The Atiku Return; New University Strike

The Atiku Return; New University Strike

Politics drives business, and I am tempted to comment on the recent return of the former Vice President of Nigeria, Mr. Atiku Abubakar, to PDP (Peoples Democratic Party), from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Atiku is a politician and he works on the construct of permanent interest, no permanent enemy. Everything is to sojourn to the path of the Nigerian Presidency. It is his right, just like every one of us. My interest is not his ambition, but the fact that APC will not hold Aso Rock’s keys, for the second time, without putting efforts: I want competitions.

The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, has expressed happiness over the return of a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, to the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. He described his action as a welcome development not only for the party, but also for the nation’s democracy.

Mr. Ekweremadu said this in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Uche Anichukwu.

The lawmaker said the move represented a massive vote of no confidence in the leadership capacity of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, first, by the masses, and now by the “cream of its hierarchy and founding members.”

“Nigeria is in dire need of a rescue mission to rekindle hope in our democracy, restore her on the path of prosperity, and halt the worsening divisiveness that threatens our corporate existence,” he said.

It is very evident that the Presidency will remain in the north come 2019, and then move South from 2023. Atiku’s last chance to taste the presidency will be 2019. He has something to prove to his former boss, former President Olusegun Obasanjo. With President Buhari there, there is no vacancy in the APC presidential platform. So, the only option for Atiku was the move to PDP.

I expect Atiku to be the flag bearer for PDP presidential ticket unless PDP orchestrates a big party meager with new heavyweights. PDP is largely poor and the person that can fund it will likely determine the fate of the presidential ticket. The same thing happened in APC two years ago when Senator Bola Tinubu made the calls. Atiku is going to run the treasury of PDP and take over the party. Most of those politicians have no core: it is a money-career.

No credible PDP (presidential) contestant will come from the Southwest (had its turn), South South (too soon) and South East (waiting for 2023), so PDP is likely going to field someone from the Northern part of the country. They have their man in Atiku, no matter how defective he may be.

Politics of Ideas

I like the fact that Atiku will be running. My liking that Atiku is running is to push APC to do more for Nigerians. Without a strong contender in the North, Buhari will walk into the second term without any serious effort. Atiku is already hitting APC on economy, employment and development, and APC has been challenged to respond. Let me say this: APC, going forward, will be putting more efforts especially in North East where the citizens need help.

There are few politicians that can say what Atiku is saying in Nigeria, without the fear of one government agency opening a corruption dossier against him or her. That Atiku has joined the fray will bring more contacts sports, and that will be good for our democracy. I am not a fan of Atiku, but I like his boldness and the fact that he has the capacity to speak to power.

With only marginal reforms, APC has not done much in Nigeria. I know it is still early to judge them, but they put themselves in the position when they claimed that they could magically solve key Nigerian challenges. The more conversations and debates on the Nigerian democracy, the better. As Atiku returns, Nigeria will have many debates on national issues. All the other big politicians have gone into their shells to avoid corruption charges; Atiku feels he is on top and could challenge the ruling party. Nigeria needs more of him, not necessarily because he is a better person, but at least, he will have the courage to challenge APC. Possibly, with that, APC could work better for Nigerians.

Educational Sector

The non-teaching staff of our public universities will begin strike today. This has been a cyclical event: once the teaching staff finish and get their goodies, the non-teaching staff resume. For decades, this movie has been playing. It is very unfortunate.

The non-teaching staff of Nigerian universities will commence an indefinite strike today in public universities. The staff have also provided reasons for resuming their suspended strike.

The staff, members of three unions, NASU, SSANU, and NAAT, announced the commencement of the strike last Thursday in a press statement signed by the national presidents of the three unions.

Largely, you cannot blame the non-teaching staff for asking for their promised benefits. The problem remains with the government which keeps opening new universities even when it does not have funds to support them. Of course, the same professors and administrators who go on strikes support opening more schools as such provides new opportunities to become vice chancellors, registrars, etc. But what happens is that as soon as the tapes are cut, crises begin because funds are not available to run the schools. We need reform in our university system.

All Together

I am hoping that Atiku’s return to PDP will open up intellectual policy debate in the Nigerian parliament. We have not seen anything like that. Possibly, Atiku could push his new party to bring energies to see how we can deal with many policy issues in the nation. One area I expect them to focus is the educational sector. If our universities continue to strike as they do, we will not be positioned to deal with the re-alignment of labour which is happening as artificial intelligence and emerging technology redesign the global commerce and industry.

Automation could destroy as many as 73 million U.S. jobs by 2030, but economic growth, rising productivity and other forces could more than offset the losses, according to a new report by McKinsey Global Institute.

“The dire predictions that robots are going to take our jobs are overstated,” says Susan Lund, the group’s director of research and co-author of the study. “There will be enough jobs for everyone in most sectors.”

Yet maintaining full employment will require a huge overhaul of the economy and labor market that rivals or exceeds the nation’s massive shifts from agriculture- and manufacturing-dominated societies over the past 165 years, the report says.

Nigerian schools must be supported to help drive Nigeria to avoid this massive labour dislocation. Mr Atiku, as he returns to PDP, could help push for reforms in the educational sector through his PDP compatriots. This reform is not just about more funding, but a fundamental structural change that will make education more relevant to the needs of the markets, even as Nigerian schools are pushed to look for alternative means of funding. I have put forward how new changes in our tax system could open private funding into our public schools. PDP has not provided bold new ideas in the last two years. Possibly, Atiku with his ambition could get his new party to begin to offer ideas. APC will then be forced to respond. That is what will make Nigerian democracy better, and eliminate the cyclical strikes we see in our university system.


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