I never fail to wonder what priorities Nigerian leaders really have: whether is the Nation before self or vice-versa.
By Ifedayo Adebayo
September 22, 2009
Union leaders fault Yar’Adua’s trip for Saudi university’s opening
The decision of the Nigerian President, Umaru Yar’Adua, to travel to Saudi Arabia and participate as a Special Guest at the inauguration of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is a thing of shame to a country whose universities have been shut for three month, national president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Ukachukwu Awuzie, has said.
Mr. Awuzie, who spoke in an interview on Tuesday, said he hoped that by the time Mr. Yar’Adua comes back from Saudi Arabia, he would appreciate the importance of the crisis in Nigeria’s education sector.
“The Universities there are well equipped, but I will see what he intends to gain from the visit,” he said. “Some people have the intention of getting through their way always, especially in a way of forgetting agreements. But I also hope that when he comes back, he will have better focus on how to tackle the problems in the country.”
The leaders of some student unions have also criticised the president’s Saudi visit. The Student Union President of University of Ado-Ekiti, Olusola Fayemi, appealed to the Nigerian community in the country to boycott the meeting.
“It is hard to believe that our own president has failed to convince the people of this country that he can do this job. Let him go home, or maybe he should go and start living in Saudi Arabia,” Mr. Fayemi said.
“He never met with ASUU since this entire crisis started, but he knows how to dance around the world with his wife. It is an acrimony that Nigerians should reject totally.”
Another student union leader, Destiny Ekhinnabor, said Nigerian students should mobilize themselves and protest at the Saudi Arabia embassy in Nigeria to call for Yar’Adua’s return home.
“He is not an advocate of good educational system. Let him come back home to answer ASUU. Let him come and tell us what he wanted to spend 2009 education budget on,” he said.
Nigeria and Saudi Arabia are petroleum exporting countries. While the latter has 50 universities, two of which are amongst the first 500 in the world, the best university in Nigeria occupies the 6,602th position in the ranking.
Segun Adeniyi, the president’s spokesperson, had said in a statement released in Abuja on Monday that Mr. Yar’Adua is undertaking an official visit to the Arab country.
“President Umaru Ya’Adua will, at the invitation of King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, undertake a working visit to Saudi Arabia from tomorrow, Tuesday, September 22, 2009,” Mr. Adeniyi had said.
“President Yar’Adua is scheduled to hold talks with King Abdullah in the course of the visit and participate as a Special Guest of Honour in the opening of the new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.”
The statement added that the president will also meet with members of the Nigerian community in Saudi Arabia before returning home on Saturday.
Mr. Yar’Adua returned from Saudi Arabia last month after a three-week holiday, during which he received medical care.
The Saudi University
The 36 million square meter-sized King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is a research institution opened on September 5 with an aim to promote research and science in Saudi Arabia and around the globe. The university is opening with a $10 billion endowment.
For the inauguration ceremony, which coincides with the Saudi National Day, September 23, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has invited more than 3,000 Saudi and international guests, including heads of state and Nobel laureates.
The event will feature interactive exhibitions about science and technology, followed by a formal opening ceremony and a dinner. Organisers launched an inauguration website to allow people around the world follow the ceremony online.
The site will feature a live event webcast, and information about the University’s research agenda, lab facilities, faculty, students, and community.
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