• Gains of ASUP warning strike
• Why KadPoly, IMT, Ibadan Poly, broke ranks
• Our losses –Lecturers, students
By Gabriel Dike
Lecturers in our nation’s federal and state polytechnics went on what they tagged “warning strike” last week to protest the non-implementation of their demands including the 2010 agreement which is overdue for renegotiation since 2013.
The five-day strike by the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) has come and gone but it may take the polytechnic system weeks to recover from its impact, namely the disruption of academic calender.
This is because most of the polytechnics have just started their first semester academic programmes while very few are still battling with 2015/2016 academic session before they were caught up in the industrial dispute between the union and government.
This notwithstanding, the ASUP General Secretary, Mr. Anderson Ezeibe, insists that the strike is a big success because it forced the federal government to give assurance of its readiness to look into the issues under contention while, at the same time, it attracted public attention to the plight of the polytechnic system.
He disclosed that the National Executive Council (NEC) would soon meet to evaluate the impact of the five-day strike from all the branches before coming up with next line of action.
On the plight of students, Ezeibe told The Sun Education that the agitation is not for members alone but also for students and for the overall betterment of Nigerian polytechnic system.
“If you look at the issue of the HND/B.Sc. dichotomy, it has not been resolved. There is discrimination between HND and B.sc holders. Years after the agitations on this issue, the federal government has not come out with a policy on the dichotomy. We are fighting for the students. We are fighting to save the polytechnic system from collapsing.’’
Victimisation of members
In a related development, the current strike by ASUP has begun to yield result as the management of Federal Polytechnic, Oko, recalled 21 suspended lecturers within the period.
Ezeibe who confirmed this to The Sun Education noted that victimization of members in some polytechnics by their Rectors was part of what led to the warning strike.
They were sent on an indefinite suspension before the strike by the Oko polytechnic management, he informed. “The Rector had alleged that the papers they submitted for promotion were plagiarised but he failed to provide proofs.”
Other alleged victimization that ASUP executive members are complaining about include that of Osun State Polytechnic, Iree, where the state government sacked the ASUP branch chairman and sent the secretary on indefinite suspension, the sudden and unwarranted termination of the appointment of the union branch chairman of Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku, without following due process, the inexplicable stoppage of union check-off dues of Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, Adamawa State, by the management of the institution “These anomalies and other issues were part of the reasons that prompted last week strike,’’ he said.
Why Kadpoly broke rank
But not all the branch unions participated in the strike. They include those of Kaduna Polytechnic, where the chairman, Dr. Aliyu Hassan Ibrahim, alleged he was never invited to NEC meeting where the decision to embark on the strike was taken, nor was he communicated with after the meeting.
“Ideally, the national executives should have invited all the chairmen of the chapters before arriving at that decision,” he told The Sun Education during the strike. “I was not invited to any meeting and have not received any official letter on the planned warning strike.”
Giving the reason it treated Ibrahim with what appeared to be disdain, Ezeibe argues that ASUP NEC does not officially recognise him and others as branch chairmen. “Anybody claiming to be the chairman in any of those branches where we have leadership crisis, branches like Kaduna Poly, IMT Enugu, Ibadan Poly is an impostor,” he remarked in a chat on the matter.
Putting the situation in proper perspective, he explained that the tenure of the former executives at Kaduna Polytechnic had expired and they were due for election. But they conducted the election without the approval of the national executive council as stipulated in the constitution.
“The election at Kaduna Polytechnic ought to have been supervised by the Zonal Coordinator,” Ezeibe said. “They conducted the election without our knowledge. We have informed the management, Ministry of Education, National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and the security agencies on the situation at Kaduna Polytechnic. We shall apply appropriate sanction on those involved.”
Ibrahim who took strong exception to Ezeibe’s use of the word “impostor,” even though he was not particularly referring to him but speaking on a general note, insists that Kaduna Polytechnic chapter of ASUP was not part of the decision to go on strike, neither was the decision officially communicated to it, and so couldn’t have gone on strike on mere hear-say.
“It is very unfortunate that the General Secretary of ASUP would call me an impostor, that shows you the kind of people that are representing us at the national level. All I can say is that we were not invited, we were also not communicated officially by the national body about the strike, so there was no way Kaduna chapter would have joined the strike. That was why we decided to opt out.”
But he agrees that there are some unresolved issues between the branch union and the national executive council. “We have been having issues with the national body and they were here penultimate Thursday for reconciliation. If I am invited by the national body, I will go. But if I am not invited, I remain here. The most important thing to us is the congress of Kaduna polytechnic ASUP. We will continue to speak with one voice to make the national body relevant in the scheme of affairs of polytechnics.”
The Ibadan Poly story
As with KadPoly so with The Polytechnic Ibadan (known as Ibadan Poly) and IMT, Enugu. The reason Ibadan Poly did not join in the nationwide strike is because, like KadPoly, the institution have not had a functional union for many months now owing to internal leadership crisis which is said to have started in June 2016.
As we gathered, the immediate past ASUP executive in the institution did not elect successors when their tenure ended, purportedly because of the issues the union had with the management of the institution.
Investigation by The Sun Education revealed that two different executive members of the union emerged in the institution in June 2016. The bone of contention, as gathered, was the strike called by the leadership of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) in Oyo State in June last year over non-payment of salaries and the face-off between NLC and the state government over new education policy of the state that wanted to involve private partnership in the management and running of public secondary schools in the state.
The immediate past executive members of the union led by Mr. Kelani Ajadi, was said to have called a congress with a view to taking a final decision so that members of the union in the institution could join the strike.
But trouble started when some members of the union led by Mr. Isiaka Salawu firmly stood against the declaration of the strike by Kelani Ajadi-led executive, on the argument that the Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, did not deserve to be treated that way, after various measures he had taken to make life comfortable for lecturers.
Salawu allegedly claimed that their findings in other polytechnics revealed that Ajimobi had done a yeoman’s job, on the welfare of lecturers, and wondered why ASUP should join the strike without any good cause.
In a letter jointly signed by Ajadi and Najeem Adunola, and addressed to the Rector of the institution before the crisis, Ajadi said the strike was in line with the one declared by the state chapter of the NLC to press home labour demands, adding that joining the labour union would not in any way affect the marking of examination scripts and supervision of projects.
But Salawu-led parallel executive dissociated itself from the proposed strike, saying that there was never a time the NLC joined ASUP in any strike. The aggrieved members of the union described the action of Ajadi-led executive as null and void. They further alleged that the Ajadi-led executive had lost focus as proved by its willingness to ask the union to join the NLC strike.
The congress of the union which was held in the institution’s large lecture theatre then ended in a rowdy session as leaders on both sides tried frantically to gain the attention of the divided members. As soon as members were allowed into the venue of the meeting, two attendance lists were passed round to get their support.
After the dust had settled, a six-man caretaker committee led by Architect Kola Oladunjoye was constituted. In a communiqué signed by leaders of the two factions, they agreed not only to sheathe their swords but also to abide by the agreement not to speak on behalf of the union. Hence, when the strike came up last week, there was nobody to represent the institution.
Rumbles at IMT
As for IMT, a source said that the current ASUP branch chairman Mr. GOC Ugwuanyi, had some issues with the former Rector, Prof. Mike Iloeje, which led to his indefinite suspension. It later became a court case between him (with the backing of ASUP national executive council), on one hand and the former rector, on the other. However, under the watch of the current Rector, Prof. Austin Nweze, the matter was later amicably resolved between the feuding parties, following which Ugwuanyi was recalled from suspension. But a source said before he could return from the suspension his tenure expired.
But another source contends that his tenure is yet to expire although he is said to be too careful not to be seen rocking the boat under Prof. Nweze, said to be his kinsman, this, in appreciation of his magnanimity in bringing him back from suspension. There is also the argument that being a state-owned polytechnic there is a limit to which ASUP members can go in joining their federal counterparts to prosecute strike because you might have a situation where like the proverbial lizard and rat that went swimming and got themselves wet in the process, you might have the water dry off quicker from the lizard’s body than it would on the rat’s.
“If the state-owned polytechnics joined the federal-owned polytechnics to agitate for fulfillment of their demands, the federal institutions might get their demands met while their state counterparts might need to embark on a second strike to get their paymasters to agree to implement the agreements reached between the government and federal polytechnics,” the source argued.
With the strike over, both the active participants and onlookers are beginning to count their losses and gains. As for gains, Ezeibe has already counted them. Now the losses!
Some polytechnics students told The Sun Education that the strike, if allowed to become full-blown, would certainly have some ripple effects on their studies and therefore plead with the federal government to address the lecturers’ demands before it is too late.
James Ugochukwu, a HND student at YABATECH said the strike caught many of them by surprise and denied them the opportunity of drinking from the wisdom of their lecturers last week. Dele Adekola, ND11 student of Federal Polytechnic, Ede, Osun State, lamented that he had to leave the campus for an unscheduled visit to Lagos after the lecturers had announced that they were going to embark on a warning strike. “My parents were alarmed to see me at home in Lagos and wanted to know what happened,” he said. “Many of my colleagues were not pleased with the strike. Buhari administration should, please, look into our lecturers’ demands.”
The Chairman of the ASUP Branch, Federal Polytechnic, Ede, Mr. Komolafe Adeyemi agrees with the students who said they missed the opportunity of learning more useful things from their teachers last week. Adeyemi who lectures on “Professional Ethics”, “Office Management” and “Advanced Shorthand” in the Department of Office Technology and Management said he prepared to teach a very crucial topic “Introduction to Record Management” within the week but lamented his inability to do so due to the strike.
According to him, the topic was intended to give the students first-hand knowledge of how to ensure professional management of records with a view to maximizing their potentialities in both public and private concerns. He warned that unless they had extra classes to make up for the time lost it might affect the students’ performance in exam.
His colleague, Mr. Abdul Ganiyu Salaudeen, who lectures on “Quantitative Technique” in the Department of Business Administration and Management said he was supposed to teach “Linear Programming,” aimed at “developing students’ competencies in getting maximum benefits from available limited resources in any field or organization,” but he could not do so because of the strike.
Mr. Okobia Bishop Uche, Lecturer 3 in the Department of Science Laboratory, School of Science and Technology, Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro, said but for the strike also he would have taught his students “plant and animal taxonomy” (a topic on the classification of plants and animals).
But arguing that the strike was not meant to make students suffer, lecturers like Messrs Kola Ibrahim, Principal Technologist, Department of Computer Science, Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, his colleague, Leke Adebayo of the same department, Dr. Chika Ogonwa, Senior Lecturer, Language, School of General Studies, Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku, Mr. Morison Atuma, Lecturer II, Department of Arts and Humanities, School of General Studies, of the same polytechnic, Mr. Raphael Obouseh, Senior Lecturer, Department of Purchasing and Supply, Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Owerri, and Dr. Anayo Uhiara, Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Sciences, and ASUP branch chairman of the same polytechnic, insist that there is no academic ground lost by students during the strike that cannot be regained if only the government, both at the federal and state levels, is willing to address the issues that lead to strike from time to time.
-With reports from Clement Adeyi, Osogbo; Seye Ojo, Ibadan; Noah Ebije, Kaduna; Petrus Obi, Enugu; George Onyejiuwa, Owerri; Paul Osuyi, Asaba and Laide Raheem, Abeokuta