How Iyayi’s Death DashedStudents Hope For Quick End ToASUU Strike

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Ilohzidane

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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.

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