The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria ought to be a congregation of revered intellectuals in the country. It is a union which should be the beacon of exemplary leadership and excellence. But one is beginning to harbor fears that the loudly decried decline in the standards of education in Nigeria has also affected the quality of membership of the union, hence it also majorly feeds from the same public university system adjudged as decayed.
But if any sane mind expects anything different from ASUU, he is day-dreaming. The union itself is a portrait of a house in shambles, decorating its emblem with meaningless leadership crises everywhere either against itself or the government.
It is therefore, no surprise that ASUU has failed to discern and differentiate between the union’s grudge and President Muhammedu Buhari’s (PMB) rights to make public appointments for which the union has no consulting powers.
The new Registrar of Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and former Vice Chancellor (VC) of University of Ilorin, Professor Is-haq Oloyede has been subjected to unwarranted attacks by ASUU. The union’s national body led by Professor Biodun Ogunyemi has renewed the more than a decade grievances against Oloyede for his role in the sack of the 49 Unilorin lecturers who participated in the national strike of the union in 2001 to claim his unsuitability to hold any public office in Nigeria. If intellectuals can condescend to such messiness, Nigeria is truly in a fix.
It belittles the essence of the liberty of expression, when ASUU imbues itself with the non-existent power of approving who the Presidency burdens with a national appointment. And in this blindness, the union has continued to push for the removal of Oloyede, aside the crude prevention of the learned academic from performing his official duties on university campuses in Nigeria.
So, the latest trick deployed by ASUU in the hope of hitting the JAMB Registrar below the belt was an apparently malicious and frivolous petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) requesting the anti-graft agency to probe Oloyede’s tenure as Uni-llorin Vice Chancellor.
The contentions generated by the petition has rather projected Oloyede as a man haunted by his records of excellence in years of meritorious service to humanity in Nigeria. His steady rise in public service has been a source of pain to many, as ASUU has come to represent. But what is really the crime of Professor Oloyede in the estimation of ASUU?
The union’s unending bitterness against Oloyede stems from his chairmanship of the Panel that recommended the sacking of 49 lecturers for participating in one of the multiple and meaningless 2001 ASUU strike during the tenure of Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem as Unilorin VC. Then, Oloyede was a Director in the University and known for his fearless posture. He was years later appointed Vice Chancellor of the same institution.
ASUU’s attempts to persuade him to reverse the sack of lecturers fell on deaf ears. ASUU pursued the matter legally and eventually secured victory at the Supreme Court which ordered the reinstatement of the sacked lecturers. But the union again accused him of half-hearted implementation of the verdict of the apex court and throughout his tenure as VC, he never enjoyed any moment of respite, as the union declared full-scale war against his administration.
But as a skillful administrator, he navigated his way through the ASUU storm to the end of his tenure. But consequently, ASUU has refused to bury the matter and the union has turned it into a personal vendetta. At every point in the past, the union had officially harangued and embarrassed Oloyede as if he acted in his personal capacity on the sack of 49 lecturers.
In the dogged determination of ASUU to keep embarrassing Oloyede, the union frustrated his convocation lecture at the Lagos State University (LASU) last year. And not satisfied, the union renewed its arsenals of war against Oloyede when President Muhammedu Buhari appointed him JAMB Registrar.
The first reaction of the Ogunyemi-led ASUU in a press conference in Lagos, it elaborately condemned what the union perceived as Oloyede’s anti-democratic and anti-unionism posture, promising to lodge a complaint to appropriate authorities to probe his tenure as VC. What belated decision!
The statement read, “Oloyede’s anti-worker stance stood out in the case of the sacked UNILORIN 49… In the past years, the Union has refused to attend any meeting where Professor Oloyede would be present. His history of antagonism towards the Union therefore precludes him from heading a unit like JAMB where he would need to interact with ASUU either directly or through members of the Union”.
ASUU as accuser and judge in its own case, furthered the agenda of baseless attacks on Oloyede, end of last year through a petition to the EFCC signed by the Ibadan Zonal Chairmen of ASUU, Ade Adejumo, and Deji Omole of the University of Ibadan. It alleged sweeping allegations to the effect that Oloyede committed a N2billion fraud during his tenure as VC. The union also dragged his successor, Professor Abdul Ganiyu Ambali into the feud by accusing him of complexity in the fraud.
The petition accused the duo of all manner of financial sleaze from pension fraud to extortion of students and, contracts inflation as well as kickbacks.
But initially, Oloyede considered the allegations too fluid for response. However, on a second thought, he provided succinct explanations, which deflated the accusations.
He concluded by asserting thus; “I do not claim perfection as it is the exclusive preserve of the Almighty Allah. But I dare say I stand on a higher moral pedestal than “the 49 liars” and their masters. God will continue to keep them busy and they shall continue to lament their failure at the University of Ilorin and in life precipitated by their own inner insolvency. The barking of dogs does not affect the flight of a plane.
The management of Unilorin also described the allegations of fraud against Oloyede and Ambali as a tissue of lies, which should not deserve anybody’s attention. The University’s Head of Corporate Affairs Kunle Akogun qualified the allegations as “infantile lies, largely empty and merely rehearsed to make it look real”.
Aside the biased sentiments of ASUU, members of the Unilorin varsity community and other notable Nigerians have attested to Oloyede’s tenure at the University of Ilorin as an epitome for running the Nigerian university system. He made it a policy to weekly publish financial transactions of the university throughout his tenure to demonstrate his penchant for transparency and accountability.
Under his tenure as VC, the University was ranked among the best in Africa. His insistence on the stamping out of exam malpractices, through the introduction of Computer Based Tests (CBT) in the university is an innovation, so far novel in any university campus in Nigeria.
The emphasis on research, hard work and fairness to all have etched fond memories of his legacies in the university community and ASUU cannot obliterate it on account of the union’s personal score with him. Nigeria, which Oloyede serves creditably, is greater than ASUU, which uses the weapon of strike to mindlessly blackmail government for personal comfort.
But ASUU has trapped itself in a dilemma by touching a man who has paid his dues in academics and honest administration. If Oloyede was this corrupt and nepotic as claimed by ASUU, it waited until three years after the expiration of his tenure before petitioning him to the EFCC? Oloyede’s tenure which started in 2007 ended in 2012. Yet, the petitioners only murmured within the confines of their bedrooms, because they had no proven case against him. Intellectuals in the mould of ASUU should rise above such basal sentiments.
ASUU could not stop his appointment as VC from the position of DVC and similarly, the ranting of the union now, whose only wisdom is that a man is no longer good enough for any public office in Nigeria, as long as he bruises their over bloated egos is damn too wrong.
This is stale argument, which flows from satanic influence and ASUU is candidly advised to go for spiritual cleansing and tender unreserved apology to Professor Oloyede. With their street-mentality disposition, it imply Intellectuals in Nigeria now have no limits of agitation for a cause, to the level of taking laws into their hands, even after the Supreme Court had passed a verdict in their favour. It’s Satanic and shameful!
Odoma is President, Africa Arise for Change Network and contributed this from Abuja.