STUDENTS’ PROTEST AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT REFUSAL TO MEET ASUU DEMANDS ACROSS THE COUNTRY
By Jimoh Abibat, Bestman Michael, and Seyi Lasisi
Some days before the May Day Event, students of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) had declared a protest march to hold Wednesday, 4 May 2022.
It could be recalled that the ASUU strike had lingered since February 14. And so far, the federal government (FG) has been nonchalant and irresponsible in finding a lasting solution to the plight of the university lecturers. It confirms how they don’t see education as a right nor as their duty to ensure that everyone attains quality public school.
It is this reason that had informed the protest by students in UNIBEN alongside neighbouring schools like the Ambrose Alli University (AAU) and other University Campuses like the Obafemi Awolowo University, University of Lagos, Olabisi Onabanjo University and so on.
We in the Movement for A Socialist Alternative (MSA) in solidarity with the Nigerian students support the protest actions initiated under the slogan of #EndASUUStrike with the demand that the FG meets all the demands of ASUU. Our members partook in most states with our leaflets on the ASUU strike and our papers SOLIDARITY. We were able to record huge success.
Below are the areas where we made interventions with our leaflets and papers.
In Benin-City where our student members were on the ground, the protest march started from UNIBEN Main Gate and moved towards Ring Road where other institutions joined. Despite the heavy downpour, there was a substantial turnout and MSA UNIBEN was able to intervene directly with our leaflet on the ASUU strike and our newly May Day edition of our Paper.
It wasn’t hard for student leaders and students to recognize and identify with our organization i.e the MSA. In fact, when we started sharing our leaflets, the moment they saw Movement for Socialist Alternative, they gave their support and joined in distributing it.
It is interesting to note that MSA has been fully involved in the UNIBEN struggle since we initiated the campaign against the N20,000 charge for late registration. Plus, our involvement in the campaign against Police Brutality as regards the attack on students during a peaceful protest leading to the shooting of Juliana Martins on the leg by a trigger-happy policeman attached to the National Petroleum Development Commission, the imposed Medical Levy, and Dress Code policy — we have constantly issued statements condemning the anti-student policies of the management.
However, after the rain subsided, people became interested in our paper. Asking questions and creating room for discussions. Although there were Banners and a few placards, MSA was the only organisation with a leaflet to sensitize students about the Strike and the poor state of underfunding of Education. The thirty copies taken to the protest were completely sold out. In addition, we had three contacts from both UNIBEN and the College of Education interested in joining the MSA.
Since the ASUU strike, which started on February 14, the MSA has continued to give solidarity to the striking workers. Our position remains that the strike action is legit and genuine. Nigeria is blessed with enough resources to enable quality and free education for all. We support the union in its demands and we also demand along with the workers that the FG must adequately fund public education.
The intervention of the NLC and TUC Needed at this Stage
With the ASUU strike now more than 12-week, the MSA called on the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Nigeria Trade Union Congress to not only issue threats to FG but to declare a day of action to force the government to meet the demand of the striking union incontrovertible. The leadership of both labour centres must use its organ to rally workers and the Nigerian working masses behind ASUU against the government’s mischievous act of refusing to meet the worker’s demands. It must declare a national day of action and protest and call out the FG to immediately meet ASUU demands, and so that students and workers can return back to school.
In addition, we are calling on other striking unions in the education sectors NASU, SSANU, and ASUP for a coordinated united struggle with ASUU to ensure public education is saved. Above all, the Nigerian students should not see ASUU as the cause of the long stay at home. However, students must see the Buhari regime as the primary major obstacle to improvement in public education as a result of its meagre budget allocations to the education sector.
Students must give clear solidarity to ASUU and all other unions and as well join in every action initiated by the striking unions to defeat the government using a divide and rule tactic against the strike. Students in their strength of numbers should put pressure on the SUG in various campuses not to take side with the University management against the striking workers.
Rather, they must join hands with the workers to demand public education be funded adequately with 26% of the country’s budget, insisting on infrastructural developments, and reduction of the student lecturer ratio by employing more teaching and non-teaching staff to reduce the burden of overwork on existing staff. We urge students to organise regular department meetings in their communities physical and when not possible to organise online to discuss strategies on how to consolidate the momentum against the regime’s dogged method of not funding public Universities.
Saving Education demands that the working masses must be identified with the striking union and see their course of action as theirs as well. The blame is that of the ruling elites, not ASUU, rather than appeal to ASUU to think otherwise, protest actions should be put in place at Local government Headquarters and State government insisting and calling out the Buhari regime to immediately meet ASUU demands. Our solidarity as students, trade unionists, and community people on social media, workplaces etc is significant.
OAU-Ife TWO-DAY SOLIDARITY INTERVENTION
The convergence point of the protest was at the OAU campus gate. Students from various schools were mobilized. Schools like Ire Poly, Esa Oke, Uniosun, and other schools nearby. Despite the fact that students were no longer present in Ife due to the closure of schools some weeks back, lots of OAU students travelled down to Ife for the protest. This shows how the protest was well publicized and mobilized.
Students resolved after having a congress to block Ibadan road and Ede road. The protest was successful and well organized. The roads were blocked for over 6 hours, with gyration and sensitization of the general public on the ongoing strike.
Congress was held to discuss the next plan of action. It was resolved that the protest should continue the following day and the protest ground should be moved to the OUI junction. Three comrades of the MSA participated in the protest, with over 300 copies of the ASUU leaflets distributed. Seven (7) copies of SOLIDARITY were sold. A contact was made and we planned to follow up.
On the second day, the convergence point started at the OAU campus gate. After that, students moved down to the OUI junction as agreed. Ife-Ibadan-Ilesa highway was blocked. The protest attracted a lot of attention from media across the nation. Students sensitized the commuters, and traders on the ASUU strike and the need for proper funding for the education sector. The protest lasted for over 7 hours and it was resolved at Congress that the protest should continue on Monday.
Interestingly, fifteen (15) copies of the paper SOLIDARITY were sold, an increase from the previous day. It is interesting because the majority of people that bought the paper are bike riders, teenagers and young people (hawkers) that sell goods on the highway. They also lamented the state of education as most of them have to hawk before affording to purchase JAMB form and pay exorbitant school fees in public-owned institutions. We planned on having a discussion/informal meeting with these young sets of people on the next day of action.
OGUN STATE INTERVENTION
On May 13, 2022, students of Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) held a protest. Earlier the Students’ Union Government (SUG) of OOU had called a General Assembly of students on Twitter space to examine what need be done by the student, there and then it was resolved to organize a protest action in solidarity and support for the ASUU strike and their demands, and to at the same time express their grievances against the Federal Government for its recalcitrant attitudes to education in Nigeria.
Planned within two days, the students of OOU exceeded the expectation of a low turnout from students as the protest witnessed a huge pouring in of students, from not just Ogun state from across many other states to be part of the protest. The social media handles were again demonstrating their effectiveness as an instrument with which to organize and reach out to people both distant and near.
The protest action which lasted for more than 3 hours, resulted in the blockage of the Ijebu Ode – Ibadan Expressway. Despite the displeasure of drivers and passengers who were en route to various locations of the country, their support for the student’s actions was evidently not in doubt, many chose to heap curses on members of the ruling elites that their uncaring attitude to the collapse of education in the country, given the fact their own children were schooling abroad, some even called for a march to Aso Rock, and when a military van wanted to forcefully pass through the barricade. Both students, drivers, and parents all stood their ground to ensure the barricade wasn’t broken.
35 copies of the paper SOLIDARITY were sold at the protest ground sold to both students and workers, and interestingly a student after reading our leaflet and decided to join us.