The President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, on Tuesday, slammed the Federal Government for failing to prioritise education in Nigeria, stating that the woes bedeviling the sector will not end until the ruling elite are forced to train their children in public schools.
Osodeke, while dismissing the two-week ultimatum issued to ministers by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to end the strike, stated that ASUU had concluded negotiations with the government and was only waiting for the ministers to sign the agreement reached with the university lecturers.
The ASUU President, while decrying the brain drain in the education sector, noted that Nigeria is also losing its professionals in the medical line to other countries.
Osodeke, while featuring on Today Today, a current affairs programme on Channels Television, said the lecturers were ready to return to the classrooms as long as the government fulfils its part of the bargain.
On Buhari’s ultimatum, he said, “As a union, we also look at history – look at past precedents, until the issues are resolved, I don’t believe we…this will not even make any difference because this is not the first ultimatum given on this strike. Remember, when the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council met with the President on the 1st of February, they also set up a three-man committee to quickly resolve this issue within one month; and that was the Chief of Staff (to the President), the Minister of Labour (Employment and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige) and the Minister of Education (Adamu Adamu). That committee didn’t invite us for a meeting until we rolled over the strike in May, that was when they invited us for a meeting. The NLC issued an ultimatum and that committee called a meeting.”
Osodeke recalled that after the negotiation, ASUU gave the government six weeks. “That was 22nd of May, we are (now) in July. We agreed on six weeks. That has expired, nothing happened. Now, (it is) another two weeks. Where we are, if we are serious, if we really want to resolve these problems, it should not take two days,” he stated.
The ASUU President went on the list other instances where the government side failed to report back or invite the union to scheduled meetings in the ongoing talks.
Reacting to Buhari’s “enough is enough” declaration on ASUU strike when governors in the ruling All Progressives Congress paid Sallah homage to the President in his Daura country home, Osodeke alleged that Buhari was being misled by those briefing him on the issue. “When people go to misinform the President, you (will) get what he is saying. When the Minister of Labour goes to misinform the President, you will see what he is saying,” he said.
The ASUU President recalled the government kept on setting up committees after committees, with their recommendations becoming inconclusive.
According to him, the lecturers are out to ensure improvement in the welfare and working condition in the academia, noting that what is happening in Nigeria is not recorded in other countries. “That is why a new professor earns less than N300,000,” he stated.
When asked about the average salary of a professor, Osodeke said, “The average salary of a professor at the bar today is about N400,000 a month – the highest rank, after you have spent about 10 years as a professor. When you are starting, it is about N300,000 as a professor. At the end, you earn N400,000.”