Report Reaching us from www.leadership.ng Every effort to make ASUU call off its four-month-old strike had failed to yield positive results. Not even an intervention by the Vice President, Arc. Namadi Sambo could make the union change its mind. Even a N200 billion promised by the federal government was rejected by the union. They insisted that the government honour the 2009 agreement it entered with the union.
The 2009 agreement entailed that the federal government provide N1.3 trillion in a space of four years to improve infrastructures in the 61 federal universities across the country. By 2012, the government was expected to have released N100 billion and N400 billion in 2013. Informed sources said this was actually why the union refused to accept the N200 billion earlier promised the union by the government.
However, after several breakdown in negotiations, President Goodluck Jonathan stepped in and offered the union a new agreement which stipulates that the government will inject N1.1 trillion in a space of five years into the university system.
Though, inside sources said many ASUU officials were not really pleased with the new agreement because they felt government also failed to keep the 2009 agreement and were skeptical of government sincerity, Professor Festus Iyayi, a former president of ASUU urged his fellow comrades to at least give the government the benefit of the doubt and call off the strike.
After the meeting, and heeding to the advice of the former president, the current ASUU president, Dr Nasir Fagge promised to take the offer to his colleagues.
By Monday, all the various congresses of ASUU met in their various locations and deliberated on the protracted strike and the general consensus was that the NEC would meet on Wednesday where a final decision would be taken.
Hence, there was a glimmer of hope that the strike would be called off after the NEC meeting. But none of the students or parents saw it coming. Most parents were beginning to give a sigh of relief and even president Jonathan would have been relieved that finally, he was able to put an end to a strike that has lasted four months and was almost turning into an embarrassment to his administration.
Like every Nigerian who meant well for the university system, Iyayi was on his way to Kano to attend the NEC meeting when the bus he was travelling in was involved in an accident with the convoy of the Kogi state governor.
Immediately the news of his death went to town, ASUU suspended the planned NEC meeting, thereby dashing any hope of calling off the strike.
For now, none of the ASUU officials has spoken on when the NEC meeting would be convened.
Acknowledging the role of the late Iyayi, NLC president, Abdulwaheed Omar said, “He died in service because he was on his way to Kano for the ASUU NEC meeting and one could recall the role he played in our meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan last week as regarding the suspension of the strike.”
He said further, “Iyayi died on his way to Kano to attend a meeting as part of the process of finding an enduring solution to the ASUU strike. Others who were traveling with him are lying critically ill at the hospital.
“Professor Iyayi’s death is not only a blow to ASUU and the Congress; it is a blow to the entire country to which he committed his entire life.
“Iyayi was an activist to the core, often deploying his prodigious energy and intellectual prowess to the cause. As President of the Academic Staff Union in 1986, he set the tone and pace of ASUU protests, in spite of the overbearing military government. It certainly must be in appreciation of this that the executive of ASUU, had always thought if fit to involve him in negotiations.”
Some reports have quoted family sources as saying the burial of the former President of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), has been tentatively fixed for first week of December.
Some parents and students, who spoke with LEADERSHIP Sunday, said that the suspension of the meeting might lead to further elongation of the strike by university lecturers. They described the latest development as disheartening and devastating.
“It’s my hope that his death will spur ASUU leadership to honour him by finding a lasting solution to the strike even as I urge all those who are alive to do all they could with steadfastness and courage,” a parent, Chidi Amaka said.
Mike Odia, another parent, said that the new development had dashed the hope of parents, students and many Nigerians for a resolution of the action.
“As a parent, I feel very worried about this new development. Over four months down the line, we thought we were getting to the end of the strike until this unfortunate accident that claimed the professor’s life.
“We were happy when the president waded in and made a promise to the ASUU national leaders and they said they were going to study the offer. We thought this would have brought the strike to an end.
“But with this development, they have suspended their NEC meeting and one is not sure if the end is in sight.
“We only hope and pray that goodwill will prevail on the ASUU leadership to have a re-think while we commiserate with the families of the late professor,” Odia said.
A student, Stella Adeyemi, said that she had expected that by next week she would be returning to the campus.
“I am very sad about this happening. I am a final year student and we do not know what the fate of those of us that are in public universities are at the moment.
“We pray that as ASUU members reflect on the loss of Iyayi, they should also reflect on the over four-month-old strike”.
Another student, Ify Samuel, said that it was sad that ASUU lost one of its strong members, adding that the union was right in suspending the meeting.
She, however, called on the union to take immediate steps to call off the strike after the mourning period.