The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ahead of its Friday’s meeting with the Independent National Electoral Commission, has said that its ongoing seven-week strike is in the national interest.
The National President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, who stated this in an interview with The PUNCH in response to the call on the union to call off the strike, said nobody had the monopoly of national interest.
He added that the strike would not be called off until the Federal Government acceded to the lecturers’ demands.
There have been calls on ASUU to end the strike in the interest of the nation and to enable university students and the National Youth Service Corps members to work as ad hoc electoral officers during the February and March general elections.
As a result of the strike, many public universities have not rounded off the 2018/2019 session, thus their final year students have not gone for the NYSC.
The calls for the suspension of the strike became heightened last week when INEC raised the alarm that the face-off between the Federal Government and ASUU constituted a serious threat to the 2019 general elections.
The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, had pleaded with ASUU to suspend the strike in national interest and for the sake of democracy.
He had in an interview with The PUNCH said the commission had convened a consultative meeting involving its Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, national commissioners and ASUU leadership on January 4 (Friday) concerning the ongoing strike.
According to him, the meeting would focus principally on the issue of the role and involvement of ASUU members in the 2019 general elections.
Okoye said, “The national interest, the interest of our democracy and the reputation of Nigeria demand the immediate resolution of the issues that led to the strike and we so urge. It is next to impossibility for members of the NYSC to provide all the ad hoc staff needs and requirements of the commission and over 70 per cent of the ad hoc staff requirement in some states of the federation is drawn from students of federal tertiary institutions.
“Hence, the lingering strike by ASUU will no doubt have serious impacts on the preparations for the conduct of the 2019 elections. We therefore call on ASUU and the Federal Government of Nigeria to quickly and genuinely resolve the lingering impasse that has led to uncertainty in the education sector.”
But while confirming the invitation of INEC to the meeting, Ogunyemi said ASUU did not declare the strike with INEC, adding, “It is what they (INEC) will tell us that will inform our response.”
He said, “Well, INEC has requested for a meeting. The INEC chairman has contacted us and we are willing to oblige them. So our own procedure is that since they have requested for a meeting, we will listen to them. It is what they will tell us that will inform our response. First of all, we didn’t declare the strike with INEC.”
On the call that ASUU should end the strike in the national interest, Ogunyemi asked, “Did you know that our strike is also in the national interest because we want to produce better graduates that can serve INEC better and serve Nigeria better? We want them to have better citizens that can understand the electoral process better. We want to give quality education that would curb all electoral malpractices.”
The ASUU president explained that all the goals he mentioned could only be achieved through the provision of qualitative education, which he said, informed the union’s strike.
He stated, “So, it is only by insisting on the best quality of education that we can achieve all those things. Nobody has the monopoly of national interest. ASUU has national interest at heart in going on this strike. It is not about national interest sentiment. It is about what we are willing to do about our demands.
“I’m sure the demand to call off the strike in the national interest cannot be the only grounds for the meeting and I don’t want to preempt the meeting. It is when we listen to INEC that we will know what to tell them. If I preempt that meeting, it will seem as if I am not a patriot.”
Ogunyemi, who described ASUU members as patriots, said, “We have national interest at heart in doing what we are doing and INEC also appreciates that. We appreciate INEC as much as INEC appreciates us. We will meet them and rub minds, whatever the two parties will need to do, we shall do.”
Also on the February and March general elections, the Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, has rejected the deployment of soldiers by the Federal Government in the state.
Amosun stated this on Monday night at the New Year service held at Oke-Ilewo in Abeokuta. He said that the elections would be free of violence in the state.
He also boasted that the governorship candidate of the Allied Peoples Movement, Adekunle Akinlade, would defeat the All Progressives Congress governorship candidate, Dapo Abiodun, in this year’s governorship election in the state.
The governor is backing Akinlade who defected to the APM after he lost the APC ticket to Abiodun at the APC primary.
Abiodun is currently battling alleged certificate forgery scandal.
The governor, however, called on the people of the state to make peace their watchword as the elections approach.
He stated, “Let us prove to the world that Ogun State is known for peace and a state which has produced a number of eminent personalities in the country.
“Let us tell them that we don’t need the service of the military and police for the conduct of elections because we are going to comport ourselves as peaceful people.
“And for the youth, don’t allow yourselves to be used as political thugs. Anybody who approaches you for such, tell him to bring out his children.”
He expressed optimism that the next edition of the event would be conducted by Akinlade and he (Amosun) would be invited as a former governor of the state.
Amosun said he had done his bit in adding value to governance, noting that the support he got from individuals and groups contributed to his achievements in office.
The ceremony attracted a number of fun seekers who were entertained by various artistes and musicians; traditional rulers led by Alake and Paramount ruler of Egbaland, Oba Adedotu Gbadebo.
Other notable personalities at the event included Sarafa Ishola, a former minister and Director General, Akinlade Campaign Organisation, Amosun’s wife, Olufunsho; the Head of Service, Olanrewaju Bisiriyu; Akinlade and Speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly, Suraj Adekunbi.
Meanwhile, fun seekers at various recreational centres in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, have urged the Federal Government to improve the economy and ensure peaceful elections in 2019.
They gave the advice in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria at the popular Agodi Garden and Shoprite among other recreational outfits on Tuesday to commemorate the New Year.
A father, Mr Taiwo Olusola, said the Federal Government and the National Assembly should work together to ensure timely passage of the 2019 budget.
He said, “It is not good for the 2019 budget to be passed in September for example; it will surely affect the economy negatively.
“Government should also try to improve the budgetary allocation to all the sectors of the economy, especially the agriculture sector to create more jobs.
“Every sector of the economy should be improved at least, to the barest minimum. When these are done, people’s lives will improve and the economy will become better.”
Also speaking, another fun seeker, Mr Mustapha Aliyu, urged the government to improve electricity supply and infrastructure development.
He added, “Virtually no business can thrive without adequate power supply; it will reduce the use of generators which causes a lot of environmental hazards.
“Government should also do its best to repair a lot of damaged roads in our society.
“We thank God at least, for being alive to celebrate the season, especially for the children, things shall be better.”
Also, Mrs Oyindamola Ademola, said government should make effort to prioritise peoples’ welfare.
“We want leaders who will love the people, treat us equally and desist from corruption, embezzlement and other evils. I also urge fellow citizens to sit up and work harder in this New Year. We must acquire more knowledge and think of possible things we can do to better our lives.
“We are very happy to see the New Year and thank God who shows us mercy and grace.
“In spite of the financial issues we had last year, we went the extra mile to see that the children celebrated and have fun,” she said.
One of the operators at the Shoprite’s children playground, Mr Adeshina Akinyele, also called on the government to create more jobs for youths to reduce the rate of social vices.
He also urged politicians to always keep to the promises they made to the citizens during campaigns and avoid disappointing the people.
“Government should give us the best this year. We must put God first, I believe when we put God first, we will have peaceful elections and peaceful society,” he said.
Akinyele thanked God for another festive period, pointing out that operators made brisk business and more profit in during the yuletide.