Dissecting Recalcitrant ASUU President
RingTrue By Yemi Adebowale
Last Tuesday, I read twice the interview granted to an online publication by the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Emmanuel Osodeke, in which he accused the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila of deceiving university lecturers into calling off their eight-month strike last October. I had to read the chat two times to be sure I understood the ASUU President correctly. Osodeke said ASUU members’ collective impression of Gbajabiamila today is that he tricked them to go back to work and then sort out things immediately thereafter.
The ASUU President added: “But here we are till today, nothing has been done over the promise and that is why the Speaker did not say anything tangible since then, at least on the issues, let alone ensure that his promises are carried out. The Speaker will need to come out as he still has the opportunity to prove ASUU wrong on its impression by simply working out the implementation of his promises to the union.”
This submission by Osodeke is just balderdash. He holds the disgraceful record of leading university teachers and Nigeria’s university system into disarray, yet, he has no plan of retreating. The ASUU President is still living in his world of deceit and will most likely never change.
Let’s take a very good look at some of the issues raised in Osodeke’s bosh interview. I find it so difficult to understand the ASUU President’s claim that Gbajabiamila made a written promise that the federal government would, without delay, pay in full, the arrears of salaries of the university teachers once they call off the strike. He said the Speaker presented a paper signed by him to ASUU leadership indicating the seriousness of the government to pay them for work not done.
Yes, the union engaged Gbajabiamila to resolve the stalemate between it and the federal government, but he cannot sign to pay salaries of the teachers. Gbajabiamila is not a member of the Executive, so, he is not in the position to sign to pay any form of salary to the teachers. The ASUU President is old enough to know this. I challenge Osodeke to show Gbajabiamila’s written promise to the world.
By now, I thought Osodeke would have stopped talking about payments for jobs not done by the teachers. The federal government has legitimately not paid salaries for the period ASUU brazenly shut Nigerian universities. This is the truth that must be told. Osodeke is educated enough to know that the government is under no compulsion to pay salaries to university lecturers for the duration they were on strike. This is a settled matter in law.
Perhaps, Osodeke needs to go and read the Trade Disputes Act again. The no-work no-pay labour law is very clear as contained in Section 43 of Trade Disputes Act. This government decided to enforce it in order to end incessant and senseless strikes by ASUU. Lecturers are ceaselessly on strike, leaving the students they are engaged to teach in tatters and quandary. This drivel must stop. ASUU’s opposition to no-work no-pay is also before a court of law. Osodeke should be patient for the outcome.
The House of Representatives rightly knocked the ASUU President, when it declared that Osodeke’s “bad-faith approach to negotiations and his affinity for political brinkmanship” were significant reasons Nigerian universities were on strike for so long, adding, “his ongoing interventions continue to threaten the progress being made to preclude the possibility of further disruptions to the academic calendar of the universities.”
Osodeke’s childish claims that Gbajabiamila promised to pay university teachers for jobs not done was well tackled in a response last Tuesday by the spokesman of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, who stated: “For the record, at no point did the Speaker of the House of Representatives commit to offset the arrears of salaries owed to union members for the time they were on strike. The House of Representatives helped resolve the strike by making commitments to improve the welfare package of university lecturers and revitalisation funds to improve the infrastructure and operations of federal universities. These commitments are reflected in the 2023 Appropriation Bill.
“The Executive’s decision not to pay salaries to lecturers for the time spent on strike is warranted by the government’s legitimate interest in preventing moral hazard and discouraging disruptive industrial actions. Nonetheless, the Speaker has made interventions for an exemption in this regard, and Professor Osodeke is well aware of this.
“Therefore, I call on him, in his capacity as President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, to desist from making further misleading statements against the House of Representatives and the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila. There is no place for hostility and selfish agitation in this critical moment. This is the time for calm heads and steady hands, working together for the common good.”
Another aspect of Osodeke’s interview I find repulsive is where he said ASUU members were only remaining in the classrooms in spite of the unfavourable treatment from the government “as a sacrifice for the sake of students and parents as well as the country at large.” Haba! Has Osodeke suddenly forgotten that the teachers were ordered back to the classroom by the court? I need to remind him that it was the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, that ordered striking ASUU members back to resume work “immediately” early last October. They did not just return. The appellate court gave the order while granting leave to ASUU to appeal the interlocutory injunction granted by Justice Polycarp Hamman of the Abuja Division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) on September 21, 2022, asking members of the union to resume work.
The Appeal Court struck out the application by ASUU for a stay of execution of the order of the Industrial Court, based on the motion by the applicant’s counsel, Femi Falana (SAN), for the withdrawal of the application. I also need to remind the ASUU President that the Court of Appeal presided over by Justice Hamma Akawu Barka, warned that if ASUU failed to comply with the court order, it automatically loses the right to appeal against the ruling of the lower court. That was what forced ASUU members back to work. Osodeke could not have forgotten all these. I guess he was just being sassy.
What “sacrifice to students and parents” was the ASUU President talking about in that garbage interview? After persistently inflicting so much pain on students and parents in Nigeria’s public universities for years, largely because of their pockets, Osodeke turns around to talk about sacrifice? What nonsense! If students are indeed at the centre of ASUU’s so-called struggle, then, lecturers won’t be on strike at all, not to talk of obstinately shutting public universities. I am not sorry to say that Osodeke was just rambling in that interview.
Just as I stated in my last article on ASUU, Osodeke has been misleading Nigerian university teachers. My position has not changed. This ASUU president has lost touch with the realities of modern university systems. He belongs to the past. Osodeke should step aside for somebody that can keep pace with modern day realities.
Bishop Kukah’s Pungent Christmas Epistle
I always look forward to Bishop Matthew Kukah’s Christmas Epistle to Nigerians. This Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese never disappoints. Put more precisely, he never fails to speak truth to power. No sentiments; he tells it as it is. Kukah has maintained this position for ages.
In his 2023 Christmas message last Sunday at St. Mary Catholic Church, Sokoto, titled, “Let us turn a new leaf,” Kukah took on the incompetent President Muhammadu Buhari, declaring that while Buhari would be leaving office in good health, “Nigerians are in pain on account of his failure to fulfil his promises to fix the country.”
Kukah, who berated Buhari on his policies and inability to tackle corruption, cited nepotism as a major factor that characterised his regime. He flayed the President for nepotism in his choice of appointees whom he described as mediocres, adding that the nation has paid the price for entrusting power to characters who treated it as their family property.
On Buhari’s nepotism, I agree fully with Kukah and this has always been my position too. Nepotism is indeed a cancer which Buhari has unleashed on this country for almost eight years now. His appointments are largely skewed. Nigeria is feeling Buhari’s failings the most in the area of security because of nepotism in security appointments. Our beloved country is now one big killing field, with terrorists running riot. Under Buhari, almost all security and para-military agencies are headed by his Fulani kinsmen without result. Our President does this with so much impunity.
Aside the Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor and Chief of Air Staff, Isiaka Amao, this is what Buhari has: Director-General, Department of State Security, Yusuf Bishi; National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; Chief of Army Staff, Faruk Yahaya; Chief of Naval Staff, Awwal Gambo; Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali; Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Buba Marwa; Comptroller-General, Nigeria Immigration Service, Isah Jere Idris; Commandant, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Ahmed Audi; Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba; Minister of Police Affairs Maigari Dingyadi; Director General, National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, the Controller-General, Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa and the Acting Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Dauda Biu.
Then, add the awkward Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi. What has Nigeria gained from Buhari’s endless sectionalism in security appointments? Nothing! This country is bleeding profusely. I urge Buhari to think deeply about the four siblings killed by kidnappers this week in Garin Dogo, Lau LG of Taraba State, after collecting N60 million from their father. As usual, the killers may never be arrested.
Buhari is the only one unaware that Nigeria is a multi-ethnic, multi-religion and multi-cultural country and that everybody must be given a sense of belonging with just top appointments. Why should most of the key federal government departments and agencies be headed by people from a section of this country? I am talking about big agencies like Customs, NPA, Pencom, NNPC, FIRS, NCC, NBC, TETFund, SEC, CAC, UBEC, NIMASA, NMDPRA, NPHCDA, FAAN, NDIC, AMCON and NUC. Buhari evidently cares less about the unity of this country.
Our President has indeed been stoking this country’s fault lines for almost eight years with his skewed appointments. He fully understands the importance of Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), which mandates federal character in all appointments and has chosen to persistently mock it.
Nigeria is indeed worse than it was before Buhari took office. The economy continues to depreciate, throwing more Nigerians below poverty. Kukah captures it thus: “Who would have imagined, after listening to the campaign speeches ahead of the 2015 elections, the new President’s inaugural speech, that we will be so worse off than we were? Yet, it could get even worse if we do not pause and pause very seriously.
“Is being the poverty capital of the world and one of the most violent states in the world an achievement? And our suffocating internal and international debts?”
For me, fixing Nigeria requires a President with physical and mental capacity; a truly Nigerian President in all ramifications, who will see everybody as one and treat everybody equally. A President who will ensure that the sensibilities of all Nigerians are respected and reflected in federal appointments. Nigeria can no longer afford an ethnic and religious bigot as President. This is my message to beloved countrymen as we head towards the 2023 Presidential election.