You cannot teach an old dog new tricks, and we all know the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is as ancient as they come.
As a university student, it feels like hell to see ASUU in the news because chances are high that it is about one thing – strike action.
The union and the Federal Government of Nigeria have embodied Tom and Jerry so much that any period of peace is never expected to last.
Like any 5-year-old could have predicted, the two are back at it again, and this video makes it super hilarious:
What fresh hell is this?
ASUU warned the government this week that its chapters in federal and state universities are ready, as always, to abandon classrooms and delay the future of Nigerian students, yet again.
Many state chapters of the union organised press conferences days ago to let Nigerians know whose shirt to hold if they decide to go on another indefinite strike.
The last time ASUU went on this kind of strike in 2020, it lasted nine months, just enough time for idle university students to produce a new generation of babies.
What exactly does ASUU want this time?
The most striking thing about ASUU’s strike actions is that nothing is ever really new about the issues.
To understand what’s causing the current crisis, we have to go back to 13 years ago when ‘breakfast’ was still about food.
In 2009, the government signed an agreement with ASUU that centred on salary structure and payment, earned academic allowances, university funding, autonomy, and academic freedom.
Remember that 2020 strike? ASUU said it was because the government failed to fully implement the agreement.
And even though they both settled the issue that year, ASUU is now threatening to go on strike over the same thing.
This same 2009 deal had caused major issues between both parties and forced repeated agreements in 2013, 2017, and 2019.
It’s a nightmare that repeats itself every few market days [Dreamstime]
What is the government saying now?
In his response to ASUU’s threats, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, basically said:
The former Anambra state governor accused the union of weaponising sentiments against the government because they have been paid some of their earned academic allowances.
He also told ASUU members to stop facing him and redirect their tears to their actual employer – the Federal Ministry of Education.
His own role, he said, is to step in the middle of the fight when ASUU and the Ministry of Education cannot play nice with each other.
Where is this going?
The Ministry of Education has not directly addressed ASUU’s latest threats, but its Permanent Secretary, Sonny Echono, said in December 2021 that the government signed most of the past agreements under duress.
It is unclear where this will fall, but ASUU will likely declare an indefinite strike if the Federal Government does not blink on this week’s threats.
ASUU and the government’s game of cat and mouse is so old now that even if they resolve this crisis without a strike, they will be back to doing this same dance at some point in the not-too-distant future.
Something clearly needs to change or we’ll keep travelling back to 2009.