In 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari comfortably inscribed himself in Nigeria’s history books for the wrong reasons, by overseeing the longest ever Academic Staff Union of Universities strike, since the inception of the body, especially under any government in Nigeria since the return of democracy in 1999.
StatiSence, an online platform that publishes data on current issues in Nigeria, calculated 2020’s industrial action, which spanned from March till December (totaling nine months), to have lasted 275 days. The strike that year, outlasted the 180 days strike that happened under President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 by over 90 days, as well as the industrial action under the President Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2010/11.
Like the record in 2020 wasn’t embarrassing and insurmountable enough, now in 2022, with exactly two months to go, 62 days precisely, going by StatiSence calculation, with the strike nowhere near its end as at today, September 15, making it the seventh month of the strike, President Buhari looks fully geared towards breaking his own record.
If this goes on, the president will by November 17, 2022, be attaining another milestone of overseeing yet another longest ever ASUU strike in the country, by smashing the same national record set by him in just under two years, most notably, in a single tenure (second tenure), a huge feat never accomplished by any past head of state, in any other sector of the country, not forgetting during any military regime experienced in the country.
Furthermore, as of today, with the strike entering its 213th day, the seemingly unattainable record which none of his aides will ever be proud of or would like to ascribe to the president but will still shamelessly absorb of blame, is that the on-going ASUU strike, had on August 14, 2022, become the second longest ever ASUU strike in the country’s history, and remember, the days are still counting. The strike still being on as of today, also means that it had already outlasted the length of the 2003 and 2010/11 ASUU strike by 33 days or more.
The embarking of the strike by the union was in demand of the implementation of the 2009 agreement the government reached with the union. However, the FG had failed to heed to the agreement, insisting on the implementation of the ‘no work, no pay’ policy. To further deepen the crisis, the government on Sunday, disclosed that it had dragged the Union to the National Industrial Court seeking an order to compel the lecturers to return to classes, and also to determine the legality of the union’s strike action.
It is important to note that the union had not embarked on a strike two years prior to President Buhari’s assumption into the nation’s number one seat in 2015, with the last strike that year, being the five-month industrial action which ended in December 17, 2013. However, jut two years into his administration, ASUU declared an first indefinite strike on August 17, 2017, which went on for 35 days. So far, ASUU had been on strike for 615 days (20 months) in total, since Buhari became president in May 29, 2015, the highest since 1999, if not ever.
In the lead up to the 2015 presidential election, President Buhari, condemned predecessor, former president Jonathan for his poor funding of education and his misplacement of priorities at the time, following the prolonged ASUU strike then.
Buhari in 2014, during the Jonathan administration said, “Teachers in all the tertiary institutions and polytechnics were on strike, these strikes were for a whole academic year. I think a serious government, if they had N7 billion to throw about will go and negotiate with ASUU and then, the teachers unions of the tertiary institutions from polytechnics downwards, so that our children should remain in school, even complement equipment, and other social facilities for education institutions. Why go and take N7billion that we could not afford when our children are on the streets? I think this government has capacity for wrong priorities.”
However, this garment of passion that Buhari had on him then regarding the welfare of teachers and lecturers in the lead up to that election which brought him to power, seemed to had worn out, and had been dumped in the trash as soon as he assumed office.
It now appears as though his sympathy for ASUU then, was a ploy to manipulate and deceive Nigerians and most importantly, the lecturers, into believing that the neglect of the education sector in the previous administration, will be a thing of the past, if he got elected.
Evidently, the ASUU strike has become far worse over the last three years than it was before he assumed office. It has now come to light that the deceit of hypocritically condemning the strike under Jonathan back then, was just a strategy to manipulate Nigerians only to win votes to attain power, nothing more.