In this exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Olanrewaju Oyedeji, the president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Biodun Ogunyemi, spoke on diverse issues affecting the Nigerian educational sector, some of which are: crisis in LAUTECH, arrest of former OAU vice chancellor and other issues. Excerpts:
PT: Recently, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU publicized a news release that the deadline for the government to meet many demands laid down by it is June 30th. What has happened so far?
ASUU President: Our negotiating team is meeting with stakeholders from various universities hit by crises across the country and we are discussing the demands. We hope to get things sorted amicably through negotiation.
PT: Is ASUU giving the federal government an extension of date and should the students be rest assured that there would be no strike at all?
ASUU President: Apart from the meeting between our negotiating team and the government, there is another meeting we are expecting which is an invitation from the federal government but we are yet to hear from them. Once we hear from them, we will meet and afterwards will take a position. I cannot assure that there will be no strike.
PT: How soon will this meeting come up?
ASUU President: We can’t really say but very soon, that is as soon as we get an invite from the federal government. We have been sending letters to remind them of the meeting too, although we have not met as NEC members to decide on the strike issue.
PT: ASUU has been claiming that one of the issues it is discussing with stakeholders has to do with LAUTECH but even after the claim, nothing is going on to resolve the LAUTECH crisis. Is ASUU working at all to see that the school reopens?
ASUU President: See, let me tell you, the issue with LAUTECH has to do with ownership. Nothing can be done except ownership question is resolved. You cannot have a university in a state and two states will be funding it. Osun state has said she has no money. So I think they should meet with Oyo state and through Nigerian Universities Commission, NUC find a way out of the crisis.
Oyo state should compensate Osun state through assets. It is time for Oyo state indigenes to call on the state government to take over LAUTECH. The institution has produced many top personalities and sadly for over nine months now they have been playing with the destinies of students. The issue is that of funding and funding will not be solved if ownership is not solved. NUC wanted to try same before now but it was halted. They should revisit all of these issues. It is not possible for LAUTECH to be in Oyo and Osun will be funding it. That is our position as a body. One state should own LAUTECH, not two so we can know who to tackle.
PT: You are preaching sole ownership for LAUTECH yet you have been hitting at Oyo state.
ASUU President: Yes, even though we are working to throw the gates open for students, let me tell you that Osun state has a university. Oyo state too has now gone ahead to establish another university but the best state to handle LAUTECH is Oyo state. Let them compensate Osun state as for the assets
PT: What is your candid take on school fees increment especially with the state of the economy? Would ASUU reconsider her stance?
ASUU President: Go and check Section 18 of the Nigerian constitution. It is only in Nigeria that we do things differently. Education is a right and never a privilege. If not for maladministration in Nigeria, education ought to be free. We have enough resources to really execute the policy but our government is not serious. We would continue to stand against fee increment. Recently, they launched one tax initiative. Let’s see what they do with the taxpayers’ monies.
PT: Yesterday ASUU came out to disown her chapter in Obafemi Awolowo University after it declared solidarity strike in support of the embattled former VC, Elujoba Anthony. Why did you do this?
ASUU President: That is not true. What happened is that we were never notified of the plan. We should have been notified. We cannot approve such. They (executive) did not even follow due process in their emergence. They chased away the elected executives but did not even inform the National Executive Council when forming a caretaker committee. We cannot endorse such leadership. As for Elujoba, he is innocent to us until proven guilty. He is still our member and we respect him. The position we took was that we do not recognise the leadership that declared solidarity. We have a team working on that.