There seem to no end to the rift between the Federal Government and members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).The friction between the two seems intractable.
When it seemed wisdom had finally prevailed,prompting ASUU members to return to class for the completion of the 2021/2022 academic session so that some of our already frustrated brothers,and sisters can graduate,and move on to face other challenges in their lives,another disruption of academic activities in our Ivory towers is looming. The dark cloud hovering over our universities again is ominous of something very unpleasant.
On Thursday, October 3,2022,news started filtering in that ASUU members were paid half salaries for October, 2022,without any mention even being made to the eight months already withheld salaries arrears. This,as expected, incensed ASUU.
From authoritative reports,some Professors were paid a meagre N121,000 as half salaries. When checks were carried out at the Federal Ministry of Education to find out why such exasperating payment were thrown at ASUU members, authorities in the Ministry washed their hands off such callous action. They rather referred any such enquiries to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation. At the Accountant General’s Office, it was then discovered that the Honourable Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige issued a written directive that ASUU members should be paid only from October 14,2022,when ASUU harkened to the plea of Nigerians,and in obedience to court order,returned to the class.
The question now is : why is Ngige allowing his personal ego to overwhelm his sense of social responsibility to Nigerian students and their suffering parents? Why is Ngige playing god ,forgetting that his war of supremacy with ASUU will only end up having a colossal disastrous impact on university education in Nigeria? Why is Ngige forgetting that power is transient, and that in the resolution of any dispute,one gets some and forfeits some as well,especially since ASUU is already shifting grounds and listening to Nigerians?
I dare say that Ngige’s hard line posture,and intransigence on the FG/ASUU issue ,will certainly do more harm than good to the federal government’s public image,and perception. It will also rub off negatively on the future, and well being of Nigerian students.
ASUU momentarily,might feel the harshness of Ngige’s reckless action, but it won’t last long. Nothing lasts forever.
Obviously, Ngige must be feeling like a “super Minister”. But,in actual fact,his actions will be counter productive to both the federal government, and university education in Nigeria. There is a limit to everything. He must be advised to stop acting like” a bull in a Chinese shop.”
Ngige’s action reminds one of Joseph Geobbels, born October 29,1897 and died May 1,1945.He was late Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment in Nazi Germany under Hitler, who was quoted as making the infamous assertion that ” tell a lie a thousand times, and it becomes the truth.”This means that lying consistently has the capacity of metamorphosing such lies into truth. But,Ngige is a bad photocopy of Geobbels in all ramifications, may be because he is a medical doctor who now prefers politics to saving lives. What an irony!
Paying half salaries to ASUU members after the Speaker of House of Representatives,Femi Gbajabiamila,and his team,had intervened, and got ASUU to listen to rational arguments and reasoning, which Ngige had been unable to achieve in months of fruitless,and obdurate meetings with ASUU,is sheer callousness on the part of Ngige. Why is Ngige working at cross purposes with other federal government team,including the Speaker HOR?Does he want to covertly rubbish Mr Speaker’s efforts at resolving the FG/ASUU impasse once and for all,so that Mr Speaker doesn’t take the glory?
Ngige’s jiggery Pokery actions, and utterances in the fence mending discussions leaves much to be desired by any discerning Nigerian. Recall that he rudely walked out on Mr Speaker, and others during the meeting convened by Mr Speaker to broker a truce between FG and ASUU.On his way out,he again “hit” the ASUU President, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke on the shoulder. If ASUU President had reacted commensurately to such an irresponsible action of the supposed Minister of Labour, perhaps, the story would have been different.
Now,the pertinent question is:will paying half salaries to ASUU members solve the quagmire or exacerbate it? I think it will definitely do the latter.
Firstly, ASUU has already returned to class to continue with the abandoned 2021/2022 academic session occasioned by the prolonged strike. Why attack them again instead of allowing things flow naturally ?Why stoke the embers of conflagration?
Secondly, the current aggression against ASUU as induced by Ngige constitute a clear violation of the promise, trust and goodwill which the union extracted from the Speaker HOR before returning to class unconditionally.
Thirdly, had it occurred to Ngige that,in retaliation, ASUU might also resort to the “work to rule” approach. In such a case,ASUU will not go on strike,but still down tools,suspend lectures, examination,working on results or anything relating to the 2021/2022 session. Already, University of Jos and Gombe university have within 24 hours of this latest onslaught against ASUU by Ngige, downed tools until all the withheld salaries are paid in bulk by the federal government.
Fourthly, with this emerging scenario, it is obvious that 2021/2022 academic session is gone,and wasted courtesy of Chris Ngige. The Education Minister, Adamu Adamu appears confused. He is neither here nor there.
The above scenario also means that all Nigerian university students will miss one full academic year due to no fault of theirs,by repeating the first and second semesters they had already concluded. In all these,who is the victor and the vanquished? And at whose expense?
At times, common sense is not common otherwise Ngige should have known when to apply the brakes. His braggadocio attitude against ASUU over a mere industrial dispute,is doing more harm than good to Nigeria’s university system. American popular country music scion,Kenny Rogers did sing that “a great Gabbler knows the secret of winning games. He knows when to continue playing, and when to leave the table.” Ngige should stop personalizing FG/ASUU disagreement, and seeing it as ” a do or die affair.”
Any Nigerian, who truly loves education should prevail on Ngige to drop his unnecessary hard line posture against ASUU. Ngige should take into foremost consideration, the plight of Nigerian students,especially since ASUU has waved the olive branch by returning to class unconditionally while discussions continued.
As I said earlier, in dispute resolution, you get some and you forego some. If Ngige insists on directing the Accountant General of the Federation not to pay ASUU the back log of their withheld eight and half months salaries, then our university system shall definitely be heading for the precipice,and posterity,and Nigerian students shall judge Ngige at the appropriate time.
Ngige should remember the immortal words of the legendary literature icon,Prof Chinua Achebe in “ARROW OF GOD” that ” no man however great ,ever wins judgment or war against his own people,” and that “it is only a foolish son who points at his father’s house with the left hand.” These are words of wisdom, and should be food for thought for Ngige.
As Nigerians await ASUU’s official reaction in the coming days,it is not yet late for Ngige to drop his war toga, embrace wisdom,and reverse himself in the overall interest of Nigerian students,their suffering parents,and the uninterrupted development of our universities as citadels of learning. A word is enough for the wise.