The atmosphere told the story, their body languages hid their fears. At the ASUU UI congress on Thursday, the discuss was not how to end the lingering 103-day old strike or its effect on the students, but how members would survive while the strike lasts.
The congress, which was snubbed by top ASUU stalwarts in the University such as Professor Francis Egbokhare, Dr. Chris Ogbogbo, Dr. ‘Sola Olorunyomi and Dr, ‘Doyin Odebowale, started at about 10am and lasted till about 2pm with members of the union resolved to sustain the strike for as long as it would go.
In attendance were Dr. Segun Aremu, ASUU National Treasurer—who is allegedly aiming at the Union’s National President’s Position, UI ASUU Chairman, Dr. ‘Segun Ajiboye, and other local executive members of the Union and a handful of other staff. Also in attendance was the University of Ibadan Vice Chancellor, Professor Isaac Adewole who addressed the congress briefly before heading to Abuja.
At the gathering, which a don referred to as a platform for the expression of the lecturers’ greed, members discussed how to survive while their salaries were being withheld in line with the no-work-no-pay-rule, and resolved that the local Union’s cooperatives shall begin to give loans to members who have been contributing to the cooperative, while further deliberations would be held with the management of the cooperative in the case of new members.
In his address to the congress, Professor Isaac Adewole raised ASUU’s hope that the FG was ready to shift grounds going by the series of meetings the Sambo-led committee, which he is a part of, have had. The VC who noted that another meeting was already schedule for Thursday Evening and Friday morning informed the Union about the complaint of the FG with regard to the lackadaisical attitudes of ASUU members to applying for the billions of Naira available to the University in the TETFUND account both for research and development, and suggested that it would be right for ASUU to be prepared to shift grounds too in their supposed struggle.
A don who spoke with Campus Times after the congress regretted that the struggle has been reduced to what the Union will benefit from the strike with no regard for the plights of the students who are the innocent victims of the crisis. “My colleagues will always say that the struggle would eventually be to the benefit of our students, but if you have followed our congress so far since the strike began, not once has the congress discussed the plight of our students. It is always about the earned allowance. Many of my colleagues have built castles in their mind with the earned allowance before getting it so it is either they get the earned allowance or the system crumbles,” he said.
Another don who was quite philosophical in his approach said the union has reduced itself to nothing more than a gathering of garage thugs. According to him, “you don’t argue with a fool lest you yourself become a fool. If the FG has decided to make itself a fool, ASUU should not have descended into the same arena with them”.
In his own reaction, Dr. ‘Demola Lewis said students should not be in a hurry to see the strike called off if the FG would not grant the lecturers’ demands. “If we rush you back to school now, you’ll still stay at home for 5 or more years before you get a job after graduating because they say you are not employable so let’s get it right first.” He said.
Meanwhile students of the University of Ibadan, especially the final year students, are already lamenting over the protracted industrial action by ASUU. A final year Chemistry student who spoke with Campus Times complained about the fact that the materials she had acquired for her final year research work were already becoming useless. Another student informed our correspondent that he had been spending fortune on feeding the albino rats he had bought for his final year project as he could not continue his research because of the lingering ASUU strike. Both students pleaded with the union to call off its strike in the interest of the students as many of their colleagues were already frustrated by the 1103-day old strike.
A new twist in the development, Campus Times gathered, is the plan by landlords in UI areas to increase their rents as soon as the year is over. Some students who resides in the Agbowo area, close to the University, informed Campus Times that their landlords had already informed them that they should be ready for a slight increase in their rent following the economic situation in the country. Kola, a final year student of UI, inform CT that “my landlord recently cemented the passage in the house and just a week after he was done, he simply told me that he would be increasing the rent from the current N65,000 to N85,000 in the coming year. I did not plan to stay in the house beyond this year as I had thought that by November, I would have graduated, see what ASUU has caused me now?”. Kola’s story was buttressed by Seun, another final year student who said she was already looking for someone to squat with till the end of the session as her parent already told her that they could not afford another year’s rent. “My landlord recently called me and asked when I was going to graduate, I thought he was pitying my plight and I told him we are still hoping that ASUU would call of their strike so that I can finish my last semester and leave Ibadan. But the man simply told me that he plans to renovating the house so he would have to increase the rent by next year. I did not even bother to call home because I already know what the reply will be, right now, I am just going to look for somewhere to squat till the end of the session.” She said.
In the meantime, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has threatened to expose ASUU’s greed should the Union fails to call off its industrial action soon. The NANS President, Comrade Yinka Gbadebo who spoke with journalists in Abuja recently, said that the union’s demands were egocentric and that this attitude has so far been largely responsible for the corruption and rot in the university system.
A member of the student body criticized ASUU for being insensitive to the plights of the Nigerian students. The student was particularly disappointed in the UI ASUU chairman, Dr. Ajiboye over a recent statement credited to him that “students would graduate as and when due”. According to him, “is this the best leader UI lecturers could produce? Someone who leaves issues and attacks personalities, someone who always stand logic on its heads and speaks flawed English language. I am disappointed in the Union. What does he mean by students would resume as and when due when the Union has been on strike for over 3months? Like he told Bishops Orisajafor, I think this man is himself suffering from diarrhea of the mouth” he said.
A don who agreed with NANS informed CT that “just like the President said, in a sane world, why should state universities join a strike in which Federal institutions are fighting the FG? Of what academic value would it be to the Union if the FG transfers its landed property in the Universities to the Universities? And why should the union be fighting and threatening to crumble the system because of increased investment in infrastructure in the Universities when the managements of many of these institutions have not been able to account for what they have got so far? The earned allowance issue is like a gateman asking his boss for allowances for opening and closing the gate, what was he paid to do? So for marking scripts and supervising projects lecturers want to be paid bogus allowances or they will crumble the system, if this is the idea running in our ivory towers don’t you see that the country is finished? Nobody considers the students anymore.”
The Nigerian Tribune had also lent its voice in criticizing ASUU over its protracted strike. In its editorial on Oct. 2, the newspaper said: “It is no longer possible to dismiss the suspicion that ASUU is playing politics with the strike because of its adamant position in the face of the conciliatory approach taken by the Federal Government.”
As more and more criticizing continue to dog the 103-day old industrial action by ASUU, only time will tell what will become of ASUU when it eventually accedes to Nigerians’ plea that the Union should seek an alternative means of pushing its demands before the Federal Government.