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'More money stolen under Obasanjo than any govt in Nigeria’s history'

Posted by By TONY OSAUZO, Benin. on 2008/04/22 | Views: 716 |

'More money stolen under Obasanjo than any govt in Nigeria’s history'


Radical former national president of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr. Festus Iyayi, says more money was stolen during the Olusegun Obasanjo government than all other governments put together in Nigeria’s entire history.

Radical former national president of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr. Festus Iyayi, says more money was stolen during the Olusegun Obasanjo government than all other governments put together in Nigeria’s entire history.

Speaking to Daily Sun in an interview in Benin City, the University of Benin don says Gen. Victor Malu’s recent statement that what (General Sani) Abacha stole was one-twentieth of what was stolen under Obasanjo, was an understatement.

He, therefore, recommends that the National Assembly’s investigation into the power sector be extended to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, which former president Obasanjo headed, as well as his privatisation programme.

He revealed that under the privatisation programme of the Obasanjo administration, state property were handed to friends at give-away prices: “They gave away public property to people at prices that are not worth the money we give to beggars. That’s what Obasanjo did. And he enthroned corruption more than any other government in Nigeria’s history while pretending that he was fighting corruption,” Iyayi said.

While characterizing Nigerian politicians as lacking principles and as “vultures and locusts” that feed on anything they can find, Dr. Iyayi says those who claim to be human rights activists, nationalists and patriots have not done the work required of them to ensure that those who rule Nigeria stop the damage that they are doing to the country.

He identifies lack of organisation as the major problem and calls for a social and political movement that would mobilize Nigerians who feel pained by the squandering of the country’s fortunes and potentials with a view to putting a halt to the squandermania.

“All those who feel that way must come together in an organisation to try and change these things. Unless that happens, we will continue with this group of people until the country itself implodes. That can happen,” he predicted.

Iyayi says available indices show that conditions in Nigeria have worsened in spite of the country practising democracy for the past nine years. Average lifespan of Nigerians has dropped from 51 years in 1998/99 to 43 years now, while poverty and corruption have increased.

He attributes the persistent crisis in the university system to government’s consistent reneging on agreements reached with ASUU, just as he holds Chief Obasanjo responsible for doing greater damage to the ‘soul’ of the university system in the one-fell swoop sacking of 49 lecturers, including professors in rare medical fields at the University of Ilorin.

Nigerian university system in my time as ASUU president and now
The fact of the matter is that the university system and the individual university, just like the country as a whole, has deteriorated over the years. It certainly has.

If you look at all the parametres, in terms of quality, the student-teacher ratio, the number of academic staff who are leaving their positions in the Nigerian universities, the level of funding of the universities, you find that the situation is much worse today than it was in the past. It’s certainly, certainly much worse.
In fact, in the 60s during (Alhaji Tafawa) Balewa’s regime, education in general, had funding well over 20 percent of the budget and in the western region, it was over 26 percent.

Since the advent of the military in 1966, the level of funding on the average had never exceeded 10 percent. In some years, it had been 4.7 percent, some years 1.14 percent until we had to protest before it was raised.
That has also affected the quality of the programmes, the quality of instructions, the quality of graduates and the overall ethical atmosphere in the universities.

Also, take note of the fact that in 1960, we were just over 50 million people. By 2007, we were said to be 140 million. So, that’s more than a 100 percent increase in population. And so, the number of students seeking admission to universities has also increased. But then, the expansion rate in terms of the number of students that universities can take has not increased at the same pace as the number of students seeking admission to universities have increased.

Every year, we have more than a million people writing JAMB examination. We don’t take up to 100,000 of those. Maybe about eight percent of those who are actually qualified are admitted into universities. So, the situation is much worse.

Obasanjo has damaged the soul of the university
In the 70s, during the Gowon era, when lecturers were first dismissed at the University of Ibadan and at the University of Lagos, the lecturers were eventually re-absorbed after a lot of protest.
But if you look at the current period, especially during the period of 1999 and till this present time, the Obasanjo regime did a lot to damage the soul of the university.

With the sacking of 49 academic staff in one fell-swoop at the University of Ilorin, people that included professors in rare areas of medicine, professors in Communication Arts were sacked, and of course, different lecturers were sacked and till today, that problem is still there in violation of the International Labour Conventions on Industrial Relations. The current regime of Yar’Adua is also maintaining the stand of Obasanjo on that matter.

Why strikes persist in universities
If you take the history of Federal Govern-ment/ASUU relations, the key problem why there have been strikes in the universities has been the fact that government has consistently reneged on that agreement.
Whereas we say every three years, the agreement will be reviewed, ASUU had to go on strike to force the government to come for negotiations to review that agreement.

As we speak, in December 2006, after more than five years of constant reminders, the government eventually agreed to constitute a team to negotiate with ASUU – the Onosode panel.
Negotiations started in December 2006. Up till today, negotiations have not made any headway because government is not willing to do what is right.

It is not that we do not know the solutions. The fact of the matter is that we have rulers who have a different conception of the priorities and needs of Nigerians and they equate their own priorities, personal needs to the needs of the country. That is the problem.

So, a president, a governor, a minister, whoever it is, steals billions and billions of naira that should have been invested in improving infrastructure, social services, education, health, roads and then takes that money and goes to establish a private university. That’s what many of them are doing now.
They ruined the public universities; they are now going to establish private universities.

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