No work, no pay: ASUU responds to Osuntokun, others

In a mass response approach, the Union of university academic staff on strike (ASUU) clashed with its critics, including Jide Osuntokun, a professor emeritus and former Nigerian ambassador to Germany, and a ThisDay newspaper columnist, Yemi Adebowale.

The various rebuttals, anchored by members of the union’s recently assembled Rapid Response Team, accused the critics of lacking the requisite understanding of the structure and functioning of Nigerian universities.

They said that the government’s “No work, no pay” policy that is promoted by the government is incompatible with the nature of teachers’ work.

According to the authors of the replicas – Ade Adejumo of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho, Oyo State, who is the team chairman, and ‘Laja Odukoya of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, clarifications have become necessary to set the record straight.

Since the start of the now indefinite industrial action, some Nigerian columnists and commentators have accused the ASUU of insensitivity and lack of anticipation. Some applauded the government for its “No Work, No Pay” stance, encouraged the government to call the ASUU bluff and sue them.

Last week, the ASUU formed a seven-man rapid response committee to respond to any media publications that are against the union’s campaign.

On Adebowale’s play

In his piece titled; “Setting the Records Straight on the ASUU Struggle: Can Ignorance Replace Knowledge?” said Mr. Adejumo. Mr Adebowale’s support for the government’s ‘No Work, No Pay’ policy stemmed from his ‘prejudice and hatred’ for teachers and the union.

In the September 3 edition of his weekly Saturday column titled; “ASUU President is deceiving teachers in public universities,” wrote Mr. Adebowale, who wrote that ASUU is as “deceptive as the Buhari government it is fighting”.

He said ASUU would not have gone on strike at all if student interest was paramount.

He said ASUU members owed no wages for the time they were on strike, as lecturers were employed to teach. He added that ASUU’s struggle can continue without going on strike.

“ASUU wants the federal government to honor its 2009 agreements with the union. They are also demanding revitalization funds for public universities, promotion backlogs, improved salaries and earned academic allowances. But the struggle can still go on without endless strikes. ASUU members earn salaries for teaching students. Thus, they must teach while claiming their desires. They weren’t being paid when they went on this current strike,” he said. written in the saturday column.

Adejumo reacts

He stated that lecturers are employed to do more than teach and that teaching is the least of the duties of lecturers.

“A lecturer’s job goes beyond teaching students,” said the ASUU response team. “In fact, although the most visible, teaching is the simplest of a lecturer’s profession. This perhaps explains why he only takes 10% in the examination for the promotion of a lecturer, when he is not marked at all. Moreover, in academia, good teaching is impossible without good research. Excellent and quality research is the sine qua non of good teaching.

The union said that while teaching is suspended for the duration of a strike, research as well as community development continues unhindered.

He added that the No work, No Pay rule adopted by the government would further harm students. “If the government refuses to pay for the time of the strike, it is simply a directive from the government that the remedial work that would otherwise be done by the teachers to cover the time lost for the strike at great sacrifice personal and self-sacrificing in the interests of our students, should not be done.

ASUU noted that the ongoing strike was forced on its union by the government’s failure to implement the agreements it signed in 2017, 2019 and 2020.

ASUU said: “The renegotiation committees of Professors Muzaliu Jibril and Nimi Briggs are clear examples of this. The government rejected his reports and resorted to the arbitrary imposition of wage rewards on our union in violation of collective bargaining practice between us established since 1981 and backed by laws.

He also accused the government of reducing public universities by creating more without commensurate funding.

Odukoya responds Osuntokun

In his own response to Mr. Osuntokun’s article, Mr. Odukoya’s article is titled; “Higher Education and the Future of Nigeria”.

Mr. Osuntokun had, in his article, called for a different strategy other than an ASUU strike.

He also suggested that the union take the government to court if it fails to give universities full autonomy, as required by law.

He also said the union should use the resources made available by the government and make the students pay the deficit through tuition fees.

“The government would then have to grant whatever it says it can afford each year, while the parents of pupils would have to bear the rest of the cost. Not all parents will be able to afford the economic cost of raising their children,” he wrote in the room.

But Mr Odukoya described the suggestion as “a sad endorsement of the Nigerian government’s roguery, irresponsibility, corruption and contempt”.

He said this encouraged the government to use the country’s resources for activities other than the public good.

He added that taking legal action against the government would serve no purpose as the government “has repeatedly demonstrated its contempt for the rule of law and constitutionality”.

He said: “Given the slowness of our judicial system, the suggestion is an ingenious way to end the struggle. Suffice it to note that unions like the ASUU have two options for continuing their struggles; legal and political (the strike is political). It is only the union, based on its realities and the understanding and analysis of the realities it faces (including the age-old disposition of the state and its officials) that will decide whether to deplore a legal strategy or politics or even a combination of both for his struggles. This is not given and cannot be assumed theoretically. Unions learn from their past struggles and those of other unions.

Qosim Suleiman is a journalist at Premium Times in partnership with report for the worldwhich combines local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to cover under-reported issues around the world

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