A legal icon, Chief Wole Olanipekun, has called on prominent Nigerians to see the strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities as a major national emergency which must be resolved immediately.
Urging alumni associations to defend their alma maters, Olanipekun said it would amount to self-delusion if they still expected much from the government.
According to a statement made available to newsmen on Sunday, he noted that “governments at all levels in this country today appear not to be able to help themselves, how much more remembering or thinking of educational institutions.”
The legal icon spoke while delivering the 2022 National Public Service Lecture of University of Ibadan Alumni Association, entitled, ‘Building Blocks For Unbundling The Critical Problems Plaguing Education In Nigeria: A Clarion Call To Alumni Associations To Rebuild The Collapsing Portal Through Which They Passed.’
“If we placed premium emphasis on education, how much is ASUU requesting that we cannot give? These lecturers are not just fighting for themselves, they are fighting for the future of public education in the country”, he said, adding, “This is the time for all prominent Nigerians including alumni associations to fight for the education of our youth.”
He continued, “I foresee a future, and a near one for that matter, where the federal and state governments will privatise all the state-owned universities and tertiary institutions.
“This is a prediction which should not meet any one of us by surprise, otherwise, we may be echoing there was a University.”
He lamented, “Our children are not happy with us, and we are also not happy with ourselves as parents. Our educational system is crumbling, our Universities and tertiary institutions are failing and failing, yet, the government will not believe that we have sunk this low.”
Decrying government’s attitude to education, he asked, “Do we want to keep on jesting, partying, wining, dining, dancing and celebrating while the portals that bred us are burning?”
“This is a time for action rather than rhetoric; a season of awakening rather than dozing, a time to build up rather than watching the collapsing walls.”
Calling on alumni associations to collaborate so as to save the universities that made them, the legal icon maintained that “we have no alternative than to give back to these institutions and by so doing, we will be regenerating generations better and greater than us.”
He pointed out that “anything to the contrary will amount to advertently or inadvertently joining forces with temporary and transient powers to extinguish these beautiful old schools of ours.”
He continued, “Even in developed countries where their governments appreciate the importance of education, alumni associations still play substantial roles in sustaining the portals through which they passed.”
On the importance of alumni, he disclosed that it was the alumni who prevented the University of Lagos from being renamed Moshood Abiola University in 2012 by taking the government to court.
Specifically, he challenged all former students of the University of Ibadan to work for the development of the institution saying “UI must not be allowed to rust because if gold rusts, what will happen to iron? If UI trusts what will happen to other universities in Nigeria?”