Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday called on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to use the opportunity of the ongoing xenophobic attacks in South Africa to properly re-position and fix Nigeria.
The union said Nigerians would not be forced to join the increasing army of global migrants and wanderers in search of elusive greener pastures if the country was economically buoyant and politically stable.
ASUU National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, who briefed journalists at the end of the union’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held at the Federal University of Agriculture in Abeokuta (FUNAAB), also urged the Buhari administration to declare a state of emergency on the nation’s education sector.
Ogunyemi, who was flanked by the ASUU-FUNAAB Chairman, Dr. Adebayo Oni, and other union leaders, decried the poor living condition in Nigeria which is forcing citizens to flee.
The ASUU president noted that as the federal government begins the evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa in response to xenophobic attacks, adequate and sustainable welfare package should be activated for the evacuees.
He explained that with the increasing insecurity, mindless betrayal of the people’s trust by elected politicians, mass unemployment of the teeming youth, ethno-religious conflicts and rising cases of violent crimes and criminalities in the country, there are ominous signs of a failing Nigerian nation.
Ogunyemi submitted that if Nigerian leaders fix the country, the citizens would prefer to stay back and rather contribute their quota to its development.
According to him, “We have the resources to compete and beat South Africa on any ground such that the respect would be mutual. But, today, they see us as dependent, inferior and people they could just discard with.
“If you go to South African universities, maybe 50 per cent of their top notch scholars are people from Nigeria or tutored by Nigerians. The academic and intellectual community in South Africa respects Nigerians. But, when you now start to compete with their income section, there is bound to be conflict.
“If we fix our country, South Africa will respect us. We lost our respect the moment we can no longer cater for our citizens. Even if we bring back people from South Africa and we don’t have plans for them, they will still find a way of going back.
“ASUU believes that Nigeria is not inferior to any country in this world. What we only need to do is to get our acts right, fix our country; even leading countries in the Western world will respect us. We remain dependent and that is why we call Nigeria dependent peripheral rentier country. Nigeria operates at the fringes of global economy.
“If we have a country that does not respect his intellectual community, that country will never witness what we call transformation because education is the catalyst to development.”
The union leader lamented that the critical sector of the Nigerian nation, including education, health and power, had continued to deteriorate on account of wanton corruption and the alleged deliberate mismanagement of the economy by an insensitive and reckless ruling class.
He also condemned the move by the National Assembly to purchase exotic vehicles for Senators and House of Representatives members, describing it as insensitive and provocative.
Ogunyemi warned that if the nation’s leaders failed to find solution to the problems confronting the country, they risk the citizens’ anger.
He said: “Nigerians have been subjected to decreasing infrastructural decay, abandoned educational institution and accumulation of months of unpaid salaries in many states and decrease in value of lives and properties.
“It is not only uncharitable that a government that is still foot-dragging in finalising the framework for paying the minimum wage at a time our National Assembly is planning to spend billions of Naira on the purchase of exotic luxury vehicles for themselves. It is not only uncharitable, it is inhuman.”