Before the next ASUU strike

To the delight of millions of Nigerians, including students, their friends and family members, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) called off its latest strike action on Wednesday February 1, 2012. It was certainly a big relief for the hapless students, who had been stretched to the limit as a result of our predilection for seeing every problem as a nail that must be hit with a hammer.

While Nigerian students, especially all those who are not fortunate to attend a university like the University of Ilorin,  still savour the development, anyone who is familiar with the histrionics of ASUU knows that the issue of the next strike is not a question of if but a matter of when. I wager that the next strike may just be a matter of a few weeks, or a few months, or perhaps if we are lucky though we are most unlikely, a few years.

In its editorial of March 26, 2002 entitled “ASUU’s strike”, The Punch had said that strike actions by ASUU are “a monumental disservice to the nation’s education system” also pointing out that “Nigerian universities have simply had more than enough of strikes.” The subtext was that it was high time an alternative to strike was devised, and ten years after, the “monumental disservice” continues. But since we live in an era of intellectual stupor where men of great learning are at a loss on finding alternative solutions other than an over-used method, it may be expedient, nonetheless pertinent, that the University of Ilorin enrich the ASUU leadership with more ideas. This need is demonstrated recently by a strike enthusiast who lent further credence to the no-alternative-to-strike theory.

 

In drawing attention to this submission, it is foregrounded that unionism is primarily concerned with the promotion of welfarism and most strike actions of ASUU are welfare-induced. It is the expectation of The Alma Mater that some no-alternative-to-strike stakeholders, who are ardent followers of this publication, would take the message to the leadership. After all, it only thunders because of the blind and it rains because of the deaf, if we can attempt a translation of a Yoruba saw. Nobody is expecting them to credit the source since it is well known that academic honesty is not in their character and brazen denial is the face of incontrovertible evidence is their game.

 

Addressing a delegation of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) that paid him a courtesy visit on Tuesday, February 8, 2011, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, said that it is the masses, who are victims of oppression already, that suffer most when professionals, with specific reference to the medical doctors, embark on strike. “We need to device a way of getting our rights without having to pay eternally for the little gains we make.  There is no amount of money that medical doctors get that can revive those who die on account of their strike.  I want to urge you to always adopt a non-disruptive approach to solving problems,” he told the delegation. Prof. Oloyede then went ahead to suggest that unions that render essential services to the nation like, and ASUU can easily key in, should insist that their members be paid a percentage of what some political office holders like the legislators receive as salaries.

 

For instance, instead of the perennial strike actions for salary increment, Prof. Oloyede’s idea is that if ASUU insists that professors, hypothetically speaking, should have 50% of what a Senator earns and Senior lecturers get 45% of federal lawmakers receives, it would go a long way in addressing the need because as soon as these law makers increase their remunerations, which have the power to do, ASUU members’ salaries also get increased. Unlike the suggestion of the review of the professorial retirement age, few newspapers, largely local, reported the story, published on this page, and it surely did not gain much awareness. In drawing attention to the suggestion again, it is the belief of this column that even successful strike actions are a pyrrhic victory ultimately to their promoters and their children and this UNILORIN idea can be presented on the table of future negotiation.

 

Everybody is lauding Ghanaian education (see the latest of many, Segun Oruame’s “Going to Ghana to school” in The Nation of last Friday, i.e.10/02/2012, p.44) but the feat was not achieved serendipitously. It was achieved through the sacrifice of patriotic Ghanaian lecturers and other university-based unions, as evident in Kayode Olanrewaju’s piece, “Lessons from Ghana I”, which appeared in Nigerian Compass ( 24/10/2009, p.24): “In the face of these challenges (i.e. like those facing Nigerian universities), the four workers’ unions in Ghanaian university system had decided not to go on strike, not because they are happy with the system, but they choose not to put their universities into darkness as a result of strike. Rather than go on strike…they developed several channels through which they table their demands and dialogue with the Ghanaian Government…” It is this spirit that has made the University of Ilorin what it is (see Femi Abbas’ “Better by far” in The Nation, 10/02/2012 p.36).

Culled from the UNILORIN Bulletin – Feb 13 2012.