ASUU Strike: Resilience, victory
-By Umar Musa
Strike simply mean to stop working to achieve better working conditions, it’s no longer news to any Nigerian of Adult Age or in fact adolescent who is aiming for better future through acquisition of knowledge in Nigerian higher institutions that strikes by Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is a stumbling block to the realization of his/her objectives.
An inquiring mind would often ask why does ASUU Strike? What are the conflicting relations between the union and the government?
Attempts to reflect on the posed puzzle will require vigorous endeavor to understand trajectories that unfold since the inception of ASUU. ASUU is a union of Nigerian Universities that was formed in 1978 which is a successor of the Nigerian Association of University of teachers that was established in 1965.
The formation of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in 1978 as a trade union, added great impetus to the struggle by the academics to protect and promote their corporate interests. In fact, with the formation of ASUU, the relations between academics and the Federal Government became more acrimonious and antagonistic.
The union was active in the struggles in 1988 for fair wages and university autonomy, in the course of the struggle ASUU was proscribed in the same year during the then military regime, only to be allowed back to activities in 1990.
As a union committed to the struggle in 1992 under the leadership of Dr. Jega now Professor and former INEC BOSS the union was banned in 1994 and in 1996 the Sani Abacha regime dismissed some members of the union I recall my respected teacher of my teachers Malam Ibrahim Muazzam once informed us how he refused to open nor read his sack letter when it was handed over to him.
ASUU continued to protest against some certain decrees, policies, and measures by the government which tend to erode university autonomy and academic freedom. On different occasions, the academics protested on the harsh treatment meted out to some of their colleagues in various universities by the government such as the dismissal of the late Dr Festus Iyayi in 1987 the then union President from the services of the University of Benin. In 1988 two Ahmadu Bello University (Patrick Wilmot) and Mrs. Creachin Adelugba were deported for reasons of radical scholarship.
With the return to democracy in 1999 the union continued to be militant in demanding the rights of university workers, and university autonomy. Consequently, ASUU went on strike in 2007 for three months, in 2008 the union clamoured for improved salary and reinstatement of dismissed lecturers years back.
However, in 2009 the union instructed its members to proceed on an indefinite strike over disagreements ASUU reached with the union about three years back. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was reached but failure to implement the MOU led to another strike in 2013 which I’m one among thousands of Nigerian students affected by the strike.
In early 2020 the union went on another strike the union went on an indefinite strike because the Federal government remain adamant to the peculiarities of the universities in Nigeria and insist on implementing a neo-liberal policy of Integrated payroll and personnel information system platform (IPPIS).
While the union were on strike its members were captured on the platform. The concerns of ASUU for refusing to enroll on IPPIS was neatly reflected when IPPIS slashed salaries to the extent that almost 100,000 were deducted from the salary of a Full Professor.
At the beginning of the 2020 indefinite industrial action I took to my social media pages to pledge my solidarity with the university lecturers despite that I’m also affected. I took cognizance of the implications enrolling university lecturers on IPPIS will have on the younger generation who are already seeing little future and prosperity in tertiary education.
After months of strike and resilience by ASUU amidst Covid19, hunger and starvation of ASUU members events unfold such as increases in electricity tariff, increase in petroleum motor spirit, degeneration of Nigerian Labour Congress for failing to galvanize members of the congress who pay dues to seek redress in the light of hardship and dwindling economy which is a feature of rentier states. Attempt to break the formidable union failed EndSARS protest posed a challenge to the government and after the foot-dragging on 20 November 2020 the Federal Government exempt ASUU from IPPIS and increased the allowance and revitalization fund.
I conclude on two notes, one for ASUU to bear in mind that her boss does not respect agreements, thus measure must be set to ensure compliance and secondly awakening the spirit of Nigerian Youth not to remain indifferent issues on issues affecting our lives
Umar Musa, Writes from Kano, can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org