[Opinion] ASUU Strike: Why I Do Not Share ASUU’s Sentiments!

It is appalling, it is atrocious and it is also unspeakable that at this stage of our journey in the development train, we are still grappling with industrial actions in the most critical sectors of our economy. Too many a Nigerian are peeved and vexed that a nation warming up to celebrate her centenary anniversary, a nation that has enjoyed 53 years of managing her affairs by her own hands and a nation that has romanced Democracy for some 14 years still has her key sectors walking lame and not living up to its expectation. It is a shame to all of us to say the least both as citizens and also as leaders as we have all in one way or the other set the stone rolling and I wish there was a better way to have started this article.
To say that Strike actions have become a recurring decimal in every other sector of our economy is an understatement and it is saddening to note that things never fall in place after such harrowing experience. In fact, things get worse as we get off any strike action. When the university lecturers under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suspended their last strike action some two years ago when Professor Ukachukwu Awuzie led the Organization which could pass for a thorn on the skin of successive governments, I had written an article which I titled, “The Just Suspended ASUU Strike and The Proverbial Sunshine At The End of Every Tunnel” where in I stated thus, “…… Even more disheartening is the gospel truth that we cannot dismiss another strike in the nearest future. The just suspended strike lasted some 61 days, only God knows how long the next would…” True to my words and quite “prophetic” of me, we are here again to put up with the sad experiences and emotional trauma strikes in universities bring to students.
Since ASUU embarked on its recent strike action some 3weeks ago, I have taken some time to study the reasons that necessitated the union to reach a unanimous conclusion with regards to the strike and in all sincerity albeit my opinion, I am yet to see a reason so germane why they should have reached such harsh conclusion disregarding the quandary of students who in most cases bear the brunt of such actions neither does this writer contend to take sides with the government for what the union leaders termed its “insensitivity and dilly-dallying with the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement and failure to review the 2012 MoU reached with the union. What then led me into the troubles of this piece? Many would want to inquire.
Albert Einstein was perfectly right when he said, “it is only but foolery to keep doing the same thing over time and expecting a different result”. If that is true, then No group of persons has betrayed this position more than the leadership of ASUU. The past 4 years I have been in a university environment, have seen me witness close to 4 indefinite strike actions and in all those years, even where government have come in to intervene to some extent, the impact is hardly positively felt on the student population and the educational standard generally. It becomes entirely a clear case of ASUU hoodwinking the students and masses whereas they pursue their parochial interest and hide under the capers of improving the standard of education in their various chapters. This, many Nigerian students know is a facade and can always attest to. To vindicate the foregoing, I observed that of all the seven other issues left out in the 2009 agreement with the FEDS, the leadership of the union hinged the strike on only one of such and which is the alleged Failure of the Federal Government to honor the Academic Earned Allowance (AEA) of #12,500 to deans of faculties, Examination Officers, Heads of Departments, course advisers and thesis supervisors while “neglecting” the other issues at least for now. What I make of it is that, if the FEDS agree to release the funds for the earned allowances any moment from now, the leadership of the union will immediately suspend their strike. And why not? They are not any interested in the dilapidated and decrepit educational standard they allege. And what is more- their wards hardly school in the public universities. Many have sent their wards to the more vibrant private institutions and those who have the onions have gone as far as sending their wards to foreign climes to bag their degrees without stress.
In the last strike action embarked by the union, the re-constitution of the academic governing councils earlier dissolved and the increment of retirement age for senior lecturers and professors caught the focal interest of the union and immediately the bill was sent to the red chambers for legislative authority, the union called- off its strike. This time, the non- payment of Earned allowances tops the list in the demand schedule of the union and other items like, Funding requirements for revitalization of universities, Federal government assistance to state universities, transfer of federal government landed property to universities among others have only been lined up to complement it and also win the sympathy of the media and the general public. Probably, the adjoining issues will be a better reason to embark upon another strike in the nearest future. And this is where the crux of this piece lies.
My grouse with ASUU is their leniency with the authorities which makes me want to conclude that its leadership does not know what they want and even when they know, are easily influenced so much as they are too quick to throw in the towel whenever they embark on strikes which have become synonymous with them forgetting the objectives which led them into vacating the classrooms and putting the lives of many students in the line as they travel every now and again on roads which are better called death-traps. Postponing the doomsday is the only thing I can make out of ASUU’S actions over the years. Always suspending one strike and embarking on another in the shortest time has caused more damage to the Education sector than the good it has done. They have reduced themselves to puppets before the government and have lowered their worth in the estimation of the people that live in the corridors of power. If ASUU wants to strike, let them strike for as long as they could until their demands are not only approved but also implemented in toto as only then, would the government and the general public take them serious for as long as I am concerned, the union has caused the education sector more harm and have done a great disservice to the student population whom they have every now and again, claimed to protect whenever they embark on strike. A justification of the above position is anchored on the truism that many stand-up comedians today have now used the incessant strikes by the union to entertain their audience in such questions like- “between ASUU and Thunder who strikes most? Or between ASUU and Drogba who strikes better? And so on and so forth. Let it be said that if the government has dilly-dallied with the series of pacts they had entered with ASUU, if they have reneged on their words or volt-faced from their earlier positions as the union claims, it is because they have made themselves to be treated in such manner. That is by the way for now.
Economists argue that human wants are insatiable but those of the union are not just insatiable but also greedy. Their demands are not only recurring, they are also not germane and feasible. For crying out loud, ever Since I was a boy still held under the clutches of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, I have heard my parents talk about one strike by the union to another within a short space of time. It is disheartening that now that I am briskly turning into a Man, the same is still being said of the union and not just that, I am also being a victim of their “insensitivity”. Asking for 26% fiscal allocation to the education sector in line with UNESCO recommendation is a stepping stone in the right direction but also a demand too high in all sincerity at least in this crawling economy of ours. I know education sets a nation in the limelight but we should also learn to live within our means, make marbles out of sand stone and build fortresses with the little we are getting. Demands are bound to be made from time to time but a child must always ask his father that which he knows he could provide and not go back supporting his chin with his hands just because he wants to make the little boy happy. That child will never be happy seeing his father in such emotional tumult. All I am asking is that the union leaders should make demands that can be accommodated within our resources as they can never get it right when they try to compare what they are getting to what our parliamentarians and those closer to the corridors of power are receiving however long they strike. Let a spade be called a spade. The conditions upon which they have unanimously decided to vacate the classrooms are not enough for them to have, as they could have allowed negotiations to continue some more. Not when students in various universities are warming up for their second semester examinations or in the middle of examinations. If anything, it questions the sensitivity of the union members and their leaders and the ethics that is supposed to govern that vocation which many have mistaken for a profession.
While it is a golden rule that agreements are meant to be kept and not broken, it also must be stated that the government have been arm-twisted in entering some of those agreements. Even though the union leaders always claim that they have been entered “freely” by the authorities, I still find it very difficult to agree. Of the two conflicting parties, however it is looked at, it is always easier to see that the government are always more eager to see students back to the classrooms unlike the leadership of the union who always pursue their personal interest and also want to flex their ego and so when the government representatives gives a nod to the demands of ASUU, it could easily pass for a lip service in most cases. At least in my opinion as they do not want to see students while away precious time at home when they are supposed to be receiving lectures or attending to one academic work.
If the standard of education has dropped inimically, this writer contends that much of the credit should go to the so-called lecturers that now occupy our classrooms and administrative offices. If anything, they are what I call a prototype of weak hands who accidentally found themselves wielding a white piece of chalk or marker before group of students who are eager to learn but scarcely learns a thing at the end of the day. I have had the effrontery to ask on several occasions what caliber of academics now occupy our classrooms in the name of lecturers. Teaching as a profession to the best of my knowledge is, and should be a God’s given talent but who do you find in the system today? Lazy, hungry and frustrated “mercenaries” who can hardly impact the least knowledge to their students and demand from them upon examinations to make some magic. And when a government dilly-dallies with the demands of people with this characteristic and attitude toward service delivery, an honest observer may want to find justification therein.
If there is corruption in every other sector of our economy, let it be said with the least of equivocation, that our universities have perpetuated more and have always been allowed to go unscathed. Of course, one need not be told that Vice Chancellors and principal officers of universities have only grown richer and richer at the expense of the student population. They could hardly face any properly constituted panel to give a fair account of their Internally Generated Revenue. No. That, they will never speak of and will always sweep under the carpets. Our university administrators have seen more funds lately but are much more married to their pockets and happier to see their bank accounts fattened. The students will always take care of themselves they know. After all, have they got an option? The sale of post-UTME forms, accommodation spaces, and tuitions for other programs like Remedial, Diploma, Post-Graduate studies, Part-time based courses and so many other short programs and the funds generated from them have been poorly accounted for. That is not only the case, yearly intervention from the Education Trust Fund and other International Charity Organization to Universities has been poorly accounted for as nobody gives one damn. If students learn under harsh environment as a result of a deluged class, ventilating systems like air-conditioners or ceiling fans could be used to bring succor to students but not even this trifle projects would the authorities embark upon. Our libraries are flooded with books that predate human history but nothing is done to ameliorate this situation by re-branding the libraries. The management are not bothered, government just have to do it all. No more, no less and when graduates become half-baked, everybody blames it on the government. Me think to the contrary and find our university administrators better culprits to face the guillotine or the hangman’s noose.
However unpopular my view on this strike may be, I am not the least visibly shaken by it despite being a “victim” of same. It is in the nature of man to always put the blame on the next man and draw the sympathy of the unsuspecting public and the University lecturers are so adroit at that. If there is a union deserving of such incessant strike actions, it shouldn’t be the present crop of lecturers in our universities today. It shouldn’t be lecturers who haven’t the love for teaching at their heart but only see it as a last resort. It shouldn’t be lecturers who don’t want to be in classes any longer as they are more interested in ‘better’ things outside the walls of the university. It shouldn’t be lecturers who only come to class to dictate notes that are flawed with wrong grammatical expressions. In all heavens, it shouldn’t be lecturers who are no longer willing to mark the scripts of students after examination but resort to random marking; neither should it be lecturers who are happier seeing their students fail than they do when they manage to pass. In a nutshell, it shouldn’t be the men and women who call themselves “lecturers” that now occupy our academic chambers. Nigerian students are miffed and obfuscated by their lame performance. It sucks and has helped to dig deeper the “grave” in which our ailing educational standard will be buried.
The leadership of ASUU I advise should do more by calling its mercenaries to order and challenging them to live up to the expectation of their letters of appointment instead of chasing shadows by suspending and going on another strike every now and again as that is not the best way to ensure parity in the system. In my views it is a clear case of putting the cart before the horse. Many Nigerian students will beat their chest and say that our educational standard is not the best in the world but they also believe that when the system is allowed to keep rolling without galloping, things will only get better. I have sat in classrooms without ceiling fans and read for my examinations at night with a burning candle but I have written my examinations and come out with flying colors but I have never for a day canvassed for a strike but our lecturers so-called, occupy luxurious offices and while away their time but just like Charles Dickens Oliver twist, they won’t stop asking for more.
Let ASUU strike for as long as they want, the rhetoric is already created that Nigerian students know better what happens in the system and when they blame the FEDS one fold for the shabby educational standard in our tertiary institutions, they will do double to the university authorities cum lecturers. If the government out of their obduracy has brought the university standard to ridicule, our lecturers by their actions and inactions has brought it to a near standstill. I weep for Nigeria.
The writer is a law student and a public affairs analyst. Comments and reactions to [email protected]/ @yung_silky

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9 COMMENTS

  1. ASUU has made so many people not to see interest,hope,zeal to go to school.Body that is suppose to build up the spirit of students are the same killing the education system.In the time of old we never heard of anything call strike. ASUU is a devil in White garment.Nigerian Youth please go look for smth now and start doing and don’t wait for the devil to kill your hope.ASUU Demons.

  2. ASUU worst thing dat hv hapen to 9ja education system ,, I only pray dat all those pple will not be paid dere salaries in btw the month of there strikes ,,,,foolish pple…,,

  3. I had earlier said it, ASUU as a body is just being too greedy and this will not stop until students begin to see their real enemy and devise a way of making them pay by one way or the other. Also until a law is enshrined in our constitution mandating every public office holder’s wards to pursue and obtain their first degree in a Nigerian public tertiary institution as one of the qualification prerequisite for the office.

  4. I can clearly see dat you guys don’t no why ASUU is on strike,maybe you should use ur fone for somtin beta lik readin articles composed by ASUU b4 you start judging them
    #smh

  5. @Joseph of all the times that ASUU went on strike, state when salary was not involved. They have always included infrastructure and standard of teaching but it is always shoved aside when their financial side have been appeased. I did not study in Nigeria and spent a little less than 4 years to complete my course. How many persons who attended government universities can state that. they are just punishing the students for their own selfish agendas. If they want to strike, let it be done until all their demands are met, not this 2 year interval strike.

  6. USELESS ARTICLE…i cant believe someone sat down and wrote such a useless piece or maybe perharps the writer is not a Nigerian because the state of this article speaks for the writers educational history but the reasoning makes it completely useless. Im speaking to the author alone,PLEASE go back to your study table, think properly(having the Nigerian syndrom in mind) and come back with a master piece full of thoughts. You are a brilliant guy/girl/man/woman but you need to think real hard before writing on sensitive issues

  7. here u are encouraging asuu not to call of till all their demands are met, thereby putting rather harmful ideas in their heads, the govt is done with asuu, they are never gonna get another dime extra from fg, asuu as i presume is made up of supposedly learned people, who toom their senses away? this strike doesn’t in any way affect the govt, so y insist strike continues as if they are directly harming the govt (bunch of low thinking idiots Dr Fagge and his team) thankfully salaries have been stopped, lets see how long they can hold out without being paid! ASUU sucks big time.

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