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Wednesday, 20 November 2013


For four months and still counting, all federal and state government run (public) universities were shut down by the industrial action commenced by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
One among many pecuniary issues/grudges that precipitated the obscenely prolonged public university system's forced shut down [which has become the mother of all strikes in Nigeria] was the agitation by the teachers for enhanced allowances and wages. As one local but iconic musician had sang in the past about 'money palava/trouble', money for most public workers is the beginning of wisdom.

Ironically, the university teachers have the sympathy of certain critical minded people in the society for protesting the unwholesome breach by the federal government of its legal contractual obligation to meet with the terms of a binding agreement reached with the university teachers in 2009. Other persons are worried that these academics have allowed the love of money to becloud their sense of reasoning.

One among the germane reasons that the university teachers still enjoy some form of limited sympathy from genuine rational Nigerians is because of the rot in the public university system but again, this systemic and institutional rot was partly created by some illegal activities of even the university teachers themselves including but not limited to gross professional indiscipline; sexual harassment of female teachers and bribe- for -higher- marks syndrome encouraged by these ‘learned’ minds. Some of these public university teachers have been accused of also doubling as privately hired tutors in some privately run universities that are in session even as Children of poor families in public universities are shut out of university education for four months now.

In saner climes, the public intellectuals and academics are some of the most respected patriots of their respective nations because they basically put the interest of public good, the good of their students and the good of humanity at heart even before their pecuniary benefits before doing their best to build a better society.
In developed societies in Europe and America, scholars, scientists, creative minds genuinely embark on scholarship and other intense creative activities so as to invent innovative devices and ideas that would greatly improve the welfare of humanity and deep at the back of their minds is not the financial benefits that may accrue therefrom but they do all these out of passion and genuine love for mankind.

Although most contemporary Europeans and Americans have and/or are on the verge of abandoning the active practice of their Christian conservative religious values, but at the same time, it is only in those climes that you find out that gifted and talented people embark on various activities that would genuinely empower humanity and make the world a better place. Mark Zuckerberg, the young American man who invented the popular social media- Facebook did this out of his love for common humanity and promote friendship but see how so richly endowed he has become from the fruits of his labour which he genuinely did out of passion?
Like what is clearly stated by the Bible (Mathew 6:33) that genuine creative minds should seek first the kingdom of God and the rest shall be added unto them, in Europe and America whereby organized religions are giving way rapidly to atheism, most scholars and other creative minds still devote their entire career to the service of humanity.
But in Nigeria, those who ought to show the light of patriotism so others will follow are not prepared for this altruistic assignment but have cleverly invented a new phrase that the reward of a teacher is on earth and not just in Heaven.

The narratives above are necessitated by the uncommon patriotism in generous supply in the public life and service of the current Nigeria’s national football coach-Mr. Stephen Okechukwu Keshi who against all odds has brought back smiles to faces of Nigerians at a time that over 100 million Nigerians live in absolute poverty and destitution (apologies to recent world Bank report).

Keshi or the big boss as his contemporaries in the game of football call him, is about the only Nigerian public worker who would be owed over 7 months salaries and allowances and continues to deliver results in his chosen field of human endeavour even when his employer-Nigerian football federation are in criminal breach of an extant contract.
Keshi is being owed 7 months salaries alongside his other members of the coaching crew but he has remained magnanimous and resilient and has gone ahead to secure qualification for Nigeria to the 2014 senior World Cup coming up in Brazil without engineering any strike action or did he ever contemplate sabotaging Nigeria's qualification to the World Cup as most Nigerians in his shoes would do if owed this long stretch of accumulated wages by an employer that is clearly not known to be prudent with public fund and under whose watch several foreign denominated amounts grew wings and disappeared without any trace. Keshi continues to work even when he is owed.       

If you doubt my profound praises for Coach Stephen Keshi, then take a walk to the office of the Nigerian minister of Labour and Productivity Mr. Emeka Wogu to read his ministerial briefing presented on July 23rd 2013 to see the high volume of industrial disputes that he has had to confront within so short a time frame.

In the report the Labour minister presented to the National working committee of the national ruling political party-Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) we learnt that Nigeria has had some of the highest industrial disputes than most counties of the world.

Emeka Wogu, the Aba, Abia State-born Lawyer and politician had written thus; “Generally, the Ministry within the year; accomplished the following: receipt and resolution of labour complaints from all States of the federation; 213 number of Labour Complaints and Trade Disputes were declared and 174 of the declared trade disputes were resolved through mediation and Conciliation by the Minister of Labour & Productivity in the exercise of the statutory powers conferred on the office. While 25 cases were resolved through referral for Arbitration/Judicial Adjudication, and 14 cases were still on-going.”

Just before Nigeria divested ownership of publicly built electricity power plants to some choice ‘buyers’ in the private sector with effect from October 2013, workers of the now defunct National electricity power Authority (Power Holden Company) threatened to undermine the privatization process except their accumulated financial settlements/pay offs were met.
The Nigerian government coughed out N360 billion to pay off the agitated former public electricity workers before the full privatization of electricity took effect. These erstwhile public electricity workers who got generous financial settlements do not wish to become as genuinely patriotic as Stephen Keshi and this is because they are aware that most of those who populate public offices award themselves generous allowances and salaries far and above what the law says.

Keshi and his crew members who still do wonderful things with Nigeria’s National football teams amidst financial constraints are indeed uncommon heroes and patriots if indeed patriotism still means the love of one’s country far and above the love of self.  
It is not in doubt that patriotism is the rarest virtue in Nigeria much more than virginity because even with the fast decline in moral values, there are still many young women who have chosen to remain virgins.
Patriotism in Nigeria is rarer than even the ten rarest animals world-wide such as the Pinta Island tortoise, the Baiji (Yangtze River Dolphin); The Vancouver Island marmot and seven others listed in

For instance, in the United States, engagement in public service such as holding public offices are mostly done by public spirited individuals who have achieved fame, fortune and a place of pride in their chosen careers. But in my country of birth-Nigeria, most people go into politics and public life with the polluted and corrupt mindset of self aggrandizement/enrichment by outright theft of public fund meant for building infrastructure and providing basic urgent social services such as health care.

Keshi is worth being celebrated as a hero and a great patriot who should be taught and indeed become a major chapter in the social and educational curriculum in public schools to children as part of civic education so our children who are growing up under this absolutely money suffocating/conscious environment could learn and accept the fact that patriots who give their time, talents and gifts to the service of nation and public good do not end up not being celebrated.  
For Coach Stephen Okechukwu Keshi born on January 23rd 1962, my word of encouragement is that he should continue to be who he is-great patriot and an uncommon pragmatic demonstration of patriotism.

 +  Emmanuel Onwubiko; Head; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria; blogs;


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