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Letter to ASUU

By Tony Afejuku
11 January 2019   |   3:50 am
Is ASUU your ASUU or is ASUU our ASUU? This question recently vociferated from my subconscious place very vociferously to the extent that I even seemed to feel inside me a vociferous mob.

[FILE PHOTO] Left- ASUU National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi

Is ASUU your ASUU or is ASUU our ASUU? This question recently vociferated from my subconscious place very vociferously to the extent that I even seemed to feel inside me a vociferous mob. Oyibo! Akukwo! Turinshi! Abi no bi so? After all, ASUU – Academic Staff Union of Universities – is more than a unique union of assorted grammarians and diverse academics, professionals and experts who are nicely doing their duties to/for their fatherland governed and ruled by people with capricious, inconstant, fickle, mercurial and unpredictable dispositions. And I don’t need to stress this since ASUU, a union with an overwhelming strength and sense of patriotism and national loyalty, knows and recognizes that the average person who belongs to the group and class of our political leaders and rulers in whatever capacity, exhibits aspects of these characteristics.

It is therefore of the deepest significance for me in this column to open my thoughts – as I hereby do – on the matter concerning ASUU’s current strike.

I saw on television, specifically on TVC News, the chairman of our country’s electoral commission, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), with a broad smile telling us that members of ASUU who are presently on (a patriotic) strike will work with the electoral commission in various capacities in the forth-coming elections. The national president of ASUU also said something to that effect although without a beaming smile. There was no conditionality in the announcement – by gosh! Indeed, goodness must know why this was so!

Before the meeting between ASUU and the INEC chairman, on the invitation of the latter, I wonder if the various branch-congresses of ASUU were adequately briefed, at least to examine/debate the merit or otherwise of the envisaged meeting and INEC chairman’s request to the union. This remark is important to me in view of the admirable pride and beaming smile with which Professor Mahmood Yakubu spoke. He spoke as a winner, if not as a conqueror. And I may ask: Is the strike coming to an end without the patriotic demands and legitimate wishes of the strikers being satisfied? And if I may ask further: In the various branches of the union are members, including Vice-Chancellors, not obeying the national proclamation to shun all kinds of official academic and administrative duties after robust debates in the respective congresses that affirmed the resolutions that inspired the afore-said national proclamation? Of course if Yakubu  sincerely believed (and still believes) in the cause of the union he must act as a representative of ASUU in government and pull legitimate strings in total support and favour of ASUU. Or does he merely want to use ASUU to succeed in his work as chairman of INEC while Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, the national president of ASUU, should fail in his patriotically patriotic duty as national president of ASUU? That would be very perfidious. But I trust that the president and the national executive members of ASUU as well as members of the negotiating team are too smart to be used to gut, decimate and ruin the union. Ostensibly, blabbermouths everywhere in the land and beyond, including those in the Diaspora, will detest them forever if this strike collapses. And so we say: No to turn-coats! ASUU’s legitimately grand objectives must not be worsted out of worth or value. And ASUU must not therefore succumb to any kind of government’s cooked propaganda and pressure.

This particular strike was anticipated for long because ASUU members prepared for the struggle, yes, this true and correct struggle, to revamp and revitalize our public universities and wrench them from the treacherous lackeys in government, lackeys who always do everything they do to stop perfervid Nigerians from running perfectly our education and from halting the blunders paralyzing our public universities. Soon, the people of perfidious acts in relevant and irrelevant ministries and other government establishments will inevitably ask President Buhari to crush the ASUU resistance and promulgate a deportation order that will compel the president to deport lecturers and professors from their offices and campuses. Indeed, the distinguished unpatriotic individuals in government and in the presidency won’t miss the opportunity to stress the deportations of all academics however strong the current anti-Buharism in the land. Soon they will carve and give to our media and the public their peculiar brand of propaganda to undo ASUU. But they cannot ground the power of unity and of the minds of the most patriotic workers in our country. Ah! Are our university teachers workers? Yes. How many Nigerians out there know or realise that a university teacher’s total take-home pay cannot take him or her home? How many Nigerians out there know or realise that the average Nigerian university teacher labours in vain in our contemporary Nigeria – despite his or her fat, big learning that should stand him or her in good stead economically and otherwise? How many Nigerians out there know or realise that the average Nigerian university teacher cannot conveniently pay the school fees of his children and wards? But ASUU’s strike is not, significantly, about wages alone as ASUU has argued many, many times.

Not long ago, in fact about the time I watched Yakubu  beaming his conqueror’s smile on television  – and this is two or more weeks ago – I saw “representatives” of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) posing with President Buhari in Aso Rock on television – NTA, I think. Some tabloids also had this picture. And shortly after the visit of the students’ “representatives” to Aso Rock, NANS was reported to have allegedly issued a two-week ultimatum to ASUU and government to open the public universities. I shook my head, and I am still shaking my head. So the students want ASUU to return to classes instead of toeing the progressive line of ASUU that is waging a just and true struggle against the treacherously treacherous and poorly poor funding of our public universities? If the students “representatives” are true students’ representatives they should or ought to know that the current (2019) 5.23% allocation to education by President Buhari instead of the United Nations’ benchmark of 26% is not just a false start but is not in any way a percentage to start with. President Buhari’s percentage is the worst ever in our country’s history. Haba, Baba Buhari!

But this letter is not addressed to NANS whom ASUU should not even have a chat with on this subject lest ASUU be accused in official government-quarters of inciting students who are shifting to the right of a regime that wants to destroy forever our public universities. But the progressives among the students must be encouraged thoroughly through public instruments such as this to interrogate themselves and subsequently bring back to the correct fold the lackeys of government in their midst, lackeys who are hiding the truth about the current state of our public universities.

ASUU our ASUU has always been a martyr to truth. It is the only true union in our country that is not strange to martyrdom and that has accepted martyrdom for the educational advancement and overall progress of our country. Our modern history affirms this truth. This is your ASUU which is our ASUU – from the president to the non-president of ASUU. Your watch-words always must be: semperparatus (always prepared) and semperfidelis (always faithful). This way ASUU shall regain paradise. And sense go pass sense. Nobody should play government’s game which is the game of deception. Government’s oppression of ASUU must end. Sense pass sense. Yes.