By: Sunday Oyewole
President Goodluck Jonathan has said that the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been politicized by the leadership of the body, describing it as unfortunate.
Fielding questions from a team of senior journalists at the Presidential Media Chat on Sunday, the President wondered why ASUU would continue to harp on the need to upgrade infrastructures in the nation’s Universities as if that can be done overnight.
Of concern to the President is also the alliance between lecturers in federal Universities and their counterparts in the state-owned Universities.
He queried the rationale behind the lecturers working in the state-owned Universities joining the strike when it is not the responsibility of the federal government to pay their allowances or upgrade the infrastructures in the state-owned Universities.
“I believe we can say there is misunderstanding definitely politics has come into so many things that we do, some we observe that the way we do certain things I have a feeling that something else is happening, they may be saying something different”, he said.
President Jonathan said he expected the lecturers to call off the strike when the federal government made available N100 billion to start with as far as infrastructures are concerned. According to him, on assumption of office, he recalled commissioning a team to move round all the Universities to take inventory of facilities with a view to determining those that needed upgrade.
His words, “We set up a team, technical team, they visited all the universities, all the hostels including the toilets that we had in the hostels, they took photographs and videos records and when it was present to the executive council, I said it must be presented to the governors.
“So I asked the Vice President that during the National Economic Council meeting with the governors, the Finance Minister is a member, the Planning Minister, Chief Economic Adviser to the President and the Central Bank Governor, the report should be presented.
“The report was on Federal Universities and States, we did not go to the private universities and we saw the enormous responsibilities that we have as a nation, the Vice President could not recognize where he learnt his Architecture”.
Speaking on the recent alarm raised that the country is broke; the President dismissed it, saying people are also playing politics with issue. He however, hastened to warn elders to mind their utterances on critical national issues. President Jonathan demanded to know what parameters they used to arrive at the conclusion that the country is broke.
His words, “Anybody who talked about Nigeria being broke is just playing politics with the issue, we should be mindful of what statement we make. “How do you judge the country to be bankrupt? In terms of the direct investment, for them to give you the opportunity, it means that the business environment is viable. “Anybody who says Nigeria is bankrupt is just saying so out of ignorance. In July there were low sales of crude which led to low income. To make that kind of statement, it is very unfortunate”.
He also reacted to continued insinuation that corruption is increasing under his administration, saying “When Transparency International speaks about corruption; I like the word they use, corruption perception index. We are doing very well in terms of cost of governance. Some people are concerned about government appointees as if that is problem we have in Nigeria, if you want to run government as a private enterprise, then you will have a problem”
“What we are doing is to make sure we do not expose public money for anybody to steal. We started with the agriculture sector, and also with the Petroleum sector, we tried a little. We have a legal system that says it is better for ten criminals to go free than for one innocent person to go to jail. I set up a committee where myself, the Vice President and some others. As a president, you cannot gag the judiciary. This is the first time Judges are being sanctioned.”
The President also spoke on effort being made to arrest oil theft, adding that there is nothing like selective privatization. According to him, “There is no selective privatization; you cannot privatize everything the same day.
“Nigeria initially had some toll gates but the money was not going to government. If you want to introduce toll gate, you have to do it gradually. Government will have to first provide the roads. Roads were hitherto not being maintained. If we want to introduce toll gates, we have to do it gradually”.