By Gabriel Dike, Fred Ezeh, Abuja, Noah Ebije, Kaduna, Sunday Ani and Chukwudi Nweje
The statements by the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, that security challenge rocking Nigeria is a global phenomenon and not peculiar to Nigeria and that parents should plead with members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), who have been on strike for over five months to go back to class because Federal Government does not have money to settle them and was not prepared to borrow to meet their demands have drawn angry reactions from a cross section of Nigerians including representatives of some ethnic nationalities.
We’re not their employers – NAPTAN
Reacting yesterday, the National Parent Teacher Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN) told the Federal Government that it was not the employer of universities lecturers.
Its President, Haruna Danjuma, said Nigerian parents do not have power over ASUU. He said the lecturers were employees of federal and state governments and wondered why the minister would ask parents to beg striking university lecturers.
However, Danjuma told Daily Sun that NAPTAN was ready to mediate between ASUU and government.
“I expect government to invite parents to a roundtable discussion on the way forward. We will look at ASUU’s demands and what government brought to the table.
“Yes, some of ASUU’s demands are genuine but government says it can’t meet all of them. If we are convinced of government’s position, I will go on my kneels to beg ASUU to accept what government is offering. ASUU should not expect the Federal Government to meet all their demands. Rather than ask us to go and beg ASUU, we expect government to invite us to mediate and by the grace of God we will resolve the face off.”
Admission of failure –ASUU
In his reaction, ASUU Lagos Zonal Coordinator, Dr. Adelaja Odukoya, described the position of the minister as a most irresponsible statement from a government official whose government have set up two negotiation committees to engaged and renegotiate with ASUU, but rejected the draft agreements of its own committees and continue to lie rather than come out with its position.
“It is an admittance that government of which this yesterday’s activist is a part of has failed irredeemably and has no business in government a day longer. It is a mockery and insult on the Nigerian people. It erases any doubt that these predators in government are interested in education and national development.’’
A chieftain of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Muhammad Yakubu said Keyamo’s statement that the All Progressive Congress (APC) did not promise Nigerians full security amounted to complete failure by the ruling party. He also said Keyamo’s statement that parents should go and beg ASUU was an act of arrogance to dodge their responsibility.
The ACF chieftain said he sympathised with President Muhammadu Buhari because, “he is going to see more of these denial and betrayals from his party members now, so I am not shocked, I am not surprised. This is because monumental failure is staring the APC in the face now.
“There is no way they can distance themselves and their presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu from the monumental failure in the last seven years.
“The statement on ASUU strike is an act of arrogance to dodge their responsibility in settling with the striking lecturers. It is government’s lack of sincerity that keeps the ASUU strike going. The poor handling of the strike without impetus makes the strike to linger.”
Govt abdicating responsibilities
President of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr. Pogu Bitrus described the minister’s statement that insecurity was a global phenomenon as a lame excuse.
“So, whether or not there is insecurity in other parts of the world is immaterial. This government has failed woefully to protect lives and property of Nigerians. Constitutionally, if it were to be in the developed countries of the world, the leadership would have resigned a long time ago because it is shameful the way Nigeria has degenerated in terms of security.”
On the position that parents should plead with ASUU to call off the five-month-old strike, he said it was an admission of failure.
“It shows the government is abdicating its responsibilities because these universities were established by government. The government should simply come clean to say it cannot manage universities; let the government devolve powers, face policies and hands off education completely so that states can handle education. The issue of parents begging ASUU shouldn’t arise at all; it is an indication that government has abysmally failed in that respect,” he submitted.
National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Ogbonnia agreed there was insecurity in other countries, but insisted that Nigeria’s case posed a threat to the corporate existence of the country and should not be compared to that of other countries.
“We have on hand insecurity that has grounded the economy, consigned people to abject poverty, deprived people of their right, made it impossible for people to be in school, and one where Naira to Dollar exchange has plummeted to an unpardonable level. So, when you talk about insecurity, that of Nigeria is the worst case scenario and cannot be compared with insecurity anywhere in the world. The insecurity that grounds the economy is the worst of its kind,” he said.
On ASUU, he said Nigerians were still expecting the presidency to make a statement about the number of vehicles that were sent to Niger Republic.
“It is absurd and painful that at a point when Nigerians are going through all forms of crisis arising from poverty, naira-dollar exchange value and others, the government is busy funding programmes in Niger Republic. Nigerians are angry that the nation’s resources are not being deployed in the right direction.”
He described Keyamo’s suggestion as the weakest form of negotiation and an admission of failure. “What has parents got to do with begging ASUU? That is the weakest form of negotiation. Bringing the ASUU issue to a domestic level where parents now have to beg them to go back to class is the worst and weakest form of negotiation.”
Loss of focus
Former President of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, who is also president of Credibility Group, described Keyamo’s statement as an attestation that the President Buhari-led government had lost focus.
He noted that the two most pressing issues facing Nigeria were insecurity and the lingering strike by ASUU, and that Keyamo merely confirmed that the government does not know what to do.
According to him, the best thing for President Buhari to do now is to resign as he does not know what to do.
He said: “Keyamo spoke like the member of this government that he is. He also implied that this government does not know what to do. The minister has exposed a secret that is in plain sight. The secret is that this President Buhari-led government is merely posturing and does not know how to handle the affairs of the country. Two of the explosive issues bothering the country are the education system collapse and insecurity in all parts…What the minister is asking us to do is to plead with any university lecturer we see on the road to call off the strike. The minister insulted us further by asking us to bear the insecurity because it’s global. This is akin to my security man asking me to bear the presence of criminals in the city because it’s countrywide. Where a person cannot carry out his functions satisfactorily, he should resign.”
NANS’ll not join parents to beg ASUU
President, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Sunday Asefon, said Keyamo may be right in his appeal, but cannot join the call on parents to beg ASUU to end the six months old strike because they are “in dark” regarding the contentious issues in ASUU/Federal Government rift, as well as where they are today regarding the renegotiation.
“I can confirm to you that we are in dark regarding this matter of ASUU and Federal Government. And that has been the reason for our repeated request to be involved in the negotiations.
“Howbeit, I am very sure that Festus Keyamo has his reason for such appeal. For Keyamo to say that, he has his reasons. ASUU is demanding for one or two things, which they have the right to do. As Nigerian students, we can’t join Keyamo to beg ASUU because we am not in the knowing of the contentious issues.
“We are planning to meet with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, this week to know where we are regarding this prolonged strike. Afterwards, we would schedule a meeting with ASUU to also hear from them so we can know what to do next or who to hold responsible for the prolonged ASUU strike.
“But most importantly, there’s need for all parties to drop ego or superiority contest, particularly from the office of the Minister of Labour and Employment.”