NANS SENATE PRESIDENT SMART ADEYEMI’S CONDEMNATION OF ASUU STRIKE IS NOT THE OPINION OF NIGERIAN STUDENTS
On Wednesday 15th July 2009, Smart Adeyemi Senate President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) while conferring award on the Vice Chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) uttered damaging remarks on the on-going strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). He said the strike was not in the best interest of Nigerian students, called on ASUU to call off the strike and urged both parties to reach a truce in the interest of students. These remarks were aired on the news segment of Galaxy Television in the late hours of Wednesday July 15 2009.
We of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) deem it expedient to alert the public that this individual and his colleagues in the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) do not speak for Nigerian students and youths. NANS leaders have since stopped speaking and acting for Nigerian students since they abandoned their constitutional responsibility of defending the interests of Nigerian students to a free and functional education. NANS leadership has above all, broken all relationship with Nigerian students including students’ right to democratically determine the leadership and how they conduct themselves.
The remarks of Smart Adeyemi borders on condemnation of the ASUU strike and place the blame for the strike, which admittedly is elongating the years students will spend in schools, on traumatized members of the academic staff. His call on ASUU and Federal government to reach a truce is a fraudulent effort to sound like a reasonable arbiter in a dispute where a middle ground is impossible.
What we expect NANS to say or what older generations of Nigerians would have heard NANS saying in the 80’s when the association was vibrant is supporting the demands of striking lecturers and other staff Unions like SSANU and NASU while calling solidarity protest actions to force government to meet the demands. For us in the ERC, the demands of all the staff unions are genuine and worth supporting. The demands of ASUU for instance include adequate funding of education, genuine autonomy, academic freedom and better condition of service. These are demands which form the objectives and aims of NANS laid out at the 1980 convention where NANS was formed. According to NANS constitution, NANS must fight for these demands and collaborate with all organizations, groups and unions fighting for the same end.
But today, NANS has been reduced to a bunch of political opportunists whose only evidence of existence are the intermittent conferment of awards on fraudulent and corrupt political office holders and Vice Chancellors of higher institutions in exchange for cold, hard cash. It is on record that even while veteran government apologists and praise mongers could not touch Prof. Maurice Iwu with a ten foot pole, NANS conferred an award of excellence on him to the consternation of Nigerian students. And Nigerian students have not yet forgotten Reuben Abati’s shock (in “Was that NANS?” Guardian Newspaper) when NANS publicly supported former President Obasanjo’s third term bid.
Therefore, it is not gainsaying to say that the NANS leadership in its public condemnation of the on-going ASUU strike is acting a script carefully prepared by the Federal government as part of a comprehensive plan to break the strike and force striking lecturers back to the classroom. We therefore call on Nigerian students to discountenance the said remark credited to Smart Adeyemi. If NANS is really concerned about the interest of Nigerian students, instead of peddling government propaganda it should pitch its tent with the demands of the staff unions because these demands can reposition the education sector in the interest of Nigerian students and poor parents.
For us in the ERC, we shall continue to collaborate with Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) to organize more protest actions and solidarity demonstrations until the Federal government is prepared to meet the demands of ASUU, SSANU and NASU. The success of the July 14 protest in Lagos in which students from OAU, UNILAG, LASU, UNIBEN and UNAAB actively participated is an eloquent testimony that Nigerian students do not subscribe to Smart Adeyemi’s opinion. We therefore challenge him, if he feels otherwise, to call his supporters out to peacefully protest for their views as we have done on July 14 alongside with organized labour.
(1) We warn the Federal government to stop spending money on strike-breakers like Smart Adeyemi and co and instead meet the demands of ASUU, SANU and NASU.
(2) We condemn government threat to embark on “No work, No pay” if the strike is not called off. As far as we are concerned, these threats and intimidation will not work.
(3) We commend ASUU for rejecting the 40% offer of government. It is unfair for political office holders to allocate over N1.13 trillion to themselves as salaries and allowances (an 800% increase) while refusing to pay ASUU and other unions adequate wages. The amount needed to fund education up to 26% as well as improve workers’ living standard is not much, if government is prudent enough to invest our resources wisely.
(4) We condemn the duo of Sam Egwu Minister of Education and Dora Akunyili Minister of Information for mis-informing Nigerians that all the demands of ASUU except one has been met when in reality none of the demands has been met. We therefore call on both of them to immediately resign.
(5) We urge NLC, TUC and LASCO to call a one-day general strike to support the struggle of ASUU, SSANU and NASU for adequate funding of education as well as to re-launch the demand for N52, 200 new national minimum wage.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Chinedu Bosah
National Coordinator National Secretary
Education Rights Campaign (ERC) Education Rights Campaign (ERC)