Even as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) stuck to its ground and indefinitely extended the already six-month industrial action, its position has been weakened by more universities pulling out of the strike and calling staff and students back to school.
A number of universities who had joined the ongoing strike embarked upon by ASUU are gradually pulling out.
Some of them include Kaduna State University (KASU), which broke out of Union through a memo released by the management of the institution.
Other state-owned universities in Nigeria where ASUU members have refused to join the nationwide strike include Kwara State University, Osun State University, Lagos State University, and Ambrose Alli University in Edo State, among others.
It is also gathered that the management of the Ekiti State University (EKSU), Ado Ekiti, has also reopened the institution for academic activities, in defiance of the ongoing strike ASUU.
The management had directed the students to resume academic activities yesterday.
The EKSU chapter of ASUU had joined the six-month-old strike following the demand by the union for the adequate funding of the universities and implementation of other reforms contained in an earlier agreement with the federal government.
In Kogi state, Governor Yahaya Bello had proscribed ASUU for its refusal to recognise his administration’s accepting to meet almost 90% of their demands.
Bello declared all activities of ASUU in the university illegal from 19th July, 2017.
Meanwhile, a lecturer at Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State, Prof Mohammed Aliyu-Paiko, has withdrawn his membership from ASUU.
In an open letter addressed to the ASUU national president, Prof. Emmanuel Osedoke, through its branch chairman, Mr Paiko said his decision followed an “irresponsible and inexcusable” tagging of state universities as quacks and irrelevant.
According to him, Prof Osedeke’s outburst is not only a negative point but the height of irresponsible leadership, as has been asserted by many others, publicly and privately.
He added that the reluctance of the president to retract his statement despite protest had made it obvious that the union no longer represents his interests.
He wrote: “To say that the ASUU President overreached himself by succumbing to pressure and engaging in professional misconduct by using vulgar language on other members is an understatement…
“Despite all the negative press that his uncouth outburst has generated, Prof. Osedeke chooses to shift the blame to the journalists who interviewed him, instead of taking responsibility and offering apologies, to regain the confidence of those members who felt slighted by his provocative insults.
“This demonstrates to me the failure of leadership and the peak of insensitivity by someone elected to pilot the affairs of our Great Union. I have thus lost confidence in his leadership.
“Sadly, and more pertinently, the IBBUL branch Chairman’s responses to the call for Osedeke to apologise has been greeted by equally irresponsible opinion, suggesting that he shares in Osedeke’s gaffes and does not see anything wrong with them. This is a clear breach of the popular ASUU mantra “an injury to one, is an injury to all.
“Therefore, having considered these events carefully, it has become obvious to me that ASUU as presently constructed, under the leadership of Prof Osedeke at the national and Mr Kudu Dangana at IBBUL no longer represent for me platform where my grievances may be pursued genuinely,” he added.
Meanwhile, some lecturers from state-owned universities are considering breaking away from ASUU to form a new union.
A lecturer at the Lagos State University (LASU), said the lecturers are considering forming the new union to restore stability to the Nigerian university system.
According to him, “There is no way we can have a standard education with the present scheme of things. We need a stable academic calendar. We need to be able to predict the academic session. The students too cannot do well under such learning conditions. Though we are still part of ASUU, we are considering forming another union.
“Of course, LASU is not on strike. We are not part of the ongoing strike. We will approach the matter of engagement with all stakeholders in an engaging manner to have a common ground for moving forward in this matter.’’
However, the chairman of ASUU in Niger State-owned IBB University, Lapai, Dr Kudu Dagana said the branch will neither pull out of the national body nor the strike.
He said the national president gave satisfactory explanation about his statement on state universities to the extent that he was referring to those that pulled out of the strike.
On the lecturer of the university, Professor Paiko, who announced his withdrawal as member of the union, he said by the position of the lecturer who is the vice chancellor, Academic, of the university, he was not an active member of ASUU and his position did not represent the entire members of the union in the school.
The Committee of Pro-Chancellors of State-owned Universities (COPSUN) has criticised the president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, for referring to some state-owned universities in the country as quacks.
The ASUU president, while speaking on a television programme on Arise on 26th August, had said that state universities are “irrelevant and quacks.”, a statement which he later denied.
But reacting in a press statement made available to Journalists, the pro-chancellors said the statement is insulting, contemptuous and unbecoming for the president of ASUU to say that these revered individuals were presiding over quack and inconsequential universities.
The secretary of the committee, Marcus Awobifa, also pointed out that state universities cannot be forced to implement agreements reached between the federal government and her workers in the universities to which they are not parties.
The committee also condemned ASUU’s unpopular approach to the issue of funding of tertiary education in a modern globalised world, describing it as ‘archaic, antiquated and impracticable.’
The statement reads in parts, “It is our belief that the president of ASUU does not realise that his loquacious vituperation and obsolete stalinist, centralised, unpopular approach to the issue of funding of tertiary education in a modern globalised world is archaic, antiquated and impracticable anywhere in the world.
“COPSUN believes that this is an auspicious time for ASUU to creatively work with all stakeholders to tinker out a compromise that will bring back to the campuses the young men and women who have been insensitively thrown out of the universities for the last six months.
COPSUN wishes to appeal to the president of ASUU to realise that the membership of ASUU is voluntary. Therefore, it is not his ill-informed approach and denigration of state universities that will lead to fashioning out creative approaches to avoid existential extinction that will solve the myriad of problems confronting the University system in Nigeria.
COPSUN held that the unions are not superior to the councils of the universities that are their employers.
It also called for the “immediate democratisation of the membership of unions in the universities to the extent of the freedom of any individual to belong to a union with options of not belonging.”
COPSUN also advocated the devolution of powers on the issues of labour, wages and salaries with freedom of the employers to negotiate with their employees, as it is practised in other parts of the world.
It added that state universities cannot be forced to implement agreements reached between the federal government and her workers in the universities to which they are not parties.
“It is time to respect the federal nature of our government in all matters and not selectively, especially on the issues of salaries and wages,” it said.