ASUU Strike: Health workers

IT is difficult to congratulate the Federal Government for taking the steps that ended the latest Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, strike. It stands totally culpable for the eight-month strike, which was avoidable.

It took the intervention of the House of Representatives led by its Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, to end the seemingly intractable problem. For eight months, President Muhammadu Buhari and his Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu and Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige had no clue of what to do.

Obviously, the tie-breaker that the Speaker brought to the table was the proposed N470 billion set aside in the 2023 budget for the revitalisation of the universities and the increment of the pay of university lecturers. 

The other matters of payroll system and payment of accumulated salaries could always be amicably resolved once the knotty issues were dealt with.

The breakthrough came because Gbajabiamila approached the talks with ASUU leaders with a genuine intention to resolve it. On the other hand, the president and ministers approached it with a sense of fait accompli or “take it or leave it” mentality, which is a wrong and unprofitable way of handling Labour matters.

If the president could be forgiven for this old soldier approach, what about his Education and Labour Ministers on whom he depended to solve problems which he hired them to do? The arrogance, the “hoity-toity, aren’t we grand” carriage which led Adamu and Ngige to walk out on ASUU and the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, delegations left much to be desired. That Buhari did not fire them was even more shocking.

After unprecedented five strikes under this administration, the public sector of our tertiary education has become convoluted, with backlogs of first year and awaiting admission students on our hands.

 Classrooms are going to be even more overcrowded than ever before. We hope the universities find ways of handling this problem.

The revitalisation programme must kick off as soon as possible to create more, upgraded classrooms for students. If we need to borrow the fund in lieu of the 2023 budget passage, let us do it. 

Provisions must also be made by future regimes to keep funding the revitalisation programme until our public universities become world class. Any stoppage of the funding will bring back the strikes.

Future administrations should learn from the misadventures of the current and past governments in their failures to keep to their own sides of signed agreements with workers’ unions. We must also jettison the attitude of pomposity among government appointees. 

Government is a service to the people. Those who think they are too big to serve should not be brought near public offices.

Ministers must not only be suitably qualified for their posts; they must also be ready to serve.

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