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ASUU Strike: After failing to resolve crisis, ex-Education Minister, Ruqayyatu Rufai, joins strike

By The Citizen

The immediate past Minister of Education, Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufai, who was sacked from the federal cabinet last month, has joined the ongoing strike by Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, which she desperately tried to break while in office. Professor Ruqayyatu Rufa'i According to PREMIUM TIMES enquries at Bayero Universities, Kano, BUK where Mrs Rufai was teaching Education Curriculum before joining the Jigawa State cabinet in 2007 and later the federal cabinet in 2011, revealed that although the former minister had returned to the institution, she was yet to commence work as a result of the ongoing industrial action. Public Relations Officer of BUK, Mustapha Zaharaddeen, told this newspaper in a telephone interview on Wednesday that the former minister had joined her colleagues in the strike. 'How can she teach? She has joined the strike,' Mr. Zaharaddeen said. 'She has no choice. How can anybody teach? Don't forget, ASUU National President is from BUK.' When PREMIUM TIMES asked Mrs Rufai on Wednesday if she had joined the ASUU strike, she merely retorted, 'It is an unfair question. Ask my university.' Efforts to reach the ASUU President, Mr. Fagge, was unsuccessful, as his mobile telephone number repeatedly indicated it had been switched off. Mrs Rufai, the first female education minister from the northern part of Nigeria, was sacked from the federal cabinet alongside eight other ministers last September 11. The other sacked ministers were Olugbenga Ashiru (Foreign Affairs), Hadiza Mailaifa (Environment), Shamsudeen Usman (National Planning), Ama Pepple (Land, Housing and Urban Development), Ita Ewa (Science and Technology). Ministers of State for Defence, Power and Agriculture, Olusola Obada, Zainab Kuchi and Bukar Tijani, respectively were also relieved of their positions. Mr. Jonathan is yet to appoint their replacements. Before she was fired, Mrs Rufai, who became Education minister in 2011, was a member of the Governor Gabriel Suswam-led Federal Government negotiation team, which held discussions with ASUU officials led by the Union's President, Nasiru Fagge, who incidentally teaches at BUK. However, the government team could not make any head way in resolving the issues that led to the strike which is now entering its third month, until Mrs Rufai left government, unceremoniously. Mr. Rufai repeatedly blamed her colleagues for failing to call off the strike despite the concessions made by government. The former minister returned to her home state, Jigawa, two days after her sack and was welcomed by a large crowd which had gathered in Aminu Kano Triangle, Dutse, the state capital. The crowd repeatedly shouted her name in excitement when she arrived at the venue, accompanied by her husband, Ahmed Rufai. Responding to questions from journalists during the reception, the former minister, a professor of curriculum studies, promised that she would return to the classroom the following Monday. 'I plan to go back to my university, I am a professor in education in curriculum studies and I will report on Monday and then take a brief leave to have a kind of rest, but I am going back to the university,' she said. On whether she would join the ASUU strike, which she was negotiating away while in government, Mr Rufai, said 'Don't make me controversial, don't make me controversial.' She said she had no regrets that she was relieved of her appointment, saying 'This is the fourth time that I am handing over in my life. I have been a commissioner twice and I have been a minister twice and it is really not a surprise and depending on what the circumstances may be.' Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido, under whom she served as commissioner and who nominated her as minister, revealed that a few weeks before her sack, Mr Jonathan told him she (Rufai) 'was doing a good job.' Mr. Lamido, was, however, silent on whether she was fired because he (Lamido) joined six other governors to float the New PDP led by Kawu Baraje. The group is opposed to Mr Jonathan's bid to contest the 2015 presidential election. 'Ruqayyatu has discharged her responsibilities as minister responsibly and I repeat there is no anger or ill feeling because what the president did is within his constitutional powers. We have no pain, no ill feeling,' the governor said. 'There is need for people to know why we are gathered here. Anything that has a beginning has an end,' the governor said. 'We have no grudge against her removal. We love anybody that loves us. It was the president's wisdom to appoint her. 'Let me remind us that as Muslims we were very happy when our sister, daughter, mother and grandmother, was picked by our brother President Jonathan. 'Jigawa State is the only state in the North that has two ministers and this is because of the attachment the president has for Jigawa. 'This is not the time for politics, the time will come, the purpose here is to honour our daughter. That time will come.'