Disquiet in KWASU over establishment of ASUU chapter
After about six years of peace and harmony at the Kwara State University, Malete, there has been some discontent of late.
Sources said the university, established by the Bukola Saraki government in 2009, was among some tertiary institutions in the state owing their staff months of salary arrears. It was said that KWASU's staff were owed for four months until the backlogs were reduced by half.
Also, since its commencement, the institution has operated without the academic and non-academic staff unions while students have not been enjoying their freedom of association in form of unionism.
Dissatisfied with the lack of vibrancy associated with academic unionism, 17 members of the academic staff held a meeting at E-Place Plaza, Malete on August 13.
The meeting, which reportedly started by 2.49pm, was said to have been attended by 17 members of the academic community, including the Provost, College of Information and Communication Technology, KWASU, Prof. Innocent Okoye.
During the meeting, protem officers for the new union were elected as follows: Dr. Dauda Adesola, Chairman; Dr. Shehu Salau, Secretary; Dr. Alao Ayotunde, Public Relations Officer; Mr Muhammed Danjuma, Treasurer; and Mr. Olayinka Olaogun, Assistant Secretary.
Adesola, in his acceptance speech, was said to have urged the members to be resolute in their determination to bargain for a better condition of service for their members.
While pledging the loyalty of the union to the university authorities and the Kwara State Government, he assured that the union would not in any way contravene laid down rules and regulations of the institution.
Okoye was said to have opined that ASUU had saved Nigeria's tertiary institutions from remaining as glorified secondary schools.
He was reported to have said that the new union was not a gathering for them to rebel, humiliate or criticise the school management or anybody but that it should be one that would address the welfare of the members.
According to him, ASUU has helped to upgrade and improve the standard of education in the country and it has not been all about strikes and chaos in the university system.H
e also reportedly pledged loyalty to the leadership of KWASU, the state government and the Federal Republic of Nigeria. However, the reaction of the university authorities to the formation of the state branch of ASUU has ignited a controversy.
The university management, in its reaction through a circular by KWASU Protocol Officer, Mrs. Hamidat Sulyman-Yusuf, on Thursday, August 20, informed the university community that it was aware of a certain group of KWASU staff allegedly holding clandestine meetings in what it called odd venues in Malate and in what it regarded as 'in the name of cultism or combative unionism.'
"The university wishes to warn all concerned that this (the union/meeting) is illegal under KWASU rules and no nefarious clandestine group, no matter what name it disguised itself, will be recognised by the university.
"The university only recently attained five years of peaceful and purposeful academic calendar. An acceptable legal unionism for students, academic and non-academic staff will be ushered in within an open framework with active participation of management and all concerned.
"No amount of effort by the handful of 17 staff that met outside the campus and held a cultists' meeting to create chaos in KWASU will succeed. The Police, Office of Safety and other security agencies have been put on alert to monitor these nefarious individuals and each of the 17 staff or any other who might be misguided is hereby warned.
"A time table will be published at the appropriate time for peaceful unionism. Some gangs are obviously sad about the peaceful nature of KWASU in the face of national difficulties and seek to cause disaffection with government. We must all ensure that they never succeed," it said.
Reacting, Okoye who acknowledged being present at the maiden meeting of KWASU's branch of ASUU, argued that it was not clandestine. He claimed that it was convened with the prior knowledge of the Nigerian Police and the National Headquarters of ASUU.
He claimed that the university community was invited and those who wanted to attend did so. He added that even before the meeting started, two operatives of the University Safety Unit were already at the venue. According to him, nothing was discussed save the election of officers of the union, which, he said, was carried out without hitches.
He also said the meeting was held during lunch time and that he, after the meeting, went back to his office to continue his work for the day.
"We are not cultists but just poor, law-abiding Nigerian workers trying to form a legitimate association for the protection of our fundamental human rights. If we are cultists, why not come and arrest us?
"But having said that, let me confess that I am happy at what is happening now in KWASU. For the first time, I am feeling that I am in a university. For once, an issue of common interest is being discussed and people are taking sides based on their interest.
"So, let the controversy continue. Conflict is needed for change to take place. And change leads to human progress," Okoye said. The Head of Department, Aeronautic and Astronautic Engineering, KWASU, Prof. Christopher Odetunde, said he was disappointed by the KWASU management's reaction as expressed by the circular credited to Sulyman-Yusuf.
He said he was disappointed that any peace-loving administration would address a peaceful gathering as that of cultists and an illegal union.
He stated that if the administration enjoyed controlling the goings and comings of the staff and students of the institution, it should then change KWASU to 'Kwara State Secondary School.'
Noting that KWASU is a citadel of learning for mature thoughts and cross-pollination of ideas, he stated that such a circular needed to be retracted, as, according to him, it dislocates the peace on campus.
According to him, those mixing the establishment of ASUU with going against the state government and KWASU administration need to have a rethink. He said the emerging unionism in the institution was part of change that Nigerians voted for in the last general election.
e added that such thinking was of the secondary school standard that was often set up for immature students and teachers for absolute control.
"Anyone can cause a university to act illegally but the law and the Nigerian constitution clearly protect freedom of association. Let no one think they can harass or victimise those that choose to associate legally for the mutual benefit of staff, students and administration.
"Establishment of ASUU does not bring a university to its knees if both administration and ASUU manage the system well. We don't need to be afraid of our shadows if there is nothing to be afraid of. There is nothing to fear but fear itself because everyone has legal recourse of defence," Odetunde said.
The Dean, School of Business and Governance, KWASU, Dr. Muritala Awodun, expressed sadness that the institutionís management released such a memo. He flayed the managementís handing of the development, arguing that supposing those who gathered for the meeting were cultists, the management was not tactical enough as it could not fight Ďcultistsí by writing to threaten them.
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