ASUU vs FG: So Easy to Take Side with the Oppressor in Nigeria
By Abdelghaffar Amoka
INFOMEDIA – We keep asking why University Lecturers are going strike but we refused to ask why the government refused to honored an agreement and MoU they willingly signed. So easy to take side with the oppressor.
I bumped on an interesting opinion from AUDU BULAMA BUKARTI published in Daily Trust few days ago. He agreed that the demands of ASUU are legitimate but that ASUU should adopt a strategic campaign of non-violent protests and civil disobedience, which he thinks will be much more effective at generating the attention of our political leaders. In his opinion, the strike action is hurting the sons and daughters of ordinary Nigerians.
Meanwhile, Bulama is a PhD student at SOAS University of London and an analyst in the Co-Existence team at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and graduated from Bayero University Kano.
Without ASUU and the strikes from the time of Attahiru Jega of Bayero University in the early 90s, there may not have been a public university for Bulama to attend before the opportunity to go to London for his PhD like some of us. Public universities would have been reduced to the level of that public primary and secondary schools that you won’t send your kids to and those children of those “ordinary Nigerians” after finishing from that substandard private schools littered around the country would have got no university to attend. Between 2009 and now, TETFund and NEEDS Assessment became the major funds for the university infrastructures. Lecturers were denied salaries in a fight to establish TETFund of today. ASUU fought for it and even suggested ways to fund it. Federal and state governments now rely on TETFund to establish universities. Governor Yahaya Bello was at TETFund recently to seek the support of the TETFund Boss for his new University of Science and Technology. Now people in government move around to commission TETFund Projects. Lecturers were denied salaries in 2013 in a fight that birth NEEDS Assessment for universities. ASUU sacrificed to get them established for the benefit of Nigerians.
Meanwhile, between 2018 and 2020, Universities in the UK including SOAS University of London where Bulama is pursuing his PhD had embarked on strike 3 times. The dispute was over the university pension scheme, pay equality, workload, casualization, and pay levels. The UK University and College Union said they were inspired by teachers in the United States and fighting to save the education system — and put a stop to privatization. They got support from their students as according to Leicester Mercury, students of Leicester and Loughborough came out to protest in support of their Teachers.
So, as good as UK Universities look, the Lecturers are also striking to save Britain’s universities and put a stop to privatization. The longest strike they have had was 2 weeks in 2018 which was a big deal to them. Compare that with our 6 months strike. The difference is that while the UK government is sensitive, our government doesn’t care.
Bulama suggests that Lecturers should go for protest with the students in the morning and teach in the evening. How many policies and actions and inactions of the government have we changed in Nigeria with protest? Is it the government that doesn’t care if universities are closed will care by mere protesting on the street?
As stated sometime back, ASUU doesn’t just wake up overnight to declare an industrial action. There are several processes of consultations by ASUU National Executive Council (NEC) with the Government and branches in the various universities before a decision is reached on whether to go on strike or not. A strike is always the last resort. For example, ABU Branch was proposing a strike action for local issues sometime late last year, but the branch needs to convince ASUU NEC that all peaceful approaches are already exhausted to resolve the local dispute with the management before the branch can get industrial action approval from NEC. Even though the local issue is yet to be resolved, the strike can’t take place up till now because ASUU NEC has not approved it. That is ASUU you don’t know.
Before the warning and the indefinite strike action, there are 3 outstanding agreements signed by the Federal Government that are not implemented. ASUU engaged the FG for months and signed an agreement with the government after several consultations with the government and branches but the agreements are not implemented. But unfortunately, the supposed education lovers are comfortable with the half-baked education system in Nigeria prefer to direct the hammer on the head of the Lecturers instead of putting pressure on the government to prioritize education.
So, what do you want ASUU to do? all Lecturers converged in Abuja for a protest on the street for government to properly fund education? That won’t work for a deaf government that did not list education as a priority. Give up on the agreements and allow the PUBLIC Universities to keep decaying until it becomes like public primary and secondary schools that you won’t let your kids attend? If Lecturers don’t protect the University, who will protect the Lecturers? The big men in government in Abuja should be educated that when you sign an agreement, you are expected to live up to the terms of the agreements.
The option left is for Lecturers to let go of the fight for proper funding of the universities and focus on their welfare, a fight easier to win. Then we’ll all watch as the public universities degrade to a level where there won’t be a university for the sons and daughters of that ordinary Nigerian to attend or encourage the government introduces tuition and it is left for the ordinary Nigerian to find a way to send their kids to the university. The banks will be happy to give you loan to educate your sons and daughters.
Students use to fight for better conditions of learning in the universities up till early 90s, but the Lecturers are fighting for that for the students now. So, Parents, Media Houses, Students, and acclaimed lovers of education, help the system by educating FG to live up to the terms of the agreements they signed with ASUU to protect Public Universities. If you allow the Lecturers to give up and fight only for their welfare alone, you will have yourself to blame and posterity will judge you harshly.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of INFOMEDIA