History is of scant importance to politicians who are either ignorant of the past or are too mischievous to acknowledge yesterday’s events. This week, the Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike threatened the mass sack of striking university teachers who refuse to return to work at the expiration of the Supervising Minister’s ultimatum. The threat highlights the tragedy that has befallen governance in our country. That a Public Minister who should understand the importance of dialogue to industrial relations could issue invidious threat when the demands of ASUU have not been met by government shows the depth public servants plumb. Nyesom Wike can be forgiven for his arrogance. When a public servant creates his archipelago of power and begins to exhibit incivility, he should be forgiven for his lack of understanding of power and how history treats those who traipse reason to stay relevant; but who invariably end up as footnotes of collective remembering.
Threatening striking ASUU members has never worked, not even during our jackboots era. Nyesom Wike forgets this bit of history. But, we must remind him of the then Minister of Education, Professor Babs Fafunwa, who threatened sack of striking university lecturers. We must also remind him of the failure of the instruments of violence the military mobilised against ASUU. To issue threat of sack to universities lecturers with rich historical tradition of struggles is pitiful; and to tread the same path his predecessors trod shows a poor understanding of labour relations. More’s the pity.
Empty threats are what they are, empty. Nyesom Wike should know that meeting the demands of ASUU is the first step towards ending the strike. This can only happen when lecturers are accorded respect. No one denies negotiation the essential element of confidence and still expects peaceful outcomes. Nyesom Wike must learn from history.
Abdul Mahmud, ESQ