I sit here in my new office, scrolling through the syllabus for my Fall Semester class that begins on Monday. This is the same syllabus that has been used by every professor of this subject before me, even though every new teacher gets to modify it to fit their own taste. As I look through its very few pages trying to adapt it to myself while adapting myself to it, I remember home.
In Nigeria today, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (and I hear of Polytechnics too) are on an indefinite industrial strike to petition the government on a variety of matters bordering on increasing the standard of University (and Polytechnic) education in the country. They have been been on strike since June this year and would not resume, or attend to students, until the Government responds to them. And from the look of things, the government doesn’t seem to give a hoot. Nigeria is still in darkness, the same perennial state of recurring despair that has produced nothing but hopelessness, idleness, restiveness, violence, and an alarming brain drain. Nothing has changed.
In 2003 as an undergraduate in Ibadan, as head of a student group of campus journalists, I had created an online petition meant to harry the Federal Government and the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities to find a middle ground, and resolve their differences in the interest of students whose brains are being allowed to shrivel up from idleness. It turned out in the end that keeping us idle was part of a masterplan to disenfranchise University students in the general election, and in turn use them for the dirty jobs of violence. I had written a very angry open letter in the dailies to poke at the conscience of the leaders. In the end, nothing came out of it. The strike drew out for as long as nine months before we were called back to school. If I had thought about it for a second time, I should have known that writing never solved any problem. The wicked people in the high places didn’t care about what we thought, and a dark empty place perhaps filled with beer farts, tobacco and ugly smut now exists where their conscience used to be.
Now as I sit here alone in serenity, in a place where things go according to order, according to sanity, according to the highest sense of responsibility, I think of home. I think of the enormous waste that must be taking place right now in homes and on the street. How many lives must be seeping out of relevance all over Nigeria’s mamoth population because of the insensitivity of its leaders who can now no longer be pricked with either conscience or common sense. I feel lonely, not from absence, but from despair. I can not change the world. I can only change myself. And most times, it is never enough to prevent the triumph of evil.