COVID-19 AND THE PROFESSORS By FEMI ADESINA

I hate to see professors die. And in recent days, we have lost three of them to the strange ailment called COVID-19, currently ravaging the world.

Within two weeks, we lost three professors in quick succession. Habu Galadima, Director-General, National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). Femi Odekunle, renowned criminologist and member of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC). And Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe, former Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos.

Each time a professor dies, I say to myself: what a waste! All the learning, gone. All the intellect, perished. The research, the knowledge, and quest for more knowledge, kaput. Sheer waste!

I have firsthand experience in losing a Professor. My elder sister was one. She was a Professor of Dramatic Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. In December 2015, she was traveling from Ibadan to Lagos, when that famished road consumed her. All the learning, gone. All the intellect, perished. The knowledge, and the quest for more knowledge, kaput. What a waste, sheer waste of all that is bright and beautiful.

I have seen Professors die. Young, middle aged, old. But at whatever age, the sheer sense of loss always weighs on me powerfully. Habu Galadima was only 57. Not ripe at all. Professor Ayodele Awojobi, perhaps the most brilliant Engineer from this part of the world, was only 47, when he passed. Waste. Sheer waste.

I knew the three Professors that just died, personally. Habu Galadima I’d met each time he visited the Presidential Villa, either solely, or with his students at NIPSS

Just 17 days before he passed on, he had led members of the Senior Executive Course 42 on a visit, to present their research findings on Population Growth and Human Capital Development: Challenges and Opportunities, to President Muhammadu Buhari.I was Master of Ceremonies at the event, which held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa.

In my capacity as compere, I consulted and related closely with Prof Galadima. We discussed who would do what on the program, and were engaging till the about two hours event was concluded. We both had our face masks in place, and still tried to respect the principle of social distancing, even as we conferred.

You could imagine my shock, when 17 days later, I heard of the death of the erudite Professor. He had reportedly been admitted at an isolation centre in Abuja on December 19, but sadly, he lost the battle for life the next day. All the learning, gone. All the intellect, perished. The knowledge, and quest for more knowledge, kaput. What a waste, sheer waste.

President Buhari says usually of COVID-19: ‘You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, you can’t hear it, but it is there, causing havoc all over the world.”

It kills the rich, and the poor. It eliminates the old, and the young. It has no respect for learning and research, so it takes even Professors. “Death lays its icy hands on kings, Scepter and crown must tumble down, And in the dust be equal made with the poor crooked scythe and spade,” wrote James Shirley.

And death takes everyone, everything, including Professors. How rude. Impudent. Even supercilious. No wonder John Donne wrote that death shall die one day.

“One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.” True.

Professor Femi Odekunle I probably knew closest among the three fallen scholars. I visited his home in Wuse area of Abuja regularly, very regularly, and he had a way of saying: “Femi, please let’s see on your way from church on Sunday.” And I usually did.

Odekunle was a Buharist, and we usually had a lot to discuss about our principal, trends in government, the anti-corruption war, and many others. When he needed background information on certain issues, he usually sent for me.

And the President loved and respected him, too. There was a time the Professor needed private audience, and he sent me to the boss. I mentioned it, and pronto, he granted the request. You can’t beat President Buhari in terms of loyalty to his allies.

When COVID-19 came, the Odekunle home took all the precautions. You must wear face mask before you were granted access, and someone was always by the door to apply sanitizers to your hands. So, how did the Prof catch COVID, or rather, how did COVID catch him? Mysterious. Inscrutable. Baffling.

As former Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Dr Olu Agunloye, has succinctly put it, I was in a way involved in the last ditch effort to ensure Prof Odekunle lived. After he had spent 11 days in an isolation centre in Abuja, the wife became restive about the quality of care he was getting. So also the son, Dosu. I began to talk with them back and forth, and the wife asked if the DSS hospital could take her husband.

I made the contacts, and the way was being paved for his transfer, when the unthinkable happened. Professor Odekunle lost the battle for life. All the learning, gone. All the intellect, perished. All the knowledge, and search for more knowledge, kaput. What a waste. Sheer waste!

And then, Professor Ibidapo-Obe. I had known him since his days as Vice Chancellor of University of Lagos. We had invited him to grace The Sun Awards, while I worked with The Sun Newspapers. He came, and that was the beginning of our acquaintanceship, which lasted till last weekend.

It was a shock for me to hear the news. He was a first class brain, best graduating student in his set, who had his Master’s and Ph.D in record time. He was President of the Nigerian Academy of Science. But impudent COVID-19 did not respect all that . Now, all the learning, gone. All the intellect, perished. All the knowledge, and search for more knowledge, kaput. What a waste. Sheer waste!

On Tuesday this week, our country recorded 1,354 new cases of Coronavirus infections. It was the highest daily record so far, and deaths have hit 1,319, in all the 36 States, and the Federal Capital Territory. Fellow Nigerians, it’s no time to be careless or reckless. The second wave of Coronavirus is not smiling at all.

The worst enemy is the one who can see you, and you can’t see. It strikes stealthily, and fatally. And with Coronavirus, “you can’t see it, you can’t smell it, you can’t touch it, but it is there, causing havoc round the world.”
May God save us from such implacable foe.

*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity

Elon Musk is now the richest Person in the world, passing Jeff Bezos

Elon Musk just became the richest person in the world, with a net worth of more than $185 billion.

Thursday’s increase in Tesla’s share price pushed Musk past Jeff Bezos, who had been the richest person since 2017 and is currently worth about $184 billion. Musk’s wealth surge over the past year marks the fastest rise to the top of the rich list in history — and marks a dramatic financial turnaround for the famed entrepreneur who just 18 months ago was in the headlines for Tesla’s rapid cash burn and his personal leverage against Tesla’s stock.

Musk started 2020 worth about $27 billion, and was barely in the top 50 richest people.

Tesla’s rocketing share price — which has increased more than nine-fold over the past year — along with his generous pay package have added more than $150 billion to his net worth.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s share price has remained more subdued due to the potential for increased regulation from Washington.

Elon Musk passed Warren Buffett in July to become the seventh richest person. In November, Musk raced past Bill Gates to become the second richest person. Musk has gained more wealth over the past 12 months than Bill Gates’ entire net worth of $132 billion.

Tesla’s shares were recently trading at about $790, up more than 4% in trading Thursday. The company’s market value has grown to $737.6 billion.

I was paid N4,000 as monthly salary –ASUP Chairman

The controversial payment system introduced by the Federal Government, the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System, IPPIS, may lead to the disruption of activities in the nation’s polytechnics, as the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, has cried out against the lapses inherent in the system and is threatening industrial action.

Speaking in a chat in Lagos on Thursday, the Yaba College of Technology, Yabatech Chapter Chairman, Mr Remi Ajiboye, said salaries of members were being cut indiscriminately, citing an instance in which he was paid N4, 000 as monthly salary.

Ajiboye is a Senior Lecturer whose salary should be over N300,000 monthly.

This is as many federal workers are complaining about the irregularity in the payment of their salaries

A Vice Chancellor in a federal university in the North was reportedly paid N72,000 as salary at a point in time.

The IPPIS became a compulsory means of receiving salaries for federal workers in February, 2020.

Ajiboye added that his members were also being owed 10 months’ new minimum wage arrears and that despite the promise to clear the arrears by July last year, nothing has been done.

“We are in support of our Council of National Officers, who have been battling for months to get many of the issues redressed. Actually, we can say that the government is killing us gradually with this IPPIS of a thing. Deductions like for cooperative societies are not remitted. Even our union dues are not remitted regularly.

“Now, nobody can say this is what he or she earns a month. The salary has become an undulating object, you only get whatever catches the fancy of those in the IPPIS office.

“There was a month I was paid N4,000 as monthly salary. And it is not that the money forcibly taken away would be repaid any time soon,” he said.

Aftermath of ASUU’s strike and COVID 19 consequences on school’s resumption: Are students ready to resume?

When the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suspended the nine-month-old strike last December, it was sheer relief for  students who have been bored with  endless stay at home.  Thus, parents forgot the recent second wave of COVID-19 now hanging on the country like the sword of Damocles. The happiness of their children leaving for school very soon suffused their  heart.

Overjoyed students and parents might not see the pandemic as a barrier to resumption, perhaps they don’t care.

Another issue is that many students have lost the passion for learning. Now with the second wave of COVID-19 transmission,more students would find learning inconsequential.

Therefore, a large percentage of students will find it burdensome to maintain their academic standard. Many will fail even with help because a large number has lost hope in the academia while others will hang on because of the love for certificates.

Interestingly, COVID-19 has exposed many students to the harsh realities of life after school. No job.Bleak future. Thus, they ventured into other projects and forgot  conventional education.

If students slam government  or ASUU from now till eternity, the former is not ready to compensate the students for their patience and perseverance. On the other hand, Prof.  Ogunyemi had acknowledged the parents and students.

As the coronavirus continues to ravage the country,incorporating  virtual learning  to recover the wasted period will amount to nothing because of poor infrastructure.Most schools lack e-learning facilities.

Importantly, many students need mental health guidance. Only a relieved and  settled mind can read and assimilate. To help students, mental health trainings will  boost  concentration levels, improve their ability and help to maintain good lnteraction among their colleagues and lecturers.

The strike has been called off, but  the fear in every student returning to school, particularly in the North is worrisome. The fear of death and kidnapping, the fear of hunger after resumption. Even if the parents are happy that their children are going back to school, are they also happy that the school is not safe? Safety matters very much.

Again, the strike was suspended conditionally, a signal to another possible strike in a few months, if the conditions agreed upon are not met by the Federal Government. When  are students going to  rest and stop panicking over the ASUU strike?

Students will always be at the receiving end of the battle between ASUU and government. Thus,it will not be out of place to suggest that if should help the students with palliatives,while  ASUU assures them of smooth academic activities.

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