Playing games with ASUU strike

THE Muhammadu Buhari government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, have turned the five-month stay at home by our public university students to a game of hide and seek. Hope has further dimmed on the possibility of the reopening of our universities for academic activities.

After prolonged verbal warnings, ASUU finally embarked on a one-month warning strike on February 16, 2022. When the Federal Government failed to respond, the Union extended its warning strike for two months before declaring the current indefinite strike.

Rather than a meaningful engagement with the Union to resolve the impasse, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, and his counterpart, now former Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, come up with N100 million each to buy the All Progressives Congress, APC, presidential nomination forms.

These were ministers who should have resigned or been fired long ago for their failures to find solutions to the ASUU strike under their watches. They added salt to the injury of the masses by deigning to engage in runs for their party’s presidential ticket.

Buhari had, in his “enough is enough” call on ASUU to go back to work in Daura during the recent Sallah holidays, told the Union that its strike would have “generational consequences” on families, the educational system and the future development of the country.

This statement was obviously meant to shift the moral burden of the ASUU strike to the university lecturers. Last time we checked, it was President Buhari and his All Progressives Congress, APC, that were given the mandate to solve this problem, among others.

After blaming previous administrations for their failures, including the inability to end the periodic ASUU strikes, the seven-year-old Buhari government has merely added to it. In October 2009, the Umar Yar’Adua government signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, with ASUU. It was aimed at giving our universities a massive face-lift and affording the lecturers a conducive atmosphere for maximum output.

The inability of subsequent regimes to meet the demands of lecturers ignited this series of ASUU strikes. In 2020, the Buhari government signed another Memorandum of Action, MOA, with ASUU. This seemed to affirm its readiness to fulfill the Union’s demands. Government now claims it lacks the funds to do so. Then why sign the MOA?

It is instructive that with 10 months to the end of his tenure, the president seized the same occasion that he shifted the blame to ASUU to also admit that the demands of his office were “too tough” and he was “eager to go”. We cannot wait an additional 10 months before our children can hope to return to school. We gave Buhari a mandate. We hold him to account.

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