Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi has said that he did not mean to denigrate professors and the teaching profession in Nigeria when he said that some senior lecturers in universities earned more than him.
Speaking against the backdrop of the ongoing nationwide strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (Asuu), Fayemi, during an interview in Paris, France, faulted the union, saying with competing demands for the national resources by the various sectors, Asuu cannot have everything it wants.
His words: ”Asuu claimed that it is on strike because it wants improvement in the fortunes of education in Nigeria and that government has not lived up to expectations.
“I made bold to say that no government has done as much as this government has done. Not just for Asuu, but for tertiary education in our country.
“Is it enough? Absolutely, it’s not going to be enough. We have to keep doing more.
“But ask yourself what was the average wage in the University system before. A university professor earns more than me as a governor. My salary as a governor is N500,000. Most university professors earn about the same amount if not more.”
His comments angered lecturers, who did not hesitate to respond.
Two chapter of the union berated the Ekiti governor for saying lecturers’ welfare had improved under the present administration.
Dr Deji Omole, speaking on behalf of Asuu at the University of Ibadan, stated that while the union would not be distracted in its struggle for the revitalisation of public education “by political opportunists like Governor Fayemi,” it considered the governor’s claim as diversionary.
But Fayemi lamented that the interview was misconstrued as a direct comment on salaries of professors and undue meddling in the affairs of Asuu.
“The reference to salaries of professors was only a light-hearted response to the question as to whether the governor thought university professors were well paid,” he said, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Yinka Oyebode.
He said that the purpose of the interview was not an attempt to meddle in the affairs of the union as alleged by some of its chapters.
He said, “As someone who is from the university system, there is no way Dr. Fayemi can denigrate professors and the teaching profession.
“But if we genuinely want to improve education standard, academics cannot be afraid or contemptuous of sincere debate about the future of education.
“It must be stated that regardless of divergent opinions of critical stakeholders in the education sector, a robust debate is needed to reposition the sector. This must be done as a matter of urgency.”