Quite very few of past strikes by ASUU won public sympathy like this current one has. Student bodies have reacted. Sectional leaders have passed comments. Parents, traditional rulers, politicians and religious leaders have all put in some words, and all seem to agree that this time the striking professors and their university system deserve some more equitable deals in the Nigerian rewards system. If this appears exaggerating, I can re-phrase that no stakeholder seems to consider the professors’ current claims as frivolous; not even the Minister of Labour who recently declared that he too was unsatisfied with the conditions of service of the Union members. In spite of these, the striking lecturers had to extend the strike to another three months.
The seemingly unending imbroglio suggests that meetings may never bring success to the struggles of Nigerian professors. My opinion of what can is the need for them to augment their current strategies with action. This is one of such times one cannot help relying on indigenous wisdom to resolve a global problem, so, to some two Yoruba sayings I went: ‘Ebi n pa mi ko se e f’ife wi, ina n jo mi o se e kun yamunyanmun’; and ‘ Airin po nii j’omo ejo n’iya, t’oka ba saaju, ti sebe tele, ti monamona n bo ‘ leyin, ko s’eni naa to le duro d’omo eranko’. Meaning? Don’t worry you’ll get it in the cause of the writing.
In this opinion I observe that ASUU’s many meetings with the Federal Government cannot send the real message to the world. It’s looking more like some joke, every day. It’s like joke not because the striking lecturers do not have their facts, but because their dominant methods of engagement, the sit at home strike, appears incompatible with, and inadequate for the character and nature of the current Nigerian government.
I then propose that from professors to graduate fellows they need to wear their gowns and file to the streets of Nigeria in protest demonstrations. Of course, gowns are never violent, so, fear not. And if your fear is that hoodlums may hijack the show from the lecturers, then note that intellectuals have the capacity to manage crowds; after all, they teach and research for those professionally employed to do so. What to note is that unusual situations demand unusual approaches. Boardroom meetings do not appear potent enough to elicit response from the current Nigerian government. The foregoing sayings are my frameworks for declaring so.
A Beninois Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Lagos Institute of African and Diaspora Studies narrated the experience of his country’s lecturers during a struggle similar to ASUU’s. For 15 years they lived under inadequate salaries and dehumanizing working conditions. Like ASUU’s, sit at home strike was their first strategy. The day they went further to engage in street protests across the country did not extend to third before the government bulged. Since the year 2014 in the economically humble country of Africa, a full professor has been earning 1.5m CFA monthly, and in same proportions it goes across the ladder. New reviews are in process.
Industrial action is a critical part of the social struggles that balance social relations in every social formation. It is some form of protest, and the very idea of protest is primarily aimed at striking the highest sentiments of the target of the protest. These sentiments are not universal; they depend largely on targets, political environments, plans, locations, times and other logistics surrounding them. The Nigerian government that is the target of the current ASUU protest does not exist on character but coercion, not on ambition (of returning for another term) but of exit plans to regroup for future political merchandise. In addition, the government holds little takes in terms of university education. Many ministers and governors and presidents hardly have kids in the public universities; maybe some distant relatives. Now they nurse the ambition of establishing private universities whose survival lies in the death of the public ones. Definitely, confronting this kind of group with sit at home strikes is like stoning to bring down a wild elephant. It may take the cows coming home before the impacts are felt.
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As ASUU’s boardroom meetings with government deadlocks into another three months extension, its members at every part of the country need to move beyond the comforts of their homes. They need to take the struggle to the public and disturb the flow of daily governmental activities to save themselves from starvation and dehumanizing social conditions. Snakes suffer hazards because they don’t walk in den. If the vipers lead, the cobras follow and the mambas crawl behind them no rational mortal wait can await the pit. The effort of a starving man crying out in whistle is a huge joke, and mumbling cannot be an option for a man inside a large inferno. Now you have translations to the proverbs, don’t you? The take home is that ASUU’s struggle needs to respond to the true character of Nigeria’s Federal Government, and the characters are best understood from the lyrics of Fela’s VIP, BONN, ASBP, STB and CBB to mention just a few. Please find out.
Dr. Eesuola is a member of The Trumpet’s Editorial Board e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org