BY OUR REPORTERS
LAGOS—The face-off between striking university lecturers and the Federal Government entered a new phase, yesterday, as some lecturers took to the streets with both parties engaging in war of words. While the Federal Government accused members of ASUU of being heartless for the prolonged strike, the lecturers tackled President Goodluck Jonathan on his appeal to them to be patriotic enough and call off the strike.
Taking their protest to the streets yesterday, some striking lecturers at Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU and Osun State University, UNIOSUN, staged rallies at Ile-Ife and Osogbo respectively, in bids to sensitise members of the public to the union’s demands from the Federal Government and implementation of agreements reached in 2009.
While some OAU teachers marched through streets of Ile-Ife, lecturers from Osun State University held their rally at the newly constructed Freedom Square at Old Garage, Osogbo.
The striking lecturers from the two institutions held the rallies peacefully and under Police protection, condemning the action of Federal Government for attempting to politicise the demands of ASUU over the agreement reached with the former.
ASUU rallies in Ile-Ife
There was traffic jam at Ile-Ife as the rally kicked off from the Oduduwa Hall of the institution to the main gate and major streets in Ile-Ife. The Divisional Police Officer, DPO, co-ordinated the rally at Ile-Ife, preventing it from being hijacked by hoodlums.
Chairman of Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, branch of ASUU, Dr. Adegbola Akinola in his address said the Federal Government was yet to fulfill agreements reached with the leadership of the union.
He explained that the sensitization rally was in compliance with the directive from the National Secretariat of the union, stressing that the government has not been faithful with the agreement reached with the union. Akinola maintained that government was not transparent over ASUU’s demands, declaring that the union’s position was to sanitise the tertiary education sector.
Also speaking, Dr. Amos Adeoye Idowu from the Department of Public Law said that the enlightenment rally was to ensure that tertiary institutions in the country were funded the way they should, saying that “we are saying no to bastardization of tertiary educational system as was done to primary and secondary education system.
“We are covered by the law which gives Nigerians the right to express their minds. We are out to claim civil and political rights by educating members of the public on why ASUU is on nationwide strike so that government will be proactive in taking care of education in the country.
“We are looking for a situation whereby the government runs away from wastage. What we are saying is that government should give tertiary institution priority attention. We don’t want a situation whereby our youths get out of schools without job”, he said.
Dr. Abiona Joseph, chairman, Osun State University branch of ASUU expressed worry that majority of Nigerians have been misinformed by the blackmail from the government.
He said that the rally was to “educate the people on what is actually happening and correct the impression by the people that ASUU rejected the offers of government”.
Reacting to the appeal made by President Jonathan urging ASUU members to be patriotic and call off the strike, the ASUU Ibadan Zonal chairman, Adesola Nasir, said that President Jonathan can’t be urging ASUU members to be patriotic because “patriotism is about helping your country move forward and ensuring equal welfare of the citizens. He said: “Rather than appealing to sentiments, government should do what it is supposed to do by adequately funding education sector. Appealing to sentiments can’t put our universities on global ranking neither would it fix the decay in the system. By asking us to be patriotic and call off the strike, the President is asking us to continue to churn out unemployable graduates.”
Speaking in the same vein, the National Secretary, Education Rights Campaign, Mr. Michael Ogundele, said the President’s appeal reveals that there’s nothing positive to expect from this administration.
“Government is neither ready to recognise nor implement the 2009 agreement. The ERC is urging the general public to mount pressure to do the right thing and fund education.”
In his own reaction, Vice-chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Dr Monday Igbafen said President Goodluck Jonathan was “the one on strike.”
According to him, “President Jonathan is the one on strike because he has refused to implement agreements, so he should be disregarded. He said he will soon call off the strike; what has he done to warrant suspension of the strike? Nothing concrete. I don’t know where he is getting his information from.n.
‘We can’t suspend strike’
“You are not implementing anything, you are not doing anything as President to end the strike yet you said you want to suspend strike. We are watching him. We have not seen anything concrete to warrant the suspension of the strike. If we have seen him implementing the 2009 agreement or the January 2012 MOU government entered with the union on how to implement 2009 agreement then we will say he is correct.
“As it is now we have not seen anything. The position of the union is still very clear to us that the strike continues. We held our rally today to sensitize our people that we are still on strike and it was successful. So I don’t understand what Jonathan is saying. Until government implements the 2012 MOU we will not call off the strike; that is simple. This is the position of our members in Edo and Delta and the position in all the states. Even the vice-chancellors are saying the N100 billion will not even be enough to sustain the universities yet the Federal Government is there playing games. Ministers are buying bullet proof vehicles every day yet they said no money to improve our educational system, that is a shame and we are really embarrassed with the President”. In Abeokuta, Association of Nigerian Universities Professional Administrators (ANUPA), yesterday, warned both the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Federal Government to stop grandstanding over the ongoing strike, calling on them to find a common ground for the sake of students in the country.
This was even as students and herbalists in Oyo State expressed their support for ASUU, calling on them to ensure that all issues leading to the current face-off are resolved before the strike is called off.
ANUPA, which comprises Registrars and other professional administrators in all public universities across the country, said the action of some officials of the Federal Government has worsened the situation.
The National President of the Association, Samuel Mwansat, who stated this during the annual retreat for the National Council members of the Association, held at Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun, Ijebu-Ode, described ASUU ‘s demand on the need for infrastructural development on campuses as germane, and also cautioned it to mellow down and shift its stand for the sake of the country.
According to him, as a professional association, we have a responsibility to this nation at large.
“We feel this has gone quite long enough; I think both parties should find a common ground. I don’t see anything impossible in this issue. It’s a question of both parties meeting themselves half way,” he said.
Also speaking, Dr. Arunoyemi Asanlaye, president of herbalists in the state, said, “We are in support of ASUU on the on-going strike”.
Speaking in a town hall meeting in Ibadan, students who attended the forum, tagged, Save Public Education Campaign, which was organised by ASUU, University of Ibadan, UI, chapter showed their displeasure at the seeming docility and indifference of the Nigeria Labour Congress calling on the labour union to embark on solidarity strike to force government to respond to ASUU demands.
Dr. Olusegun Ajiboye, Chairman, ASUU UI chapter, said the union would use any method to actualize their demands clarified that the struggle was not about the salaries of lecturers but the funding of education in the country. Ajiboye said, “We are using so many methods. We cannot tell you when to move to Bodija Market. That is part of our strategies. Instead of begging ASUU, the government should declare a state of emergency in the education sector”.
ASUU to take more stance tomorow
Responding to the call by the students, Mr. Bashir Olanrewaju, Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress in Oyo State, said, “By Wednesday, we will come out with a more proactive stance on the strike. Though, students have called on us to go on strike, we will not go on strike now. We will only mediate. If an affiliate has a problem, joining it in strike will collapse the whole system.
Chairman, of ASUU, UNIBEN, Dr Anthony Monye-Emina, in his reaction said “the government appears to be deliberately refusing to do what they are supposed to do. By the way, he was reported to have gone to commission a project in a private university recently. It is bad for the President of a country whose universities have been locked up in the last four months plus, due to an industrial action, going to commission project in private university. That to me is an insult on the sensibility of Nigerians. He is making a big mistake.
FG blames ‘heartless’ university lecturers for prolonged strike
The Federal Government, yesterday, blamed some elements in ASUU, who it described as being heartless, for frustrating the efforts of the government to resolve the strike. The Federal Government also appealed to the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to rethink their approach towards the on-going strike and listen to the yearnings of well-meaning Nigerian in the interest of the nation.
In a statement, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, Special Adviser to the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, also condemned attacks on the person of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, saying the attacks have taken academic unionism to a new low by infusing it with unnecessary politics.
He said the Federal government has not adopted a take-it-or-leave-it approach in its negotiations with ASUU, stating rather, that the approach is focused on positive engagement and achieving sustainable solutions to the challenges facing higher education in the country.
He said, “ASUU elements who want the strike to continue should have a heart and rethink their current take-it-or-leave-it approach to negotiation. Government has demonstrated its commitment to improving the university system. And it is even ready to do much more going forward. ASUU should listen to the voice of reason and the yearnings of Nigerians on this issue.”
Nwabuikwu exonerated the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, from complicity in the ongoing strike, saying that she understands and sympathizes with the plight of both students and lecturers.
He said, “Some elements in ASUU have been distributing pamphlets and flyers with abusive and inflammatory messages against the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in mosques and other places. This is taking academic unionism to a new low and infusing it with unnecessary politics. I am sure majority of ASUU members are not in support of this.”
“These messages are directed at using falsehood to demonize the Minister as callous and unsympathetic to the plight of students and parents. The major lie being peddled in the pamphlets and flyers is that Dr Okonjo-Iweala has insisted on a “take-it-or-leave-it approach” in the negotiations with ASUU. Nothing could be further from the truth.”