In a mass response approach, the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has taken on its critics, including Jide Osuntokun, an emeritus professor and Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Germany, and a columnist with ThisDay Newspaper, Yemi Adebowale.
The various rejoinders, anchored by the members of the union’s recently constituted Rapid Response Team, accused the critics of lacking the required understanding of the structure and workings of the Nigerian universities.
They said the policy of “No Work, No Pay,” of the government that is being promoted by the government is inconsistent with the nature of work of the lecturers.
According to the authors of the rejoinders- Ade Adejumo of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho, Oyo State, who is the chairman of the team, and ‘Laja Odukoya of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, the clarifications became necessary to set the records straight.
Since the commencement of the industrial action, now indefinite, some Nigerian columnists and commentators have accused ASUU of insensitivity and lack of forward thinking. Some have applauded the government for its “No Work, No Pay” stance, encouraged the government to call ASUU’s bluff and take them to court.
Last week, ASUU constituted a seven-man Rapid Response Committee to respond to all media publications that are allegedly against the union’s campaign.
On Adebowale’s piece
In his piece titled; “Setting the Record Straight on the ASUU Struggle: Can Ignorance Replace Knowledge?,” Mr Adejumo said Mr Adebowale’s support for the government’s “No Work, No Pay” policy stemmed from his “prejudice and hatred” for the lecturers and the union.
In the 3rd September edition of his Saturday weekly column titled; “ASUU President Misleading Public University Teachers,” Mr Adebowale wrote that ASUU is as “deceitful as the Buhari government it is fighting.”
He said ASUU would not have been on strike at all if the interest of the students was paramount to it.
He said ASUU members are not owed any salary for the period they were on strike, as the lecturers were employed to teach. He added that ASUU’s struggle can continue without embarking on any strike.
“ASUU wants the federal government to fulfil its 2009 agreements with the union. They are also demanding revitalisation funds for public universities, promotion arrears, improved salaries and earned academic allowances. But the struggle can always continue without endless strikes. ASUU members are earning salaries to teach students. So, they must teach while clamouring for their desires. They were not being owed salaries when they embarked on this current strike,” he wrote in the Saturday column.
It said lecturers are employed to do more than teaching and that teaching is the littlest of the lecturers’ duties.
“The work of a lecturer goes beyond teaching students,” said ASUU’s response team. “In fact, although the most visible, teaching is the simplest of a lecturer’s job. This perhaps explains why it carries a mere 10 per cent in the consideration of a lecturer’s promotion, where it is scored at all. Furthermore, in academia, good teaching is impossible without good research. Excellent and quality research are sine qua non for good teaching.”
The union said while teaching is on hold during the pendency of a strike, research as well as community development goes on unimpeded.
It added that the No work, No Pay rule adopted by the government would hurt the students more. “If government refuses to pay for the strike period, it is simply a directive by the government that the make-up work that would otherwise be done by lecturers to cover the time lost for strike at great personal sacrifices and self-denial in the interest of our students, should not be done.”
ASUU noted that the ongoing strike was forced on its union by the government’s failure to implement agreements it signed in 2017, 2019 and 2020.
ASUU said: “The Profs Muzaliu Jibril and Nimi Briggs renegotiation committees are clear examples. Government dumped their reports and resorted to arbitrary imposition of salary awards on our Union in violation of the practice of Collective Bargaining Agreement between us established since 1981 and backed by laws.”
It also accused the government of running down public universities by creating more without commensurate funding.
Odukoya replies Osuntokun
In his own response to Mr Osuntokun’s piece, Mr Odukoya’s piece is titled; “Higher Education and the Future of Nigeria”.
Mr Osuntokun had, in his piece, canvassed a different strategy other than a strike by ASUU.
He also suggested that the union should take the government to court should it fail to fully grant universities their autonomy as stated by law.
He also said the union should make use of the resources made available by the government and make students pay for the deficit through tuition fees.
“The government should then grant annually whatever it says it can afford while parents of students would have to come up with the remainder of the cost. Not all parents will be able to pay the economic cost of their children’s education,” he wrote in the piece.
But Mr Odukoya described the suggestion as “a sad endorsement of government rascality, irresponsibility, corruption and contempt for the Nigerian people”.
He said doing so encourages the government to use the country’s resources on activities other than the public good.
He added that filing a lawsuit against the government will achieve nothing as the government “has demonstrated over and over again its disdain for the rule of law and constitutionality.”
He said: “Given the slow speed of our judicial system, the suggestion is an ingenious way of terminating the struggle. Suffice to note that trade unions like ASUU have two options to prosecute their struggles; legal and political (strike is political). It is only the union, based on its realities and the understanding and analysis of the realities it confronts (including the age-long disposition of the state and its functionaries) that will decide whether to deplore legal or political strategy or even a combination of the two for its struggles. This is not given and cannot be assumed theoretically. Unions learn from their past struggles and those of other unions.”
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
Support PREMIUM TIMES’ journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: Call Willie – +2348098788999