By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Forty-eight hours after an announcement that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had taken over the negotiations with the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the former university don yesterday declared the information as untrue.
The union had on August 14 embarked on indefinite strike, citing the federal government’s failure to implement its agreement with it in 2009.
On August 29, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, had announced that the strike action embarked upon by the lecturers would be discussed at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting of the following day.
Indeed, at the end of the meetingÂ on Wednesday, Ngige while briefing State House correspondents said the government was committed to ending the strike embarked upon by ASUU.
Consequently, he said FEC had assigned Osinbajo to take charge of some aspects of the negotiations with the university lecturers, disclosing that relevant government officials would later proceed to the vice-president’s office that day for a meeting after which he said government decision would be communicated to the lecturers.
This information looked cheery to the generality of Nigerians who had confidence in the ability of the vice-president to quickly strike a deal with the aggrieved lecturers within a brief period.
Those who held this view predicated their optimism on the vice-president’s handling of the state of the nation at two different times when President Muhammadu Buhari embarked on medical treatment of an undisclosed ailment in the United Kindgom.Â
For instance, the vice-president’s intervention in the unrest in Niger Delta which led to the destruction of various oil installations and drastically brought down the volume of oil production in the country put paid to the activities of the restive youths.
Besides, it was also believed that the vice-president being a former lecturer who might have also had his own fair share of the current agitations of members of ASUU would handle the matter with a sense of sincerity in a way that the lecturers could be easily placated.
But yesterday, the vice-presidentÂ Â pored cold water in that optimism when denied being named as head of the federal government’s negotiating team, saying the submission of Ngige might have been misrepresented.
A statement by his spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, said the vice-president only had a discussion with Ngige and his counterpart in the Ministry of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu after last Wednesday’s FEC meeting, explaining that both ministers remain the leaders of government’s negotiations with the union.
“News reports that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, is now leading Federal Government negotiations with the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU is inaccurate.Â
“Media reports seemed to have misrepresented what Labour and Employment Minister, Chris Ngige meant when he spoke with reporters about the negotiations after the Federal Executive Council meetingÂ on Wednesday.Â
“The Vice President had a discussion after FEC with both the Labour Minister and Education Minister Malam Adamu Adamu around the issues, but has not taken over the negotiations as widely reported. Both Ministers will continue to lead the FG- ASUU talks.
“The Federal Government continues to diligently pursue a prompt resolution of this dispute and is confident the matter would be resolved,” the statement said.
However, this fresh development has been viewed as a setback for the move to quickly end the strike in view of the perception that the vice-president’s antecedents as well as his academic background might facilitate moves to end the strike.
While announcing ASUU strike on August 13, its National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said the strike had become imminent in view of the frustrations his colleagues were going through which he said had exhausted their patience.Â
He therefore viewed the strike as the last option to press home their demands.
“Our members across the country were getting increasingly frustrated, distracted and disenchanted. It became evident that their patience had been tasked beyond reasonable limits and governmentâ€™s insensitivity imposed severe burden on the leadership of the union
â€œConsequently, based on a nationwide consultation with our members, an emergency meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) of ASUU rose on Saturday, 12th August, 2017 with a resolution to embark on an indefinite strike action starting fromÂ Sunday, 13thÂ