ASUU VS FG: No to Kolawole
For those of us who are ardent listeners of radio, the name Kolawole Omoniyi is a familiar one that is associated with knowledge, opinion and a generous spread of both.
He is a brilliant analyst and a commentator in one of the trending radio stations in Kano.
He, no doubt, has such a fine focus and an analytical prowess that apparently impress most listeners. He has a view, and an approach to issues that at once marks him out as someone in good tune with the present, adequately informed by a vast knowledge of the past.
His often fair approach to issues endears him to all. His display of knowledge in the usual manner he quotes relevant history, supportive facts and figures to back up his stance is, no doubt, impressive enough to make him a commentator worth our air time any day. So, for me, it has always been a thumb up for him.
However, listening to him last Tuesday reacting to ASUU’s stance on the attempt by the Federal Government to reopen tertiary institutions was one unusual experience that called for a no, no reaction, at least from me.
Now, let’s recall. When the rumour first filtered in that the federal government intends to reopen tertiary institutions after a long break as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19, ASUU instantly took a stance and described the move as “suicidal”. The union particularly argued that reopening such schools at a time when it is not yet over for the country and the world generally in the fight against C-19 does not make an acceptable sense to its members who deal rather directly with students.
Ever since then, ASUU’s outburst became a source of debate which appears to have created a divide among analysts and current affairs commentators. Of course, debates have since come to be accepted as means of healthy intellectual exercise through which varying view points, focus and opinions are exposed for better understanding of the pros and cons of individual or collective decisions.
What makes an exercise like this an intellectual delight any day, is its recognition of battle field of view points where reasons, facts and even figures are the ‘fired missiles’ that destroy weaker view angles and arguments with little or no injury to persons or feeling.
Back to Kolawole Omoniyi, a man I highly appreciate and respect for his intellectual strength, but one whose comments on ASUU’s stance on school reopening I disagree with. I pick fault in most of the reasons he raised.
Let me start with what he started with. He, from the start disagreed with ASUU’s resolve that the federal government’s attempt at reopening schools is suicidal. He particularly picked a mighty fault in the usage of the word ‘suicidal’. To him, it was not only wrong to describe the move using such a strong word, but it is a misplaced word which should have no place in the description of a move he thought of as laudable and long overdue.
Well, in this case I ask, what other word can best describe the government’s attempt, coming at a time when the fight against CORONA VIRUS is far from being successful? If suicide is a conscious resolve to take one’s life, what else can one call a move to reopen schools amidst all the displayed realities of C-19 in the country and the already disturbing situation of our tertiary institutions?
That C-19 is real is already a settled reality. That we are daily reminded of possible means of its spread is another reality we are trying to accommodate. The essence of extreme caution and observance of strict measures like the use of masks and social distancing are daily stressed at any given chance by the NCDC as necessary measures against the spread of the disease that is fast mocking world’s medical strength and efficacy.
Pose this reality alongside the ugly ones in our higher institutions. I refer to the congestion, life threatening unhygienic situation and unsuitable condition of most lecture halls and theatre rooms. Congestion in particular has impacted negatively on health and learning processes in the past. This same reality is certainly huge enough a setback to negate the current fight against the spread of CORONA VIRUS if allowed the chance by reopening schools.
Mr. Kolawole knows this only too well. Perhaps, it was in realization of this fact he suggested that lecturers can allay their fears if they can simply “stop romancing the students”.
Well, whatever that means, I see in it a weak reasoning which is unforgivably narrow as it focuses only on lecturers, leaving out the numerous students who are the most vulnerable or endangered ones. In the same manner, the suggestion has also so dangerously limited the possible means of contraction to “romance” alone.
This indeed, is intellectually myopic in referring to a disease that can be contracted through negligible means like surfaces, door and car handles, supportive rails and iron bars, tables, desks and chairs, plates and cutlery, handsets and biros, droplets and innocent body contact. In fact, there are recent discoveries that claim C-19 is air borne as well.
Arguing further, he asked, “if workers can resume work why not ASUU?” And, I answer him now. Workers have a more manageable situation. They have a better situation that can contain the spread of C-19, putting only little conscious effort. Yes, work and the working environment may give a whole idea of a mingled and mingling situation. But the truth is, beneath the seeming ‘togetherness’ in work and working environment is an official individuality (akin to social distancing) that can be recognized in the existence of private offices and personal tables and desks.
I mean, the ardent calls for social distancing and other measures can be better observed in working environment than in our congested tertiary institutions. A worker who goes to office to spend only a few hours, can afford to keep off a lot of possible risks in this regard, much more than students and lecturers in undoubtedly over populated environment where they have to spend pretty longer time.
Most surprising however, is the question Mr. Kolawole asked. He cleared the way for the question by arguing that students have been at home for too long, and then asked the question, “for how long” will students remain at home for ASUU to deem it fit for them to resume school?
To this question again I answer; for as long as it will take to be certain that the situation is now safe for everyone to feel once more safe to go for things that only add value to life, but do not constitute life themselves.
Oh yes, the truth hasn’t changed, it still takes someone who is alive and healthy to be a lecturer or a student. Dead people don’t make students or lectures. And, it takes a healthy student or lecturer to matter most in school environment and to be relevant to the academic system. So it can’t be question of how long, because it is a matter of health and life. And, for anything in life, it takes life to matter.
Agreed, it truly pains to watch time ticks away to wastefulness while parents battle to contend with the unusual burden of having their children at home all days. But in as much as we all care to have them back to school, we must bear in mind that only those who are alive and healthy make it through life.
We certainly don’t have to throw out the baby with bath-water.
We don’t have to identify with ASUU in all its demands, but let’s wait for the right time. It’s worth it, honestly. We have seen cases in better developed and more medically equipped nations where recovery processes were rushed only for the C-19 to resurface with more frightening consequences.
As at now, Nigeria still records cases of C-19 with fluctuating figures which gives away the situation as a dicey one. What this says is, it is not yet a clean bill. And what this requires is a careful study of the scenario that will eventually reveal where effort need be redirected.
When this is done, we then wait for that period when the nation will cover a period of least two weeks, and at most one month without a single record of a case of C-19.
And I most happily add, that period may not be far from now, if daily records on C-19 are facts to go by. And, I must say again, a situation where the little time left is rushed for our trade mark impatience, will not only render our past efforts useless, but may also take the nation back to situation worse than we are now in all aspects. God forbid.
In the end, I must say, I go with Mr. Kolawole’s suggestion that after all said and done, the government must ensure compliance with all safety measures. And, this should continue way after C-19 just to maintain a healthy situation for the nation and the people.