By Sunday Attah
Unionism in Nigeria is gradually turning into nauseating gangsterism and platforms of venting senseless grievances. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) ordinarily ought to be peopled by intellectuals or men and women of extreme candor.
In the past, ASUU was the voice and conscience of the nation. Each time they sneezed, government would catch cold. But all the reverence has dissipated in today’s ASUU on account of some characters that populate it, especially a few who mount leadership positions in the union.
Sadly, ASUU must accept the reality of its plummeting negative image in the eyes of Nigerians. Quite often, ASUU projects itself as an association with no focus, insensitive to realities and lacks coherence. It has truly lost its nobility. It is now famed more as a union which is either battling government for increased welfare or individuals, particularly, Vice Chancellors, who are their own colleagues, but elevated to certain higher positions of authority.
When they are fatigued by work, they plot strike; they spend more time plotting evil against their hard working academics and varsity administrators when they are appointed Vice Chancellors. They defame them, even where there is no apparent reason.
They dust up obscure and irrelevant issues. They embellish it with the balm of relevance and seek desperate attention. Unionism is uppermost on their cards and academic work or striving to achieve academic excellence is least on their minds. It takes the back seat.
The Vice Chancellor (VC), University of Ilorin (Unilorin), Professor Abdul Ganiyu Ambali is caught up in the web of the decay that defines ASUU at the moment. It is either the factional local chapter is throwing up misguided missiles at him or the ASUU University of Ibadan chapter is propagating a campaign of calumny against him, laced in frivolous allegations. It is a shame that ASUU, a supposedly venerated association is polarized; they cannot even provide effective leadership even in their small house.
ASUU—Ibadan Zone chaired by Dr. Ade Adejumo and the ASUU Uni-Ibadan local chapter chairman, Dr Deji Omole, are the lilies in the union. They have found accomplices for this unholy alliance in Unilorin in a factional leadership in the minority.
Since the episode of the sacked Unilorin 49 lecturers, these segments of ASUU have nursed an incurable grudge against Unilorin as a university. But its 49 members were reinstated years ago by the Supreme Court. But for Unilorin to have had the effrontery to challenge the audacity of ASUU, the union does not only hate the university, but has continued to battle every successive Vice Chancellor. They fruitlessly battled Professor Is-haq Oloyede of yesterday, when he was Vice Chancellor and others before him.
In same spirit, Professor Ambali is trapped by this meaningless vendetta between ASUU and the varsity. His refusal to the request by ASUU, Ibadan Zone, to bend the rules to enable the ASUU factions in Unilorin reunite with the national body has deepened the passions of hate. The legacy of industrial harmony on campus Ambali inherited and has sustained offends these isolated ASUU greatly. They want Unilorin returned to the path of lawless strikes, as done elsewhere. But Ambali resisted it.
So, at every given opportunity they throw punches at him, citing imaginary reasons. For want of anything tangible to hold against Ambali, ASUU-Ibadan Zone sometimes dabbles into the internal running of Unilorin; commenting on issues of internal discipline or faulting him for enthroning a serene and breezy atmosphere on campus for academic work to thrive.
Operating from this mindset, they have blinded themselves to anything positive the VC has accomplished in the varsity. While his impactful leadership resonates, elsewhere in Nigeria, the minority factional ASUU-Uni-lorin chaired by Dr. Kayode Afolayan and their soul mates in ASUU- Ibadan zone see nothing good in it.
Yet, this is the same Professor Ambali who earned a national honour with the award of the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for his outstanding and laudable achievements in the education sector, barely two and a half years as VC.
But had these disgruntled ASUU chapters decoded the scenario around them properly, they would have discerned that Unilorin has a tradition of academic excellence, which Ambali, like his predecessors has blocked ASUU from adulterating. Imagine the factional ASUU-Unilorin, comprising academics requesting Ambali to lower the criteria for promotion and his resistance to it sprouted fresh grounds of mudslinging against the VC. That’s the height of insanity.
When he was appointed VC, Professor Ambali’s publicized vision was to leave Unilorin a better university at the end of his tenure. He has fulfilled this vision by all ramifications’. But in blind fury, ASUU does not want to know that Professor Ambali has commissioned 16 projects since he became VC four and a half years ago. Another 17 others are in the offing, including a power generation plant, which he has partnered with a company from the United States for the varsity.
ASUU hates to know that under Ambali, there is a cordial relationship between the university management and all categories of Unilorin staff. His legacies are multiple. The modified and alluring architectural landscape of the campus; steeped in campus peace; built or renovated offices; re-equipped laboratories; a 24-hour power supply on campus daily; beautified sit-out joints for relaxation and priority to staff training are comforts denied ASUU-Ibadan zone. So, they hate to see it elsewhere.
ASUU of whatever chapter should know that with Ambali’s 652 megabytes, there is amazing internet capacity/facilities on campus that connect both staff and students to the outside world for online researches and learning. Students savour the pleasure of e-learning, as each is given PC tablet and through it lectures, assignments and curriculum are accessed online, which is a rarity in most university campuses in Nigeria.