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ASUU-LASU ULTIMATUM: AN ADVICE TO THE GOVERNOR

By Oseni MOMODU
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'....Educate children of the poor, so that they can get out of poverty. Poverty does not breed confidence. Only confident people can bring changes. Poor, uneducated people can also bring change, but it will be hijacked by the educated and the wealthy....give young Nigerians good education...'-Nelson Mandela.

The above statement was contained in an interview conducted by Dr. Hakeem Baba- Ahmed in 2007 in which the former South African president, Nelson Rohilah Mandela lamented on the attitudes of Nigerian leaders towards the governed. In contrast, the state government under Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), has institutionalised what the late elder stateman was vehemently against as a means for helping the poorest of the poor to get out of poverty in our society, vis-a-avis, the anti-poor educational policy which benchmarked the Lagos State University School Fees between N 197,000.00 to N 350,000.00 (depending on the faculty).

Your Excellency sir, do you wish to see the civil servants under your payroll withdrawing their children from a supposed state-run university because of inability to continue payment? Do you think that the coconut seller in Badagry and the fish seller in Epe can generate the huge amount from their meagre incomes for sustainability and pay for the education of their children? Or, do you think it will be fair for some LASU staff (uneducated) especially the campus' security guards and the likes, who secure lives and properties of the institution not able to train their sons and daughters in their work-place where other peoples' children are being trained? In the case of those who have already withdrawn their children from the institution, do you think this promote your image as a progressive?

In order to address these and prevent the lecturers from grounding academic activities, I wish to call your attention to Act Fast on the proposed industrial action which ASUU-LASU branch has threatened to embark upon at the expiration of its another 14-day ultimatum it declared on April 15, 2014. The union had on March 25, 2014 declared a 21-day ultimatum as signal that it meant business.

Meanwhile, the coordinator of ASUU southwest zone, Dr. Adesola Nasir had noted that the 14-day ultimatum after the expiration of the first, was to look into their demands before they down-tool.

As part of their demands, they are calling on the LASU authority to address three key issues as pre-conditions to suspend its planned action. The demands are as follows.

One, Reversal of LASU School Fees. The new fee regime has been a subject of debate among the institution's students and the public (including lecturers) who have felt the pains vis-à-vis their hard-earned income, compared with the former N25,000.00 payment before the increment. I'm aware that efforts are being made by the government to review the new Fee Hike. One of such is the recent (April 3rd, 2014) dialogue between you and the students as well as all various interests groups agitating in solidarity with the latter for a review of the Fee.

Your Excellency, it thus appears that the current economic realities of the country with National Minimum Wage (a pantry N18,000.00) is not commensurate with the new fees being paid by the students. There are brilliant students (with poor parents) who see LASU as an embodiment of intellectually challenging scholars, else, the desire to study there. As you well know Mr governor, nothing provokes the educated elites (which lecturers are part of) than seeing young promising intellectuals being educationally derailed, due to lack of sponsors.

This of course may have prompted the union, which is a body of intellectuals, consider it unfair, else, the need to rise and protect the educational future of the students by threatening to embark on an indefinite strike. I recalled in your words during the July 6, 2013 visit to LASU when you said: '...they have come in a short term, to bear the responsibility to refine our crude oil, generate our electricity, produce our water, manage this university, secure our state...', Sir, do you think we (leaders of tomorrow) can do these without adequate educational skills? Or is it expatriates you (present leaders) wish to succeed you?

Sir, I need to call your attention to the recent historic drop of admission list in LASU during the matriculation ceremony. Whereas, the annual enrolment before the increment in 2012/2013 was put at 3,052, it drastically dropped to an unimpressive figures of 1,119 in the current 2013/2014 session in a university that can conveniently admits well above that. This means that LASU is now under utilised and more or less a private university which admits only fewer students though, with higher income. This may result in overriding the main purpose and vision of its founders, (bringing education nearer to Lagosians) for which the university was established.

The public outcries for the reversal of school fees which is number one demand by ASUU-LASU and alternative sources of internal revenue for the institution among other things formed the core issues that dominated the meeting between the Governing Council and the Students at the main auditorium on 24-04-2014. These calls are a reflection of the minds of the 'Gown and the Town' which you strongly advocated that 'they must begin to talk'.

The second demand by the union is the question of 'No Vacancy, No Promotion policy' which it said, had not also been addressed by the Management. But in a related development, the University Authority had in a special bulletin entitled: 'LASU MANAGEMENT CALLS FOR TRUCE WITH ASUU-LASU', dated April 11, 2014, stated that 'The Academic Planning Unit has declared over 200 available academic vacancies in the University...' which contradicts the demand by the union.

In the face of this, Mr. Governor, your swift intervention is urgently needed to prevent LASU from the incessant public opprobrium it attracts. After all, Dr Nasir has quoted the university authority as saying that 'some of the demands cannot be meant except with the aid of the state government'.- The Nation, April 18, 2014.

The last demand is the clamour for the implementation of the Universities Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Act 2012, by the authority. The union is agitating for the upgrading of retirement age among other things for its members by five years i.e. (50-55 years). The union specifically stated in its bulletin dated April 24, 2014 thus: 'our members on the professorial cadre are still being prematurely retired'. However, the significance of this Act 2012 if implemented, said the union, is that it will put to stop the continuous retirement of its staff in the professional cadre.

In view of the foregoing, this writer hereby advice the Governor to consider the following and the possible implications should the union down-tool.

i. Invite the leadership of LASU Management and the Union for proper dialogue to suspend their planned action in order to embrace lasting peace at the campus.

ii. Set up an all-inclusive committee to look into the main issues- School Fee, Implementation of Act 2012 and 'No Vacancy', 'No Promotion' policy among others.

iii. Involvement of private sector partnership in the effective funding of LASU to reduce the burden placed on the students.

iv. The academic calendar of 2013/2014 of the institution may be affected similar to the January 22nd and 23rd crisis which prevented LASU from fielding fresh graduates in the NYSC Batch 'A' Camp, 2014.

v. The incessant closures- ASUU strikes and the January imbroglio (which cost the state government about 51 million naira) should be prevented.

Thought-When the eye sees and the mouth fails to talk, it's the heart that suffers it. Eko oni baje ooo.....

Oseni MOMODU writes from the Department of History & Int'l Studies, LASU. Tel:08120567606.

Email: [email protected]

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