While we support the ASUU strike and their goal of improving our university education system, we have to also point out that we believe that ASUU is stretching the support… from the Nigerian people too thin.
It has been five months now since students of Nigerian public universities have been forced to stay at home, thanks to an Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike.
In those five months, the anger of many Nigerians – and ours – has been directed at the Federal Government, for good reason. The strike is yet another installment in an annual festival demanding the implementation of an agreement reached with the union in 2005. With no definitive advancement in quality of pedagogy or infrastructure across the country, Nigerians are eager to push back at a government that will not even do the bare minimum and fulfill obligations.
It calls into question not only the integrity of government, but also the justification for its existence in the first place, if it requires a shutdown of the entire tertiary system to implement agreements.
This board has also been firm in its support for a once-for-all approach to solving this matter, for indeed it will make no sense for both parties to reach yet another temporary solution, if it will yet lead to another strike in less than twelve months.
But then, it now appears that ASUU has taken everyone for granted.
Lest anyone miss the point, ASUU’s position has long suffered from an illogical intransigence. While legal entities have an obligation to fulfill debts owed, the offer of N200 billion yearly for the next three years and N120 billion for the remainder of this year is by any measure a sensible, well-considered offer – even more so when giving with the force of the president’s personal appeal.
Support for ASUU’s insistence on industrial action wasn’t a validation of its position as much as it was an acknowledgement of the government’s trust deficit.
Therefore, effectively prolonging the strike in a hard-to-understand reaction to the death of its former leader and 1989 President, Festus Iyayi – by postponing the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting to January next year – is not just unconscionable, but it descends into the arena of farce.
Iyayi is a Nigerian hero. As an award-winning author, his books have helped shape the lives of Nigerian students; as an activist, he has stayed true to principle, even losing his job and his freedom for his beliefs, and as an academic, he has had an illustrious career. His death is a blow – even to the ASUU-government negotiations – and Nigerians have rightly mourned the avoidable loss of yet another citizen to an absence of good governance, whether it be bad roads, or imprudent governors.
But we are hard pressed to understand how suspending the lives of innocent students is recompense for the professor’s death reportedly in the hands of a government convoy. We are also hard-pressed to understand why the union needs three months to discuss, debate or decide on the appropriate reaction to the passing of its distinguished comrade.
Strike actions are last-resort decisions to be taken reluctantly, with deliberation, transparent hesitancy and a weighty sense of responsibility. What ASUU has done instead, is suspend the futures of Nigeria’s youth population and prolong the torture of parents, employers, and industry that depends on a functioning education system – on a whim.
In response to a government that has consistently acted irresponsibly – even though it must be said that it recently has begun to act with circumspection and sobriety – what ASUU has now done, is respond with irresponsibility of its own. One that is unseemly, and also immoral.
This is no way to honour the legacy of Festus Iyayi.
No one has the right to play fancy-free and foot-loose with the destiny of a nation. No organization should be able to wield power so carelessly, so recklessly, without pause or perspective. No group is so big that the nation must cower at its every sneeze.
In 2010, in the United States of America , the New Jersey Education Union pushed their luck – even spending $3 billion to defeat a governorship candidate. Bolstered by a public antagonistic to a Republican government, the union began to act arrogantly, dismissively and thoughtlessly over compensation and taxes. Soon, it over-reached, took the goodwill for granted, and thus began its decline.
The governor it once fought bitterly, Chris Christie, has become the most popular Republican alive in America today. And the union? It became completely irrelevant by the time the governor returned to a cruising victory just this month – a toothless canine, with no public support, no ability to raise funds and zero credibility to fall back on.
We appear to have an equally tone-deaf union here – and the end is always predictable.
ASUU needs to hold its executive council meeting immediately – and make a logical decision as to the endless strike.
We can only hope there are some people within its house who have some common sense left to save ASUU from itself.