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Kayode Soremekun’s deafening salvo of shots

By Tony Afejuku
04 October 2019   |   4:03 am
This is a trying time for the national leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). I may be wrong. But recent events in Lagos State University (LASU), the Federal University....

Prof. Kayode Soremekun

This is a trying time for the national leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). I may be wrong. But recent events in Lagos State University (LASU), the Federal University, Lokoja (FUL) (see The Nation of Tuesday, October 1, 2019 page 44), and the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) are compelling enough, “very compelling” enough, to elicit the remark or “charge” it is eliciting from me here. But in rendering what I am going to render in the following paragraphs, I will substantially submit my attention to what is what and what is not what at FOUYE. Why?

The Guardian On Sunday of September 22, 2019 gave a full page plus to the interview (pages 18-19) the vice chancellor, Professor Kayode Soremekun, of the University granted it. It was a very scintillating interview, a very exquisite interview that was more scintillating and more exquisite than any brilliantly and excitingly clever or skilful narrative tendered or rendered by anyone who has expressed his/her feelings relating to what is happening in our universities in our contemporary times. Professor Soremekun’s intensely felt agony, which some persons familiar with our universities of yore might call a “most exquisite kind of agony” induced in him by the miserably inadequate behaviour and conduct of union leaders is something I have been debating within myself since I read his interview.

A day before his The Guardian On Sunday interview, I equally saw the report in the Saturday Tribune (pages 10, 39-40) of the case(s) relating to what the authorities of LASU called “stealing [of] classified documents of the university and using same for selfish gains,” which actually was an accusation levelled against some officials of LASU’s ASUU. “What’s going on?” I said to myself. I read the testimonies of a group of senior scholars of the institution vis-à-vis the version of events from the renderings of the affected ASUU war lords, the ASUU redoubtable fighters.

I read the versions as critically as I could. All of them were specious and persuasive at the same time. But I needed to be cautious. Clearly, the ASUU officials were in trouble as I could perceive that the rank-and-file had deserted them. Still I needed to temper my feeling and critical suspicion with every sense of objectivity. Simply put, I needed to be cautious before I formed an un-biased opinion on the sad tale from LASU. I put a call to a young chum, a fellow comrade, to get his own version. He confirmed my fears and suspicion that the redoubtable fighters have been deserted and that they are on their own.

And things came to a head when the national executive of ASUU failed or omitted to do the rightful. He gave me succulent background information of events. Let me leave the matter at this point, but with this additional bit: my chum, through discreet inquiry, has been labelled a tainted comrade whom the redoubtable combatants and fellow travellers have since blackmailed as an ex-comrade. Before I let the matter go I did this fundamental hello: “Hello! Hello! How is Tunde Fatunde? And what is his take on the hell-of-the-LASU-matter?” The answer: “Tunde did what he needed to do valiantly. But his effort came to nothing in the end.”

Now when I read FUOYE’s vice chancellor’s interview afore-said a day after LASU’s reported sorry matter it became crystal clear to me that the problem some local ASUU executives are having with the respective managements of their universities pertain to the “modus operandi” of the local leaders of the union. I know as a matter of fact that Professor Soremekun was a thorough and straight ASUU person in the good and good by-gone days. He was a true ASUU academic who even now can never disavow ASUU’s principles of yore which he clearly expressed and succinctly focused on in his interview.

He is a vice chancellor who will give ASUU members including the local and national officials listening ears so long as they don’t cross the line in the name of “ASUU activism,” to use his term. Obviously, so long as executive members of ASUU are fearless in their pursuit of a just cause and engage in “honest interrogation of reality” as ASUU of the 1980s and 1990s did, Professor Soremekun, as vice-chancellor, will have no problem whatsoever with any member of the union, executive or non-executive members. And they, too, will have no problem with him if they protect well their line of honour and behave properly as respecters of ASUU’S core values and principles. His feeling towards ASUU he will also extend to other unions as “a pro-labour” person, again to use his term.

One pathetic example, so to say, which he cites with respect to “ASUU members [who] think that they can just get away with anything in the name of ASUU activism” pertains to that of a foremost executive member of ASUU in FUOYE who was hunting, or, better, who was “hustling” for a university contract. Let me quote the vice chancellor in full: “For instance, you see members of local ASUU hustling for contract [from] the head of procurement; personally as ASUU member, because I am still an ASUU member, I feel humiliated that the head of procurement will chase out a prominent member of ASUU from his office. You find such cases and when things don’t happen they turn to activism. Unfortunately, people at the national level of ASUU may not even be aware of this. This is the easiest way to kill a union, for a member of ASUU to embark on short-run personal reliefs.”

Up to now FUOYE’s ASUU has not reacted to this weighty accusation levelled against the un-named prominent member. Personally, I will like to know this vulnerable prominent member of the local ASUU so that I can tell him in this column that he is a really pathetic excuse for a prominent ASUU leader and activist indeed. Or do we perhaps doubt the account of the vice chancellor?

Whatever the case may be, perhaps the vice chancellor erred by not doing a quid pro quo deal with the pathetic unionist; the vice chancellor should have played along and hammer the bad example of the local ASUU leadership thereafter. His exemplary action would not have provoked a salvo of protests. Let us hope that his kindness will not boomerang shortly or at a latter day. But his broad-mindedness is righteously good. Am I contradicting myself? Maybe, maybe there’s no contradiction in this thought. Even if there is, nothing spoil at all at all.

Now hear this deafening salvo of shots from Professor Soremekun: “The university in the city, the city in the universe; do we really have it? University teaching in those days used to come with commitment. [University teachers were] regarded as a special breed but now what you find is probably those who did not get any job, go on for a master’s degree, do a lackluster Ph.D. and end up in the academic system.” And this: “As I am sitting here, I am thinking of Toye Olorode, Dipo Fasina, Assisi Asobie, Attahiru Jega. What they stood for was not mindless unionism. They will not plagiarize; they will not steal TETFUND money in the name of activism, which is what we are seeing now. Intellectual culture comes with some things…. You look at most CVs; you discover that the person has never been to the Murtala International Airport. They are just hanging around Iworoko or Okokomaiko. You see scholars, who are bereft of global edge” (pages 18-19).

Professor Kayode Soremekun may be right after all to allow his deafening salvo of shots to ring out. He is right because ASUU’s “very compelling and necessary originality” is now lost or seems to have been now lost and gone for good. This urbane vice chancellor who was “trained to be first and foremost a Nigerian” was exasperated by mediocre unionists and university teachers and persons who are making him an object of “identity-marking” for wanting the very best and nothing but the very best for FUOYE and ASUU. I will be glad to have FUOYE’s ASUU’s narrative to counter what can be countered. Let them inspire us with an inspiring narrative of the inspired. But I trust that from the vice chancellor, a more deafening salvo of shots will ring out.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.