Despite the ultimatum given by the Federal Government to the striking university lecturers to call off the strike or face the risk of being sacked, the lecturers have remained resolute in their stand, saying they would only shift ground when government does the right thing.
Recall that the Federal Government, through the Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, a week ago, ordered the striking lecturers to resume work on or before December 4, or face the prospect of being sacked. The ultimatum has now been extended to Monday, December 9.
Briefing journalists on Monday, National President, ASUU, Dr. Nasir Fagge said government was free to open all the federal universities in the country but all ASUU members would not go back to work unless the government met all their demands.
“We shall bow only to what we as academics are convinced will serve the interest of Nigeria and its people, no matter their ethnic, religious or class origins. This is where we stand we shall never be cowed.
“Since the issuance of the union’s response to the said letter, the salvos that have been coming out, allegedly from the Minister of Education, make one to wonder whether the person that is charged with the responsibility of superintending over the Nigeria’s education system has the wherewithal to handle such a vital national assignment.”
The ASUU President stated that ASUU had no role in closing and opening of universities in Nigeria, rather it could withdraw its services which he said was the right of every worker.
Justifying government’s plans to sack lecturers, the Public Relations Officer, National Universities Commission, Mallam Ibrahim Yakassai said: “Federal Government has every right to sack ASUU if the union is being unreasonable, just the same way your employer has the right to sack you.
“Everyone keeps going on and on about the 2009 agreement, everyone is listening to ASUU, but no one wants to listen to government, which has given ASUU most of the things they asked for and has bent over backwards for ASUU.
“Government would be justified in sacking lecturers if they do not return to the classrooms, lecturers are not the only ones in the employ of the Federal Government to be causing this kind of headache.”
Pointing out that the union is unperturbed by the threat, the Chairman of ASUU, Lagos State University, LASU, Dr. Idris Adekunle, said: “there is no law that established any committee of Pro-Chancellors, therefore, we are not bound by any directive of the Committee. We are on a national strike and are still negotiating with government and we know that such directive is not in the best interest of education stakeholders.
“Our members know that we are fighting a just cause which is to stop the decadence in our education sector and we are bent to see it to the end. We are not bothered about any clandestine move that may come from anywhere because we are resolute, believe in the cause and are ready to fight this to the end.”
For the ASUU Ibadan Zonal Chairman, Dr Adesola Nasir, government’s order for schools to reopen is not the same thing as the academic staff resuming work because the schools were shut down by the management.
“One thing that I know is that ASUU members are resolute in our stand that we are not calling off the strike till government does the right thing.
“The threat is so primitive in this day and time, especially coming from someone who is from the academic. Rather than worrying how to fill in the over 23,000 short in teaching staff and move the sector forward, government is threatening to sack us.
“We are not bothered by the threat because we are not asking for money for our pockets but for the development of the varsity system. Government keeps complaining that our graduates are not employable yet they don’t want to put things in place to make them employable.”
The former Registrar, University of Lagos, Mr. Rotimi Shodimu said “whether or not the President said it is the Committee of Vice Chancellors or of Pro-Chancellors that issued the ultimatum, I have no doubt that the Federal Government and the Presidency gave the go ahead. From the President’s mannerism, it is obvious that he endorsed the ultimatum.”
An online reader, Terry4brandy, said “how would Jonathan honour the agreement with ASUU when Asari Dokubo has a university in Benin Republic? I have been expecting Asari Dokubo and his comrades in arm to start ‘shooting’ ASUU members back into classrooms.”
A parent, who declined to give his name, said “whatever is worth doing is worth doing well, ASUU should see this struggle to a logical conclusion. You can see the level of confusion with the Nigerian government GEJ, Wike, CVC and committee of Pro-Chancellors who among these issued the ultimatum? Therefore, as far as I’m concerned, government is not yet ready to resolve the crisis, it still needs additional dose of the strike.”
Describing government’s sack threat as empty, the Chairmnn of ASUU, Kogi State University, KSU, Dr. Sylvester Ukwuteno, said “I think the threat by government to sack lecturers after the Wednesday, December 4 deadline is an empty threat. Wike who issued the threat is only mis-educating and misleading the Presidency on this issue.
“Unfortunately, much is left to be desired, as regards the latest denial by the President himself that it was the Committee of Vice Chancellors who gave a seven-day ultimatum for lecturers to resume or risk being sacked. Our position still remains that government should do what is expected of them as contained in our letter.”
In obedience to the federal government’s directive, a growing number of schools have pulled away from the struggle and have reopened and also instructed their students to resume classes.
Pointing out that reopening schools and lecturers resuming work are two different ball games, the University of Lagos ASUU Chairman, Dr. Karo Ogbinaka, said management can order for schools to be reopened because they, not lecturers, were the ones that locked up the schools in the first place.
“Government just wants to create a band wagon effect by making people believe that some schools are pulling out. We have contacted our members in different schools and we are resolute in our stand that government should release the N200bn it agreed to inject into the system then we can start from there.”
When asked if the pull away varsities would not affect the struggle, the LASU ASUU Chairman, Dr. Idris Adekunle, said “we are not bothered with any pull-away school and government’s threat to sack us. Nigerians are too knowledgeable to be cowed by those old storyline of the past.
“The military administration of General Ibrahim Babaginda tried it but didn’t succeed. We are now in a democratic dispensation where freedom of speech and expression is recognized. So, we are not bothered because the law protects us as a union to demonstrate and strike when all other options have failed.”