For the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the real strike may be about to start — for the democratic right to be paid for work not done. That’s the “real deal” for the veteran and glorious “strikers”, moving from victory to victory!
Mallam Adamu Adamu, the taciturn minister of Education, just threw down the gauntlet: the Federal Government won’t pay ASUU for the six months or so they had been on strike. To up the ante, Minister Adamu said every other striking university union had agreed to settlement terms and were ready to call back their members.
It was only ASUU that demurred — and no prize for guessing right: it wanted the government to agree to the full payment of its striking members, even if they had not taught anyone, in the past six months! But why isn’t anyone surprised?
“All contentious issues between the government and ASUU had been settled,” the minister claimed, “except the quest for members’ salaries for the period of the strike to be paid, a demand that President Buhari has flatly rejected.”
Minister Adamu appeared in war mood: “The stand the government has taken now is not to pay the months in which no work was done. I think there should be a penalty for some behaviour like this,” he warned. “I think teachers will think twice before they join a strike. The government is not acting arbitrarily. There is a law which says if there is no work, there will be no pay.”
Of course, ASUU has responded with predictable emotions. First, Emmanuel Osodeke, its president took refuge in an appeal to pity: “no serious country in the world treats its scholars” the way Nigeria does its. Then, he framed the strike as one-side action in which ASUU had zero blame: the federal government, he claimed, “imposed the ongoing strike and encouraged it to linger.” Yeah right! The government declared the strike on behalf of ASUU!
But to be fair, this is only the flip side of the narrative spin, in which the minister himself dismissed ASUU as reckless for always going on strike at the drop of a hat, despite the government’s yeoman’s efforts to fund education from extremely limited resources. Reality check: neither party is telling the whole truth.
From emotive froths to government bashing, the ASUU president growled over “award of salary”, entering a jeremiad on the government’s deal with other tertiary unions; and wailing over how and why it fell short of “collective bargaining”.
Still, Mr. President: is your ASUU demanding your members be paid for work not done? Mum is the word! For too long, ASUU has luxuriated in the delusion that no matter how long it went on strike, its members’ salaries would be paid, relying on self-serving arguments that teaching was just one of its core duties, the others being research and community service. It appears Minister Adamu would have none of such cant!
So, it’s crunch time. How would ASUU navigate this one? A blather of bluster, for one: over adequate “funding”; and the imperative to give the children of the poor sound university education. But all these are just mere facade to fend for its pocket and get paid for eons on strike.
If the ultimate crunch comes, ASUU can even declare a two-year strike — as Prof. Osodeke recently threatened. For hurt pockets, that Freudian slip may yet became grim reality. Then, all gloves would have been off! Messrs Lecturers might just be hungry — and so, understandably angry!