By. Aliyu U. Tilde
I come in peace.
The argument is no longer whether the Federal Government, FG, is funding universities or not; or whether lecturers should be paid better or not; or whether the backlog of salaries will be paid or not.
No. It is now between the court and ASUU, should the Union fail to comply with the order to return to classroom immediately. Nothing less than following the court’s order would reclaim for ASUU the chance to fight another day.
You see, over the past three decades ASUU has allowed the FG so many opportunities and time to carry out a SWOT analysis of its body. And it was so easy because every time ASUU presents itself for a fight, it returns in the same arsenal, same tact and same goal. Finally, FG has understood its strong and weak points and has come out with extremely clever ways to combat it.
Three such deadly measures, so far, are: no work no pay, resort to court and registration of sub-unions. If ASUU returns to classroom without being paid the backlog of 8 months salary, it is very unlikely that most lecturers will support another strike in the foreseeable future.
Registration of sub-unions is a card that will give freedom for groups of lecturers to disagree with the main body on future strikes. Cracks weaken structures.
Finally, the biggest—the law. Had ASUU listened to so many suggestions on changing its tactics, it would have been to court earlier than the government. If it has a partner that is in breach of an agreement for 13 years, where else can it get its right apart from the law. Go to court, lay your plea and, if you’re truly right, the court will oblige you. But holding on to the principle of “collective bargaining” adopted since 1982 under Shagari is like driving a 40 year old LADA car on Lagos – Ibadan Express way today. Be careful. A trailer may crash you.
The government, sure of its facts, approached the court in order to put an end to this decade of dispute. A very civilised, if not a crafty way of giving ASUU a deadly undercut. And it worked perfectly. The matter now is not between the FG and ASUU but between the umUnion and the law.
And people will naturally side with the court. Parents whose children have been at home for 8 months will say, aha, let us see if ASUU will defy the law. If it does, Nigerians will say ASUU is recalcitrant, stubborn, arrogant, etc, as many have said even before now.
ASUU is completely on a different turf now. Not the turf of negotiation, collective bargaining, or interviews on national television, but of the law which demands only obedience. The language of the Court of Appeal today is unequivocal and would definitely sound strange to the Union.
And if ASUU would fail to comply with the order, it is giving the FG another opportunity, this time a final one—declaration of ASUU as a lawless union and work for its proscription. It will stop deducting dues on behalf of ASUU, do so many things and go to court seeking that order and it will get it. ASUU will have nowhere to run to.
I think my colleagues should know that the time is up. For the sake of its lecturers whom it has impoverished, for the students and parents in whose interest it is fighting for, and for the Nigeria it has been sacrificing so much, ASUU should make a tactical withdrawal to fight another day, using a different arsenal.
Finally, those saying that the ASUU horse cannot be forced to drink are the most unpatriotic academics I have ever come across. No academic worth his salt will see students before him, refuse to teach them and claim his salary at the end of the month. None. Academics are the most conscientious people I have ever met. When they fight, they fight. When they return to class, they return as teachers, ready to impart knowledge even if it would be under a tree. That is their calling.
Let us meet our students in the class next week. In fact, I have forgotten where I stopped in my Crop Ecology and Physiology lessons. The students need to remind me—if they can remember. Otherwise, we will start afresh.
I leave in peace. 🙏
Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde