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Resolving prevalent ASUU strikes

NANS protesting ASUU strike in 2018. Photo: legit.ng

More than enough has been said and written about the almost permanent presence of strikes in Nigerian Universities, which the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has always been blamed for.

Any mention of ASUU strikes a booming alarm of strike-mongering and lingering over the years. It was in a bid to escape this same strike identity that the then Nigerian Association of University Teachers (NAUT), after being threatened and bullied by the Military Regimes, changed and adopted the current name of Academic Staff Union of Universities ASUU, in 1978.

Yet, the strike syndrome has persevered and prospered beyond the “Ali Must Go” era of the late seventies extending to between 1999 and 2022 with a record of not less than 17 different strikes, ranging from days or weeks of warning to either 6 or 9 months of total, comprehensive and indefinite strikes.

When aggrieved and disenchanted students are now forced to resort to blocking roads and occupying public spaces, while other unions like TUC and NLC begin to threaten the same as a way of showing solidarity to ASUU, the whole matter may finally assume a more dangerous dimension beyond the current warning strike.

Approaching the crushing problem of ASUU strikes in universities with the impression of war or ego battle has not helped and will need to be removed from both sides of the government and the university lecturers.

Already, the citizens have witnessed the rating and ranking in Africa and in the world, plunging and sinking further to a near absence of standard or value.

In 1978, Nigerian students staged a protest (Ali Must Go) which, till today, remains the mother of all Alutas (student protests) in the country. Photo: Oldnaija web

If one examines what ASUU strikes have resulted in and amounted to in terms of damage of system, structure and human waste, it will be equally necessary to extend the reckoning of negative and generalized effects in a chain reaction sequence.

The picture of the damage is better brought home through the teeming number of students from secondary schools who cluster continually around JAMB offices suffering the admission blockage when those who should have graduated are stuck with hopelessness and helplessness.

At the same time, the National Youth Service Corps cannot do much in this blocked graduating process, while Law schools, medical colleges, allied research institutes, associated events such as Convocation and Matriculation, Conferences, workshops and inaugural lectures must all be frozen or broken by force in this chain of academic dislocation and general distortion.

Employment of the teeming youths further suffers from such delayed and prolonged studentship and an increase in restive criminal acts and tendencies. It is rather unfortunate that while ASUU strikes are treated as a national theatre, more universities are being continually created by governments, private universities keep popping up like business centres, while the privileged ones scamper abroad to evade the rampant ravaging strikes in the public universities meant for the poor masses.

It may be recalled that during one of those long boring and dragging strikes, the Federal Government asked ASUU to propose its solution in order to solve their huge financial demands. That led to the Education TAX FUND magic, which was proposed by ASUU and which the government has now transformed to Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND).

Such partnering in solution should be reinvented and reapplied just like the present University Transparency Accountability Solutions (UTAS) developed by the same ASUU and which definitely supports more of autonomy and free research approach of universities, rather than the government bureaucratic civil service structured Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).

Sustaining lasting stability

There is every need to resolve, through well-reasoned and reasonable agreements and genuine application of proper and effective funding of public universities, with transparent mechanisms to maintain and sustain lasting stability, standard and systemic revalidation, beyond cosmetics accreditation exercises and surface scratching.

Therefore, it is high time that all well-meaning Nigerians, including parents, students, civil societies and religious groups rally around the Governments, both Executive, Legislative and Judiciary, and the entire University body to finally and fully address these recurring and nagging issues to save the country’s university from total destruction.

Writing Professor Valen Emeka Obinna is with the Faculty of Humanities, Imo State University Owerri; Editing by Saadatu Albashir