By Hassan Ahmad Usman
As a student in a public university in Nigeria, I don’t need anyone to tell me how devastating and frustrating the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike is. Before that, I spent three years trying to secure admission into a university. Registering JAMB year-in-year-out and despite, not for once, failing to make it, I couldn’t secure admission until the fourth attempt. Finally, I got admission into the Federal University of Lafia in September 2018 for a four-year programme. At that time, our colleagues with silver spoons were already in their final year in other private universities. We might claim not to envy them, but we were left with no option other than to play catch-up.
My first taste of the ASUU strike did not take long after I started enjoying academia. It happened just a few weeks upon resumption and lasted for four months. To cut a long story short, this is 2022, and I’m still halfway into my level three. There have been debates since ASUU declared a one-month warning strike on whether or not the strike is the only tool that ASUU can use to press home their demands from the Nigerian government, considering that it is the students that bear the brunt of these strike actions, the most, for the past twenty years.
To some, ASUU has achieved some progress with strikes, and the most notable achievement they cite is the creation of TETFUND. While others believe there is no significant progress that ASUU achieved with strike actions for the past twenty years. Hence, the need for a change of approach. As a directly affected student, I am with the latter group. Whenever one speaks against the embarking on strike by the union, one thing they and their apologists challenge you on is to bring a workable approach aside from the strike. I took that challenge, and here, I’ll provide a possible two-step way out:
To be realistic, the fight against this administration by ASUU is over. ASUU wasted another eight years fighting in vain. This is primarily due to their short term fighting tactics. In 15 months, a new administration will take over. ASUU should forget this administration and set its eyes on the next one. The two steps to be taken are as follows;
ASUU should meet the candidates of the two leading political parties (no disrespect to other political parties) and discuss their plans to bring a solution to the unending issue. However, this should be just the preliminary.
The first step of action from ASUU should come after the new administration has taken the mantle of leadership. Let’s say six months unto assumption of power. ASUU, at this stage, should seek an audience with the president himself and should not entertain sitting with any minister, cabinet members or the so-called religious bodies. I did not see the president denying them a chance of meeting him. After all, we’ve seen different groups – some with no meaning and motive – meeting the president, so why not ASUU?
The meeting (with the president) will make Nigerians know and have the feeling that the failure comes from the president himself/herself if he/she could not keep to promises made before the election. They should not meet people like Chris Ngige or another Adamu Adamu. ASUU starts losing public sympathy, and they need it to succeed.
They should make sure they strike a deal within a year with the administration with the president himself in attendance and watch how things unravel within the first two years of the administration. A 55% achievement of their demand within two years is a success.
After seeing and realizing how committed the administration is towards meeting their demands, ASUU can decide to take the second step if there is no significant progress. Let’s say a less than 50% attainment of their needs. Then, I suggest a strike as the second step, yes, a strike action! It has always been what is effective in this country. And I only blame ASUU because it becomes a recurrent issue for them.
This strike should come in the third year of the new president and the year in which the atmosphere is filled with political activities heading to the polls in the succeeding year. Therefore, they should declare a strike that the only condition to suspending it is by granting their request in toto. They should resist any sweet words from the FG. And they should also withdraw all their members from participating in the election activities.
Let the average Nigerians go to the polls with the anger of their children being out of the school walls for over a year. Let the oppositions have what to campaign with and have the neck of the administration in their hands. Let the president face his reelection bid with voters’ anger. Let the world see a president who prioritizes his stay in power without education more than the country’s future. I think only a coconut head leader would fail to succumb! ASUU, please try this. I am your obedient student.
Hassan Ahmad Usman writes from Lafia, Nasarawa State, Nigeria. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.