Nov 9, 2013 – ASUU Strike To Be Called Off Next Week – SUG President Urged Lecturers To Suspend Strike
There are strong indications that the over 4 months old strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) may be called off next week. That ordinarily should be an all round good news but it’s good news with so many bad and worrisome contents in it. What informed this conclusion? While I agree that the strike has dragged on for too long, it is important to also note that until recently when the president of the country personally engaged the union in talks, talks between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had broken and of course talks broke down over the non-implementation of an agreement its willingly entered into with ASUU in 2009, after 3 years of negotiations.
However, the Nigerian government failed to implement the agreement, instead of doing the needful, top government officials employed threats, blackmail and street-gutter propaganda. Perhaps nothing better demonstrates the contempt that government has for public education than the way it has handled this particular strike, the time it took the president to personally meet with the striking union, the meeting amounts to dousing a roaring fire with spittle.
Recently, Minister of information, Mr. Labaran Maku, in an attempt to give the false impression that the 2009 ASUU/FGN agreement is not implementable declared that government activities could shut down if all demands of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) were to be met, how come the same government that spends over N3 trillion between 2009 and now to bail out failed banks did not shut down? If the same government could spend over $1billion to buy over warlords and militants from Niger Delta under a fraudulent amnesty program and yet did not go bankrupt why would funding universities shut it down? If this government could spend sum of N1.3 trillion annually on members of the National Assembly and the economy is not leaking why would ASUU demands for quality education bankrupt Nigeria? If the unconstitutional office of the “First Lady” could draw funds from public purse to finance profligacies and yet government has not shutdown, why will a simple agreement shut Nigeria down? and also if a small clique of politicians and oil marketers could steal over $7billion from the oil subsidy funds and the economy is still intact, how is N500 billion spent on the future of young Nigerians shut us down? If a minister could buy two armored vehicle for herself at N255 million and the economy did not collapse, then where is the wisdom in Mr. Labaran Maku and federal governments claim that spending just N500 billion annually on University education is what would sink the ship of the Nigerian government?
After 13 hours meeting with the president however, there is a fresh offer and a fresh agreement, if media reports are correct, the federal government is prepared to spend N220 billion on the universities each year for the next 5 years. Shortly after the meeting, ASUU president was not definite on whether the 2009 agreement has actually been met or not, he simply told newsmen that the union will consult with members on the new message from the president and come up with a position. With that statement it is right to conclude that government has made a new offer entirely different from the provisions of the 2009 agreement.
Already the federal government did not go into that meeting with ASUU with the mind of sincerely resolving the conflicts or implementing the 2009 agreement because prior to that meeting there have been widespread reports in the media that government had a plan B which is to forcefully reopen the universities with or without ASUU, from this it is clear that government is intimidating and pressurizing ASUU to accept whatever offer it puts on the table.
Unfortunately the NLC has also been used as a conduit to pressurize ASUU to call off the strike. This however, is not surprising the NLC has a reputation for betraying the masses of this country one would not forget in a hurry the removal of subsidy in 2012 and how the NLC handled it. In January 2012 during the anti-fuel price struggle, the government made similar accusations, propaganda and blackmails, which led to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) hastily calling off the general strike. Today, Nigerians are the worst for it. While it will be a great relieve to go back to school, it will also be important to put into consideration those issues that led to the over 4 months strike and the gains from it because it is 4 months of an academic life that can never be regained, to this end it will be ridiculous and sad to go back to our universities and still meet the dilapidated hostels, laboratories where stoves are still been used as bunsen burners, over crowded lecture rooms and all those infrastructural decay ASUU talked about. Already there is a directive from the President Jonathan that IGR should be increased and this is already being carried out in some universities particularly Federal University of Agriculture (FUNAAB) and the University of Ibadan (UI), already acceptance fees have been increased. This is a direct effect of not implementing the 2009 agreement and not making the funds that will be spent on the universities reflect in the annual budget of the country.
It will be interesting to see what ASUU comes up with after their NEC meeting but it must be stated that if ASUU calls off this strike it won’t be because the 2009 agreement has been met. It is obviously because the union has been pressurized, intimidated and harassed by the government and a sentimental public. Whichever way it goes, the big question is: there was an ASUU strike in 2009, 2011, and now 2013 just like I said on Channelstv Sunrise Daily show the other day, will there be another strike in 2015?
About the author: TOPE ADESIPO- President of the SUG Federal University Of Agriculture, Abeokuta @tope414 on twitter