THE latest round of strikes by the Academic Union of Universities (ASUU), has once again reached a dead end. After protracted negotiations, which ended with the Federal Government offering a concession that totalled N130 billion, which the union rejected insisting on full implementation of the 2009 agreement it signed, no further positive progress has been recorded towards ending the stand-off.
Rather, both sides are pitched in guerrilla warfare. While ASUU accuses the Federal Government of sponsoring groups, including students, to protest against it, it has resorted to city-by-city protests, which are invariably suppressed by the police. Both sides are now engaged in media exchanges, with propaganda and political mudslinging freely used. Meanwhile, students have already lost the equivalent of one term sitting at home and waiting in vain for an end to the strike.
With the tussle now stalemated both sides are clearly at the end of their wits. They are looking for outside help. It is time for a credible, patriotic third party to step in and moderate the fight to bring it to an end.
This is the role required of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and its well meaning affiliates to play. We are, therefore, dismayed at the threat by the NLC, after its recent meeting in Kaduna, to call a nationwide strike over alleged Federal Government sponsorship of protests against ASUU. If they should carry out this threat, NLC will definitely not be contributing positively to this matter.
Labour should cast aside partisanship and wear the matured toga of an unbiased moderator, even though ASUU is one of their affiliates. There are times when, even an interest group such as organised Labour, can stand above narrow interests in the overall interest of the nation. This is one such opportunities.
We will recall how in 2011, Labour, including its former President, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Governor of Edo State, intervened to end that year’s round of bitter strikes to give the nation a two-year breather. Oshiomhole played that patriotic role in spite of belonging to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), a strong opposition party. This is the same attitude required to help the nation out of this logjam.
We call on the Federal Government, National Assembly, ASUU, NLC and selected eminent Nigerians to form a new team to mediate the rift and completely overhaul the educational system. They should produce a document that will form a new national roadmap.
Our educational challenges are now too tough to be left to the FG and ASUU alone.
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