EMINENT Nigerians and groups on Monday suggested ways out of the the strike embarked upon by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), on February this year as the union extended the exercise indefinitely.
The groups included the Afenifere, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), as well as prominent lawyers and other professionals, who said it was time to end the impasse between the Federal Government and the ASUU.
With about 178 days to the general election, spontaneous widespread anger and knocks for the government and the ASUU trailed the latter’s decision to extend its six-months, which began in February.
Millions of students from federal universities have been at home since the union called its members out on the strike over sundry demands on infrastructure and welfare of ASUU members, as preparations for the 2023 elections peaked in the early part of 2022.
University lecturers and students are usually integral part of the adhoc staff members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), during elections.
Apart from raising a conspiratorial theory aimed at depriving the children of the less privileged citizens, some stakeholders among them, politicians, pro-democracy and rights activists, as well as professionals from diverse fields who spoke to the Nigerian Tribune, decried the resolve of ASUU to stifle the process by declaring an indefinite strike after a meeting held on Monday in Abuja.
Lingering strike ’II impact on 2023 election results —YCE
Worried by indefinite extension of the strike by ASUU, YCE said the strike could have consequences on the 2023 general election.
The Secretary General of the organisation, Dr Kunle Olajide, in an interview with the Nigerian Tribune, expressed regrets that the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government had not done much to address the concerns raised by ASUU since the beginning of the strike in February.
He explained that education remained the potent tool to solve a myriad of challenges in the country, lamenting that the sector, which should be accorded the most priority, was being left in disarray.
On the likely effect of the strike on the 2023 elections, Olajide said: “It is unfortunate we arrived at this unpleasant situation. Education has to be given the right priority because that is where the present and the future of the country is being modeled. I would have expected government to have reached strong agreement with ASUU to avoid extending this strike further.
“It is obvious that when will talk about remuneration in this country, the people in government; executive and the legislative arm have not been fair to the public servants. If you see the allowances of these people, you will be baffled.
“I think government should bend backward to accept to a reasonable extent and negotiate with sincerity because education is at stake. Also, there should be give and take on both sides but the lecturers are not being treated fairly. It is the duty of government to meet their demands if possible with future budget cycle.”
ASUU has lost goodwill-Yusuf Ali, SAN
On his part, Mallam Yusuf Ali, who doubles as Chairman, Osun State University and the Council of Pro-Chancellors of State Universities in Nigeria, declared that ASUU has lost the little goodwill with its latest action.
He said the organisation was losing sympathy because of the negative effect of its prolonged action.
“Indefinite strike! Who does that? Indefinite means without end. How does anybody do that? I don’t think their decision is strategic on ASUU or whatever interest they’re pursuing,” the legal luminary declared.
He called on ASUU to call off the strike and restrategise on making its demand adding, “beheading is not the cure or answer for headache.”
According to Alli, “It’s not in the interest of ASUU to do all they’re doing. Whatever little goodwill they have is fizzling out. People are losing sympathy for whatever cause they say they are fighting because there are those who have their children turning to something different from what they intended them to be, just because the universities were shut. They are promoting, unwittingly, private and state universities.
“Like I always say and I continue to say, beheading is not the cure or answer for headache. Destruction of federal universities is not the answer for whatever agitation anybody has.
“So, I think it’s never too late for them to retrace their steps because no serious person will sympathize with them any more because of the hardship caused in many families in the country.
“All these children who want to be in a school are roaming around in the streets and getting involved in all sorts of unwholesome activities.”
We cannot afford to keep the children at home for too long—Kaka, ex-Ogun dep gov
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ogun State, Senator Adegbenga Kaka, appealed to the government to consider the demands of the striking university lecturers in the interest of the nation.
Kaka, in a telephone interview with the Nigerian Tribune, said they had no reason to stay away from classes, if the government had met all their demands.
He said: “There is no reason ASUU members should not return to classes if what they agreed upon is met.
“If we say education is the bastion of growth and development, we should stop stunting the growth. Government should budget at least 50 per cent for education to address various challenges confronting the educational sector.
“Fifty percent budget for education is not too much, if injected into the system. With this the running cost will be easier to source for.
“The Federal Government should de-empahsise white elephant projects to salvage the nation’s education sector, so as to bring back our children to classes. We cannot afford to keep the children at home for too long.”
The situation quite unfortunate —Tunji Abayomi
A constitutional lawyer, Dr Tunji Abayomi, advocated that the financial management of universities should be decentralised in line with the principle of a truly federal structure as remedy to the current logjam.
Abayomi said: “The situation is quite unfortunate. It is difficult to know what side to back without knowing the details of the disagreement and agreement between the two.
“But, I think we have actually arrived at a point where financial management of the universities should be decentralised. For example, should ASUU negotiate on behalf of state universities? The other issue is ASUU’s constant confrontation with the federal government of Nigeria which appears to me misplaced. I think the organisation should have done more to push for higher budgeting to education at the National Assembly and reduce the structural disorder these endless strikes bring into education administration in Nigeria.”
Failure of FG to resolve strike sad —Ubani
A former vice president of the Nigerian bar association (NBA), Dr Tony Ubani, described as sad that ASUU declared an indefinite strike after almost six months of an industrial action that has grounded all federal universities in particular.
He declared: “The government’s inability to resolve the ASUU issue is catastrophic and mind-boggling. The students remain the victims of this impasse. The tertiary education in Nigeria is destroyed by this prolonged strike. It is sad.”
ASOBEN chides federal government for lackadaisical posture
The Association of Middle Belt Ethnic Nationalities (ASOMBEN) berated the All Progressives Congress led federal government for its lackadaisical posture towards tertiary education, especially the ongoing strike by ASUU.
The General Secretary of the association, Reverend James Pam said for the federal government to have allowed the strike to linger to the level of an indefinite strike by the union does not portray the government in a good light.
He said; “I am highly disappointed that the government who came to power on a mantra of change, to correct the wrongs of the past, can descend to this level by allowing academics in Nigeria Universities to be on strike.
“The APC-led government failed to take cognisance of the fact that we are in election season.there is no doubt that this strike will definitely affect the chance of APC winning the 2023 election because the party has not convinced parents and students that it cares about education.”
He stated that right from the beginning of the negotiation with the striking lecturers, the government, especially the Minister of Education and his Labour counterpart did not show commitment to resolving the impasse.
He added that the position of ASUU will also affect the conduct of 2023 if it snowballed to the election, adding that the lecturers being used as electoral officers might not participate in the exercise.
“There is no doubt this faceoff with ASUU will work negatively for APC, especially during the presidential election because this will form part of the campaign issues,” he said.
Pam, therefore, called on major opinion leaders in the country to intervene so as to resolve the strike.
ASUU strike very unfortunate, ought not to occur in the first place —Afenifere
Pan-Yoruba socio- political group, Afenifere, noted that the strike shouldn’t have occurred in the first place had the Federal Government showed it sincerely wanted the impasse to be amicably resolved.
Afenifere spokesperson, Mr Jare Ajayi, said the manner in which the Ministers of Labour and Education, Dr. Chris Ngige and Mallam Adamu Adamu respectively were relating with ASUU officials at meetings, was condescending if not contemptuous.
According to the Afenifere chieftain, Adamu’s case is particularly disappointing going by the view he expressed on the same issue years ago when he was Editor of New Nigeria Newspapers.
He said Ngige’s posture was regrettable given the fact that he is a medical doctor whose attendance of a university cannot be contested.
This was just as he observed that going by the way things were, not a few Nigerians would be condemning ASUU for continuing with the strike, adding that the union might indeed be described as a saboteur and insensitive to the plight of students and parents.
He, however, said doing so would be in conformity with the attitude of many Nigerians who often blame “the weak or victim when a powerful element uses his might to oppress the weak.
“The strike by ASUU is very unfortunate from the very beginning but it was a ‘forced one.’
“Were the situation of education in the country, particularly at the tertiary level be what it ought to be, there would not have been any strike in the first place.
“Since the present one began on February 14 this year, there has not been any step taken by the Federal Government to show that it sincerely wants the impasse to be amicably resolved.
“The manner in which the Ministers of Labour and Education, Dr. Chris Ngige and Mallam Adamu Adamu were relating with ASUU officials at meetings was condescending if not contemptuous.
“Adamu’s case is particularly disappointing going by the view he expressed on the same issue years ago when he was Editor of New Nigeria. And Ngige’s posture too is regrettable given the fact that he is a medical doctor whose attendance of a university cannot be contested.
“The way things are presently, many would be condemning ASUU for continuing with the strike. Indeed, the union might be described as a saboteur and insensitive to the plight of students and parents. Doing so would be in conformity with the attitude of many of us in Nigeria where we often blame the weak or victim when a powerful element uses his might to oppress the weak.”
Ajayi said it was on record that the cause of the prolonged strike was the failure of the government to honour the agreement it reached with the union as far back as 2009, just as he noted that the government, through the spokesman of the Ministry of Education, Mr. Bem Goong, said that it had fulfilled about 80 percent of ASUU demands, without making known to the public “the specifics of the demands that were met by the government as claimed.
“It is on record for instance that the cause of this prolonged strike is the failure of the government to honour the agreement it reached with the union as far back as 2009.
“It would be recalled that a strike on the same issue came up in 2020. The union suspended its strike in December of that year when the government gave the impression that it was going to honour the Memorandum of Action it reached with the union. Failure to do so was what led to the 2022 strike.
“Presently, the Federal Government, through the spokesman of the Ministry of Education, Mr. Bem Goong, said that it has fulfilled about 80 percent of ASUU demands. The question to ask here is: what are the specifics of the demands that were met by the government as claimed?” Ajayi queried.
The Afenifere spokesman, while faulting ASUU for its failure to properly articulate its own position in a manner that the public would fully understand, said the federal government should be seen as the agent provocateur given the fact that there was hardly any major agreement it reached with Nigerians and major public-oriented organizations in the country that it fulfilled satisfactorily.
“It was always quick to react when and where the interests of the political class are at stake such as when the airline operators threatened to go on strike and when the electricity workers did same.
“But when it comes to matters affecting the average person in the country, the government always behaves as if it did not derive its mandate from the people,” he stated.
Ajayi said he is not unaware that pressures would be mounted on ASUU to suspend the strike, but posited that it would amount to postponing the evil day.
Reconsider your stance, parents tell FG, ASUU
Parents have called on the Federal Government and the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to reconsider their differences and reach a resolution that will best serve the interest of students and public university.
A cross section of parents, including the National President of National Parent-Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), Alhaji Haruna Danjuma and Mr Funsho Adams, who has two students in the University of Lagos, Akoka, said it is not only disturbing but worrisome particularly to them and students that the strike could be this prolonged.
They said though ASUU had a genuine cause, it should at the same time consider students who are idle, coupled with the socio-economic implications of the development on the society.
NAPTAN boss said the government needed to genuinely address the issues in contention, particularly the policy of no work, no pay rule and go by the lecturers’ position asking for their salaries before going back to work.
He said since ASUU would still do the work they abandoned anytime they resumed at their duty posts, they should be paid for the period of the strike.
He said the government and ASUU could not continue to hold the students to ransom for the offence they did not commit.
He, therefore, appealed particularly to ASUU to have a rethink on its position on the strike so that more damage would not be done to the country.
FG has failed, but ASUU should show sympathy —NBA
The Federal Government has failed for allowing the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to indefinitely extend its ongoing industrial action.
This is the view of the immediate past NBA chairman, Warri branch, Chief Emmanuel Uti, in a chat with our correspondent on Monday evening.
He, however, opined that ASUU also ought to have shown some sympathy for the students who have been left in the lurch since February 2022.
“The ASUU strike extension shows failure on the part of government and ASUU.
“The lecturers, at this stage, ought to show some sympathy for the students as the continued stay at home portends great danger to our educational sector.
“We have been crying that the standard of our education has fallen, this strike extension would worsen the situation,” he lamented.
ASUU’s extension of strike sad, unfortunate – PANDEF
Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) says the extension of the ongoing strike action indefinitely by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is not only sad, but most unfortunate.
National Publicity Secretary, PANDEF, Ken Robinson, in his reaction to the extension , described the decision as worrisome.
“It is a demonstration of total disregard for the plight of Nigerian students in the nation’s federal universities, who have been forced to remain at home for over six months, by both the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
“PANDEF is worried over the reoccurring, prolonged strikes by, particularly, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and other Unions in the Nation’s University System.
“This is not a situation that should be happening. The Federal Government and ASUU should be aware that they are endangering not only the future of our youths but also, the educational system of the country,” Robinson warned.
The apex sociocultural organisation of the Niger Delta earnestly advises, both the Federal Government and ASUU, to take all necessary steps to urgently bring this situation to an end and let the students return to their lectures, in the interest of the nation’s future and development.”
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