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ASUU’s pyrrhic victory

Surveying the damage done between that time and last week, when the strike was eventually suspended with the signing of another memorandum and the reaching…

Surveying the damage done between that time and last week, when the strike was eventually suspended with the signing of another memorandum and the reaching of another agreement, is an agonising undertaking. ASUU president Nasir Fagge told journalists that at the end the day, there was no victor, no vanquished. He is wrong. No one won; everyone lost.
When it declared its ‘total and indefinite strike’ at the end of June, ASUU said that the eleven-point agreement it signed with the government in 2009 was the reason it suspend the strike action that was in progress at the time. ASUU claimed that although government was aware of the enormity of the infrastructure challenges in the universities, it had not demonstrated the political will to overcome them for the good of the nation, astonishingly ignoring the fact that the government itself may be limited in its capacity to act in any particular sectors by financial and budgetary constraints. Despite growing public concern regarding the sustained strike that appeared to have lost its original focus, ASUU officials proved impervious to appeals to soften their stand.   
However, with the strike finally over it is not time to celebrate. The government agreed to pay certain amount over a five-year period to address the issues that ASUU complained about; and had deposited 200 billion of it in the Central Bank.
But if ASUU officials sat down and critically examined their action, they would discover, as everyone else has, that the money they have obtained from the government cannot repair the damage to the school system cause by the five months’ strike.
 As some reports indicate, some parents now believe that the incessant strikes are more of a problem than the poor infrastructure, outdated syllabus, low intellectual content, and lack of modern teaching aids and library facilities that ASUU uses as excuses to embark on such strikes. While celebrating its “victory” ASUU members should realize that the system has lost far more than it has gained. The irony seems lost on them that while they blames the government for the rot in the system, the public has come to regard incessant strikes as the biggest single cause of instability in the university system.
There is a lot of ground to cover, for both the lecturers and students to make up for lost time. Students also will suffer financial losses in paying for unused accommodation, travel expenses, and additional fees.  Disrupting academic activities and shutting down the universities cannot in the long run address their grievances.  There a many avenues to do that and achieve the same goal, like through the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC) and the Salaries and Wages Commission, among other channels.  
The conduct of the Minister of State for Education, Mr Nyesom Wike, hardly helped matters. He spent more time injecting himself into local party issues in Rivers State and supervising burials there than paying attention to the issues of the strike.
  If there is one thing that was clear during the strike, it is the absence of a voice for the community of Nigerian students. The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) should get its acts together and begin representing the interests of students.  The politicians should stop enticing students’ unions by providing them material gifts and setting them against political opposition.
One lesson from the strike that ASUU members should take to heart is that as long as Nigerian students are “half baked” so also will there be half-baked lecturers.  Another is the resolve on their part to never again consider strike as the weapon of choice in their interaction with government. The government, on its part, must learn to be faithful to agreements its officials willingly sign.

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