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ASUU: Forsaking the value of knowledge for the vanity of know-how

by Isiyaku Ahmed
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Bala Ibrahim

By Bala Ibrahim

It was Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, the Russian playwright and story writer, that is considered to be one of the greatest writers of all time that said, Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.

On the motivation of Chechov’s saying, I woke up this morning with an old memory, which I tried to situate in the context of the fight between ASUU and the Government. The memory is that of the late Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi, the former Governor of the former Kano state.

Rimi made a pronouncement, pursuant to the sour relationship that surfaced between him and the late Alhaji Ado Bayero, the former Emir of the former Kano Emirate, thus, “A traditional ruler who decides, for whatever reason, to develop a hostile and intransigent attitude against the Government in power, must know that he is going against the people themselves.

For a traditional ruler, that is the most unwise thing to do. You simply cannot fight Government and win. It never happened anywhere, it would never happen in Kano state.”- Abubakar Rimi, 1982.

Sometimes in the early eighties, a feud evolved between Alhaji Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi, the Governor of the then Kano state, and Alhaji Ado Bayero, the Emir of the old Kano Emirate, on issues that had to do with office and the discharge of official duties.

The matter degenerated to the point that touched on ego and later deteriorated to the pricking of self-esteem and the feeling of self-importance between the two. As a traditional ruler, and one that was known for the character of talking less, the late Emir Ado was silent all through, at least to the public.

But being a politician, and a radical one for that, Governor Rimi was publically vocal on the issue. Governor Rimi’s position was that the emir is a public office holder, paid with public funds, appointed for the pleasure of the state government, and can be removed anytime at the pleasure of the government. “As far as I am concerned, the Emir of Kano is nothing, nothing, nothing, but a public officer.

He is a public officer holding a public office, who is being paid by public funds and whose appointment is at the pleasure of the state governor, and who can be dismissed, removed, suspended, if he commits an offense and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, anyone can do about it”.

When Rimi made that pronouncement, I was a young student in the university, vibrant and wallowing with youthful exuberance. But despite my relative naivety in governance and public administration then, I was quick to agree with Rimi on the egg and stone theory that says: Whether the egg hits the stone, or the stone hits the egg, one thing would surely happen- the egg would break. The worse the egg can do is to stain the stone.

Accordingly, if situated in the context of Rimi’s threat to the Emir, which he said a number of times in Hausa, thus, “Idan kwai yai karo da dutse, to ya san abinda zai faru”, we can say that it is extremely foolhardy, for anyone, individual or group, to expect victory in a fight engaged with the government.

Late Emir Ado permitted experience, knowledge, and good judgment to guide him in circumventing a frontal confrontation with Rimi, and as God would have it, he outlived Rimi in power and on earth. Abubakar Rimi left the government house before the Emir and equally died before the Emir. Rimi died on the 4th of April 2010, while Ado Bayero died on the 6th of June 2014.

After the death of Ado Bayero, and the eventual enthronement of our friend cum our father, Sunusi Lamido Sunusi, another irony against the foolishness of fighting the Government in power also played out. Emir Sunusi the second, followed the path of Emir Sunusi the first. They were both dethroned by the government, for reasons that had to do with intransigent attitudes against the government in power.

Despite the effervescence of young age, with a boiling head, like the heads of many others in that age bracket, driven by the radicalism of the eighties, but still, I was always guided by the wisdom of caution against the outright confrontation with the authority. A caution that was deliberately disrespected by at least two people, whom I met in the University.

The first was Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who although my senior, but my hallmate at Ribadu Hall, ABU Zaria. Ibrahim and I had a lengthy discussion in his house sometime in the nineties, when his Shiite group had an encounter with the military in Zaria, and his house in Zaria city was ransacked. I was a reporter, and being an old friend, I visited to commiserate, as well as cover the calamity on behalf of the BBC. All through our talks, the egg and stone theory was what was resonating in my head.

The second happened with the dethronement of our friend cum father, Emir Sunusi the second. I was pained, extremely pained by what happened, but in reminiscence, my mind went to the sayings of the late Abubakar Rimi, that, “You simply cannot fight Government and win. It never happened anywhere, it would never happen in Kano state.”

The third is just in the making, and the party involved is called ASUU, the Academic Staff Union of Universities. ASUU had been in a fight with the government over some issues, resulting in a strike that is almost eight months now. But the government had announced the recognition of a parallel union, under the name CONUA, Congress of Nigerian University Academics, which has claimed it has on standby, over 1000 members that are ready to abandon the lingering industrial action embarked upon by ASUU.

All along, my intuition has been telling me things would happen like this, and I kept telling my friends in academia that, they are forsaking the value of knowledge for the vanity of know-how. The Hausa man would say, “amfanin ilimi, aiki da shi”.

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