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I wrote this piece exactly last year in the month of Ramadan (12th June, 2016) on the precarious industrial crisis in Kogi State University, Anyigba with practical recommendations. The post went viral to the extent that those that used me to seek favour, printed a copy from a “beer parlour” and forwarded to the highest authority in kogi state.
Eventually, this was the write – up that earned me the title; “anti” and “enemy” of the Government. I want you to read this unedited piece once again to properly guide your judgement of my intention for the government especially on the issues bothering on the University and other tertiary institutions that are unfortunately on another rounds of protracted industrial action since February, 2017.
God bless Kogi State.
PERSONAL OBSERVATION ON THE ISSUE OF MASS EXODUS OF QUALIFIED ACADEMIC STAFF FROM KOGI STATE UNIVERSITY, ANYIGBA: MATTERS ARISING
I have made several attempts to air my personal opinion on the issue of mass exodus of qualified academic staff from KOGI State University, Anyigba but have bn prevented by my close friends bcos of misinterpretation and misrepresentation. I am compelled to go against the advice of my friends because I am first and foremost a Kogite, a Nigerian and a member of the academic community before occupying any position of authorities. For those that know me closely, the last thing that will come from me is not to state issue as I know. So in this case, I remain committed to my principle by highlighting some issues as obviously as I know.
That some qualified academics are leaving KSU, in drove is no longer news. What is bn contested however, is the number. The exodus or high rate of turnover of academic staff in KSU predates both the current State Government and the University Management. The former VC Prof Hassan Isah once remarked on the issue as “brain drain is brain gain”.
What is new in the issue of late is that the number seems astronomical. In my Faculty alone, four (4) Heads of Departments out of the five (5) Departments have either gone or are on the verge of leaving the university (it should not be a surprise if I, an Ag. Head of dept could be on the verge of leaving too). A cursory check at Federal University, Lokoja, Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Edo University, Iyamho, Kaduna State University, Kaduna among others will reveal that KSU is losing and or has lost an alarming number of its qualified PhD holders to those universities since their establishment. Edo University for instance is wooing qualified academic staff with 10 percent additional salary incentives apart from decent accommodation packages and prompt payment of salary for staff.
If as a DSA, I have to write an undertaking for my wife who was delivered of a baby to be discharged from a hospital for a bill of #12,000, you can imagine the predicament of others. For qualified academic staff who are much sought after, enduring non payment of salary for five months has become an unbearable sacrifice that is pushing staff to seek for greener pastures where their services will be valued and treated with the deserving dignity that is attached to the job.
Since about 16 years of the university existence, it has bn named 4 times with staff embarking on strike action bothering on welfare related matters almost about 20 times, if not more. Some of such strike actions lasted for as long as 6 months.
The establishment of the University by Prince Abubakar Audu with the massive investment was a noble one. However, the politics that followed the establishment before and after the exit of Audu from office in 2003 was a terrible one. Recall, Audu renamed the university after himself not long after it was established. This decision was reversed immediately on assumption of office by Alhaji Ibrahim Idris. Now, it has bn renamed again, and possibly still counting.
Alhaji Ibrahim Idris who succeeded Abubakar Audu initially abandoned the university because it was perceived to be Audu’s pet project. The university management led by Prof Simon Okwute was starved of funds and the university was obviously neglected until the accreditation scandal in 2005 which the university failed in virtually all the programs presented. Instead of supporting and funding the University for Prof Okwute to move on, Gov. Alhaji Ibrahim Idris had to remove Okwute as the VC as if he was the problem. With the appointment of Prof Idachaba came the massive funding described as the “blank cheque” era of the university.
The exit of Idachaba ended the era of massive funding for infrastructure by the Ibro administration. He was however, committed to prompt payment of staff salaries and arrears – both the ones owed by the late Audu administration were all cleared by the Ibro administration with less noise and rancor.
The coming on board of the former Governor Idris Wada and his first official state visit outside Lokoja to Kogi State University initially gave us hope that the university was going to witness transformation under his administration. On that visit, Gov. Wada promised that he would lay the foundation of two new hostel blocks, one for male and the other for female, to mark his one hundred days in office. However, the building and commissioning of the two hostel blocks took about three years. Apart from the two hostels, no other infrastructure was built in the university by that administration (please don’t drag me to the abandoned Teaching Hospital project which Wada himself had regretted for its non completion).
A visit to KSU will give you impression the university is owned and funded by TETFUND. The only visible projects in the university since 2007 are TETFUND Projects as if the university was established and owned by TETFUND. In terms of staff welfare, it was at the wee hours of Wada’s administration that the university staff were treated as those of the Ministries or as civil servants. Prior to that moment, the university staff were treated differently as the practice in other universities.
The coming on board of Gov Yahaya Bello as a young and charming Governor full of energy who left the university almost at the same time KSU was established gave us hope that, the university has rekindled hope both in terms of staff welfare and infrastructures. We are very much aware that Gov Bello inherited huge governmental challenges including three months salary arrears for which the NLC were on strike before his assumption of office. However, We also know that, when u inherit assets, it goes with the liabilities too.
As academics, it took some months on assumption of office of Gov Bello before ASUU embarked on the “no pay no work” action. For the handicapped financial challenges of the state government the body language of the Gov shows his willingness to offset the salary.
For the Government to embark on the statewide screening of the workforce is a commendable efforts. However, that there can never be ghost workers in the university is what I am very sure of. That the government opened account numbers for Professors and Indeed other university staff without their consent is also what I am at a loss to explain.The action to me undermines the cherished autonomy of the university.
Now that the Government is disbursing the bailout funds, I besiege the Governor in this holy month of Ramadan to please treat the University Staff differently by paying ALL the outstanding salary arrears after which the process of negotiation to douse other outstanding strike-able issues be negotiated for settlement.
Addressing these lingering issues by giving preferential priorities to the welfare of the university staff will certainly arrest mass exodus of qualified academics from the university.
Addressing these problems will give credence to his recent efforts at renaming the university after Prince Abubakar Audu which has bn received with mixed feelings. If not the renaming may be misconstrued as mocking the late political icon by renaming an empty university after him as a caricature of his dying legacy.
I wish His Excellency, our amiable Governor more energy to pilot the affairs of the State at this trying moment of our dear state and Nigeria at large, economy wise.
– Usman, S. Ogbo PhD, writes from the Department of Political Science, Kogi State University, Anyigba.
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