The President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Emmanuel Osodeke, has come under sharp criticism for referring to other universities that announced resumption despite the union’s ongoing strike as “quacks.”
Responding to questions on Arise Television on Thursday on the impact of the Nigerian government’s “No work, No Pay” rule on the universities and whether it is responsible for some universities’ decision to suspend the strike, Mr Osodeke, a professor, said the universities that pulled out of the strike are not members of his union.
He said: “When you are providing data, look at the background. Kwara State University is not a member of ASUU, Osun State University was suspended for its behaviour, you can check. LASU, you mentioned. We are in court with LASU because they sacked all our executives five years ago so they are not part of this struggle and Ekiti State University’s government has the right to say we have reopened just as it has happened in Gombe State University, Yobe and Kaduna State University.
“So, don’t cite those examples as they are irrelevant. Talk about the issue, is the University of Ibadan on strike? Is the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) on strike? Is Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) on strike? Is Bayero University Kano (BUK) on strike? Is Maiduguri University on strike and the University of Lagos? Let’s talk about real universities, not those quacks.”
The ASUU president’s comment has generated reactions among Nigerians including university scholars and Nigerian academics.
For instance, the management of Ekiti State University (EKSU) has replied to Mr Osodeke, rejecting its categorisation among ‘quack’ universities, even as it described the comments as “totally unacceptable and condemnable”.
The university, therefore, demanded a retraction and an apology from the president.
“The Management calls on Professor Osodeke to toe the path of honour by retracting the provocative remark and tender an unreserved apology without further delay,” it said in a statement by its Head of Directorate of Information and Corporate Affairs, Bode Olofinmuagun.
The statement noted that the university viewed the comments as “denigrating, unfortunate, reckless and unwarranted.”
The statement further noted that EKSU is currently the 14th best university in Nigeria and the 2nd best state government-owned university, according to the recent Webometric ranking of universities.
It added that the university has nearly all its academic programmes accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC) and relevant professional regulatory bodies.
The statement further read: “The university is proud to have many top-rated globally recognised academics, and its alumni are making waves both nationally and internationally. By the grace of God, Mr Biodun Oyebanji, the Governor-elect of Ekiti State is an alumnus and a former lecturer at the university. Even in ASUU, a number of staff of our university had served and still serving in various capacities at zonal and national levels including but not limited to Professor Afolabi Popoola, Dr Sikiru Eniola, Profs. Eddy Olanipekun, Ayan Adeleke and Olu-Olu Olufayo.
“Therefore, categorising EKSU as among the quack and irrelevant universities is a testimony to the fact that the ASUU President is probably uninformed and/or bereft of ideas. This arrant nonsense coming from Comrade Osodeke is totally unacceptable and condemnable.”
A Nigerian commentator, Yusuf Usman, noted that Mr Osodeke has betrayed the essence of quality leadership by making ‘irresponsible’ statements “on a section of the constituency that has placed him on the saddle of leadership.”
He said it is wrong for Mr Osodeke, the president of a union that prides itself as an association of intellectuals, to refer to the universities whose members of staff elected him as “quack” universities.
He added that the ASUU president’s comments portray a betrayal of trust “and he must either prove his charges against these universities with facts and figures or publicly tender unreserved apology for his inciting, indecent and unsubstantiated diatribe.”
Another Nigerian academic from the Federal University, Gashua, Yobe State, Dagari, noted that it is a shame to hear such a statement from the ASUU president on live television.
He described the comments as an insult of the highest order, saying Mr Osodeke “has gone down in history as the worst ASUU national president ever.”
Mr Dagari added that the ASUU president should not be allowed to preside over the proceedings of the forthcoming National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the union.
He said: “It is now very clear, the confused Professor doesn’t have the requisite qualities to lead the union of intellectuals”
“At last, the man (Mr Osodeke) has told the world the official status of state universities. ASUU should now stop blaming Buhari, Ngige, Adamu Adamu et al on the protracted ASUU-FGN face-off.”
Since the commencement of the current strike by ASUU on 14 February, the government has adopted a ‘no work no pay’ rule, saying the law does not say workers on strike should be paid for work not done.
ASUU has, however, remained adamant that all of its demands must be met before any of its members –including those in the state universities– will suspend the strike.
However, following threats to withdraw subventions of the state-owned universities by their state governors, some institutions including Kaduna State University and Ekiti State University, suspended the strike.
While the state governments claim that ASUU’s dispute is with the federal government, the union said they do have a rift with state governments that do not fund their universities. They accused the state governments of leaving the institutions to feed solely on funds from the Tertiary Education Trustfund (TETFund) and describing them as “TETFund universities.”.
Part of ASUU’s demand is an end to what it described as the proliferation of universities, describing these new universities as “constituency projects.”
Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe
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