Understanding ASUU And Its Strike Option
ASUU to some people is synonymous with strikes. It has reached a level where when ASUU is holding any meeting that may have nothing to do with industrial action, students will ask ‘is ASUU going on strike?’ This is because the students have seen so many strikes within their 4 or 5 years stay in the University. But the question people don’t usually ask is, ‘why do ASUU go on strike?’ ASUU do not wake up to just declare strike without any reasonable reason. ASUU must have looked at the issues at stake through researching on the matter; deliberating on the matter; alerting the government on the matter; holding several meetings with the government on the matter; negotiating and agreeing with government on the matter; lobbying on the matter; asking all stakeholders on the matter to intervene; giving government enough time to implement resolutions and agreements on the matter; mobilizing its members on the importance of the matter; seeking the resolution of its members all over the country on what to do on the matter; declaring industrial dispute with government on the matter; giving government time to look at the matter; before taking a final resolution to declare strike on the matter.
Some people will ask, ‘what is this matter that ASUU is so concerned with to warrant them declaring strikes and closing all public Universities? What is that matter that is so special that ASUU must fight for it alone that other Nigerians have not seen?’ The matter is so serious to ASUU. That matter is the future of education in Nigeria. Yes, ASUU is not the only stakeholder on education in Nigeria; but, because it is made up of intellectuals whose natural calling is to struggle for the society to develop; and no nation can develop without developing its educational institutions. Education is the key to any nation’s development. ASUU therefore has taken upon itself the responsibility of fighting for education on behalf of other stakeholders. That’s the matter.
There are people that see ASUU as a Union that is only fighting for the welfare of its members only. Always looking for one allowance or the other. To them ASUU is like any other naira and kobo Union. This is not the case. ASUU has taken upon itself to fight for issues that even some of its members are saying that the Union is biting more than it can chew. It is only ASUU National Executive Committee that discusses State of the Nation as part of its agenda among other labour unions, that is many times going beyond education by discussing and taking resolutions and making issues on matters affecting the ordinary Nigerian. In 1992, ASUU while asking for more funding on education in general, suggested to the Babangida administration to task companies operating in Nigeria, to pay 2% of their annual profit to education as tax. That paved way for Education Tax Fund (ETF). It took the government over 5 years to begin the tax regime. Some of the fund was later looted by politicians and it took ASUU several fights with the government to agree with the Union on the matter. The fund was used to fund education in general. The fund was supposed to be an intervention fund, but the government refused to fund education from the statutory budgetary allocations. Only about 7 to 8% was budgeted to education in the last 2 decades which is far below the 26% agreed by UNESCO and signed by member countries including Nigeria. ASUU then asked the government to dedicate the fund to only tertiary institutions (Universities, Polytechnics and Collages of Education). Therefore, TEFUND was born. Clearly put, TETFUND is the brain child of ASUU. Today without TETFUND, there will be no Federal or State Universities, Colleges of Educations and Polytechnics. 90% of all infrastructures, staff trainings, Conference attendance and more are funded by TETFUND.
In 2013, ASUU still alerted the Goodluck Jonathan government that even with TETFUND, the public Universities needed more funds to reach certain minimum standards in the world. The government did not agree with the Union and sent fact finding committees to all public Universities to find out. The result was taken to the Federal Executive Council which showed more problems than ASUU had reported. That paved way for more funding in the Universities through what government called NEEDS ASSESSMENT FUND. The fund was used in building student hostels, laboratories, classrooms and lecture theatres and several other projects. All these was courtesy of ASUU. ASUU therefore is not only fighting for its members or only for more salaries or allowances.
There is nothing wrong in fighting for more salaries or allowances, after all, if ASUU chooses to do so only; but the Union is made up of intellectuals that could stand equal with their colleagues all over the world given the right environment. This has been proven several times by ASUU members that have immigrated abroad and excelled beyond their peers with their basic training from Nigeria. It is with this background that the Union continued to struggle for education and other issues in Nigeria. The fight for more pay is to put the Nigerian intellectuals at the same level with their colleagues in Africa at least so as to halt the brain drain. Otherwise Nigeria will train and Europe and America will take away Nigeria’s best brains while we stagnate.
The current IPPIS matter is another issue in contention. People have blackmailed the Union that it is running away from accountability. That is not the case. ASUU is more accountable and transparent than the government. ASUU is only saying that develop a system that will take care of the autonomy and peculiarities of the Universities. If the government cannot, then ASUU offered to develop its UNIVERSITY ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY SYSTEM (UTAS). Now that the IPPIS office has gone up in flames with all its attendant problems that has led many non ASUU University workers without salaries or with part of salaries for 2 months, many are saying, so ASUU was right.
It is therefore worthy of note that ASUU may make mistakes as human beings but by and large the issues being pursued by the Union are principled, nationalistic and patriotic. The method of its fight may at times resort to strikes. Many people will say why can’t ASUU look for alternative to strikes. Like what? Think of anything. ASUU has even commissioned a task force to look for alternatives to strikes but could not find any alternative that has not been tested. Some say the timing is bad. Is there any time suitable for strikes? All times and anytime is suitable for strikes. ASUU hates strikes. ASUU members detest strikes. It is counterproductive and often negatively affects even its members. But at the end it usually brings more positive results to the system. Strikes are due to the kind of insensitive governments that Nigeria has had over the years. It is therefore only employed as the last resort. Therefore, the only alternative to strike is strike.