The Academic Staff Union of Universities has insisted that the ongoing strike action by the union is in the best interest of Nigeria, despite plea from the Independent National Electoral Commission to suspend the action for 2019 election sake.
The National President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi who made this known ahead of the union’s meeting with the Independent National Electoral Commission, during an interview with The Punch, said that the strike would not be called off until the Federal Government acceded to the lecturers’ demands.
There have been calls on ASUU to end the strike in the interest of the nation and to enable university students and the National Youth Service Corps members to work as ad hoc electoral officers during the February and March general elections.
As a result of the strike, many institution have not completed the processing and mobilization of their final year students for NYSC.
The calls for the suspension of the strike became heightened last week when INEC raised the alarm that the face-off between the Federal Government and ASUU constituted a serious threat to the 2019 general elections.
Mr. Festus Okoye, a National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, has admonished the union, in the interest of democracy to suspend it strike actions.
He had in an interview with The PUNCH said the commission had convened a consultative meeting involving its Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, national commissioners and ASUU leadership on January 4 (Friday) concerning the ongoing strike.
“The national interest, the interest of our democracy and the reputation of Nigeria demand the immediate resolution of the issues that led to the strike and we so urge. It is next to impossibility for members of the NYSC to provide all the ad hoc staff needs and requirements of the commission and over 70 per cent of the ad hoc staff requirement in some states of the federation is drawn from students of federal tertiary institutions.
“Hence, the lingering strike by ASUU will no doubt have serious impacts on the preparations for the conduct of the 2019 elections. We therefore call on ASUU and the Federal Government of Nigeria to quickly and genuinely resolve the lingering impasse that has led to uncertainty in the education sector.” Okoye said.
But while confirming the invitation of INEC to the meeting, Ogunyemi said ASUU did not declare the strike with INEC, adding, “It is what they (INEC) will tell us that will inform our response.”
“Well, INEC has requested for a meeting. The INEC chairman has contacted us and we are willing to oblige them. So our own procedure is that since they have requested for a meeting, we will listen to them. It is what they will tell us that will inform our response. First of all, we didn’t declare the strike with INEC.”
“So, it is only by insisting on the best quality of education that we can achieve all those things. Nobody has the monopoly of national interest. ASUU has national interest at heart in going on this strike. It is not about national interest sentiment. It is about what we are willing to do about our demands.
“I’m sure the demand to call off the strike in the national interest cannot be the only grounds for the meeting and I don’t want to preempt the meeting. It is when we listen to INEC that we will know what to tell them. If I preempt that meeting, it will seem as if I am not a patriot.” He said.