Panic has set in among the family, friends and associates of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy/Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,
regarding her safety.
This is as a result of what they consider to be a calculated attempt by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to pitch her against Muslim fundamentalists by distributing pamphlets in mosques in northern parts of the country demonising her in connection with the four-month-old strike by the union.
One of the pamphlets in the possession of News Express said: “The rulers of Nigeria have only been paying lip-service to education. What is on the ground, at all levels, is scandalous decay as a result of deliberate neglect of this all-important sector. The figures speak for themselves.
“Universities are not exempted from this dangerous poicy of “underfunding” being vigorously pursued by the Ngozi-Iweala controlled government, targeted at destroying the country and ensuring the enslavement of its citizens.This is a Bretton-Woods imposed policy which every free and patriotic Nigerian must resist.”
A source close to Okonjo-Iweala who spoke with News Express accused ASUU of having an ulterior motive by launching a hate campaign against her in the mosque.
“This should not be taken lightly in view of the Boko Haram menace,” the source said, adding: “We have every reason to be worried about the minister’s safety because ASUU is inciting people against her. Don’t forget that the minister’s mother was kidnapped earlier this year but rescued by the grace of God.”
Contacted by News Express, Paul C Nwabuikwu, Special Adviser to Okonjo-Iweala, said they were aware that “for several days now, some elements in ASUU have been distributing pamphlets and flyers with abusive and inflammatory messages” against his principal “in mosques and other places.” He said that “this is taking academic unionism to a new low and infusing it with unnecessary politics,” but added: “I am sure majority of ASUU members are not in support of this.
“These messages are directed at using falsehood to demonise the Minister as callous and unsympathetic to the plight of students and parents. The major lie being peddled in the pamphlets and flyers is that Dr Okonjo-Iweala has insisted on a ‘take-it-or-leave-it approach’ in the negotiations with ASUU. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is the daughter of two retired professors and her father is presently a member of ASUU’s Board of Trustees and has been one for a long time. She speaks with her father everyday on the issue so how can she be insensitive to issues concerning the sad state of tertiary education in the country? She understands and sympathises with the plight of both students and lecturers. She wants our children back in school as soon as possible. Remember, she is a mother and two of her young relatives are sitting at home due to the strike.”