Former Education Minister Oby Ezekwesili says the ongoing Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike is now beyond government and the union.
Ezekwesili made this known to newsmen on the sidelines of a one-day dialogue on Education in Abuja on Thursday.
The dialogue, organised by Unity Schools Old Students’ Association (USOSA), had the theme, ‘Good Governance and National Unity.’
Said the former minister: “What I think is that the two parties so far seem to have failed to sign the ground rules for a principal negotiation.
“This is no longer a matter between the government and ASUU; this has become a matter between the people of Nigeria, government and ASUU.
“I think the citizens must now demand a neutral approach in the search for a solution to the kind of university system that we want to run. In this drive, we must see the need for urgency.
“There is no time because the rest of the world has used knowledge as a basis to completely leave us behind at the lower level of economic development ladder.
Ezekwesili, also a former World Bank Vice President, said the ASUU agreement was not signed during her tenure as minister.
She also said: “When I was the minister of education, I personally got Mr. Gamaliel Onosode, a distinguished professional to lead the negotiation.
“But what subsequently happened after I left office in 2007 is open to interpretation of those who were part of the final negotiations that led to the agreement that was said to have been signed in 2009.
“And one thing that I do know is that there were many points of convergence between the Federal Government and ASUU as at the time in 2007 when I was leaving for Washington DC to resume my position as the vice president of World Bank,” she added.
Earlier, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, noted that Nigeria as multi-religious and multi-ethnic nation, had all the necessary ingredients to develop into a great nation.
Makarfi expressed regrets that lack of purposeful leadership from the country’s birth had stifled its march to progress.
“It doesn’t take much to see that if we have as a people harnessed and deployed our disparate individual endowments and abilities in pursuit and promotion of the collective good of the country, no force will be capable of stopping our historic march to greatness,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we have so far failed to rally ourselves round a common cause that will see us approach issues from dispassionate perspectives,’’ he added.
He noted that government on its part had at various times come up with measures that would facilitate integration and unity, but ineffective implementation of policies had continued to deter progress.
Makarfi maintained that only an effective education system, delivered in appropriate environment, would enable Nigerians see things in their proper context.
Rep. Nnenna Ukeje, member, House of Representatives and USOSA, who co-chaired the event, said unity schools were the greatest investment in human resource that Nigeria had ever made.
Ukeje said instead of fostering the ideals for which unity schools were established, things that bind the country together were being down played, while those things that divide us were exaggerated.