Is Strike Action the Only Approach Adopted by ASUU?

Is Strike Action the Only Approach Adopted by ASUU?

Department of Soil Science, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria-Nigeria

One of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ), as it relates to ASUU/FG impasse, is whether strike action which appears to be a protracted nostalgia to the effective education system is the only means through which members of the Ivory tower press home their demand? This question is being repeatedly asked even by some supposed informed (non)members. Around the same axis, a quotation credited to Albert paraphrased as "it is a form of madness to do the same thing repeatedly while expecting different outcomes" is also being (mis)applied to judge ASUU's adamance to changing its industrial dispute warfare. I, therefore, expect that after reading this piece, readers could be able to answer these recycled questions correctly.

Let me address each question separately. There are actually seven (7) approaches adopted by ASUU before embarking on total and comprehensive indefinite strike action:

1. Official Engagements

When contentious issues originate, be it on the welfare of academic staff, university system and facility upgrade (revitalization), academic freedom (autonomy), the introduction of tuition fee, or any other, ASUU deliberates on the matter rigorously and exhaustively. If the matter has the potential to decrease the optimal performance of the university system, the union writes letters to all concerned protocol offices to protest against it as well as to seek redress accordingly. If no reply is forthcoming which is mostly the case, a follow-up letter is subsequently dispatched aimed at drawing the attention of government officials to do the needful on time. I believe this is what is obtainable in all correct and civilized systems. ASUU has been doing that from day one to date. Does that work?

2. Honoring Invitations for Meetings and Public Discussion

Another approach that ASUU practices to settle the industrial disputes amicably is by making itself available in all meetings and public fora scheduled to digest and resolve contentious issues through dialogue. In such platforms, ASUU uses to prepare and present memoranda to make its position known when required. This has been practiced because ASUU favors fruitful deliberations that take into account holistic and multisectoral considerations for sorting out differences and finding out lasting solutions to problems. How many issues have you known that were resolved through this important peaceful approach? Non!

3. Allowance for Stakeholder Intervention

At times, when ASUU's grievances became known, stakeholders both within and without the government (e.g. legislative chambers, labor union, etc) extend their friendly hands willingly to broker a truce between ASUU and the government. Of recent is the intervention by the Inter-Religious Council of Nigeria that ASUU gave a node to interphase. They did, but nothing positive came out of it. Still, you think ASUU knows nothing but strike action. This is shockingly ridiculous!

4. Acceptance of Challenge

Another beautiful approach that ASUU demonstrates over time is its willingness to accept challenges. For instance, the union was challenged by FG to develop a more reliable payment system that could perfectly replace the embattled foreign system,  (IPPIS). ASUU accepted the challenge wholeheartedly and came up with UTAS which passed a series of integrity tests it was subjected to. Also, the union was once challenged by FG to propose the best funding options through which the education system could be better sustained and ASUU responded accordingly. Did that work?

5. Public Condemnation and Threat

After all possible attempts to let government obey the above clean approaches got truncated,  ASUU national will direct all zonal and local branches to deliberate on the grey issues and issue out strong condemnation against the nonchalant attitude of the government and threatens possible consideration of strike action. How many issues can you count that ASUU settled smoothly through this approach? Yet, ASUU still does that to draw the attention of the government and other stakeholders for appropriate and decent actions to be taken.

6. Warning Strike

Because of the bitterness of strike action, ASUU still doesn't declare indefinite strike, rather it first goes on a warning strike to further alert the government and the general public that something bad is brewing in the Ivory tower, thus the need for swift and cogent actions. Has this method been fruitful?

7. Indefinite Strike Action

As might be noticed in several ASUU communique, the total indefinite strike is adopted as the last resort when other options taken failed to yield the required results. Despite ASUU's efforts to shun strike action, government antics, mischief, infidelity, and treachery forced it to do so indefinitely.

Nonetheless, Nigerians still keep expecting  ASUU as a group of the intelligentsia to perform magic by researching out other maiden approaches. Yes, there are numerous means but the question of legality and effectiveness hangs over their heads, thus categorized as:

a) Illegal approach: this entails bribery and corruption and other illegalities. In Nigeria's system today, this approach appears to be the most effective but is unlawful with damaging consequences to individual academics, the union, and the nation. ASUU will never resort to that.

b) Legal but ineffective approach: this entails peaceful physical protest (3Ps) and written ones. Given our peculiar real African circumstances, any protest that is not characterized by disruption, frustration, and truncation in nature does not prick the nerves of our overpowered and arrogant leadership, thus peaceful ones appear ineffective whatsoever.

c) Legal, fruitful but impractical approach: this involves a multistakeholder approach where lecturers, parents, students, religious, traditional, and regional groups collectively and objectively pressurize the government to do the right thing. This has never been practical largely because leaders of most groups don't have what it takes morally, financially, and educationally to offer the ultimate sacrifices required in the best interest of our nation. The followers on the other hand are mostly subjective to regional, political and religious sentiments, thus lacking objectivity and rational thinking. It is worthy to know that, even from the viewpoint of experimentation, not all good ideas are searchable, and not all valid research outputs are implementable especially if one is dealing with the Science-Policy interphase. So, the question of the paucity of intellectual creativity and novelty is totally not there.

Now, coming back to the Albert quote - doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results is insanity. The sense that Nigerians commonly make out of this quote is that ASUU has been trying strike action over and over to correct some anomalies and adversities but nothing seemed to have changed at all. This is absolutely mischievous merchandise by redundant, rusty, and educationally ransacked brains. It will make more verifiable meaning had it tried to portray slow but steady progress.

Some Fruitful Results from ASUU Strike Actions

1. TETFUND and Needs Assessment Project - addressing infrastructural decay

2. Overhaul of salary structure - addressing brain-drain

3. Nigerian University Pension Commission (NUPEMCO) - addressing the welfare of staff

4. Various tranches of revitalization fund - addressing facility upgrade

5. Release of various trenches of EAA - addressing staff rights

6. Safeguarding university system autonomy - addressing academic excellence and freedom

7. Existence of Staff school - addressing staff welfare

8.  resistance against privatization and tuition fee - addressing social service questions for citizens' access to education irrespective of economic or social status

Let me elaborate further, on the last one. Most of the emotional commentators in the public domain wouldn't have gotten the privilege to attend universities but not for the ASUU strike.

The major problem that people see in ASUU is that ASUU has been very brutal in stating the truth, resolute in abiding by the truth, and consistent in supporting nothing but the truth.

However, if you still feel there are more fruitful approaches capable of compelling government to address existing decay in the university system please as a stakeholder sell the idea to your group (e.g. NANS, NBA) and let the groups take the credit. Education is for all, not for ASUU alone!

Finally, those spreading the wrong notions about ASUU's intellectual integrity should be cautious because it vividly depicts their mediocrity and moral rottenness. After all, all labor unions in Nigeria use only strike options to fight for their demands.

Long Live ASUU

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