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Breaking ASUUs generational curse

Published by The Nation on Fri, 27 Mar 2020

Praise-God Paul Smart, University of UyoReverend Uma Ukpai came under fire late last year when he announced the theme of its annual end of the year church program- Breaking generational curses. Akwa Ibom Facebook community criticised the clergyman for attempting to de-market the state where they claimed his businesses have flourished for decades.A certain facebook poster labelled the clergyman a veteran curse breaker and even wrote an open letter that questioned the validity of the annual breaking generational curses programme. Following the backlash from the Akwa Ibom facebook community, one would expect a boycott of the event but the programme held and even had a large turnout of people, mostly Akwa Ibom indigenes.Akwa Ibom is probably the most religiously commercialised state in Nigeria, which is partly the reason for the perpetuation of such aforementioned religious programmes. More so, Nigerians are generally superstitious; hence our attempt to often attribute a lot to providence, even the things within our control.Notwithstanding, will it be considered superstitious if we begin to question whether the incessant industrial action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is a generational curse that needs to be broken' Otherwise, how does one explain industrial actions that have defied military rule, continued throughout democratically elected governments'Since its formation in 1978, ASUU has been active in the struggle against the military regime. The union even organised a national strike to obtain fair wages and university autonomy in the 1980s until the military proscribed it in 1988. In 1990, ASUU resumed union activities that were short-lived, organising another strike which the military government banned in 1992. However, the union reached an agreement with the military government on September 3 of same year that met several of the unions demands including the right of workers to collective bargaining.Similarly, when the late Gen. Sani Abacha military regime dismissed some university staff, ASUU organised another strikes in 1994 and 1996 respectively to protest against their colleagues dismissal. From precedent, it does seem the only avenue through which ASUU have their demands met is through strikes. Could it be because the military government rules by force and therefore the union also had to force the hands of the government to meet the demands of its members'In 1999, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo came into power as the first civilian president of Nigeria during the fourth republic. A few months after the Obasanjos administration, ASUU embarked on a nationwide strike that dragged for almost half the year. This only marked the first in the series of strikes by the union under the first civilian government of Nigeria.In 2001, following the University of Ilorin sack of 49 lecturers for engaging in union activities, ASUU, again, declared a strike demanding the reinstatement of the sacked colleagues. The union called off the strike after three months. Shortly after, in 2002, ASUU embarked on another two-week strike. This time, their demand was for the Federal Government to implement the terms of their agreement during the previous strike.In 2003, Nigerian university undergraduates had to stay at home again for six months as ASUU began an industrial action due to the non-implementation of previous agreements, which covers poor university funding and disparity in salary and retirement age. Within a four-year tenure (1999 and 2003), ASUU had embarked on strike for approximately 14 months and two weeks, which is almost one and half year of the four years.The next four years did not fare any better!From 2005 and 2008 ASUU embarked on strikes four different times, each strike lasted for one week. In 2009, lecturers in public universities across the country began yet another industrial action that lasted for half a year. Before ASUU called-off the strike, the Federal Government and the union had a a compromise- the 2009 ASUU/FG Agreement, which would later become the cause for subsequent industrial actions.In 2010, ASUU, again, commenced a five-month strike over the non-implementation of the 2009 Fed Govt-ASUU agreement. Its reason was hinged on the Federal Governments failure to honour certain component of the 2009 Agreement, particularly the aspects that bordered on adequate funding of universities as well as the implementation of the 70-year retirement age limit for members at professorial cadre. The strike again, paralysed academic activities nationwide. The following year, another strike by the union lasted for 59 days until ASUU called it off in 2012. In June 2013, ASUU started a national strike, which lasted up to nine months on the ground that Federal Government did not fulfill the 2009 FG-ASUU agreement and revitalisation of universities with N1.3 trillion over a period of six years.The past Industrial actions by ASUU had been under the 16-year rule of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from 1999 to 2015. Therefore, when Nigerians elected another political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) into office, the expectation was that things would change, at least in the education sector. However, this expectation was cut short when on August 17, 2017 ASUU again declared an indefinite strike over unresolved and contentious issues with the Federal Government. The strike was called off in September.Again, due to the Federal Governments failure to meet its demands, the union declared an indefinite strike on Sunday, November 4, 2018, after their National Executive Council meeting held at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State.Now, ASUU, two weeka ago, embarked on a warning strike, complimenting it with an indefinite strike on Monday. This time, ASUU is protesting the decision of the Federal Government to stop the salaries of lecturers who have not enrolled in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).From history and like the generational curse, the conflict between the Federal Government and ASUU seems unending. In my opinion, historical, economic and political factors are the propellants of these disagreements, which have become institutionalised and embedded in the Nigerian polity so that the disputes will continue drag, albeit for years.Written by Praise-God Paul Smart A 300level student of Communication Arts University of Uyo
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