Trade unions always survive the stifling grip of capitalism because they pay themselves from the wealth they generate, unlike unions under private or public ownership, they always suffer the onslaught of the owners. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is a good example of my reference, no matter their resistance, their employers will always choke them even to the detriment of the collective good; a classical case of the piper dictating the tune of the dancers. General Sani Abacha once dissolved the leadership of ASUU and university management in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and appointed late General Mamman Kontogora, the no-nonsense military tactician as sole administrator – a move that helped halt the accelerated collapse of ABU due to incessant labour disputes that once enveloped the first premier university in the north of Nigeria. The same late Abacha sacked the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and appointed sole administrators – a move that also worked the magic as these unions almost choked Nigerians with their everyday strike actions that crippled economic activities.
Today, Dr Chris Ngige, Nigeria’s Labour minister has approved the registration of another body of academics to break the grip of ASUU, with this development, a wide crack has been created in ASUU as some of her members will certainly move to the new body. Another government wonder you would say. Named Congress of University Academics and the National Association of Medical and Dental Academics. With this crack, rivalry and ideological squabbles would be the resorts of these academic tacticians, everyone will strive for relevance and dominance, and amid this attrition fight, the government will act according to its whims and caprices.
From the world go, Teacher’s Union was meant to stand for teachers’ interests that include professional, social, and economic. The main mission of this union was to help improve the lives of those in the teaching profession, by voicing their concerns and visions. In addition, it was also meant to help improve the general standards of the schools in which the teachers work through quality management. It was also meant to support its members’ rights, democracy, and freedom but that ideal has been punctured and replaced with vested interests anchored mostly on personal whims, political interests, and other disguised motivations. In Nigeria, many have argued that trade unions present themselves most times as parallel government, the reason they close down schools at will without recourse to dialogue, with others accusing the unions of being dangerously partisans – declaring strike only during elections. ASUU on its part has always vehemently argued that, its interest is to fight for the maintenance of high standards in teaching and policy implementation in public schools. It also stands for setting high standards and professionalism in the staff in schools in order to improve education standards in public schools to make them more competitive. That it resorts to strike action mostly because of the insincerity of the government and her handlers. The only language that moves the government is when members of the union down tool, sadly, this measure many considered as retrogressive and archaic seem not to be working anymore as government has obstinately refused to yield to the demands of the unions.
As someone opined, what legacy would ASUU want to bequeath in the history of Nigeria’s educational journal? Would posterity stand in witness that those with the custodian of conflict management are caught helpless in her inability to manage it crisis with the government – forcing one to ask the place of highest learning for costs and benefits analysis, rational thinking if teachers can’t provide answers to choking problems?
What this portends in the long run, Nigerian public universities will now be at the helpless mercies of three idiosyncratic actors with baked vested interests. It‘s going to be a long rudderless fight, and like yesterday, the capitalists will always win- because it is their world against us.