There is a story of a professional trouble maker who was whisked off by security agents as he was about to address yet another rally. When, after several years in detention and prison, the man came back to address a rally at the same spot, he calmly and defiantly began: As i was saying……..!
It is foolish to argue the point. Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities are fully entitled to the pursuit and protection of their collective interests. They have the right to make demands on both the university management and the government and expect that these demands be met.
ASUU has been making some demands on the government and their demands had not been met. Like all those who don’t have their way, ASUU felt aggrieved and like aggrieved persons, they hauled the bricks of umbrage at the public, defenceless Nigerians students. They went on strike. For a couple of weeks now, the expression of the striking lecturers’ black mood hung on the country as no one doubts their power over education. Some lessons, some powers.
It is unfair to suggest that what they are doing is wrong. It is not. Whatever their demands are and the reason for them, their case rest on their rights as ASUU Members. They are only fighting for their rights.
We all agreed that people have the right to use what they have to get what they want. After all, the free world, of which Nigeria is a member, subscribes to a strike action as a legitimate weapon of workers in their endless battle with their employers.
We cannot fault the striking lecturers. We can fault the government. During my undergraduate days, 2013 to be precised, ASUU went on a nation-wide strike. For over four months, academic activities in our public universities was paralyzed.
For that long duration which the strike lasted, the Jonathan led administration had no answer to the ASUU members. We (The Nigerians students) simply waited and watched helplessly as government sought to convince students that were made to stay at home that the striking lecturers were merely puppets. The puppeteers were perceived political opponents and the enemies of the government who were against the success of that administration.
We have heard charges of sabotage by Nigerian workers ad nauseam. It has become a pin stuck in the record groove. But to be fair, the previous Government may well have been right to think in that direction afterall no government in the world, however, good or benevolent, is without detractors or enemies but sadly that was not the truth.
But for the government that promised change, ASUU strike which is as a result of the non-implementation of 2009 aggreement should not be happening at this time. It will be unfair to continue to wave that little flag of common Knowledge in our face every time in order to belabour the point. Education like every other essential services is very important. Every government guards these services because a dislocation in any one of them will trigger off unpleasant consequences in other sectors of the economy.
It must be that in a spirited pursuit of the workers’ right to make demands and to back them with free use of this legitimate weapon, strike, its importance, has ceased to have any meaning in our country. Every time they do, government’s response is at best pitiable.
The rest of us merely moan helplessly and in agony. In a country where our politicians are money bags, our striking lecturers and the resident doctors who just embark on a strike action should be encouraged with the resources they need to go back to work. Strike actions served us ill in the past; it serves us poorly now and it will continue to serve us badly in the future.