or party issues and conventions, we would not be where we are today: struggling to maintain peace in our land.
I reiterate my advice, sir. Honour the 2009 agreement with ASUU so we may return to our lecture rooms and pick up the pieces of our scattered semesters. So I can round off my first degree programme and go on to patriotically serve my fatherland. So, I can focus on growing my baby company to maturity and provide jobs for the teeming unemployed youths. So, I can get married, give my mother her first grandchild and keep my late father’s name as his only son. So, I can fulfil my dreams of helping young people reach the zenith of their potential through my writing, public speaking and role-modelling. Mr President, help me and my fellow undergraduates live decent lives even if our parents are not among the top one per cent who squander our national earnings in the name of political office holders. Would you do this for me, for us, for Nigeria’s future? I hope you do. Thank you, sir, for giving me a second of your time.
Oyeniyi is an undergraduate student of the University of Lagos. [email protected]