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ASUU strike: A ‘mission impossible’ to end in Nigeria

By Oluwatosin J. Ologun

Looking a bit, at how labour strike action began in the world’s history, the minds that orchestrated the first ‘strike action’ might not have thought it will be a common and communal tool for agitation for years, and years to come . And here we are in Nigeria, where labour strike action seems to be the best option to claim rights from the government. 

The creation of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in 1978 to succeed the former Nigerian Association of Universities (NAUT) marked a watershed in the history of labour Movement in Nigeria. 

The birth of ASUU coincided with the military era of oppression that prompted the union into being fretful with national matters
ASUU, from its birth, channelled its confrontations around the survival of the Nigerian University system under three main paths: salary and non-salary conditions; university autonomy; and the defence of the right to education. 

To this, present moment, ASUU requests from the federal government stands no much difference from what they have been agitating for over five decades.

Like others, this government have given tiny or no serious importance for education in Nigeria. The government prefers to prioritize other sectors in budget allocation. This shows why our universities are lowly funded with the result of poor hostel facilities, congested lecture halls, and above all the lectures, like other workers are poorly remunerated.  

With the just embarked on national warning strike by ASUU, many well-meaning Nigerians have begun to wonder if there will ever be an end to ASUU strike in Nigeria. The warning strike, like the erstwhile ones, is to strengthen the demands of the union from the Federal Government. It should be recalled that the last strike action that started in December 2018 was terminated in February 2019.

While thinking if this current lingering strike action is too early or not, despite the fact that the president of the union, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi noted in March 2019 that the union is not going on any strike soon, few Nigerians now find it hard to belief and put their in ASUU actions whenever they claim to back out from a strike action.

It is not too grave to demand for privileges from the government, but more often than not, ASUU should be more considerate and well founded on their demands from the FG. It was in November 2016 during the then ASUU strike that the FG declared the N284bn request could not be met as a result of the then lingering recession.

Historically speaking, from 1999 it is very hard not to experience ASUU strike once in two years — 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2017, 2018 and now again in 2019. 

The 2019 strike action became imperative resulting from the poor response from the Federal Government, to meet their earlier agreed demands after the expiration of the 14-day stipulation to the FG. The strike was to renegotiate and clear the air over the N25bn money academic allowances.

For the end of recurrent strike actions not to be a mirage, and for this not to ensue another greater suffering, and for more danger not to loom the educational system, we urge the Federal Government to give adequate and more precise attention to ASUU’s request with enough candour. Both parties should treat this issue in a holistic manner, and come with a win-win situation.

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