This is The Best Time For Govt and ASUU To Be Sincere To End This Unending Strike in The Universities – Dr Ayozie Ogechukwu

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It is practically appearing now that their seems to be no end insight to the confrontational and adversarial relationship between the federal Government of Nigeria, and the university lecturers, under the aegis of ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities)

A prominent Author and motivational speaker Napoleon Hill opined that “Every adversity, every failure, and every heartache, carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater Benefit. From the Covid 19 pandemic, the issues of the University strike would be solved finally, if amicably handled. And the time has come for a very sincere dialogue and Resolution of the problems that are confronting the University sector.

One basis advantage of the Corona virus pandemic (Covid 19) is the relative peace in the university campus environment now. It appears that there is a relative quietness. But this had been punctured by the non-payment of the July/August 2020 salaries of university lecturers. An excuse was given although unofficially that salaries were not paid to some lecturers due to their reluctance in registering with the Independent Personal Payment Integrated System (IPPIS), a body that is officially/unofficially at war with ASUU, and loated by them. This paper will not dwell on the relevance or irrelevance of the dreaded IPPIS, which has contributed to the problems of the payment of salaries to the university lecturers. But on the need for a more meaningful and sincere dialogue now, thanks to Covid 19 pandemic, so as to end this unending strikes in the universities. Much has been written about the relevance and viability of ASUU strike action as the panacea towards getting the intention of the Government to the numerous problems plaguing the universities, but this is the time for a more meaningful dialogue to end the endless strikes in Nigerian universities.

A good teacher should also be a good student. A man may learn by listening, but not by talking. Before anything can come out of the mind, something must be put into it. Every party to the educational crisis must quietly work towards resolving this problem. The lecturers for the umpteenth time downed tools on March 9, 2020 for a warning strike and thereafter for a total strike on the 16th of March, 2020. Things were made easier with the Covid 19 lockdown, that the impact of the strike action was not fully felt. The total strike was to press home for most of their demands. Some of the usual and ever reoccurring demands includes chronic under funding of the educational, and especially the University sector, staff welfare, improved learning conditions, wage and salary issues, and failure by the respective governments of the day towards implementing mutually agreed, consented, and signed agreements. The current strike is not in any way different, only that IPPIS has been added as a new Lexicon on the ongoing wars with the government, just like in their previous strikes, where time and resources were lost. ASUU leadership after its emergency Executive Meeting in Abuja on 16th March, 20202 expressed dissatisfaction with the poor funding of the university sector, through low and very poor budgetary allocation, which is all times lower than the mandatory 30% recommended by UNICEF. This has even plummeted to 7% in 2020 from 11% that it was in 2015. There had always been reductions in the budgetary allocation to universities education, and this had adversely affected the universities in the provision of the much needed infrastructures, and improving the standard of teaching and research.

ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi at different times while addressing the press, enumerated the failure of the Government to implement the 2009 agreement, and previous agreements and the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), and ASUU non reluctance in accepting the IPPIS payment system, are some of the reasons for embarking on the March 16, 2020 total strike. He and the ASUU Union advocated for the usage of the UTAS (University Transparency Accountancy System) which the Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige simply explained was not even ready for validity, testing. The blame game continues. Embarrassingly the Nation and the students are suffering. While two elephant fights, the green grass suffers. ASUU said UTAS is presently available and are willing to subject it to test.

As part of his explanations for the strike, ASUU President, Prof. Ogunyemi opined and regretted that previous vain promises by the Federal Government have only contributed to worsening an already bad scenario. Adding That ASUU members were disappointed with the Government’s insistence of using the IPPIS payment system, even after up it set up negotiation team for the review of all outstanding issues consistently demanded by ASUU over the years. Especially the numerous ones that the Government had consistently refused to implement in previous years. The Blame game continues. No body actually knows who is right or wrong in this academic chess game. Prof Ogunyemi stressed that just like in the previous strikes, “there shall be no teaching, no examination, no research work, no examination or tests of any kind in any of their branches or universities, while the strike lasts. This is presently the sixth 7th month of the strike. With the Government’s insistence of not paying those that did not register with the IPPIS, and not capturing them in the 2021 Budgetary Allocation. Nobody knows how long this ASUU strike action will last and how long the UTAS system will be available to the Government for consideration and acceptance. The strike according to ASUU is to draw the attention of the concerned stakeholders, the Government and the general public to the challenges that ASUU, the Universities, and other stakeholders are facing in the Educational and University sector. ASUU wants the general public and the Government to give adequate attention to the frequent problems of ASUU and the universities most especially now that the communication between ASUU and the government is very low, and some lecturers are yet to receive their salaries, and some who received, got lower pay than what they were expected to receive. With the Covid 19 Pandemic challenges, and the need for intensive research work to be pioneered by the university lecturers, there is no proper time to open dialogue, communicate, and discuss all these ASUU grievances than this time, at least for the sake of students, their parents and the general public that needs the input of the lecturers on some current societal challenges and issues like the Corona Pandemic ravaging the nation now and the world. There seems a glimmer of hope as government has temporarily accepted the ASUN UTAS for integrity test. This is the first positive step towards resolving the protracted strike action, which is an ill-wind that blows no one no good.

Communication, sincere dialogue, openness and constructive engagements are viable alternatives to the endless and incessant university strike actions, which when calculated till date, are over four or more Academic Sessions. This is a time for all concerned to sheathe their swords and consider the interest of our dear students, children, and the society at large. Every side must now constructively engage in a meaning dialogue. Agreements reached and consented to, must be properly implemented. The legislators and the civil societies must become impartial arbiters and must bring the warring parties together once again for the interest of all Nigerians and the students. In any family disagreement, there must be no VICTOR or VANQUISH. Where any of the parties, especially the Government, considering the current security and world economic challenges, occasioned by the Covid 19 pandemic, fails to meet what it had pledged and consented to, owing to circumstances beyond their control, it can always call ASUU, the stakeholders, and important arbiters involved, and work out a viable alternative agreement. Then the Nigerians will have faith, and justifiable reason to still look into the future days ahead with enthusiasm, and with hope. With the COVID 19 lockdown, a long rope is opened to the Government and ASUU to engage in a constructive dialogue to end strikes in the universities once and for all. The Government can use this COVID 19 holiday period to dialogue with ASUU quietly devoid of any publicity and rancor. Government can take the bull by the horns now and take the initiate, and come up with viable alternatives, so that ASUU in particular will never embark or resort to strikes again. Someone should come up with a lasting alternative solution and be credited for advancing last longing a solution to University strikes in Nigeria. Let the Covid 19 break and lockdown provide that time. Every gesture must be reciprocated. Every adversity, every failure and every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or a greater benefit. Covid 19, should produce an equivalent or greater benefit to end the university strike actions in Nigeria, once and for all. Try telling your foremen about the things you like, you will see how willingly he will help you get rid of the things that you don’t like. Courage is often a jump ahead of fear.

The Government should never fear unjust criticism, just like ASUU, but be sure that the criticisms are just and the society and the government will support you ASUU.

A saying says never criticize anyone you don’t understand. Better put in the time trying to learn something about the person, then criticism may be unnecessary. Same goes to ASUU and the government.

For the ASUU and the Government it is necessary at this time never to be afraid  of criticisms, but to be prepared to accept them, if there are sincere, pragmatic and brand new ideas to offer so as to end the university strikes finally in Nigeria. Before the two parties start their criticisms, they must do a little softening up by Praise of the Actions taken by each of the parties’ i.e. the Government and ASUU. We must praise more freely, than we criticize, if we wish to end the University strikes finally. If ASUU or the Government is really honest in their sincere talks now, the society must discover this fact from their deeds, which involves in a sincere dialogue and negotiation to end University strikes finally in Nigeria. The time is now.

Strikes actions cannot be averted when those in authority pay scan heed attention to issues bothering on the endless University ASUU strikes, either from the Government or ASUU side. When those who are supposed to communicate and dialogue or those who are supposed to listen, refuse to do so, strikes then becomes an inevitable end. Often ASUU strikes are normally a demonstration of the fact that some actors might be deaf to some ideas concerning the university educational and academic system. Strikes are never enjoyed by the students, the lecturers or the Government or the populace. Everybody known that when two elephants fight, the grass in this situation, the students and the parents are suffering. This is the time to end the strikes finally in Nigeria. Mature, pragmatic and realistic approaches will end the strikes once and for all.

Awareness has been created about the deplorable academic working conditions and poor infrastructural facilities in the universities, but it is needful noting that human needs are insatiable needs cannot be fully satisfied. But can we have a University system that is devoid of strike actions? So what is needed now is to be sincere in discussions and dialogue by engaging and adopting an established framework that would address old ASUU demands, and new ones that will always come up.  Consultations should be regular and must be frank, qualitative, and devoid of any rancor. There must also be a very quick Implementation and Monitory Committee, which will be concerned about monitoring all aspects of any MoA and agreements and make sure that they are all properly implemented in totality, and not leaving any minor or major issue asides. The stake now is that, this is the final time to end all strike in the Universities. COVID 19 presents to all the parties this lovely golden opportunity and it must be utilized by all, devoid of suspicion and rancor by the Government and ASUU. There is greater need for cooperation in this dialogue because unless one is an Army Officer one can get better result by dialogue than one gets by charging orders, since orders sincere dialogue of give and take, brings this deadlock to a logical conclusion. The government must render more sincere and better services than is expected of them, if they wish to attract quick and permanent solutions to these strikes. The man who does not reach decision promptly when he has all necessary facts cannot be depended on to carry out the decision after he makes them. Good intentions are useless until they are expressed in appropriate actions. The time has come to end this protracted university strike action once and for all, and that time is now.  It is a sure thing that you will not finish these strikes, if you don’t start addressing the solutions.  Life says “make good or make room, but don’t make excuses”. The time is now to bring an end to University strike. Our students must not be graduates of the University of Hard Knocks and strikes. Success requires no explanation, failure permit no Alibis. Happiness and joy would be derived by the Government, ASUU, the students and the populace in finding a solution to strikes. In doing the right things, now is the time towards removing all the impediments to the resolution to the challenges and not merely, in procrastination is. Now is the time to sincerely end the strike. The ladder of the successful resolution of these strike action is never crowded, and the time is now for the university strikes to be ended, by the federal and state government and by ASUU, especially now that the UTAS has been accepted to be tested and used by the government to pay university lecturers their salaries, after many months of delay.

Dr Ayozie Daniel Ogechukwu, (PhD)

Department of Business Administration

Federal University Lokoja,

P. M. B. 1154 Lokoja Kogi Street Nigeria.

Kogi State, Nigeria.

Email: danayo2001@yahoo.com

ayozie.ogechukwu@fulokoja.edu.ng

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