It is no longer news that the almost year-long strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has had devastating consequences on the plan of students and parents.
All the stakeholders involved in the face-off have had their ‘breakfast’ fully served, as it is often said. But the key stakeholders whose plight has been ignored for obvious reasons are the lecturers themselves.
This may sound ironic since many people see the lecturers as the oppressors who are using their own agitation to frustrate the future of innocent boys and girls. This is because ASUU has been on strike since February 14 2022, following the failure of the government to meet its demands.
After so much back and forth between government and ASUU representatives failed to yield results, the former decided to whip the latter into line by implementing a no work no pay’ policy.
While the measure has not succeeded in forcing the lecturers back to work, it has caused incalculable damage to the finances, mental health and family life of a lot of the lecturers many of whom are suffering in silence.
For obvious reasons, the plight of the lecturers has not made headlines. Many of them have decided to suffer in silence.
The lecturers have not been finding life easy for months now since they have lost their only means of livelihood and survival. While many cases of their suffering have gone unreported, there have been cases of avoidable deaths among lecturers from various universities in the country. Dr Christian Emedolu, a philosophy lecturer at Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, reportedly collapsed and died following the announcement of the ‘no work no pay’ measure. A Staff at the University of Benin is also said to have committed suicide because he could no longer meet up with the payment of his two daughters’ school fees.
A lecturer from Gombe State University was also said to have committed suicide because he could no longer meet the needs of his family.
To avoid a tragic fate like sudden death or suicide, many of the striking lecturers have taken to menial jobs to keep body and soul together. While some of them have reportedly turned their vehicles into online taxis, some have taken to buying and selling.
Some male lecturers are no longer the breadwinners in their respective homes since they can’t take up the financial responsibilities in the family. Their wives are now the ones who run their homes, that is for male lecturers whose wives are also working, this time, far away from university campuses.
I will advise the government to summon whatever political will it takes to resolve this lingering crisis before it snowballs into another security challenge because of the plight of people like bike riders, traders, saloonists etc whose livelihoods depend on the presence of students on campuses.
Another impact of the strike is brain drain. The country keeps losing its best brains to serious countries that understand the value of quality education. This will not augur well for the future of our country if it is not halted.
Government has to return to the negotiating table. Both FG and ASUU must find a middle ground in all these issues as a hardline stance will not help in any way. Seeking to break ASUU by registering a counter union may just offer some temporary relief, it doesn’t solve the fundamental issues, nor will it force ASUU to return to classes. If the government decides to sack all lecturers who fail to resume work it may cause a series of litigation that will not do anyone any good. Previous efforts by the military to break ASUU didn’t work. This one too is not likely to succeed.
May God bless Nigeria.
Esther Shaibu is a student of Mass Communication at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria