ASUU STRIKE: THE UNTOLD STORY OF UNENDING DEMANDS

By: Ismael Taiwo (T.COOL)

Mayfair, Ile-Ife

In the words of South African living legend and an enigma of democracy, Sir Nelson Mandela, “the only powerful weapon which you can use to change the world is EDUCATION”.

To Mandela, education is the major weapon needed to wage war against all forms of ignorance, illiteracy, arrogance, economic oppression and mal-administration. With education, change, the most sacrosanct thing in the world, is inevitable and achievable with a marvelous ease.

Compatriots, to affirm that public education in Nigeria is at the moment in perpetual shamble is an understatement. The rot bedeviling the educational system in Nigeria has gotten to the stage that no one could ever doubt if it was prophesied that Nigeria is jinxed.

As I write, public education in Nigeria has gone awry. Sub-standard private schools have submerged the public owned ones; while public schools are in a state of disrepair as parents across all social status have discarded them for privately owned ones.

It should be noted that recently, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) declared industrial action over a gale of wrangling on 2009 agreement which encompasses the earned allowances, total implementation of NEEDS Assessment as well as other demands.

You will recall that the lingering crisis started in 2007 when the then President, Umaru Musa Yar’adua signed an agreement with ASUU which was later refuted by Goodluck Jonathan led government in 2009, with a claim that the agreement was unrealistic and which of course made ASUU to declare indefinite strike action.

It is a known fact that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria is a formidable union. The association is popular because it is an association that can never be overlooked by government at all levels as well as Nigerian students.

ASUU is one of the stakeholders in the Nigerian project. As a union, just like other labour unions, ASUU possesses constitutional rights to go on industrial strike action.

Inasmuch as I do not begrudge ASUU of its demands from the government, the untold story of ASUU demands needs to be unraveled based on carefully done analysis that is devoid of joining bandwagon of public opinion.

I have posited several times that the educational system in Nigeria needs total overhauling, and that state of emergency should be declared to reposition and restructure the system. But what should perturb sensible minds is the hypocritical stance of ASUU members at all time hiding under the guise of “demanding for proper funding to universities” whenever they want to agitate for their demands.

It should be noted that this has been the same tactics ASUU has been employing since 2009 when it embarked on indefinite strike action and later called off after the peripheral of the demands put forward; basically the earned allowances and other benefits, have been thrown to them leaving Nigerian students (claimed to be fighting for) at the receiving end after so many precious times have been wasted at home.

Alas! ASUU promised not to down tool again after the implementation of their demands in 2009. But to our greatest surprise, ASUU came out again with the same demands in 2013 and declared indefinite strike action which lasted for six months but later was called off after their peanuts have been thrown to them.

As a living witness to the 2013 strike action, some of us participated in the agitation for the demands in collaboration with ASUU National executive members believing that the total implementation of the agreement will be fought for once and for all and that this will have little impact in our tertiary institutions; but this was later betrayed once the FG signed N23billion allowances for them and part of the NEEDS Assessment. The aftermath effect of the strike was the embezzlement and mismanagement of the N23billion earned allowances and the NEEDS Assessment fund disbursed to our ivory towers. This was justified by the recent unraveling of high rate of corruption in our universities.

We need to ask, for the umpteenth time that ASUU has been embarking on the strike action, what has been the effect other than the continuous disruption of academic settings of our universities?.

I will implore ASUU to desist from the machiavellian style and push forward the declaration of state of an emergency in the educational sector as rot in the sector cuts across all forms – whether tertiary, secondary and primary.

Fellow Nigerians, another industrial action has been declared by ASUU recently and one may wonder why it has been unending demands and the same tactics virtually within an interval of years? Why is it that these demands have always been jettisoned once the earned allowances (being the peripheral part) has been fulfilled? Why can’t we have a holistic approach towards revamping the educational sector?.

Taking critical look at the demands put forward and the hypocritical way of ASUU from time past, one will definitely come to a conclusion that it has been usual practice of unending demands.

To crown it all, if Nigeria educational sector is going to be restructured and repositioned to meet up with the standard, Buhari led government will have to wake from slumber and declare state of emergency in the sector.

Ismael Taiwo, a Journalist, Public Affairs Analyst and News & Current Affairs Editor @Campus Gist News Agency; writes from Mayfair, Ile-Ife.