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ASUU strike, aggravating collapse of Nigeria

By Luke Onyekakeyah
24 February 2022   |   3:25 am
The latest industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is most unwarranted given that universities have been off and on from ASUU strikes and the 2020 COVID-19 shutdown of the country for more than three months.
ASUU strike

Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) commence four-week strike

The latest industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is most unwarranted given that universities have been off and on from ASUU strikes and the 2020 COVID-19 shutdown of the country for more than three months. Has ASUU recovered the wasted period?

Though, the strike did not come as a surprise given that the ASUU is always on standby and ready to strike at the least provocation on account of the myriad of endemic problems plaguing the university system. ASUU has not demonstrated maturity expected of egg heads, who should be thinking on a higher pedestal than government appointees on political job.

Two wrongs, they say, don’t make a right. The two parties – ASUU and the Federal Government are wrong on this occasion judging by the arrogant disposition and insensitivity both displayed in allowing yet another strike. The people are not considered.

Why can’t the parties be considerate to the feelings of weary students and their families and the incalculable damage incessant strikes have done on the university system?

Why is ASUU not wearied with the frequent strikes and disruption of academic activities? And why is the Federal Government so obstinate, obdurate and unyielding to grant ASUU’s demands that bother on ensuring quality education?

How much is ASUU demanding in terms of money that the Federal Government cannot afford in a country where money is stolen in billions by individuals? Why does government find it easy to allocate billions to frivolous projects but finds it difficult to do the same to education?

No doubt, efficient running of the varsities has been jeopardised; no academic calendar; low quality graduates; no cafeteria system; no student loan scheme to assist indigent students, etc. The system has been messed up.

Unfortunately, ASUU’s threats over outstanding issues with government are not taken serious, not until they down tools and government would start running helter-skelter. The damage done by these incessant strikes is unquantifiable.

Gross underfunding is at the root of the unending crisis. The university system has been bastardised. ASUU’s grouse borders on poor learning facilities, poor remuneration, inappropriate tuition fees, implementation/renegotiation of past agreements, salary shortfalls, university autonomy, among others.

How to resolve these lingering issues is what the government should endeavour to address, once and for all, to save the country from further embarrassment.  The future is inexorably tied to education.

The latest strike, according to ASUU, is over the non-implementation of the Memorandum of Action (MOA) signed with the Federal Government in 2009. Why is government unwilling to honour agreements it freely entered and signed with ASUU?

A source at the ASUU meeting held at the University of Lagos said the strike is to allow the Federal Government do the needful failure to which the union would go on an indefinite strike. The institutions are already paralysed.
Government should nip the impending long-term strike in the bud by acceding to ASUU’s demands. The demands are not new. Government should stop insulting ASUU. Enough of these insults.

On their side, ASUU should apply maturity and stop crying like a baby who has no other choice but to cry. The tears are pouring for nothing. Government doesn’t care.

While briefing journalists after its National Executive Council (NEC) ASUU said all entreaties made to the Federal Government to honour the agreement with the union fell on deaf ears and ASUU has no other option than to begin an indefinite strike action that was suspended barely a year ago.

ASUU said the strike will be total, comprehensive and indefinite until government fully implements all outstanding issues as contained in the MOA of 2017 and also conclude the renegotiation of the 2009 agreements.

“We have been subjected to 20 years of continued re-colonization under alleged democracy in which all that the ruling circle have been regrouping among themselves in their various factions called political parties,” ASUU former president Ogunyemi once lamented.

He said the release of a paltry N20 billion revitalization fund was despite the fact that the same government released N1.3 trillion to a distressed bank. That’s the insult I am talking about.

This, he said shows that government is not interested in public universities as the children of the top politicians and rich men patronize private universities at the detriment of public institutions.

Certainly, lack of commitment on the part of government is at the root of the unending crisis on campuses. Otherwise, it is befuddling how government could be starving the varsities of funds while throwing billions on frivolous political matters.

In all the strikes, ASUU wants to make a point which government doesn’t seem to understand. Government remains obdurate, an attitude that would naturally call for strikes all the time.

But for suffering Nigerians, strike is not always the best option because of its collateral damages. The students lose. What about the society? The future is mortgaged in avoidable strikes. Altogether, we are losing.

How can a student spend over five years pursuing a degree that should normally be four years? And that is not all; the quality of degree earned is unenviable.

As intellectuals, ASUU should be thinking of alternatives. Since it was created more than four decades ago, strike has remained the only weapon of ASUU with minimal impact.

Over the years, ASUU members have penetrated the government holding top political posts as ministers, advisers, governors, lawmakers, etc, and yet there is no change in favour of ASUU.

Why can’t ASUU take advantage of its members in government to get what it is asking for? Or are those merely intellectual workers who use their position to feather their own nests and forget ASUU?

ASUU needs to be innovative. There is need for university autonomy to enable each institution run the way it chooses. A situation where all the universities go on strike at the same time and paralyse education is totally unacceptable.

Why should the federal and state universities be lumped together under one ASUU? Managing state universities should be entirely a state affair. It should have nothing to do with the Federal Government.

There is nowhere in the world where all the universities operate on the standard. Differences exist and that is why there are Ivy League universities.

This is where the issue of federalism comes into play. All the universities in Nigeria should not be caged together without differentiation.

ASUU is right in seeking for improved funding but that should not make all the universities to be going on strike at the time. This is destroying the system. The strikes disenfranchise the youths. ASUU should think out of the box. Enough of this madness.

One thing is certain; the political leadership of the country is anti-intellectual. Government is not responsible. Government is unconcerned.

The frequency of strikes in Nigerian universities has made Nigeria a laughing stock. There is no country anywhere in the world that has had the number strikes like Nigeria. Little wonder why certificates obtained in Nigerian universities are not reckoned with until the bearer has been brushed up before s/he can be engaged in work.

Time has come for the Federal Government and ASUU to hold some constructive engagement with all the stakeholders, including parents, to iron out these issues. Where this fails, ASUU should go to court rather than sending the students away and thereby destroying the system.