In a massive response approach, the surprising Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has taken on its critics, including Jide Osuntokun, professor emeritus and former Nigerian ambassador to Germany, and ThisDay newspaper columnist Yemi Adebowale.
The various rebuttals, put forward by members of the newly formed union’s Rapid Response Team, accused critics of lacking the necessary understanding of the structure and functioning of Nigerian universities.
They said that the government’s “No Work, No Pay” policy being pushed by the government is inconsistent with the nature of the lecturers’ work.
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 were made it necessary to clear things up.
Since the start of the now undefined industrial action, some Nigerian columnists and commentators have accused ASUU of insensitivity and short-sightedness. Some have applauded the government for its “No Job, No Pay” stance, and encouraged the government to uncover ASUU’s deception, and take them to court.
Last week, ASUU formed a seven-person Rapid Response Committee to respond to all media publications alleged to be against the union’s campaign.
About the Adebowale piece
In his piece entitled; “Setting the record straight on ASUU’s struggle: Can ignorance replace knowledge?” Adejumo said Adebowale’s support for the government’s “No Job, No Pay” policy stems from his “prejudice and hatred” towards the teachers and the union.
In the September 3 edition of his weekly Saturday column titled; “ASUU president misleads public university teachers,” Adebowale wrote that ASUU is as “misleading as the Buhari government he is fighting against.”
He said that ASUU would not have been on strike if the interest of the students was paramount.
He said that ASUU members are not owed any salary for the period they were on strike, as the teachers were employed to teach. He added that ASUU’s struggle can continue without going on strike.
“ASUU wants the federal government to honor its 2009 agreements with the union. They also demand revitalization funds for public universities, promotion arrears, salary improvements, and academic scholarships won. But the fight can always go on without endless strikes. ASUU members are earning salaries to teach students. Therefore, they must teach while crying out for their desires. They were not owed wages when they embarked on this current strike,” he said.
He said that teachers are employed to do more than teach and that teaching is the least of a teacher’s duties.
“A teacher’s job goes beyond teaching students,” the ASUU response team said. “In fact, although the most visible, teaching is the simplest of the work of a lecturer. This perhaps explains why he leads a mere 10 percent in a professor’s promotion consideration, where he is scored at all. Furthermore, in academia, good teaching is impossible without good research. Excellent and quality research is a sinequanon condition for good teaching”.
The union said that while teaching is on hold during a strike, research and community development continue unimpeded.
He added that the No Work, No Pay rule adopted by the government would hurt students more. “If the government refuses to pay for the strike period, it is simply a government directive that the make-up work that teachers would otherwise do to cover the time lost to the strike at great personal sacrifice and self-sacrifice in the interest of our students, it should not be done.”
ASUU noted that the ongoing strike was forced on its union by the government’s failure to implement the agreements it signed in 2017, 2019, and 2020.
ASUU said: “The renegotiation committees of professors Muzaliu Jibril and Nimi Briggs are clear examples. The government dismissed their reports and resorted to the arbitrary imposition of wage premiums on our Union in violation of the practice of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between us established in 1981 and backed up by laws”.
He also accused the government of killing public universities by creating more without corresponding funding.
Odukoya answers Osuntokun
In his own response to Mr. Osuntokun’s article, Mr. Odukoya’s article is titled; “Higher Education and the Future of Nigeria”.
Mr. Osuntokun, in his article, proposed a different strategy for the ASUU strike.
He also suggested that the union should take the government to court if it does not grant universities their autonomy as required by law.
He also said that the union must make use of the resources made available by the government and make students pay the shortfall through tuition fees.
“So the government should award annually what it says it can afford, while the parents of the students would have to come up with the rest of the cost. Not all parents will be able to afford the economic cost of their children’s education,” he wrote in the part.
But Odukoya described the suggestion as “a sad endorsement of the government’s mischief, irresponsibility, corruption and contempt for the Nigerian people.”
He said doing so encourages the government to use the country’s resources for activities other than the public good.
He added that filing a lawsuit against the government will accomplish nothing as the government “has time and time again demonstrated its disdain for the rule of law and constitutionality.”
He said: “Given how slow our judicial system is, the suggestion is an ingenious way to end the fight. Suffice it to say that unions like ASUU have two options to continue their struggles; legal and political (the strike is political). It is only the union, based on its realities and understanding and analysis of the realities it faces (including the secular disposition of the state and its officials) that will decide whether to deplore the legal or political strategy or even a combination thereof. two for their fights. This does not occur and cannot be assumed theoretically. Unions learn from their past struggles and those of other unions.”
Qosim Suleiman is a reporter for Premium Times in partnership with a report to the world which pairs local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on hidden issues around the world.