ASUU, Its Shifting of Goalpost and Kangaroo Declarations

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Isa Ali Pantami

By Jauro Bose Hammadu

I stopped taking ASUU(Academic Staff Union of Universities) seriously long ago. I see them like any other noisemaker in the society. Whenever they address press conference or issue press statement or make a declaration, I rarely read or pay attention to their statements, let alone respond to whatever position they take. However, in this ASUU-FUTO-Pantami issue, they appear to be confused that they keep on shifting the goalpost and making Kangaroo declarations capable of misleading the public. Members of the public, like my humble self, should have a say. That has compelled me to write this piece, at least, to set the records straight for posterity.

However, before discussing the issue at stake, let me digress briefly to state what makes me see ASUU as unserious trade union. I watched a television programme recently. One of the guests wondered why ASUU should not have any other approach to solving university education problems except strike, which had not yielded any positive results for many years. I always recall that ASUU strikes crippled my studies as an undergraduate. I am a victim of the incessant ASUU strikes. I graduated one year later than my time of graduation. ASUU strikes also affected studies of my children that graduated from various universities. It is most likely that ASUU strikes may affect my grandchildren in future.

I believe that ASUU membership is made up of all manner of intellectuals, including professors in various professions. But they seem to betray their standing. For many decades, they only know how to embark on strike, just like tanker drivers, truck drivers and labourers. One should think that ASUU as a body of intellectuals should have an alternative and better approaches in their handling of labour disputes with their employers and salvaging university education in Nigeria.

ASUU has, virtually, fought every government that I know in Nigeria. The irony is that ASUU is, in reality, fighting against its members or former members. It is ASUU members that graduate to occupy the position of most of the principal officers of our universities. I don’t know the situation in the academia. However, in many professions, wherever a member of the profession goes, he or she is still a member of the profession. The same members of ASUU are the persons appointed to head National Universities Commission (NUC), Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and other government agencies responsible for management of education.

There were past governments in this country that appointed professors from universities as ministers of education. In one of the occasions, the then Minister of Education made his famous Hausa statement over BBC Hausa Service: “Wal ba ni, wal ba ka….” meaning, roughly, tit for tat! What is wrong with ASUU that they cannot reach understanding even with fellow intellectuals?

Now let me go back to the FUTO issue. ASUU goofed from the very beginning when it preferred media trial and playing to the gallery than going for silent verification. It started issuing statements when it did not actually know what was on ground. I am yet to see how professorial position of the Hon. Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami constitutes a liability and not asset to ASUU. The statement they issued was based on wrong assumption that the Hon. Minister did not meet the requirements or due process was not followed and the professorial position was just donated to him. It was after making its allegations public that ASUU remembered to set up a committee of five professors in FUTO to investigate the issue. The report of its committee found that due process was followed in the appointment and that it did not find a single infraction. However, ASUU national body rejected the report, probably, because the finding did not tally with the position they already took in public. It, therefore, constituted another committee that later came up with the result they want. I am afraid that ASUU may just be fighting another man’s war.

Report of the second ASUU committee and the garbage being thrown around by its co-travelers became rubbished when FUTO issued a statement that all the necessary procedures were complied with in the appointment of the Hon. Minister as a professor of cyber security. FUTO also wisely approached a court of law to seek for remedy against those that cast aspersions on the appointment. ASUU now realizing that it had goofed became jittery and started looking for alibi. Instead of apologizing or keeping quiet and allowing the issue to die down, it resorted to shifting of goalpost again by declaring the appointment illegal on the ground that the Hon. Minister should not hold the two positions concurrently and threatened to sanction the FUTO.

I am not in the academia. Therefore, I wait for ASUU and its sympathizers and cohorts to tell us how it will sanction FUTO. Even the FUTO authorities who have powers as employers of the members of ASUU, have not threatened to sanction anybody. They rather went to court to seek for legal remedy against those who want to drag the name of the institution in the mud. Conversely, ASUU that is a trade union and lacks authority and power to declare any action or inaction of FUTO or any other person or institution (public or private) legal or illegal constituted itself into a Kangaroo court throwing declarations around.

I know that there are prominent professors of law in ASUU and they ought to know what I mean. What I don’t know is whether ASUU activists care to seek for legal opinion from their experts in view of their summersaults on this issue of professorship of the Hon. Minister. If they care to seek for legal advice or if they are properly advised, they would have realized that they are only a trade union. Trade unions are not statutory bodies. They are registered under the Trade Unions Act by virtue of the freedom of association guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution and international instruments. However, freedom of association is a double-edged sword. It goes along with the freedom to disassociate. It is not mandatory to join ASUU. The ASUU activists will face the reality the day those in the academia decide to liberate themselves from the monopoly of ASUU.

Let ASUU beware!

Hammadu writes from Wuro Kesa, near Gombe
20: 02: 2022


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