200-DAYS-PLUS OF ASUU STRIKE AND UNDERFUNDING OF PUBLIC EDUCATION.
By Olamide Adebale
Currently, it is more than 100 Days that the Academic Staff Unions of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike. It would be recalled that the Union (ASUU) embark on industrial action on February 14 of this year, 2022 over the failure of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to meet the demands of the striking Union which it entered with the Union. Moreover, developments have been recorded over the last two months in furtherance of pressing home the demands of the Union.
There is the need to categorically state that events have further proven the lame excuse of financial incapability of the FG to meet the demands of the Striking Unions as a complete falsehood, not in the face of the case of the humongous financial misappropriate of the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris is one out of many. This is part of the elements within the ruling class that continue to subject the country to national debts and the entire masses continue to bear the brunt reflected in the persistent socio-economic suffering and hardship placed on the general masses. This further buttresses the fact that the Buhari regime is not only very far from its acclaimed mantra of anti-corruption crusader but ironical and unarguably is in itself a synonym for corruption, amidst other socio-political and economic crises that are all products of the mismanagement of the resources of the country, indicating an utter failure at governance.
Within the past few months, the Student Unions, associations, and civil society groups across the country have made a valiant effort towards the actualization of the calling off of the strike action using protest and demonstration to put pressure on the Federal Government to accede to the demands of the Unions, SSANU, NASU and NAAT included. Unfortunately, the Federal Government chooses to go dirty adopting the policy of No-work-no-pay on the striking Union (ASUU), instead of legitimately seeking means to meet the demands of ASUU; demands that the Buhari regime had agreed to meet in previously held and suspended strike actions.
However, in the recent development after the setting up of a committee by the FG led by Prof. Briggs on March 7 with a three-month mandate to renegotiate the 2009 ASUU/Federal Government agreement, ASUU President Professor Emmanuel Osodeke reveals that progress is now been made, that the situation has reached an advance stage towards the resolving of the crisis, though he condemns the Federal Government implementation of the policy of No-Work-No-Pay against the Union.
In this light, the Union President commends the efforts of the lecturers over their resilience and doggedness, stating that “Our Cast-iron resolve has forced the government to sit down and negotiate with us. We have had five meetings with the Federal Government team and two meetings with the Minister of Education. The renegotiation of the 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement is progressing smoothly and has reached an advanced stage.
However, we must remain focused to the end of this struggle…”. (Punch, June 18th 2022). In this light, we of the Movement for A Socialist Alternative (MSA) commend the actions of the students’ associations, groups, and civil societies in the expression of their dissatisfaction against the lingering strike action over the poor welfare condition of the striking unions and the collapsing state of the education sector as a whole by staging protests across the country with the support and sympathy of the rank and file well-meaning Nigerians, and likewise, we salute the doggedness and resilience of the striking workers in the face of the No-Work-No-Pay policy implemented by the FG which is to frustrate, deter, and force the Union to call off the strike action without the demands being practically met. We hold that it is the consistency, resilience and doggedness of the Students and lecturers and the general people of the society that contributes a major factor to forcing the FG to a seemingly U-turn to the plights of the Union.
However, we maintain that the lecturers and students should not relent as past events have proven that the FG cannot be relieved upon to implement any agreement to the last letter if the strike was to be called, which explains why ASUU is insisting on concrete steps being taken by the Buhari regime. Promises would no longer do the trick since such promises in the past were never kept or met, and ASUU was therein left with no other option than to again resort to another strike action. In this light, more practical political actions should be launched in case the FG retraces its step from the progress so far announced has been made in the negotiations between ASUU and the FG.
We of the Movement for A Socialist Alternative (MSA) hereby hold that if the FG will be sincere to the cause of re-opening the universities for the continuation of Academic activities and the revamping of the ugly state of the education sector, not only the demands of ASUU should be met, but likewise all of the demands of other striking unions of the university, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
Thus, students, lecturers and all well-meaning Nigerians should continue to intensify practical efforts towards this cause, while we also urge the unions not to concede to anything less that could further revert the unions to another incessant strike actions in the coming period over the same issues of their welfare condition and the salvage of the collapsing public education with an emphasis on the implementation of at least 26 per cent budgetary allocation recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) over the decades.
Conclusively, we re-assert and re-emphasize that without the struggle against neo-liberal capitalism, the actualization of free, fair and quality education cannot practically be implemented. Hence, we urge all university stakeholders and well-meaning Nigerians to place this at the vanguard of every social struggle.