ASUU Strike: The Tale Of The Bloodied Bodice
A fresh week had just commenced, Tolulope Lawal, a final year student of the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, typed the words “latest on Asuu strike” on the Google Search Engine (he had been doing that for over a month), and again was so disappointed to find this major caption- Latest on Asuu strike: ASUU strike continues-ASUU President.
Another sub-caption was- We've met all of Asuu's demands says FG”. Confused, a feeling of frustration overwhelming him, he shook his head sadly and wondered aloud “what is really happening, who is deceiving who?”
Tolu had only a semester left, and had high hopes that he was going to make the first batch of the NYSC Scheme, but now it is nothing but a tall dream. His chances of making it for the second batch is not even guaranteed, he might have to wait till November/December for the third batch. Incidentally, this is Tolu's fifth year in the university, and now he is about to spend almost six years for a four year course. Very pathetic indeed! Tolu's thought aptly describes the way Nigerian students feel and their frustrations over the five month old strike which seems to be unending for now.
The strike has clearly outstretched its boundaries. Its over five months now and yet there still seems to be no hope in sight as to whether the strike would be called off or not.
So far, ASUU has not taken any official stand or position as to the course of the strike, what have been its gains so far? What is the situation report? Very slim answers have sprung out so far, save for the unverified or unconfirmed rumours and reports saying “the strike would end soon”, but when soon, how soon? ASUU is yet to come out with any official stand.
ASUU should stop leaving Nigerian students and generality of Nigerians in the dark, they should stop holding us to ransom, and many Nigerians have lost hope and faith in ASUU. Initially, it used to be the FG, but now ASUU has become part of the problem. Even though, it appears that the FG has so far resorted to cheap blackmail and propaganda over the lingering ASUU strike, but at least it has been able to tell us what it has done so far as regards to honouring the 2009 Agreement and 2012 MOU.
University education doesn't belong to ASUU alone, neither is it for them to salvage alone. The generality of Nigerians have solidly stood behind ASUU since the commencement of the strike and have supported them tumultuously because Nigerians see the battle of overhauling and rejuvenating education as a collective effort. After all, how many Nigerians can afford tertiary education abroad for their wards, or the exorbitant fees paid in private institutions in the country? If Nigerians have endured and suffered the pain in solidarity with ASUU towards the repositioning of tertiary education in the country for over five months, and are now kept in the dark, by this so-called “body of intellectuals”, then it is most unfortunate.
Perhaps the strike should have ended by now, perhaps there should have been an end in sight to the prolonged strike, but the FG's insensitivity and nonchalance allowed it to linger this far, and now the collective future of Nigerian students is allowed to fritter away due to government's “official carelessness”. The most unfortunate dimension to the strike was Nyesom Wike's (Nigeria's de facto Minister of Education) threat on university lecturers to immediately call off the strike and resume work, or risk losing their jobs. His threat was the “final straw that broke the camel's back”. A Nigerian proverb says that “in the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams”. Building dams is what Wike has finally been able to achieve, for he has now created more problems than solutions.
Wike's threat was naïve, stupid and insensitive and one wonders if he ever passed through the four walls of a Nigerian university. Even if he never did, he should at least learn from history and precedence that threats on ASUU has never worked in the history of Nigeria and will never work. It failed woefully during the Babangida and Abacha military regimes. This were dictatorships, and yet threats and intimidation on ASUU through varying means failed, and now Wike is adopting the same approach under a civilian administration, hoping that it will work. That is very laughable and most unfortunate. “Threats never bring peace, neither do they resolve crises, they only create more problems.” Mr. Wike you have a lot to learn. Please try another approach sir!
From Wike's actions and handling of the FG, ASUU impasse so far, he has proven beyond reasonable doubt that he is unlettered on issues relating to education, completely green when it comes to issues relating to the history of ASUU industrial actions over the years and the history of Nigerian tertiary education in general. No wonder, whenever historians describe Nigeria, they often refer to Nigeria “as the nation where history repeats itself”, for Nigerians fail and have failed to learn from history. For Nigeria, it has always been the same problems, the same approach. The only difference lies in time span. History should be a powerful tool for positive nation building because by learning from the mistakes of the past, we are able to prevent them from reoccurring in the future; thereby edging ourselves on the path of excellence and greatness, for history is a “humble and complete teacher”. But unfortunately, history is shunned in Nigeria and seen as a powerful distorted tool for negative nation building. What a pathetic case!
From all indications so far, Wike's action has clearly proven that he has competency issues in handling the education Ministry in the country, and at this point in time, it is pertinent that Wike is relieved of this sensitive portfolio in order to save the last vestiges of tertiary education from imminent collapse under the watchful guise of incompetent individuals. If perhaps Wike had been made the chairman of EFCC, perhaps the anti-graft body would have gone places in the fight against corruption because if such threats issued on ASUU are issued out to corrupt public officials and such uncommon energy is dissipated towards fighting corruption, maybe Nigeria would have been “corruption free” by now.
Describing the course of the ASUU strike so far, can only be likened to a bloodied bodice. The strike has claimed so many unknown lives. Apart from the renowned Professor Iyayi who lost his life in the battle to reposition university education in Nigeria, the strike has also claimed the lives of some poor hapless Nigerian university students. These are the unsung, unknown victims of government's nonchalance and insensitivity towards tertiary education in Nigeria, but so far, even though the FG has been careless in handling issues relating to education in Nigeria, specifically tertiary education, it has now come out clearly to tell Nigerians that it has met all of ASUU”s demands in line with the 2009 Agreement. It has been able to tell Nigerians what it has done, as regards to solving the impasse, but since Iyayi's death, there has been no complete official report from ASUU as to recent developments on the course the strike is now taking. Nigerians and the most concerned lot- University students, whom ASUU claims it is fighting for, have been left in the dark, no one knows what plans ASUU has in the purview as regards to ending the strike, no one knows when the strike would end. It seems there is no hope yet in sight.
If the FG's submissions so far are lies concocted to demean ASUU and debase tertiary education in Nigeria, it is high time ASUU came out from its hibernation and told us its current stand on the lingering impasse. As the strike been politicized or does ASUU have sinister motives in prolonging the strike? What is the situation so far? These and many more questions are what Nigerians need answers to. Nigerians have been patient for too long, and are tired of being patient. The strike has overstayed its welcome.
Nigerians are more interested than ever in the lingering ASUU strike. ASUU let us know where you stand. FG has told us its stand. Enough of dillydallying, enough of the pains, enough of the blood, enough of the propaganda; it's time to sheathe our swords, they have been bloodied enough. What is the way forward? That is what should be paramount on the minds of ASUU and FG at this crucial point in time. Threats, blackmail and discord will never bring peace or a consensus; they would rather exacerbate the crisis. Dialogue, no matter the circumstances is the beginning of peaceful resolution. ASUU and FG should stop the verbal exchanges and blame games on the media and forge a path towards understanding, for it is only with understanding can there be peace.
Salawu, an Historian, teacher, freelance writer and political analyst wrote from Ibadan. [email protected]