IPPIS tango: Oloyede to the rescue?

IT is important to stress that none of the two extremes, i.e. that of the Federal Government or ASUU, is the best for university autonomy or will advance university autonomy. The militarisation of ASUU has derided it of putting up sound, logical and coherent opposition to the IPPIS as far as the university system is concerned… It is also not right that for every issue, ASUU must threaten to embark on strike action…On the other hand, I am of the view that, eventually, the enrolment of universities in particular and other tertiary institutions into IPPIS will be counter-productive and injurious to national development…  —Professor Is-haq Oloyede

 

IT was on social media that I first came across snippets of the opinion of Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB)’s Registrar, Professor Is-haq Oloyede, on the raging controversy between the Federal Government and the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on the FG’s new initiative called the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). The FG’s claim is that it is introducing IPPIS to fight run-away corruption, fish out ghost workers and plug leaking holes deliberately bored into Government’s coffers by its unscrupulous workers. ASUU, however, argues that IPPIS runs counter to the university autonomy it took it decades to achieve; that it will destroy the university system and, yet, would not have fought corruption in any meaningful way.

Both ASUU and the FG are sticking to their guns. While the FG is proceeding with the scheme to varying degrees of successes and failures in ASUU strongholds, the union is mobilising its members, first, to boycott IPPIS and, later, for strike action. Academic staff members are just one of the many stakeholders in the university system. The non-teaching staff members belong to different unions and do not take orders from ASUU. It is seldom that both see eye-to-eye. Besides, university autonomy, which ASUU is concerned about, is generally seen as affecting ASUU members more than the non-academic staff. In some of the campuses, ASUU has split into factions; there is now the Congress of University Academics (CONUA), which opposes anything ASUU stands for; meaning that it may support IPPIS. A house divided against itself…

And just like university education or certificate has become mere meal ticket, so also do many academics these days see themselves as just doing a job to earn daily bread. To hell with any highfalutin ideas and ideals about the Ivory Tower or the symbiotic relationship between Town and Gown for national development; not to talk of the place of ideology in advancing human development! And I remember the gibberish of a one-time ultra-conservative, even reactionary, students’ union parliamentarian at Ife – Fasogbon (where are you?) or so was his name, a law student. He stood on same side of the ideological divide with Idigbe.

“Ideology that killed Che Guevara in Bolivia; ideology that killed Allende in Chile; ideology that killed Lumumba in Congo,” ad nauseam! It was a debate at the Students’ Representative Council, which usually held at the dining hall of Adekunle Fajuyi, where I was Hall chairman in 1981/82. Remi, a progressive (God bless his soul), was Mr. Speaker at the time.

The forces against ASUU are formidable. The FG jubilates for having broken the solidarity of the Ivory Tower. I was at Ife a couple of weeks ago and saw how the non-teaching staff members were falling over one another to register. The stampede and commotion was massive. The FG’s joker is “No IPPIS, no pay!” Therefore, in some universities, ASUU members are clandestinely registering. Like biblical Nicodemus, they distance themselves from IPPIS and chant solidarity songs with ASUU in the day time, but return secretly to hobnob with IPPIS! Such shenanigans!

We must expect that the university authorities – council, management, etc – will side with the FG. Who pays the piper dictates the tune is the credo here. Only die-hard, dyed-in-the-wool ASUU irredentist will stand with their union. How many these are will be seen in the days and months to come when push comes to shove. University autonomy means absolutely nothing to academics who see their job as mere meal ticket.

Students and their parents will certainly not be happy about another disruption of an already disrupted academic calendar. Apart from a few institutions such as the University of Ilorin where the academic calendar runs perfectly, others are doing catching-up. Their best efforts will be frustrated, if another strike attends IPPIS.

Oloyede’s quote above on ASUU’s incessant strike actions is instructive. But why is the FG also insistent on taking the wrong step even where superior argument exists – again, such as Oloyede’s quoted above – that IPPIS is not as sacrosanct as it has been made to appear; that it will do more harm than good to the university system; and that there are better options that will benefit all while staving off crisis?

Oloyede did not say so in his paper under review, but it is common knowledge that our leaders have little or no stakes in our educational system. Their children school abroad. Those who are magnanimous enough to retain their wards here put them in expensive private institutions immune to ASUU strikes. Moreover, a FG neck-deep in indebtedness and sinking into insolvency when you consider its frightening income to debt servicing ratio thinks of nothing else but how to raise more funds (VAT increase; all manner of taxes on prostrate citizens in an economy already comatose) so as to technically keep its head above the waters. But it only postpones doom’s day, if it does not radically restructure – and quickly, too!

Incidentally, Oloyede’s antecedents did not suggest him as the person to appear to take the side of ASUU on IPPIS. At the University of Ilorin when he was vice-chancellor, Oloyede and ASUU were mortal foes. ASUU members who went on strike were sacked by Oloyede. The matter dragged for years and ended up at the Supreme Court. ASUU won in the end but the victory, for many of their sacked members, was pyrrhic. Lives had been lost, families had suffered. Things were never going to be the same again for many.

Oloyede might have had his way, but the price he paid was also steep. He earned the opprobrium of an ultra-conservative and reactionary element. When you consider his religion and puritanical bent, he was also labelled religious fundamentalist. Therefore, I was one of those who squirmed when he was named JAMB registrar. Surprisingly, however, Oloyede has used JAMB to burnish his image in a way that will surprise even his inveterate ASUU foes. His performance at JAMB has won him accolade and applause. If he is named for an Oscar or even a Nobel, few will object. I have twice attended JAMB policy meeting (2018 and 2019) held at the Bola Babalakin Auditorium, Gbongan, Osun State, and had marvelled at the democratic and even-handed way Oloyede handled proceedings. I dare to say you could not have had a better democrat presiding – and I mean every word! The JAMB registrar is also jovial and down-to-earth.

Oloyede left the legacy of consistent academic calendar at Ilorin. Suddenly, that catapulted Ilorin, a second generation university, to a university of choice for many parents and students, and first-generation universities now have a catching-up to do on Ilorin. His views on IPPIS, which he made at the 2019 Conference of Nigeria Federal Universities held on the November 21 at Kanem Suites Limited, Abuja, should be carefully considered by warring FG and ASUU. Enitled; “University Autonomy Act and Stakeholders’ Responsibility,” Oloyede’s well-tempered advice should not be allowed to go unheeded.

Not only did he apportion blames firmly, squarely and across board, he also proffered solutions which will protect university autonomy, while suggesting ways the FG could achieve its own objectives of weeding out ghost workers, fighting corruption and ensuring accountability without destroying university autonomy. Except there is more to IPPIS than we have been told publicly, ASUU and FG should march to the negotiation table and consider Oloyede’s proffered solutions! Oloyede has seen it all – an academic, a professor, an ex-VC and now “government man,” so to say. He was forthright and blunt, not minding whose ox is gored. I will not be surprised if he is adjudged to have stepped on powerful toes on this issue. But such is the heavy burden that public-spirited and conscionable patriots must carry, if they are to be truthful to their conscience as well as fulfill their sacred duty to humanity.
————————————

Feedback: Another rejoinder on “Clipping the wings of Alapere canal…

I have always been impressed by your tenacity in pursuing a cause, any cause for that matter, for the public good. The advocacy on the destruction of the Alapere pristine environment through an unregulated land sub-division, illegal dredging, indiscriminate building construction and reckless sand-filling activities which you drew the attention of the Lagos State Government (LASG) to, is one classic example among many human angle causes you have championed in the past.

With the help of the media, Lagos residents are now raising their voice against any policy or action of government that infringes on the abuse of their environment and welfare generally. Public protest against incompatible land use, arbitrary change of use and misconduct of urban planning officials in the state is now commonplace. The conspiracy of silence/lethargic attitude of the LASG against the protection of people’s interest when it matters or when they raise alarm about some unusual/life-threatening developments being located where they live without community consultation is being openly rebuked by Lagos residents. People are not timid to speak out and demand for their rights anymore.

Apart from the whistle you blew on the Alapere canal saga, within the last couple of weeks there were reports in the national dailies mostly about Lagos residents who vehemently protested on certain projects (being proposed or already built) within their environment, which by their reckoning and conviction should NOT have been allowed or approved by the authorities for reasons of safety, security, health and conservation. Recall these screaming headlines in recent times: “Lekki residents protest school location” (The Punch, December 2, 2019); “Satellite Town residents seek the removal of tank farms” (The Nation, 19 July, 2019); “Lagos clamps down on …noise pollution” (TVC News, 18 November, 2019. The list of public complaints and petitions goes on and on.

What this tells any discerning mind about Lagos Residents Associations’ ongoing agitations and public protests is that the LASG is not doing enough consultation about citizen participation in the planning process, despite its professed “inclusive government” mantra. It means that the Government is still engrossed in the old methodology of top to bottom planning approach instead of bottom to top. In an easily comprehensible language, the government is planning for the people instead of planning WITH the people – participatory planning where people’s voice and diverse opinions must be heard.

It is high time the LASG purged itself of this “the-king-can do- no-wrong attitude” on matters of planning and development in the state. Planning is all about cities and the people that live in them. The celebrated American urbanist, Jane Jacobs, hit the nail directly on the head when she said, “There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them, not buildings, that we must fit our plans.” In his eloquent words, Jaime Lerner, the former mayor of Curitiba city, Brazil, the concept originator of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) put it clearly when he said, “the dream of a better city is always in the heads of its citizens.”

The denizens live the city, use the city, work in the city and are in the best position to know what they want in their city in terms of services, safety, security, recreation, aesthetics, and economy. Hence, it is compelling for the citizenry to participate in urban planning and decision-making process. To do the contrary is undemocratic. The only way to have and enjoy a liveable, cleaner, safe and inclusive Lagos megacity is to be vociferous about it; enact and enforce laws to guide it; and demand for it from the municipal government as you expounded in your article.

The continued destruction of the Alapere environs is a parody of careless urban management. People should not be permitted to erect structures on flood plains. The Alapere canal and other destructive/unresolved environmental challenges you brought to the front burner require the immediate attention of the LASG. They should stop pussyfooting about the numerous SOS messages being sent by the residents of Alapere to the LASG to do the needful about their plagued environment and rescue them from the (avoidable) perennial flood.

 

–Yacoob Abiodun, Hayward City, California State, USA.

Comments