Barely three months after the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) called off its strike, the union again on Thursday, May 23, threatened to embark on another strike over Federal Government’s failure to keep its own side of the bargain with regards to the 2019 Memorandum of Action.
ASUU’s national president, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi said that the N25 billion which the Federal Government, through the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said it had approved for the union was meant to be a part-payment of the Earned Academic Allowances is yet to be released.
Going by the reports, while ASUU points to poor funding of education and the Federal Government’s failure to adhere to previous agreements as their reasons for embarking on industrial action, Pro-Government positions are of the views that the era education is solely funded by the government has gone
while some Nigerians with critical interest lampoon ASUU’s reasons for embarking on strike action as vague, misleading, and overused propaganda designed to unduly gain sympathy from students, parents and the general public in their fight for private benefits.
However, whatsoever the true position may be, the stunning thing about this ‘cat and mouse’ relationship’ between ASUU and the Federal Government lies in its frequencies coupled with the fact that it is happening at a period when other nations are redoubling their emphasis in the funding education sector and when education is presently considered the world over as ‘an extremely valuable strategy for solving many of the society’s ills.
Admittedly, it is an unhappy truth that the government cannot single-handedly fund education in the country a case that makes it a collective responsibility for all Nigerians/corporate organisations.
But the inability of the same government to comply with agreements reached with ASUU as claimed by the body, in addition to their age-long indifference to the United Nations budgetary recommendation for education, has become grievous offences that the Federal Government must share in its guilt.
Consequentially, Nigerians with discerning minds have expressed worries that except something urgent is done to arrest the situation, these agonizing national crises may perpetually keep Nigeria which hitherto prides itself as the giant of Africa at the base of the economic pyramid.
These worries cannot be described as unfounded because aside the visible marginalisation of the budgetary allocation to education in the nation’s 2018 budget, the statement credited to ASSU that they ‘met with the Minister of Education in line with their tradition to honour all invitations with openness to meaningful discussion of issues contained in their demand,
but observed that nothing concrete has come out of the meetings as it was still a projection of their talking’ culture,’ evidently remains a reality that all should worry about.
Sadly, while exhibiting character, a point that the Federal Government failed to remember is that this habit of ignoring a group such as ASUU in the past has crystallized the Nigerian workers’ resolve to fight back at the Federal Government – who they now view as their common enemy.
In the same token, wisdom borne from similar ‘reluctant respect’ to agreements by the government has made not just ASUU but the entire Nigerian workers to learn that concession made by the Nigerian civil servants are always irretrievable and whatever they concede, they lose forever.
This, no doubt, is the reason why negotiation between government and civil servants has become difficult if not impossible.
It is important for the Government to recognise that globally ‘the relationship between employers/employees is always strained, always headed toward conflict.
It is a natural conflict built into the system. Unions do not strike on a whim or use the strike to show off their strength. They look on strikes as costly and disturbing, especially for workers and their families. Strikes are called as last resort’.
And any government that fails to manage this delicate relationship profitably or fails to develop a cordial relationship with the workers becomes an enemy of not just the workers but that of the open society and, its society will sooner than later find itself degenerate into a chaos.
Viewed differently, it is not as if the Federal Government has not at different times and places taken appreciable steps to improve the lots of the nation’s tertiary institutions with their various intervention programmes such as the TETFUND- a consolidated fund for capital projects in the tertiary institutions in Nigeria – that have accounted for the building of lecture halls, labs, hostels, offices, and other physical structures in the tertiary institutions across the country.
That notwithstanding, if nothing urgent is done to correct this human tragedy called incessant industrial actions on the nation’s tertiary institutions, it has the capacity to render the efforts of the government in the time past useless.