President Goodluck Jonathan Friday night poured out his mind on the hard stance of the officials of the Academic Union of Universities (ASUU) on the ongoing strike, describing it as “subversive”.
The lecturers under the aegis of ASUU have been on strike for five months now, pressing home demand for implementation of the 2009 agreements reached with the Federal Government.
The President spoke in Yenagoa, at the meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) state caucus held at the Government House and presided over by the state party chairman, Col Samuel Inokoba.
Former Bayelsa Governor, DSP Alamieyeseigha, had pleaded with President Jonathan to reconsider the December 4 deadline given to the lecturers to return to work or lose their jobs.
He called his attention to the fact that the burial of late Professor Festus Iyayi, is fixed for that date. Mr. Alamieyeseigha was of the view that the President might be seen as being insensitive should he insist the lecturers must go back to work that day.
Prof Iyayi, a former President of ASUU, was killed by the convoy of Governor Idris Wada of Kogi while on his way to Kano to attend the union’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting called to take decision on fresh offers made by the federal government.
Responding, President Jonathan could not control his emotion as he poured out his mind. He could not understand why ASUU would still maintain hard stance even after meeting with the highest authority in the land, saying it was no longer unionism being practiced.
President Jonathan said the meeting he held with ASUU officials was the longest in his political career.
The meeting held at the First Lady wing of the Presidential Villa, was also attended by Vice President Namadi Sambo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim and Ministers of Finance, Labour and Education and other relevant top government functionaries.
President Jonathan lamented, “What ASUU is doing is no longer trade union. I have intervened in other labour issues before now, once I invite them they respond and after the meeting they take decision and call off the strike. At times we don’t even give them a long notice unlike in the case of ASUU that were given four -day notice before the meeting.
“As you are meeting to resolve trade disputes, you expect the trade unions to get their officials ready, what was expected having met with the highest authority in the land for long hours, was for ASUU to immediately issue statement within 12 or latest 24 hours to state their position whether they were accepting government’s offer or not. And if they are not accepting they state the reason why.
“But, despite the fact that I had the longest meeting with ASUU in my political history, we did not start that meeting until around 2 p.m. and the meeting ended the next day in the early hours of the morning. As far as the government of Nigeria was concerned all the critical people that should be in a meeting were there, so what else do they want?
“After that they didn’t meet until one week, despite the fact that you met with the highest authority. It was unfortunate one of them, Prof. Iyayi died.
“The way ASUU has conducted the matter shows they were extreme and when iyayi died they now said the strike was now indefinite; our children have been at home for over five months.
“We didn’t give them ultimatum it was the Committee of Vice Chancellors that took that decision, the supervising minister of education only passed on the decision.
“What ASUU is doing is no longer trade dispute but subversive action. But like you rightly noted so that we will not be perceived to be insensitive, we will consult on the deadline”.
The Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike had on Thursday, directed the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to call of its strike latest by December 4.
The President used the occasion to thank the Bayelsa people for their prayers and support, calling on stakeholders to be united.
“Any state the PDP is united, it will win elections. I thank you for the unity in the state. I’m happy that the division in other states PDP is not here. The unity is not automatic because as Vice President I knew what I passed through.
“This is the first time this dichotomy among Abuja politicians and stakeholders in the state has been removed, and I’m grateful and I am happy the governor is leading it. I’m glad that deadly virus has been killed.
“I’m against imposition though I am a leader of the party, but I believe I need to negotiate and consult for any appointment. If you disconnect from the grassroots then you are gone as a politician and I thank you (the governor) for making this happen”.