ASUU: Messiahs Of University Education In Nigeria

In the wake of the over seven months of strike action embarked upon by ASUU, I have taken it upon my humble self to enlighten, remind and enjoin fellow students and the general public about what in my opinion and that of many Nigerian students should be the stance of all Nigerians as regards this strike.

Without further protocols, I’ll like to remind us that it wasn’t only ASUU that embarked on industrial action; the likes of National Association of Academic Technologist (NAAT), the likes of Non Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), all went on strike. Where are they today? Has the FG met their demands? I came across an article where SSANU members were wailing over unpaid salaries even after calling off their strike over a month ago. They’ve all withered away with the storm. They could easily be sorted out, perhaps a few brown envelopes doing the job…In Nigeria never rule that out. Some NASU and SSANU members boldly came out to say they were not consulted, before the Joint Action Committee (JAC) took the decision to end the strike. The truism that when the going gets tough,the tough gets going couldn’t be laid more bare.

It is a shame that the FG has resorted to traumatising its citizens clamouring for the betterment of a critical sector like education. Rather than try to resolve critical issues raised, some elements in Government have resorted to blackmail, skirmishes and schemes to truncate all efforts ASUU has made to resolve the impasse. From the lies that ASUU sat alone and awarded themselves #2milllion naira each as salaries, to the one that all demands have been met except salary backlogs, to the inhumane emphasis on the “no work,no pay”, to proscribing ASUU, to taking ASUU to court, and now it is the fact of delisting ASUU as a trade union because of it’s account audit. It goes on and on. Some elements in Government are rather too eager to drag professors in the mud and reduce the esteemed prestige of the academia to nothing.

ASUU must be taught a lesson, they vow. Why do ASUU deserve death? They demanded for better salaries and condition of service, they demanded for better funding of Universities as some lack good hostels, lecture halls, and other needed facilities (it’s very common to see students sitting on the floor during lectures, talkless of the hundreds that are standing on both sides of the wall, completely cutting out natural ventilation), they asked for a stop to proliferation of universities (that is establishing new universities everywhere without funding… Of course higher institutions have become constituency projects), they demanded for their earned allowances, and their withheld salaries, they also demanded the release of visitation panel reports, and the replacement of the proven to be corrupt IPPIS with locally developed UTAS.

As a Nigerian student who clearly understands the situation, I’ll air my views. When ASUU embarked on a warning strike on 14th February, the government asked them to call off, that its committee will finalize everything in three months. ASUU decided to give them three months to wrap things up. ASUU engaged the committee judiciously in the three months and came to an agreement. What was left was the FG signing off on what had been agreed between ASUU and the committee they sent. Who was going to sign for the FG became an issue… The matter dragged for weeks. And finally, the Minister of Education decided to award an increase of 35% to a bar Professor, and 25% to other cadres of academics. The committee’s resolutions were ditched as usual. That’s three months of negotiations wasted. Who to blame? I think the answer is clear.

The FG deliberately ignored ASUU, stopped their salaries and relaxed, knowing fully well they’ll quote the section that “whosoever embarks on strike, should forfeit salaries.” From day one, ASUU has always been ready to compromise, to listen, for the collective good of all involved. For willingly refusing to address the issues raised, thereby prolonging the strike, it is my opinion that FG should pay all backlogs to the latter. Those in power have always believed they have nothing to lose. The students have lost their time and rents, lecturers have lost their lives in this struggle and starved, the FG will have to lose something too. During these seven months, how many of the above critical demands have the FG satisfactorily fulfilled? It took the Minister of Education more than three months to realize ASUU were on strike, he didn’t care. He was still traveling around the world during the education turmoil, without any restraint. Nobody criticized him.

“The FG deliberately ignored ASUU, stopped their salaries and relaxed..”

At a time where universities have been closed for almost a year, the First lady chose to mock common Nigerians, and send a wake up call by flaunting pictures of her daughter’s graduation in a foreign institution. This insensitivity is deliberate, and sums up the nonchalance of Buhari’s administration towards a better education in Nigeria. All important people export their children abroad, who cares if the local universities collapse? Look at public primary and secondary schools. It has become a den for the helpless, who go there as a last resort. A governor even said “Tertiary education is not for everybody” while flaunting pictures of himself and family during his son’s graduation. We must make our Universities work, that is what this struggle is all about.

I was not surprised by the recent court order forcing ASUU to return to class. What a shameless act. In seven months, the best the FG can do is to get an interlocutory order forcing lecturers, who have not been paid for seven months and counting to go back to class. What a shame! They say negotiations will continue, but we all know the negotiations won’t be productive because the government has gotten what they wanted, the case will be made to drag on for years, till it dies a natural death. The judge must have gotten his judgement somewhere!

This should be a legacy strike, the end of strikes for the foreseeable future. Nigerian students demand an amicable resolution of this strike. Whosoever is forced to do anything, can never do it well. Those who feel they’re not affected do not understand. Future engineers, doctors, pharmacists, teachers, architects, lawyers, artist etc might not have the best of training. Sooner or later, all will be affected one day.

ASUU cannot be bought with money like some Unions. We will not support the forceful marginalization of our lecturers. The FG should finalize its agreements with ASUU amicably, without fuss. The Abacha loot, the 80bn from the AG etc etc. Are more than enough to cater for what has been demanded. Nigerian students should hold the FG responsible for wasting its time, and should prevail on them to act swiftly and decisively. I recommend the expansion of protest in strategic positions across the country. We must arise and fight for our futures and those of the unborn generations. Murtala Muhammad’s airport, Nnamdi Azikiwe airport, the National Assembly, The Presidential villa, etc should witness our intimidating presence.

We are awaiting the President’s response to the proposals made by the Pro-chancellors. We are also awaiting the outcome of the reconciliatory meetings by the National Assembly. Enough is enough. Let’s end the strike in Nigeria once and for all. Let’s reject any temporary solution which will be hazardous in the future. Nigerians in all walks of life should join the struggle, until the FG does the needful.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!!. God bless Nigerian students!!
God bless ASUU! Aluta continua! Victoria acerta!!!

Uwem Okon, University of Jos, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria.

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