By Kunle Akogun
Accord Concordia! That’s how the flamboyant Second Republic politician, the bombastic K. O. Mbadiwe, of blessed memory, would have described Wednesday, July 3rd 2019’s landmark move towards resolving the almost 20 years old feud between the University of Ilorin Chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Union’s national body. Following series of fruitful consultations between ASUU Unilorin Chapter, led by Dr. Usman Adebimpe Raheem and the erstwhile splinter group of the Union in the University, an agreement was reached to bring an end to the crisis and fashion out a way of bringing all academic staff of the University back under the same union moving forward.
Everybody knew that the entente would eventually come, as no situation lasts forever. What nobody, however, knew is how soon it would come! But that it has finally come is a welcome development and a great pointer to greater things to come.
The feud, which started in 2001 as a result of internal disagreement between members of the local Union and its then executive council, culminated in the suspension of Unilorin ASUU by the national body, which sided with the latter. Laced with series of litigations and other belligerent tendencies, the long drawn dispute led to the complete ostracization of not only the local ASUU EXCO but also the entire University by the national body of the Union, which accused the University management of supporting the local chapter. Things got to a head when, in January 2017, the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Union imposed sweeping sanctions on the University in a move aimed at crippling its teaching, research and community service activities. The sanctions sought to further ostracize the University from the mainstream of the nation’s academic community. According to the ASUU NEC, “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 professorial 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.
To be sure, the almost two decades long feud has never been in the overall interest of the nation’s educational system, which required the concerted efforts of all stakeholders to pull out from the abyss into which it has sunk over the years. Even though the University of Ilorin has resolutely soldiered on, in the face of the crippling sanctions, to make substantial contributions to the nation’s educational development, becoming in the process the toast of admission seekers and attracting the commendations of policy makers, the resolution of the feud would no doubt bring additional developmental strides.
There is no doubt that the crisis dragged on for so long due partly to the countless litigations employed by both sides. As it is often said, “jaw-jaw” is better and more rewarding than “war-war”. That is why many peace loving mediators in the crisis had consistently dissuaded both parties from the path of needless litigations because rather than resolving crisis of this nature, judicial verdicts in many cases, no matter the side the pendulum swings, have the tendency to exacerbate some disputes
This is why we feel highly elated at the turn of events. We commend all those that were instrumental to the peaceful resolution of this crisis, especially the incumbent Vice-Chancellor of the better by far University, Prof. Sulyman Age Abdulkareem, whose series of mediatory roles, since his assumption of office, have proved him to be a veritable pacifist. The efforts and sacrifices of the Chairman of the Unilorin Chapter of ASUU, Comrade Dr, Usman Raheem, towards the resolution of the crisis, are also worthy of commendation. So are the untiring mediations of the Unilorin ASUU elders committee as well as all former leaders of the Union. Also worthy of commendation is the leader of the delegation from the national headquarters of the Union, Dr. Ben Ugheoke, who brokered the peace talks that culminated into last Wednesday’s watershed agreement.
To be sure, this new development will go a long way in strengthening the existing peace in the University, as the pockets of suspicion between the “hawks” and the “doves” would eventually peter out. And our students will be the better for it! The entente is also expected to eventually lead to the reintegration of the University Chapter of ASUU into the national body of the Union. With this, it is hoped, the academics of the University of Ilorin will now be free to interact with their colleagues in all public universities in the country without any fear of molestation from overzealous members bent on executing the 2017 sanctions. The resolution of the feud will also place the University of Ilorin in the best position to avail other public universities in the country the secrets of its successes, especially how it has been able to achieve immunity from destructive strikes that have turned most higher institutions of learning in the country to crisis towers rather than the ivory towers they ought to be. Indeed, jaw-jaw is more profitable than war-war!
*Akogun is the Director of Corporate Affairs,
University of Ilorin