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Adamu Adamu: what manner of Education Minister? Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

Professor Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

When the strike by Academic Staff of Universities (ASUU) started in February and Minister of Labour Dr Chris Ngige became the face of government negotiators, we often wondered why the Minister of Education Mallam Adamu Adamu whose Ministry ostensibly should oversee tertiary education was permanently missing in action. Word filtered in later that he was ill and was away to Germany to look after his health, the usual pastime of the typical Nigerian big man who catches a bad cold. Later, we heard he was back in his seat after a long absence from town. Ngige’s off-the-mark remarks and cavalierly manner of presenting issues often made one wonder whether he had a sense of history in handling the unions, whether he was always high on something, and whether we should ever take him seriously.
At a point, he became the issue, being openly combative and letting us know that his kids were schooling at the University of Lagos! From all indications, Ngige is not the only problem. The Minister has shown himself to be a cog in the progress of the university system, which is a nightmarish tragedy. Besides, there appears to be a gang-up against ASUU by some powerful forces in government, judging by the document released by the respectable and respected Professor Nimi Briggs Committee. Why, for example, was the lie broadcast that the Nimi Committee recommended a 180% salary increase for lecturers and a meagre 10% for non-academic staff? Mischief was and is afoot. Reports have also filtered in indicating that there is disarray among the government ministries and parastatals over the matter. In all of this, Emperor First Citizen, the Absentee Landlord carries on with imperial haughtiness and aloofness! The house is caving in, yet someone is fiddling with the strings of ethnicity!
When therefore President Buhari ordered Ngige to take a back seat on negotiations, we thought a Daniel had come to judgment through the coming of Adamu Adamu, the Minister who we are told has the President’s ears right inside his wardrobe and could reach him at any time and narrowly missed being Chief of Staff. Alas, our hope was misplaced. Talks have broken down, with the taciturn and ‘powerful’ minister telling ASUU that all government can offer is 30k and 60k additions to the monthly emoluments of the striking lecturers. Anyone who knows ASUU should know that the strike has only just started. Okot p’Bitek the Ugandan poet once wrote about using the excuse of his rotten teeth to keep his mouth shut decently. With Adamu Adamu and his inciting and insensitive statements, unbecoming of a State official, there is no hope for the ASUU strike to end soon!

READ ALSO: Conversation Nigeriana (4) Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

This is a tragedy. Perhaps our faith in him was based on an essay which he wrote as a true patriot in November 2013 titled ‘Why is ASUU always on strike’. Mallam Adamu argued that ASUU strikes were to compel the government to invest massively in education. He said among other things: ‘In what must be seen by some as a joke, especially given its attitude to education, Nigeria has been saying it wants to be among the world’s top 20 economies by 2020…while Nigerians are always very good at mimicking global discourse as if they were the ones who invented it…their government has been busy laying solid foundations for an ignorance economy! Adamu Adamu, O Adamu Adamu, why have you allowed the taste of power to alter the sound thinking you had in 2013?
What has changed between the profound, intellectual, vibrant Citizen Adamu Adamu and the ice-cream-licking Minister Adamu Adamu in less than a decade? The Honourable Minister seems to have anger management problems. He once walked out on representatives of Nigerian students when they made statements that he considered rude. His recent outburst against ASUU, threatening to teach the union a lesson is another example of poor control over emotions. It is not amusing. One of the demands of public office is the capacity to keep one’s emotions in check. Adamu Adamu has failed in this regard. It is the same students he once imperially snubbed that he now invites to take ASUU to court! O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts and men have lost their reason! From the immortal Shakespeare in Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2!
The issues at stake are clear. I need not repeat them here. The most immediate one is the renegotiation of an agreement which the federal government signed in 2009 with ASUU. This time, after a self-imposed ten-year moratorium on calls for an improved salary, ASUU added a salary increase for its members. ASUU had been so egalitarian and almost naïve in its view of the society we lived in when they believed that they should focus on development issues in the university system. By the time ASUU woke up, the bus had left the station. With a very poor salary for its members, ASUU called out everyone to fight for more money in their pockets. The support was massive. So, if the government thinks it can break ASUU on this when even military governments failed, then somebody needs to visit the psychiatrists in Yaba for help! By ordering ASUU to call off the strike and stating clearly that there will be no pay for the last six months, the Minister is treading an old futile path. If push comes to shove, ASUU will forfeit the salary arrears, but the students will also forfeit the session. In other words, since lecturers will not be paid for the period, their services will be fast-forwarded to the new take-off date. The students will suffer.

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As a university professor, I feel the pain of being shut out of the classroom for months just as I believe the students feel traumatized. It is a case of truncated lives and dreams in a country that has dimmed hopes for a better future for its youths. These young men and women whose lives are halted for six long months have not committed any offence. They have become victims of the government’s insensitivity and recklessness. I also feel the pain of being paid a miserable salary at the peak of an academic career while empty-headed members of the political class go home every month with salaries that make one permanently angry.
The truth is that any government which allows a strike to linger for one month has no genuine regard or respect for that sector of social services. This is the truth. It does not really bother the government that universities are shut down for six months or one year. There are no direct consequences for the government. Else, the APC would bury its head in shame and hard put to present a candidate for the forthcoming elections. But in real Nigeria, accountability is not a factor. Some professors will still be invited to conduct elections on behalf of the insensitive emperors who hold the power reins in Abuja. If any ASUU member volunteers to supervise elections in 2023, we shall curse them with the withered breasts of our maternal ancestors!
What manner of Minister is Adamu Adamu? What manner of government do we have? What manner of President is General Muhammadu Buhari? The answer is blowing in the wind. ASUU will outlive all of them. Proscription if it comes will only be a stop-gap. The national bubble which ASUU represents will always bounce to the surface. Education, tertiary education especially should not be toyed with. I conclude this essay with a quote from the Adamu Adamu essay: ‘The nation owes a debt of gratitude to ASUU, and the strike should not be called off until the government accepts to do- and does – what is required. This is why ASUU is always on strike.”

Education

Obi Vows To Stop ASUU Strikes If Elected President

Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi has said that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will not embark on industrial action if he is elected president.

Obi spoke at a campaign rally in Owerri, the Imo state capital city, on Tuesday.

The former governor of Anambra said the future of any serious country is dependent on education and health, adding that he would invest in the two sectors.

“If you make me your president and Datti my vice, ASUU won’t go on strike. We will dialogue with them.We will work with the student

“The future of any serious country is dependent on their education and health sectors. I will invest hugely in those sectors if you elect us”, he said.

 

 

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Education

“We Were Not Part Of Strike”, CONUA Vows To Sue F.G Over Withheld Salaries

Rival Academic union, Congress of University Academics has expressed its disappointment with the Federal Government, especially the Ministry of Labour and Employment, over the non-payment of its members’ withheld salaries “even when the government knew that the union did not call for strike action and its members were not involved in the strike action that lasted for eight months and which shut down the university system nationwide.”

In statement on Tuesday by its National President, Secretary and Publicity Secretary, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, Dr Henry Oripeloye and Dr Ernest Nwoke, respectively, CONIA  argued that it was wrong for the FG to lump CONUA with members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities who went on eight months strike between February and October, 2022.

The new union of lecturers thereby viewed to sue FG for withholding its members’ salaries.

The statement partly read, “CONUA formally made its non-involvement in the strike known to the Federal Government in a letter addressed to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, in April 2022.

“In the letter, we made it clear that because CONUA constituted a separate and independent union in the university system, our members did not call for any strike. This was followed by a Press Conference in Abuja on August 19, 2022 at which it was categorically stated that CONUA was not part of any ongoing strike, and that the “No Work No Pay” principle ought not to apply to members of the union.

“CONUA’s expectation is that, due to the express and categorical declaration, the government would seamlessly release our members’ outstanding salaries when it resumed the payment of salaries to all university staff in October 2022. But to our dismay, CONUA members were also paid pro-rata salaries in complete disregard to the fact that we were indeed shut out of duties by the strike.

“Subsequently, we wrote to the Accountant-General of the Federatıon and the Ministry of Labour and Employment reminding them that it was an error to lump our members with those that declared and embarked on strike action. It was yet another shock for the outstanding backlog of salaries not to have been paid to our members along with the November 2022 salary.”

CONUA said the non-payment of “our withheld salaries” contravenes Section 43 (1b) of the Trade Disputes Act CAP. T8, which stated that “where any employer locks out his workers, the workers shall be entitled to wages and any other applicable remunerations for the period of the lock-out and the period of the lock-out shall not prejudicially affect any rights of the workers being rights dependent on the continuity of period of employment.”

“This provision is consistent with global best practices,” it added.

“From the foregoing and as a law-abiding union that pledged to do things differently, we have resolved to seek legal redress of the illegal withholding of our legitimate salaries by taking the matter to court in consonance with the rights enshrined in our laws,” the union said.

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Education

Again, ASUU Berates FG Over “Half-Salary”

The Academic Union of Universities (ASUU) has again slammed the federal government over non-implementation of its demands.

ASUU has been at loggerheads with the government over its decision to pay members half of their salaries after the union’s eight-month strike ended.

The national executive council (NEC) of the union held a two-day meeting at the University of Calabar (UNICAL) in Cross River state to review the development and other issues affecting members.

The national president, Emmanuel Osodeke in a statement said ASUU faulted the federal government’s policies on education including the proposed introduction of education loans.

The union said such policies are indication that the government is not ready to fund public varsities.

“NEC observed with concern the systematic disengagement of government from funding of Public Universities through the proposed introduction of education loan which has proven to be a monumental failure in our nation and some other countries where it was introduced,” the statement reads.

“We find it troubling that the proponents of the policy are so eager to foist it down the throat of Nigerians when they have done more to push the working people of this country into poverty through sheer incompetence in handling the economic fortunes of our nation.

“ASUU calls on Nigerians of goodwill to, in the interest of our students and the nation, prevail on the Nigerian government to urgently address all outstanding issues contained in the December 2020 FGN-ASUU Memorandum of Action.

“NEC rejects with vehemence, the current attempts to impose master-slave treatment as a mechanism for relating with Nigerian scholars under whatever guise by the ruling class. ASUU members are citizens, not slaves.

“Finally, NEC appreciates the resilience of our members and their families. Their understanding and perseverance, in the face of hardship and provocation occasioned by the government’s intransigence and insensitivity shall be rewarded by posterity.”

On half salaries paid to members, ASUU said: “As reflected in the pro-rated salaries paid to our members for the month of October 2022, as well as the continued withholding of our member’s salaries for the preceding eight months, even when the backlog of the work is being covered by our members in various universities.”

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