Few weeks ago, a new academic staff union emerged from the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, which for many years, has championed the demands of academic staff in the nation’s universities.
The new union, Congress of University Academics, CONUA, said it was breaking away from ASUU for a number of reasons. According to the CONUA National President, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, five universities have already signed up to be part of his group.
They are Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Federal University, Oye Ekiti, Kwara State University, Malete, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma and Federal University, Lokoja.
Labour unions breaking into two or more bodies is not new in the country.
ASUU itself was part of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, some decades ago before breaking away from the union.
Also, the apex labour body in the country, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, experienced a similar development with the coming on board of the Trade Union Congress, TUC.
However, stakeholders in the sector, especially parents and students are concerned because of some ugly developments they think it could bring forth in the course of time.
Development is unfortunate
The Second Deputy National President of the National Parents Teachers Association of Nigeria, NAPTAN, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo said: “Yes, I am aware, but it is unfortunate that this is happening to an academic association like ASUU.
What I mean by that is, an academic association should be able to organise themselves but unfortunately, they are not. There is a division at the moment, but don’t forget also that it could hinge on some remote interests. “Sometime ago, we all remember the issue of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS and the National Union of Nigerian Students, NUNS, they also fragmented too and they had two bodies at that time.
“I think they should try and do whatever it is to resolve the issue and come under one platform. I am sure there is some hand of Esau in it but the academic staff should at least look at everything and make sure that they are not fragmented like other unions.”
Misplaced priorities According to the NANS leader in Ekiti State, Mr Owolabi Temitayo, the country generally has misplaced priorities as far as education is concerned.
“I must tell you that it is very pathetic because, education is one of the important resources we have in our country today and it is the only method of building human resources but it is so sad that it gets just little attention. “The allocated budget for education is just too small compared to how rotten our education system is and how well it needs to be developed.
When we need to speak against the poor funding of education with one voice, we now have this house divided against itself. The fear now is that these two unions may be working at cross-purposes in order to slight each other. Don’t be surprised when you hear one saying ‘pull it down’, while the other is saying ‘raise it up’.
Will the unions fight for the interest of all in the sector? Time will tell.” It may be beneficial Some university students also sampled by our correspondents think the development could be beneficial in the long run.
Agboola Olawale John, a 400 level Physical Education student of the Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo, said: “It will bring competition among the academic staff in the universities. The failure of ASUU to address some issues led to the formation of CONUA.
The needless industrial actions by ASUU may come to an end. If that happens, it will be beneficial to the society at large.” A student of the University of Lagos, UNILAG, Oluchi Michael, noted: ”Let us give CONUA a chance. Incessant strikes have badly affected me as a student.
The school system has been terribly affected. My only fear is that the unions may begin to flex muscles and start working at cross-purposes.”