ASUU, ASUP strike and 2019 elections





The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has
warned that the strike by the Academic Staff Union of
Universities (ASUU) and the Academic Staff Union of
Polytechnics (ASUP) may affect the 2019 general elections, if
not resolved now. There was a twist to the tale when the
National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) threatened
to “wade” in if their teachers did not return to work in two
weeks, reports ADEGUNLE OLUGBAMILA.


When the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)
began its indefinite strike on November 5, many thought the
matter would be settled in no time. But the strike has
dragged for over one month and there appears to be no end
in sight. To compound matters, the Academic Staff Union of
Polytechnics (ASUP) has also been on strike since
December 12.


The fear of the Independent National Electoral Commission
(INEC) that the strike could affect the forthcoming general
elections, if not suspended before the polls, has heightened
calls for the resolution of the matter.
INEC is eyeing over one million ad hoc workers for the
election, which begins in February, 2019. The bulk of these
workers would comprise lecturers and students of Federal
Government tertiary institutions nationwide as well as
National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members.
But, according to the election umpire, this may no longer be
because of the strike.
Last weekend, ASUU said there was no going back on its
action. At a briefing on Sunday at the University of Lagos
(UNILAG), ASUU National President Prof Biodun Ogunyemi
urged the government not to drag ASUU into the election.
Ogunyemi implored the government to, among others,
“demonstrate serious commitment to implement the spirit
and letter of the 2009 Federal Government/ASUU agreement
and consider the implementation of the 2013 and 2017
Memorandum of Understanding it signed with the union”.
“All we are asking for is the improved infrastructural
development of Nigeria’s public universities to be globally
competitive,” Ogunyemi said at the briefing.
He said it was not true that the strikes would affect the
February 2019 elections.
ASUP too has vowed not to back down until its demands
are met. The strike followed the government’s alleged
failure to implement its agreements with the union since
2016.


According to ASUP leadership, its members too would not
bulge, if the lingering issues between the union and the
government were not addressed before the elections.
This development has left INEC with only one option; to co-
opt students.
But the NANS’ threat to “wade” into the strike may not
make that option feasible.
ASUP National President Comrade Usman Dutse told our
reporter that it was only ASUP-NEC that could direct
members to return to the classsrooms, adding that that
seemed unlikely now until their meeting with the government
on January 10, 2019.


“It is true that some of our members are actually mobilised
during general elections. But in view of the strike, I am not
in a position to decide whether this (mobilisation) will be
possible or not.” Dutse told The Nation on phone on Sunday.
“Besides, it is only ASUP-National Executive Council (NEC)
that can take a final decision on that. We already have a
meeting with the Federal Government on January 10. After
the meeting, ASUP-NEC will deliberate on the next line of
action,” he added.
Usman claimed that despite the 21-day ultimatum by ASUP
to the government to address some of the issues, it had
been nonchalant in acceding to the demands for improved
funding for polytechnic education.
Also, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS.



the students’umbrella body, at the weekend, vowed to
disrupt the general elections if their teachers were not
settled. NANS demanded that all parties sheathe their
swords two weeks or face a showdown.
The students’ body said having appraised the issues
between ASUU and Federal Government, and applied two of
its three ‘Cs’ (Consultation and Consolidation), the body is
left with no other alternative than to apply the last C
(Confrontation).
In a statement, the NANS National President, Comrade
Danielson Bamidele Akpan at the weekend, threatened to
‘engage in a mass protest to grind down activities across
the country, and ‘’mobilise over 100,000 students to also
shut down the Federal Capital Territory’’.
The students leaders also said ASUU members must be
ready to vacate their various staff quarters on campus.
ASUU members, NANS insisted, should pay the students
from the salaries that they did not work for.
NANS added: “Finally, we are determined to carry out these
actions to the fullest if our campuses are not reopened at
the expiration of this ultimatum. We, therefore, urge the
Federal Government and ASUU not to test our resolve as
students have been patient and taken for granted too far
too long.”
In a telephone chat with our reporter, Danielson said should
the strike persist, many of their members would have been
disenfranchised by the time the election is held.


“Truth is, many of our members registered close to their
campuses for ease of voting. But many of us are now home
due to the strike and we cannot travel to our schools to
exercise our franchise during the election period. This is the
time many of us are also prone to violence because they are
idle,” he told The Nation on phone.
He continued: “The end of the year is usually like graduating
period and while the New Year serves as the beginning of a
new academic session. This means many of our members
due for graduation may not graduate, let alone being
mobilised for the mandatory NYSC. This also means they
may have to pay tuition in the next academic session. Who
takes care of that?
“We felt these people are just toying with our future and it’s
about time we took our destiny in our hands.”
But in an interview, Ogunyemi said ASUU would attend a
meeting with INEC Chairman on Friday, January 4.



He said the union had not decided if it would deal with any
member who chose to work with INEC, in case ASUU did
not to pander to INEC’s request.
“We have not yet discussed whether we will sanction our
members who choose to work individually for INEC, if our
strike still persists.
“We have a plan to meet INEC that has invited us on
January 4. We wish to see what INEC has in store for us.
We shall then take INEC messages and get back to our
members.”
During a workshop organised by INEC, in conjunction with
the United Nations in Abuja last week, the Commission’s
Chairman of Information and other Education Committee
Festus Okoye, had expressed concerns that the burden of
recruiting ad hoc workers could not be shouldered by NYSC
members alone.
He said: “It is next to impossibility for members of NYSC to
provide all the ad hoc staff needs and requirements of the
commission, and over 70 per cent of ad hoc staff
requirement in some states of the federation are drawn
from students of federal tertiary institutions.
“Hence the lingering strike by ASUU will no doubt have
serious impact on the conduct of the 2019 elections. We,
therefore, call on ASUU and the Federal Government to
resolve the lingering impasse that had led to uncertainty in
the education sector.
“The national interest, the interest of our democracy and the
reputation of Nigeria demand the immediate resolutions of
the issues that led to the strike and we so urge.
“It is important that students in federal tertiary institutions
should and must be in school at least a month before the
February 16 presidential and national assembly elections.
They are a critical resource and their absence will have
adverse effects on the ad hoc requirements of INEC.”
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