A former Chairman of Ijebu East Local Government Area of Ogun State, Comrade Tunde Oladunjoye, has advocated a resolution of the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
He said industrial action was a reflection of the rot in the nation’s educational system, adding that this was against the ideals and programmes of the sage, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Delivering a lecture Tuesday on the topic, “The Awolowo Way: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”, Oladunjoye said Awolowo’s achievements in education, agriculture, housing and infrastructural development remain unbeatable.
The lecture was held in commemoration of the 113th memorial birthday of the sage. It was organized by the Afenifere Movement in Ijebu East Local Government Area of the state.
Oladunjoye said, “My approach to the subject at hand is to pick some thematic areas to address Awo’s thoughts, ways and works (yesterday), do a comparative analysis on what we have on ground (today) and conclude with projections towards the future (tomorrow).”
On education, the guest speaker said, “Awo’s contributions in the area of education is the greatest achievement that remains a reference point and a pride of Yoruba race all over the world till date. Awo and his parties (Action Group of Nigeria (AG) and later Unity Party of Nigeria – UPN) implemented Universal Free Education in the Wester Region of Nigeria. I am glad to be among the beneficiaries. I could remember how I got free text books supplied to me as a pupil of St. John’s Primary School, Ijebu Itele between 1972 and 1978.”
Oladunjoye added, “As at today, Nigeria’s educational system is in shambles. Even as I speak here today, the members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are on strike. Our universities are on strike! A commentator recently said on a national television programme that it has become part of the achievements, while in office, for any President of ASUU to go on strike during his own tenure…
“Funny as it may sound, that is the saddening reality of our educational system today. And between the lecturers of universities and those of other tertiary institutions; between the academic and non-academic staff of our tertiary institutions, going on strike has become like songs and choruses, as one is pausing or resuming from strike, the other is embarking on strike. It is like what the Yoruba call Egbirin Ote bi a se n pa kan, ni kan n ru (hydra-headed problems, as you are sorting out one, another is rearing its head (ugly head at that!).”
On agriculture, Oladunjoye recalled that, “Awo, his party and government organised farmers into cooperative societies, while Marketing Boards were established to regulate pricing and mitigate against revenue loss by the farmers. Farms Settlements were also established, and successive governments after Awo still use those facilities cited in different parts of the Southwest till date.
“Prior to the commercial discovery of oil in 1956, Nigeria was renowned for its prowess in agriculture, ranging from the towering groundnut pyramids in Kano in Northern Nigeria, to palm oil in the Eastern parts and the cocoa revolution in Chief Awolowo’s Western Region.”
On housing and infrastructural development, he submitted that Awolowo pioneered affordable residential housing estates at Bodija, and Ikeja.
“He also initiated Ikeja industrial estate. Awo saw the future clearly with unimaginable and extraordinary clarity and he pursued same with dauntless commitment. Awo invested massively in infrastructures and properties which till date, continue to yield high revenue for the Southwest states. In fact, the Abuja House in London at 2, Campden Hill, Kessington was part of the property of the Western Region of Nigeria bought during the tenure of Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the Premier. The property was seized by the central government through a decree promulgated by General Yakubu Gowon,” he said.
Oladunjoye lamented policy inconsistencies and lack of continuity of pro-people policies and programmes by successive administrations.
“Today, the estimated housing deficit is about 22million and the figure, according to the World Bank, is predicted to double-up in about ten years. Abandoned housing projects by government and private developers, dot the landscape of this nation.
“In my recent article on housing titled “Ogun Housing Model” published in the mass media, I commended the Dapo Abiodun-led Administration on the quality and spread of its housing projects across Ogun State and the commendable synergy among agencies in the housing sector.
“I also commented that: ‘Previous initiatives in the housing sector have not been vigorously pursued and sustained, thereby leading to serious apathy on the part of the citizens. The government, in this part of the world, has confidence-deficit among the citizens; and justifiably so. It is either previous efforts are not sustained, or cancelled by succeeding administration or private sector collaboration collapsed as investors took loans and then disappeared into the wind. From experience, many governments’ housing projects do not go beyond tokenism or populist propaganda, with much noise in the air and little on the ground to show as accomplishments’,” he said.
Oladunjoye canvassed synergy between the political class and civil service so as to witness the success and rapid development witnessed in the Southwest during the Awo era.
“Though we have had some glimpses or flashes of Awo’s rays here and there in the Southwest, but they remain what they are: flashes. If Awolowo’s era is juxtaposed with present day reality, there is no doubt that we will all pray for a return to the Awo era,” he said.