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Enugu guber rally: When government drags teachers out for strike actions

Twice, this year alone, the Enugu State Government has instigated what I will call strike actions by teachers in the state. If you are a parent, and on certain days, your child in primary or secondary schools says he or she wasn’t going to school because the teachers said they should not come, what runs through your mind? And then upon inquiry, you discover that teachers were “asked” to attend a political rally organised by the governor and his ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), isn’t that enough for you to conclude it was a government-induced strike action?

Under this administration in Enugu, this has become a trend and routinely takes place each time the Nero in Enugu Government House feels the need for contrived ego bolstering. There are reasons that this government keeps raiding the teachers to enhance the numbers in its increasingly depleting crowd of praise singers, and I will begin quite early in this intervention to address them.

The first is the numbers. There are a total of 1,223 public primary schools in the state, with an average of 10 teachers each. This gives a total of about 10,000-plus teachers. This does not include the non-teaching staff that currently work in those primary schools. For secondary schools, statistics indicate that there are 294 secondary schools and technical colleges in the state, with about 9,000 teaching and non-teaching staff.

Stats do not lie, and it, therefore, follows that any rally organised by the governor, with teachers in all the primary and secondary schools in the state “made” to attend will have a captive crowd of at least 19,000 teachers singing and dancing to songs they most likely neither believes in nor could determine their relevance to their lives as people condemned by even the government that finds them so conveniently useful, to exist permanently and with no hope of uplift, at the bottom of the global economic pyramid.

To make sure everyone attends, I learned that there is a roll call for each school, coordinated by the respective headteachers and principals, with punishments prescribed for recalcitrance.

The second factor is the one of value chain. It is clear from the way this government treats issues in the education sector, that there is either a very poor understanding of the role of education in the social, moral, and economic well-being of the state, or there is a deliberate, cruelly intentional effort to erode the critical sector. Otherwise, why should a government that should be policing teachers to make sure they are doing their jobs when, where, and how they should, be the one propagating the culture of truancy?

The people behind this bad habit know their crowd-sourcing arithmetic very well. When you mass 19,000 teachers at a rally venue and spice them up with the thousands of political appointees loitering around everywhere in the state, the result is certainly an intimidatingly impressive gathering that will both intimidate the opposition and shore up the captor-in-charge mentality of any presiding demagogue.

As I pointed out in the first paragraph of this article, this has happened twice this year alone. The first was when the teachers were allegedly called for a solidarity visit to the Governor at the Government House. During that charade, the teachers were allegedly fitted with uniforms emblazoned with all sorts of patronizing inscriptions.

I am aware that civil servants are also routinely dragged into similar visitations where they are usually whisked by department heads and favour-seeking commissioners into delirious, voice-cracking chants, but I take exception to the (mis)use of our teachers in this way.

Civil Servants, and I mean the thousands of file-caressing idle men and women most spend their days in office doing nothing except exploit bureaucracy to slow down processes, and can afford the time and luxury of jamborees. But teachers are not in this class, and it should not be the government that should be behind anything relating to teacher-truancy of any kind.

Public schools’ performance in most external examinations in the country has given many causes for concern. Before anyone shows up to whine about how, for instance, Enugu State came 2nd behind Edo State, in the 2022 West African Examinations Council (WAEC) School Certificate Examinations, facts have emerged that that enviable position was made possible mostly by the private schools in the state.

I understand Governor Ugwuanyi needed to impress his G-5 “Intigirity Group” of rebellions PDP governors who had come for the flag-off of the party’s governorship campaign in Enugu, and the only way this is measured is in the size of the chanting crowds, but I am also aware that this is done, even in the other G-5 states, not by dragging their teachers, an essential service, to attend rallies.

The public school system in Enugu has been pathetic for many years. Sights of primary and secondary schools that look like abandoned poultry farms are all over all the local government areas of the state. Although there have been cosmetic enhancements over the past four years, with some rehabilitation of dilapidated school blocks, those efforts were not large enough to go round, and worse still, they failed to address the challenges of motivation and quality of teaching manpower.

The teachers in Enugu State are the least paid in the country. Last year, I understand they were not paid for a number of months, including the critical month of December. For a number of weeks that same last year, these teachers were also on strike over poor conditions of service.

Sadly, after spending long periods at home to press home for better working conditions, government now also routinely drags them out on working days to join political rallies.

I understand Governor Ugwuanyi needed to impress his G-5 “Intigirity Group” of rebellions PDP governors who had come for the flag-off of the party’s governorship campaign in Enugu, and the only way this is measured is in the size of the chanting crowds, but I am also aware that this is done, even in the other G-5 states, not by dragging their teachers, an essential service, to attend rallies.

It is only a state inspired by anti-intellectualism that can ever contemplate this route of crowd enhancement, even if it was seen to be a lot more cost-efficient to go this route. Crowd renting for political rallies has become expensive as political loyalty became conditional and transactional. To mobilise the kind out crowd required by Governor Ugwuanyi to impress his political Generalissimo, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State would have cost billions of naira, and  I am sure someone would have whispered the commandeering of school teachers as an alternative that wasn’t going to cost a lot of money.

But then who is working the economics for this government? Did these guys factor the immediate, medium, and long-term cost of being away from school for a day on the lives of close to 20,000 impressionable pupils? Can anyone even put numbers to the ethical and moral issues of these children growing up to believe there was nothing wrong in teachers staying away from school because they are attending one government rally or the other? Remember that these people being trained this way are themselves going to become teachers tomorrow.

Is this the culture the current crop of leaders in the state wants to be imparted to their children? Of course, they do not care; their children are not in any of the public schools and as a result, couldn’t care less what culture is bred among the ranks of poor peoples’s children who attend public schools as their only choice and sole hope for emancipation.

What kills education and most other productive enterprises is usually dereliction of duties and responsibilities by management. If the Managing Director of a company develops the habit of abstaining from work or even coming late, the culture would quickly spread among staff, and the moral rights and executive power to apply punitive measures would vanish.

Public school enrolment in Enugu is at its lowest and actions and attitudes like the one we are discussing here have been chiefly responsible. I attended a public primary school where, in my Primary One, we were split into eight classes of Primaries 1A to 1H. By the time we got to Primary 2, another school was built at Odoru Nsukka, yet we still had five classes. There were four classes from Primary 3 to Primary 6. And you know what? There were no less than 32 pupils in any of these classes.

What this means is that each class set had more than 200 pupils, and the entire school, over 1,200… Compare the situation today, with all the population increases and education awareness and you will know the evil that has been progressively done to education. The example I am going to use is the primary school I attended, Community Primary School, Nguru, Nsukka. Between 1977 and 1982 when I left this school, there were no fewer than 1,000 pupils in the school each time. Today, this same school has not recorded more than 350 pupils in the past 6 years. I know this because I make annual interventions of donating exercise books to the pupils. As a matter of fact, the nine primary schools in my Nkpunano Ward do not have more than 1,500 pupils.

What do you think is responsible? The answer is poor infrastructure. Low teacher motivation and lowered quality are three developments that have caused parents to opt for more expensive private schools, rather than public schools where government wakes up in the morning and decides that children do not deserve the day’s teachings because their teachers are needed elsewhere; as cheap comics and jesters; to sing and dance for politicians primitive pleasure.

That is what education has become in Enugu State.


Ikem Okuhu is a journalist, a Public Relations professional, brand strategist and teacher. With a career that traversed Print Media, Oil & Gas, Banking and entrepreneurship, Ikem is the author of wave-making book; PITCH: Debunking Marketing’s Strongest Myths, a dispassionate exposition of the dos and don’ts of successful engagement in the marketplace, especially the Nigerian marketplace. He is the founder/publisher of BRANDish, Nigeria’s first nationally circulating Brands and Marketing magazine. He has also handled the PR and reputation management consultancies for a number of brands, businesses and public figures.

  • Uche Okafor

    Pulling teachers from public schools to attend political events when they should be in the classroom is unheard of here In the South West. I hope this unhealthy trend will end with the present government in Enugu. The importance of teachers staying in the classroom should never be undermined by egoistic and unscrupulous politicians.

    January 28, 2023 at 2:46 pm Reply
  • Onyinyechi

    You are so right. What the teachers have been through in this administration can not be over emphasized.

    Especially the primary school teachers.

    January 28, 2023 at 10:46 pm Reply

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