I was celebrating this year’s New Yam Festival among my Northern Cross River State communities when congratulatory messages started pouring into my phone from friends, family and fellow members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The news: I was among those appointed to an ASUU Committee to help in rescuing the members of the public from the toxin of ignorance fed into them by hirelings of government who have deliberately heightened their mischievous write ups against the Union lately. Surprisingly, I had not yet even received the letter of appointment from the Union myself. Then I went into the social media world and found some cynical, sarcastic comments by a certain public figure known for her controversies, Lauretta Onochie. The comments were: “ASUU has a new born baby. It’s called Rapid Response Committee RRC. Its birth certificate is displayed here”. Then another, “Let’s see which [sic] of the members of RRC will deny this”. Then, the final complimentary close, “God bless Nigeria”, followed by the name I have just mentioned. Finally, the letter forming the Committee follows on the page after the complimentary close. The import of all this is that the ASUU document in question had been “leaked” to the public. While some members of the Union were a bit startled and even worried, I saw a huge blessing in the so-called “leakage” of the document. I will explain why presently.
There was once a time some two men quarrelled in my village. One was tall and had a trendy goiter, the type that looks like the White man’s bowtie. That was before western medicine and its surgery component were introduced to us; so a goiter, it was believed, had no cure. The other party in the quarrel was short and very hot-tempered. At the peak of the quarrel, the hot-tempered, short man pulled his machete and aimed it at the goitred neck of the tall man, but the machete missed the neck and rather slit open the goiter and some bad fluid came out. The wound was treated and the man’s goiter was healed permanently. This is what this leaking of ASUU’s document has been doing for the Union. It has happened to increase the positive image of the Union in many ways, some of which I will now explain.
1. It has given us some idea about the thinking of some of these attackers of the Union as we find in the remark by Lauretta Onochie, “Let’s see which [sic] of the members will deny this”. That this commentator expects members of the Committee to deny their membership of it reveals a bit of her perception of the Union as either a secret society or a cult. ASUU is none of these; therefore, the members cannot deny their membership of the Committee. The only issue is that ASUU members work altruistically, often not bothering about getting the credit for their individual contributions to the success of the whole. That would be the only reason for the embarrassing disclosure of their roles. It is interesting to note that while some patriotic members of the public had all along been blaming ASUU for the Union’s insufficient presence in the social media, some, such as Ms Onochie, would consider it a secret for the Union to, at last, take some actions that would better inform the public about its messianic vision and mission. For the avoidance of doubt, the Union will actually invigorate its social media presence even more in order to correct the misinformation fed the public by government’s trolls.
2. Not too long ago, the Presidency’s proposed nomination of Ms Onochie as one of the INEC Commissioners was leaked to the public domain and the suggestion of her name for the position was drowned in a public uproar, and the idea was buried even by this government known for its impunity and disdainful attitude to public opinion and outcry. But when the ASUU letter of appointment was leaked, the members were lavishly congratulated by the public. There are, therefore, leaked documents and there are leaked documents. Some leaked documents invite felicitations and gushes of goodwill while some ignite public opprobrium and can stop one from getting an otherwise juicy political appointment from a muddy government.
One leaked document can be virtuous and elicits praise and congratulations; the other can be vicious and draw public ire and rejection.
3. Ordinarily, ASUU had all along thought it was dealing with a government that is a co-wayfarer in the march towards the development of the nation even through the process of a strike action. It was only the bellicosity of government as seen in the treatment given the reports of its own committees, the resort to desperate mercenary media attacks, the attempt to absolve itself of blame in the precipitation of this strike action through its trying to benefit from the outcome of its own contributory negligence as shown in the threat to steal even the poor workers’ salaries that prompted the Union to also be deliberate in ramping up the education of the public on the crisis in order to reduce the harm government’s trolls are doing to the public. So, in a way, it is the treachery of the likes of Ms Lauretta Onochie that stirred up the Union to have the team in place.
4. I also wonder if the public noticed that there is no remuneration attached to the appointments. That is the way ASUU works. Members are not necessarily working to be compensated. They work because they believe in their Union and in the health of their country. They work because they want their nation to be counted among the fast-developing societies of our one world. Would the leaked plan to appoint Ms Lauretta Onochie’s have meant that the appointment would come without a humongous remuneration? That, again, is the difference between some leaked documents and some leaked documents.
5. Finally, ASUU, its various committees, and most of the members of the public are aware of a certain historical trajectory. We are aware that the present struggle between the Union as a voice for the voiceless members of society, on the one hand, and the government, on the other, is a replica of the old struggle between the people and the middlemen of the slave trade era. Just as today the descendants of the middlemen are ashamed of themselves and are battling to distance themselves from the blindness and atrocities of their ancestors, and from the harsh verdict of history against their families, tomorrow the families of the Onochie’s and of all the present gladiators in government will be ashamed of the legacies of their grandparents in the destruction of what had promised to be a great nation. It does not, therefore, matter to us what harm befalls us, what names we are called, how much we are starved, what ridicule we are subjected to by the present lootocrats, and whether we get destroyed or not. History’s eyes are open, especially in these days of multiple recording systems. That tomorrow will surely come to separate those whose leaked documents earned them applause from those whose leaked documents brought them public disgrace and condemnation. I must not forget to thank my otherwise smart Nigerian sister, Ms Lauretta Onochie and those who brought our altruistic role to the limelight by leaking the document for their machete on the neck of ASUU, which has prompted me to provide this explanation to our dear fellow Nigerians on an aspect of ASUU’s battles for the soul of our country, Nigeria. Ms Onochie’s sarcasm and cynicism will help in reducing the pain of ASUU’s goiter as the public should now know a little more about the Union. The report of the 2012 Needs Assessment exercise commissioned to report on the true state of the nation’s universities is available. How I wish our own Ms Lauretta Onochie and or the group of report leakers would help us leak this, too, to the Nigerian public, indicting to Government as it is.
Prof Joseph A Ushie
University of Uyo.