In the last five months, we have been witnesses to a rather unsavoury development of our universities being shut down on account of the industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
This administration, mindful of the right of trade unions to seek improvement in the working conditions and general welfare of its members, and in line with its commitment to improve the condition of the nation’s tertiary institutions went into negotiations with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which represents the striking lecturers.
A negotiation generally on matters like this usually entails parties involved making concessions and shifting ground to arrive at amicable resolution of dispute. Thus it is not a good negotiating philosophy for a party to a dispute to come to the table with an “All or none” mentality.
In our present case, coming to negotiations as ASUU has done with this mindset, betrays a lack of understanding on the part of the body’s leadership that the nation and the government are a continuum.
Having said that, Nigerians expected that the direct involvement of President Goodluck Jonathan who sat for 13 hours in the meeting was the high mark of the crisis, which ought to have provided the final resolution to the crisis. The meeting with President Jonathan ended with a definite agreement and resolutions acceptable to the ASUU leadership. The leadership of ASUU was expected to consult with its members nationwide and report back to government within one week, and call off the strike, all other things being equal.
The ASUU leadership rather than take its responsibility seriously, wasted seven days before scheduling a meeting. When the meeting eventually held the leadership decided to thwart and undemocratically override the expressed will of majority of its chapters to call off the strike. This action is contrary to established practice and procedure of any democratic labour institution, which ASUU is expected to be.
The ASUU leadership refused to accede to the wishes of 42 of its 61 chapters nationwide, who voted in favour of the agreement with the President and the calling off of the strike; but in a surprise volte face presented government again with a new set of demands and considerations outside the terms agreed at the presidential intervention.
Given the fact that government had reached agreement with ASUU to make available N100 billion for the provision of infrastructure on campuses of 61 universities covered in the needs assessment of universities, with a further commitment of another N200 billion over the next two years, and N40 billion of the N90 billion Earned Allowances demanded by the lecturers one would have expected them to reconsider their stand. This was despite the fact that the ASUU leadership in the meeting with President Jonathan failed curiously to articulate the basis of the calculation of the demanded N90 billion earned allowance, which has been on the table since 2009.
It becomes crystal clear therefore that the Federal Government has shown good faith and commendable commitment by acceding to most of the demands of ASUU. This ordinarily ought to be a thing of pride and an outstanding achievement to the ASUU having been able to secure these unprecedented concessions as a direct benefit of the prolonged and painful five month strike
The negative disposition of the ASUU leadership is unarguably a pre-conceived and calculated treacherous plot pointedly intended to undermine the Presidency and subvert the Federal Government of Nigeria.
This is clearly a hallmark of a leadership that is determined to employ subterfuge in an attempt to hold government, students and their parents and other stakeholders to ransom in a reckless and irresponsible display of insensitivity, lawlessness and absolute lack of patriotism and even the fear of God. Unfortunately, all this is perpetuated using unsuspecting but otherwise loyal, patriotic and responsible members of ASUU whose families are also sad victims of this reprehensible and callous attitude of their leadership.
From all indications therefore and other information available to government it has become obvious that this is no longer an altruistic strike borne out of good intentions and aimed at improving the welfare of students and staff of the universities and the standard of our educational institutions. Rather it is an evil programme motivated by selfish political interests and motivations within the polity. These are, quoting late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, “the enemies of state operating from within”.
Given this dangerous and invidious tendency no right thinking government sworn to protect the welfare of its citizens will fold its arms and watch the situation deteriorate any further. History has shown that when governments worldwide are pushed to the wall, they take whatever lawful steps that are necessary to protect the interests of its people and the state over which they govern.
This is why we make bold to state that there is absolutely nothing dictatorial, draconian or undemocratic in the order by the Federal Government for striking lecturers to return to work or face dismissal. You may wish to recall that on the 5th of August 1981, Ronald Reagan then American President sacked 11, 345 Air Traffic Controllers after a TWO-DAY STRIKE. Reagan took the decision after the striking workers turned down an 11 percent wage increase he had offered them.
It is also pertinent to note that the new demands of the ASUU leadership unwittingly question the integrity of Mr. President. However, for the avoidance of doubt, we wish to state without equivocation that contrary to expressed fears, President Jonathan, widely known to be a God-fearing individual who has consistently honoured his word and commitment to the Nigerian people is not such a person as to single out anyone for selective punishment neither will he make anyone a scapegoat.
Having said this, It is delightful and very gratifying to note that many reasonable and patriotic lecturers in several universities have decided to comply with the order of government and are ready to return to classes on or before the December 4 deadline. We salute their courage, commitment to their calling and loyalty to their nation. These are indeed the true patriots and the national heroes of this prolonged and painful struggle. We want to assure them that the government will take every step to protect them in their effort to comply with the government directives and their desire to discharge of their lawful duties to the suffering Nigerian students, our universities and our dear country.
Finally, we wish seriously enjoin the leadership of ASUU and their distinguished members nationwide to have a rethink in the interest of Nigerian students, their parents and the society at large and return to work by December 4, 2013 so that we can restore hope and normalcy to our hitherto troubled citadels of learning. Let me use this medium to thank all national labour leaders past and present, members of the national assembly, our respected traditional rulers in particular the Sultan of Sokoto and other eminent and well- meaning Nigerians who have worked and are still working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure prompt and positive resolution of this lingering crisis.
The Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan is visibly on course and has recorded much progress and outstanding achievements and indisputable achievements. It has also shown that the Nigerian nation is “work in progress” and needs all hands to be on deck, working assiduously, with a unity of purpose to promote the well-being of its citizens and institutions. Until we reach our collective goal of making the country a viable, united and prosperous nation. However, in the process of attaining this goal no sector, no matter how seemingly important, will be allowed to derail our collective destiny. It will not happen.
Meanwhile the order by the presidency has been described as a big joke by Nigerians Read: Nyesom Wike call to ASUU to resume or be sacked is an empty threat