CASE BACKGROUND: With the famed Jaw War around the corner, the scribes of The Courtroom have decided to begin a non-chronological series of tackling topics released for this year’s edition of the popular campus-wide debating contest. Keeping in the spirit of Jaw War, this installation will keep you warmed up for the all-important speaking tournament.

This week, we bring to you a discussion on a matter of utmost timely relevance. The on-going NASU and SSANU strikes have hindered a lot of administrative duties. However, many are of the opinion that it is for the greater benefit of all. Let our in-house scribes scintillate you with logically-sound and pun-fun arguments.

AND WHY NOT? 

One who causes others misfortune also teaches them wisdom ~ African proverb

Strikes have always been a very potent weapon for any worker to wield against perceived injustice and irregularity. We are all aware of this fact. It is used in our ministries, it is deployed in the industries and it is often swung in our schools like the sling of David. Just recently, it was used by workers in Ekiti state and after only 12 days, the Governor (Mr Ayodele Fayose) declared an indefinite solidarity strike. Ask yourselves milords, which other tool has ever pulled off such a record? Not even bullying from the EFCC could have.

Strikes are equally used with effectiveness by wives whenever the husband is found guilty of any impropriety. He gets the silent treatment. If it ends at that, oh good for him as it translates to less arguments and more time to focus on work. But wives, when aggrieved, also often decide to desert their two most important workstations: the kitchen and the ‘indoor playground’. Now that is unacceptable to the hubby, at least, who ends up cowering like candlelight under the full glory of sunshine.

Milords, it should interest you to note that even biology recognises the great power of strikes. Or do we all not observe our body go on strike whenever we overuse or misuse it and it requires some rest? At a point on this lane of abuse, it might even strike not just indefinitely but infinitely. The eyes weaken in protest when you are smitten by TDB, and the fingers indignantly go numb after three hours in the examination hall and two extra sheets. Needless to say, some persons even force their brain cells into a strike as a result of underpayment and underemployment. So we can now see that striking isn’t just powerful, it is in fact inevitable.

Before you lead me to grisly execution under the axe of logicality or accuse me of going off on a tangent, I know none of this proves yet that striking is a panacea to the problems of the educational sector. Kindly have patience; I will be there in a bit.

The way I see it, strikes are a crucial regulator for the academia, higher institutions especially. They are like a hand fan which blows cold the hot embers of mind-numbing academic marathons. Nigerian university students are perhaps one of a few in the world who attend classes from 7am to 7pm four days in a week and who write tests on weekends. If this story does not touch, I wonder what will. Now imagine that a student is subjected to this ordeal for five or six long years nonstop. No doubt, what would be dressed in gown at the convocation ceremony would not be a half-baked graduate or even a baked graduate but an emotional disaster, an intellectual spectacle burnt beyond recognition. In essence, all work and no strikes makes Jack an over-baked graduate.

Strikes also afford relief to lecturers just as much as they do to their students. About exactly one year ago, the National Universities Commission still lamented the poor state of teacher-student ratios across Nigerian varsities. The implication of this is that individual lecturers are offered more than they ought to chew. Many a lecturer is thrown to address a class of 300 for two straight hours without ventilation and, worse still, without a public address system. Some others are asked to take care of a relatively huge number of courses; and so they end up missing classes and crashing through most of them. Little wonder too that – to the dismay of Late Dr. King – they are often compelled by circumstances to evaluate answer sheets by their weight and introductory sentences rather than by the ‘content of their characters’. And so, just as catnaps are to the human body, strikes help our lecturers to cool off and further ensure pedagogic productivity.

Is it not you milords who like to say tough times deserve tough measures or that when the music changes, the dance also must? The heat constantly slapping our tender skin, the ubiquitous dust invading our nostrils, darkness which is fitter to our bodies than our underwear, the talkative and massive mosquitoes and the overall suffering syndrome in this 923,768 square kilometres-wide minefield indeed qualify us to be kings and queens of toughness. 

Our skins are so thick – from habitually conning one another – that the white man testified to our utility in the Second World War. Our brains are so complexly wired that the worst of us outshine foreigners in their homelands. If you doubt, ask the three ex-militants who recently graduated summa cum laude from UK universities. You will agree with me milords that purebred, made-in-Nigeria ‘ajebutters’ are still more streetwise than the best of Western ‘ajepakos’.  In short, what operates in other climes cannot be imported here and be expected to work or survive. In saner climes, you can carry some fancy placards and get results. You can write letters and get results. You can go on hunger strikes and get results. You can even start an online petition and still get results. But here, your placards might turn to canes in the hands of our friendly policemen. Your letter will be lost to desk of the personal assistant to the secretary of the special adviser to the recipient. And no one will tell you before you soak garri the third day lest you ‘come and go and kill yourself’ or lest you ‘fall down and die’ without eventfulness.

Thus, a stricter measure such as strikes is needed to effect change in our conservatively egregious system. But – you say – even this measure is often rendered futile by our impermeable institutions. Well, in response I would assert – and this is no joke – that this is because our unions are not going about it the right way. They strike for two weeks, resume, strike for one week, resume, go on another warning strike for a couple days … all on the same issue and they keep expecting results. They are never shy to turn themselves into the flexible Jabulani not knowing that the managements are filled with skillful Messis and Ronaldos. Strike is a panacea no doubt; but no matter how effective a pill is, it won’t work if passed through the anus. Let the unions strike and return to work until they get that alert, until the desired facilities are visible to the blind and until agreements are signed with provisional, indigenous curses in case of breach. Let them strike and damn the consequences. It is after all a form of humanitarian struggle. Let them strike for as long as may be necessary. Only then can we truly harness this panacea that I speak of. I rest, milords! And if I find that you do not agree after my efforts, I just might strike too.

REALLY? OF COURSE NOT!

The secret to curing a headache is not to behead it – Yoruba Truism

Would I be deserving of an accolade if I pointed out the fact that Nigeria’s educational sector is a severely sickened entity of countless palsies? Would I be revered for stating the obvious that its eccentricities have led to the literal destruction of many lives? Would it be a groundbreaking discovery if I announced on this platform that it has created a rot in the country, birthing a dearth of much-needed growth? Probably not. But, what if I told you that strike action is a weak response – a tethered hound, a sword of rain against a rock; that it is synonymous to going to a certain Clinic named after a legend of Opobo and being given paracetamol for an ulcerous attack? I’ll bet I would get an applause for saying what needed to be said.

That culture of embarking on strike actions has been in place since the early days when formal education arrived at our doorstep. It has daggered through our history like knife through the neck of an Easter fowl. It has shamed the nation, causing stagnancy in parts where growth should be taken for granted. By its very nature, it is the defiant obstruction of necessary execution of duties. How does an obstruction of duty ultimately lead to its execution? It is the reason Ahmed gains admission into the university as a budding young man and graduates as a grey-haired ghost of time. It is the reason idle Janet’s belly becomes a basketball after wasted months at home. It is the reason our finalists rejoice over the completion of first-semester examinations when their counterparts in the University of Ilorin are already into the next phase of their lives. Tell me, in which of these instances has strike being a panacea to, rather than an intensification of, the problems which face Nigerian education? In what way has strike served the purpose of the whole system? How have we benefited from this end? I would love to be enlightened. 

Additionally, strike action can only be embarked on by workers – providers of services. Consequently, it is a phenomenon which occurs only when the interests of these people are involved. It is often rampant when payments of salaries are being delayed or other intricacies of similar sorts. Never do they “strike” because they nobly feel the system needs to be improved and thus they must strike to achieve this. In all ramifications, a strike only serves those embarking on it. If we agree that only a percentage of those involved in the sector can engage in strike action, with what logic are we going to accept the conclusion that it is the key to the rejuvenation of the entire sector – consisting of teachers, students and administrators, all with differing, sometimes conflicting, interests? When it is only meant for one party, how does it serve the entire parade? It is almost like saying the secession of Biafra will unify Nigeria. How does this make any sense? I would love to be enlightened. 

No matter how well my opponent argues for the affirmation of the topic, it only amounts to theory. Even if you are convinced that it is a necessity for the mitigation of the sector’s woes, it would be a wasted effort. This is because strike actions have been occurring for as long as we can remember and in reality, we are still debating the problems of the system. Why? Because the problems persist! Saying the mysterious solution to the problems we have had for so long is to continue doing what we have been doing for ages is as irrational as it gets. The on-going NASU strike has created a huge void in the administration of bureaucratic responsibilities and no one would deny that. We all know how it ends, don’t we? The other party would either bend to their will or frustration forces them to go back to work. Then, work resumes where it started. No positive effects, just a trail of negatives. This is the scenario played out before our eyes for so long and all we have had are decades of decadence, years of yearning and days of gazing towards our stars and searching for the fault in them. Now, I would like to know: how does such a scenario become a panacea to the troubles with which the educational sector is rife? I would love to be enlightened.

Yes, I would love to be enlightened about a lot of things. The sad twist is: I am not the one who needs enlightenment. Neither is it my opponent who has been saddled with a rather troubled stance. However, I wish enlightenment upon those whose rational bankruptcy and intellectual rickety permits them to actually believe that the panacea to a problem is one of the contributing factors. We might as well say Donald Trump is the cure for widespread racism and sexism in America. Or that Boko Haram is the key to eradication of terrorism. Or Kim Kardashian is the antidote to Instagram nudity. I think I have made my point.

CONCLUSION: This column is about you, it presents the two sides of a case courtesy of two writers from different schools of thought. “Audi alteram partem” means hear the other side before passing your judgment. Take the gavel, make your decision and slam because you are the judge in this courtroom.  
STRIKE: A PANACEA TO THE PROBLEMS OF THE NATION’S EDUCATIONAL SECTOR?

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