By Abdulgaffar Amoka

The result of the recently concluded congregation’s elections in ABU was breaking news for Education Monitor. I was unaware of the election’s outcome until I came across the publication. It came with a captivating headline; ABU ASUU Influence Wanes, As SSANU Beats Union at Congregation Election to Council.

The author, who is an active ASUU member, described the situation as a likely vote of ‘No-Confidence’ on the leadership of the Ahmadu Bello University Branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). But why will the ABU congress of ASUU stay away from an election that is of importance to the union and academics in general in protest to its leadership?

Labour union is an organisation formed by workers to fight for their rights. The union usually elects credible and competent representatives to, as the needs arise, negotiate on its behalf with the employer. These representatives are usually described as the executives of the union. When the process of electing such representatives is not made open but hijacked by a few individuals to drive certain personal gains, problems will definitely arise. If the recent congregation election in ABU was truly a protest vote, does that mean a larger proportion of the congress members are not happy with the representatives of the union over the last few years?

Since I became an active member of the union at the branch a few years ago, one thing kept bothering me each time I attend any congress meeting. For every meeting, you barely get up to 100 members in attendance except during strike periods. In special meetings where delegates to the 2021 and 2023 ASUU NDC were elected, it was difficult to register up to 50 members in attendance. In fact, to elect the 2023 NDC delegates, the meeting had to be delayed for an hour due to poor turnout. I later got to know that in smaller branches like KASU, not fewer than 200 members participated in similar elections.

ASUU ABU is a big branch with over 2,000 financial members but we can’t get up to 3% of our members at the congress meetings, except during strikes, and the “owners” of the branch are not bothered. Something is definitely wrong somewhere. It is either the members don’t just like attending meetings, we just don’t care about the union, the “owners” like it that way, or something is fundamentally wrong with the current structure of the branch that is pushing members away.

The issue of godfatherism and monopolisation of the union was raised in a write-up titled; “ASUU, the Nigerian University Dons and the dangerous politics at the branches, Part 1” on July 22, 2021. I thought we would pick a message from it, improve on the established structure, try to run an all-inclusive union, and be proactive on the welfare of the members at the branch. But the message was taken as just a rant of an “over-ambitious member” that do not understand the “tradition” of the union. The so-called tradition continued and the long-ignored (raised) issues seem to be consuming the union at the moment.

In a congregation election to elect representatives to the Council, less than 400 of the over 2,500 academic staff participated in the voting. This is supposed to be an important exercise for ASUU and the academics, but a large percentage of the members don’t care. The message is that you can go ahead and do whatever you like with the union, after all, you do not represent us well. The sad thing about the recent fallout is the fact that this is coming at a time when we have, on the ballot, two fine academics that would have given the university community a good representation at the Council. Two academics that I have so much regard for. We have not had such a fine nomination in recent times but we lost it.

The protest message is well delivered. It’s up to us to either work on the message or ignore it. ABU ASUU use to be one of the strongest branches in the country that other branches look up to. We seem to have lost that strength after what some members refer to as “the hostage takeover” a few years ago. There were obvious cracks on the wall after the takeover that we failed to mend. There seem to be more cracks in the wall now. The branch is possibly in its worst state at the moment. Can we begin to mend all the cracks now? It is heartbroken to know that smaller branches that are supposed to be looking up to ASUU ABU are doing much better than us in terms of leadership drive.

Is the union crumbling? I don’t think so for now. We are most likely seeing a sign of the end of an era in ABU ASUU. But we will be taking a huge risk if we allow the branch to continue in its present state. Has the union lost its strong influence? Not all. It was just a point perfectly made and a message well received. The ball is now in our court. We can rescue the situation via running an all-inclusive union that used to be. We can restore the glory and bring every member together. A lot of senior and younger colleagues are very much interested in ASUU but just watching from the sideline. We have the personalities that can lead the union and put us back on the right track if we are ready to work for that.

It is time to guide our so-called “guided democracy” correctly. We can only achieve the desired change if congress members are willing to actively participate in the branch electioneering processes. The idea of planting stooges in succession should be abolished. The union is a very important organisation in the university and we can’t fold our arms and let it crumble.

Dear comrades, no one loves the union more than you. The union is ours, and it is our collective responsibility to protect it. The union is presently in deep slumber and you have to be ready to reawaken it because all is surely not well. It is time to stop ranting on social media platforms/groups and get involved. Together we can work to rescue our beloved branch from total collapse.

The choice is yours.

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