By Kunle Akogun
In another desperate attempt to truncate the steady academic progress being recorded at the University of Ilorin, the National Secretariat of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has unilaterally imposed what could simply be described as ill-advised, mischievous and vexatious sanctions on this flagship of the nation’s education sector.
Following a meeting of its National Executive Council (NEC) at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra state mid-January, the union sought to ostracize the University of Ilorin from the nation’s academic community, citing flimsy and baseless “acts of lawlessness, arbitrariness, violation of human and trade union rights, and persecution of loyal members”.
The union alleged that “contrary to the law and despite the ruling of the National Industrial Court, the university has continued to prevent the union from functioning on its campus”. It stated further that Unilorin “has also continued to forcefully collect check-off money from academics of the university in the name of the union without remitting it to the union”.
Having charged the university with these offences and convicted it on all counts, the union went ahead to impose the sanctions on the university administration. According to it, “For the duration of the sanctions, academic staff of the University of Ilorin will no longer enjoy the cooperation, collaboration or participation of academics of other Nigerian public universities, in (sundry) areas of academic and related activities”.
These include teaching, research and supervision of students; setting, moderating or assessment of examinations; external assessment for professional cadre appointments or promotions; sabbatical, visiting, part-time and adjunct appointments; accreditation of institutions, colleges, programmes and courses; collaborative research; attendance of learned conferences, society workshops, seminars and other related activities; peer review of journal articles and patronage of journals; and so forth.
As if the union is not contented with being the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge in its own case, it has also arrogated to itself the power of enforcer of these laughable sanctions while also spelling out ill-conceived penalties for violators of the sanctions.
From the tone and intent of its unilateral ‘sanctions’, it is clear that the National ASUU is deliberately pursuing a belligerent agenda, having failed serially in its bid to hijack the Unilorin branch of the union for its anointed gangs, who constitute less than 1 percent of the academic staff of the university. And this type of attitude is a clear threat to the ideals, which the University of Ilorin has built over the years. Unilorin’s credibility, as the bastion of academic stability in the country, is thereby being assaulted.
Since the ASUU-orchestrated crisis erupted in 2001, the union has consistently put up a belligerent posture, spurning all forms of reconciliatory moves. Its intention, since then, has been to destabilize the University of Ilorin.
The Union unwittingly exposed its main motive with its complaint that the university has “continued to forcefully collect check-off money from academics of the university … without remitting it to the union”.
It is becoming obvious that members’ check-off dues are the main grouse. For, in one breath, you claim you have suspended the Unilorin branch of the union and in another you still expect check-off dues remittance from the same suspended branch?
The call on academic staff of other public universities to boycott all Unilorin-based journals as well as the embargo on the acceptance of articles from Unilorin academics by journals of other universities for peer review and publication clearly shows the union as simply anti-intellectual fellows who seek to bastardize and politicize academic journal publications.
When has trade union membership become a pre-requisite for featuring in an academic journal? Or are we now to believe that any academic, who is not an ASUU member, cannot publish in an academic journal?
In the same vein, ASUU’s call on academics from other universities not to come to the University of Ilorin for sabbatical, visiting, part-time and adjunct appointments as well as the embargo on Unilorin academics to undertake similar exercises in other universities runs counter to the principle of reciprocity on which universities all over the world thrive.
Not only is the University of Ilorin a hot cake, for sabbatical, visiting, part-time and adjunct applicants, the management, as a matter of sustained policy, actively encourages its academic staff to go for these appointments even outside the country and they are widely accepted. Would these self-conceited unionists then agree to recall some of their members who are currently on sabbatical at the University of Ilorin?
It should be pointed out that this is not the first time these people would be exhibiting their anti-intellectual stance, as they have, several times in the past, disrupted semester examinations; petitioned the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, in 2002, over allegations that the university violated academic regulations and minimum standards in the training of its medical students; unilaterally banned external examiners from moderating the final year examinations and projects of Unilorin students in 2001; and serially embarrassed members of our academic staff who went for one engagement or another in a couple of universities. All these antics were aimed at arm-twisting the university and truncating its rising profile.
It is on record that the university administration has continued to broker peace between the local branch and the National ASUU with a view to promoting a peaceful campus and fostering harmonious management-labour relations.
Time without number, successive vice-chancellors of the institution, and the incumbent Prof. AbdulGaniyu Ambali in particular, have facilitated series of reconciliatory meetings but as soon as the issue of popular election is mentioned and the need for both parties to go to the congress and test their respective popularity in a popular democratic contest, the National-backed faction often baulks. This obvious aversion to popular election on their part, gave the administration the impression that these fellows have some other motives up their sleeves.
The university management is hereby calling on the Federal Government and all lovers of education in the country to call these fellows to order because they are transgressing the limit allowed by trade unionism. They should be told in clear and unambiguous language that they do not possess the power to sanction a federal University that is being run with the tax payers’ money, a University that has contributed, in no small measure, to the upliftment of the higher education system in the country.
Akogun is Head of Corporate Affairs Unit, University of Ilorin