ASUU: PATRIOTS OR SABOTEURS By Abike Adebayo
It is increasingly worrisome the ease with which the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarks on strike actions at the slightest chance. Of greater concern is the Union’s nonchalant attitude to the plight of Nigerian students and the impact of incessant industrial action on them, the Education sector and the Nation at large. Facts have emerged that just like Public Service medical doctors who operate private clinics and consultancy services, university lecturers now establish private institutions as side businesses. This could only be the logical explanation for the Union’s indifference to the pain of their actions on students, particularly those who cannot afford the luxury of attending private institutions or foreign studies.
ASUU has become synonymous with strikes with no record of notable accomplishments in promoting the quality of higher education in Nigeria. The Union has made industrial action the easiest and cheapest form of blackmail against the government and without hesitation, deploys this ostensible weapon when it suits its members’ selfish interests. Established with an objective to promote the welfare of its members and the development of the nation’s education sector, the Union has metamorphosed into a bully. Its priority has majorly centered on wellbeing of lecturers. Nothing else matters to it. Predictably, agitations for upgrade in salaries, concerns over IPPIS, delay in payment of remunerations and earned allowances are more pronounced when the Union embarks on industrial actions.
The Union is never about Nigeria or Nigerians. It is never about the Nigerian students. With interrupted learning and academic calendars that negatively affect their performance, innocent learners continue to bear the brunt of the Union’s insensitivity. It conveniently goes on strike for prolonged periods to push for self-seeking motives with no sense of empathy. Incessant strike actions continue to be beneficial to ASUU members as long as it affords them ample time to run their private Universities and render extracurricular pecuniary services. And despite efforts by the federal government to negotiate and also meet some of their demands, the Union remains callous and wastes no time in exploiting industrial actions to their advantage.
A case in view is the ongoing industrial action which commenced in February, 2022. Regardless of government’s efforts and current economic realities, the Union has remained adamant and has even gone ahead to extend its strike action by another eight weeks. This is more so that the Minister of State for Education, Mr Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba has asserted that all of the Union’s demands had been met and that all earned allowances and revitalisation funds had been released. It is pitiable and beyond reasoning that ASUU continues to deploy the same pattern over and over again to agitate supposed grievances. This is regardless of the fact that this strategy has produced minimal result, outlived its usefulness and crippled public tertiary institutions. Evidently, aside other things, strike actions enable ASUU members cash out on closure of public Universities to promote their personal investments and run their private Universities. Thus, their actions are deliberate, all-in pursuit of egoistic and opportunistic pecuniary gains. The Union’s style has undoubtedly become counterproductive, yielding no positive results and only inflicting unimaginable agony on Nigerians while impinging development. While this Union still exists and not scrapped beats all imaginations.
It is, however, encouraging that some Universities are starting to see through ASUU’s insanity and hypocrisy. This is the reason Abia and Delta State Universities backed out of the senseless strike, thereby unshackling the leash of ASUU’s destructive agenda against their own students. Other Universities should wake up and follow suit. Unfortunately, calls by student Unions to embark on protests have also fallen on deaf ears. ASUU has become the elephant in the room and could care less if the country is engulfed by demonstrations that ground socioeconomic activities. The Union should remember that one of its core objectives centers on the good of Nigeria and Nigerians. This strike is not good for us. ASUU must be seen to show empathy in its dealings and explore alternative means of conflict resolution. It must stop taking the easy and unethical path of strike actions to channel its grievances and seek the government’s attention. ASUU should grow up! Otherwise, no one will be wrong to term it as a saboteur.
Public Commentator from Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State