March 19, 2018, folded up like every other day. For many people on this side of the earth, however, it will linger not just in their memories and have added significance. It was the first day of work for many at the University of Nigeria following more than three months strike action by non-academic staff.
It may be business as usual for the returning personnel. For the more conscientious, it may spell more dedication to duty and a new call to self-application in the responsibilities assigned by the university. For the new employees, there maybe different expectations: the primary one is an elevation to the rank of salary earners. To some, it will be a movement from the poor take home in the state civil service to the comparatively 'huge' bounty the Federal public service offers in the minds of most. Some are even comingback and have to switch to the Naira emoluments from their hard currency emoluments and the lavish lifestyle they are used to in the countries to which they migrated before the lure of UNN caught up with them.
There are different expectations regarding duty, from the very greenhorns to the very skilled workers. The less experienced workers will undoubtedly outnumber the skilled workers. This assumption is a task for the Human Resource (Personnel Services) Unit of the University. It demands new approaches to human resource service. It also spells broader involvement of the security department since the population increase would likely bring along challenges that may require security attention.
Expectations in our clime are unfortunately often directed at the government, administration and leadership of a system. This attitude usually leaves the individuals who should make the system run smoothly with no sense of responsibility to the system. However, the expectation is that for all these newly employed, many of who will resume officially following the end of the months-long strike action of the nonteaching staff of the Nigerian Universities, there should be a commitment and sense of duty to 'my' alma mater. They should want to give their best to the first university in Nigeria and to space where many - a substantial number of our young minds- pass through to become whatever they and society eventually make of them. From the cleaner who keeps the aesthetics and beauty of the environment to enhance our physical and psychological health at work to the professor, the wise egghead who shells out the knowledge and the students, each has a duty which when neglected or done shoddily affects the system in adverse ways.
In other words.... for those who pride themselves of the fact that the UNN is their commonwealth like the Nsukka man and the Igbo man and the other Nigerians who will usually point to the universality of it being the University of Nigeria and so should offer opportunities to all and sundry. The job ahead is enormous. We need committed people. Committed workers in order to restore the dignity of our society, currently awash in the mud of corruption, mediocrity, wantonness and evil. We need cleaners who are committed and ready to take up the brooms and brushes and scrub till the floor glistens. Not those whose cleaning stops at the bosses’ desk, leaving the place in coats of red dust. We need storekeepers who are ready to take inventory and keep same with utmost integrity, drivers who drive university vehicles just the way they drive their personal cars, refuelling with integrity and sincerity. Technicians whose skills will keep the laboratories, workshops and studios functional. Not those who will uninstall equipment or refuse to run the ones installed so that their personal equipment will be used and thus generating fund for their personal aggrandizement. UNN is in dire need of security officials sincere to the calling to secure lives and properties as well as teach virtues to both staff and students. Administrative staff who are conscious of their duties and responsibilities. Lecturers committed to research, development teaching and mentoring young people in the decade of the millennials.
The increase in staff population should ease bottlenecks for students’ lifecycle processes. Creating less torment for these young ones will, in turn, reduce our everyday administrative engagements. It is practical. When they graduate, for instance, they are re-employed in places like the Pensions Board. Given their experience, they may either make it smooth or full of drudgery. Remember, you cannot give what you do not have.
A pertinent angle to this increase is our care of the environment and our attitude to rules and regulations: do not break 'no loitering' signs, post no bills rules. The speed limit on campus has always been 40km/h, no noise zone, no parking zones, stop at the the intersection, obey single lane rules and many more.
The Vice-Chancellor wishes for things to run at its best. Consequently, there are ample improvements: roads reconstructed, buildings taking better shapes and new structures springing up, staff sent for additional training, and more.
University staff wait with high anticipation the fulfillment of the earned allowance promise which will in no little way ease the stress piled on them due to the recession. Even as there are claims the recession has reduced, it left many in poverty.
UNN is a legacy with which we cannot toy. Claiming its ownership should motivate the ‘owners’ to work hard at making it the best in all ramifications.
Dr Nnabueze is of the Department of Fine & Applied Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka