By Adebola Rayo
Every time something happens in Nigeria, we add new words to our vocabulary. I’m sure we all remember “cabal”, which started while Yar’Adua lay comatose and an unknown and (at the time) untouchable cabal supposedy ran the country. The word was resurrected by Jonathan when the subsidy issue started, of course there was another untouchable set of people covered by the word. There was also “mandate” (how I hated that one), during the election period. And of course there was “deadlock”… or maybe there was always deadlock.
Deadlock really isn’t a new thing, no. It is only a rose being called by another name. As far back as June 12, 1993, there was “impasse”. Abiola won the election, Babangida annuled it, Abiola declared himself winner, Babangida stepped down and installed Shonekan. The country had reached an impasse. That was a really huge one.
History shows that whenever there are critical decisions to be made by Nigerian leaders, in typical fashion, they make moves to protect their own interests to the detriment of the masses. In more recent times in the democratic dispensation, times when the Federal Government has cause to negotiate with certain bodies such as the Academic Staff of Universities Union (ASUU) or the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), there are always deadlocks. Meetings that end up without resolutions, or even when agreements are made they remain unimplemented and result in more meetings and more deadlocks. *Sigh*.
For years, ASUU has been asking successive govenments for the same things; better funding for the universities, for Research and Development, payment of earned allowances, transfer of government lands to the universities and the amendment of the retirement age of professors. Agreements have been reached several times, and continously flouted by the government, with only the retirement age bill just passed by the Senate.
ASUU isn’t asking for too much, especially considering the under-funded state of our universities. The constant deadlocks between the union and the government have worsened the state of the universities, what with the recurrent strikes. I remember the 2002 ASUU strike which went on for 9 months, because Obasanjo and the union reached a deadlock. Thousands of Nigerian youths stewed at home and I’m sure several turned to delinquency in the course of that time. That did not stop the situation from recurring. I sat at home for 3 months in 2009 when ASUU went on strike again. Now, the situation is the same, students have been at home for almost 2 months.
Should a sector as critical as the education sector be at the mercy of deadlocks that can be avoided by the government? NO!
The NLC. Although I believe this body doesn’t insist on its demands nearly enough, or long enough, the government has also developed a pattern for dealing with them.
Whenever issues, usually fuel price ones, come up, the NLC declares a strike and holds several meetings with the government where they haggle, with the FG barely shifting ground and then the deadlocks come. Finally, the strike is called off and the masses are still worse off.
The masses have been getting the short end of the stick for decades, with serious issues dying and being buried under terms like “deadlock”, “impasse” and the likes.
Recent happenings have kept me writing, and maybe it is naïve to think that the words will reach the eyes and ears they really need to, but I will do so nonetheless.
A lot of things need to change in Nigeria, and the sweeping of serious issues under the carpet and forgetting them quickly is one of them. The government should deal with issues, Nigerian are tired of unnecessary deadlocks that keep the country from progressing.
The continuation of the Occupy Nigeria protests, despite the FG/NLC deadlock which ended in a N97 per litre fuel price, is one more indication that it is no longer business as usual. Citizens are not waiting for unions to fight their battles. The people are saying no to deadlocks. GEJ please get with the programme already and let this country progress.
The manner in which the current ASUU and fuel subsidy issues are resolved will go a long way in telling what the future holds; if indeed we finally have a government that is ready to work for the people or if Nigerians will have to actually kick out the government, before or during the 2015 elections.