The crisis threatening the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has deepened as the splinter group of the university lecturers’ union called Congress of University Academic (CONUA) at the weekend insisted that its immediate priority is a formal registration, accusing ASUU officials of corruption and lack of consultations in the handling of the affairs of the national body.
However, ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, has insisted that there is no split in the union, adding that his senior colleagues and comrades have continued to intervene in the matter in the last two years, with the hope that reason will prevail somewhere along the line.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with THISDAY at the weekend, the National Secretary of CONUA, Dr. Henry Oripeloye, identified corruption, lack of accountability, constitutional violation, lack of trust and highhandedness as the major cause of their grievances against ASUU.
Oripeloye who also denied being sponsored as was alleged in some quarters, stressed that the new body was fully out to correct all ills in the system and move the educational system forward for the development of the country’s education sector.
He expressed the hope that with their current move to obtain formal registration, nobody can stop the moving train.
He disclosed that one erudite scholar, Professor Biodu Jeifor, had approached the group to make peace but after the new union had explained its grievances, he promised to reach ASUU and get back to them.
“Things are not going well with the ASUU but right now we want things to be done properly within the union both locally and nationally. All the issues were tabled before Professor Jeifor and he promised to see ASUU and come back to us. He stressed that all the grievances would be addressed adequately especially the issue of N10million that was taken to the national body of the ASUU through fraudulent means from the OAU branch,” he explained.
He insisted that as far as the new body is concerned, nobody can stop them from being registered.
Meanwhile, the ASUU national president told THISDAY that there is no break-up in the union, adding that reason will prevail at last.
“There is no break-up in ASUU. What happened was that some individuals who were sanctioned for violating the union’s Constitution at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) decided to rebel against the union. Even some among those sanctioned have since served their terms and returned to the fold of ASUU-OAU. Any member sanctioned by NEC (National Executive Council) has room for appeal to NEC for reconsideration and, where that becomes impossible, to the National Delegates Conference (NDC). But these individuals turned their back against that window of appeal and started harvesting academics in three or four other campuses who have one problem or the other with the union. Of course, in the last two years, senior colleagues and comrades have continued to intervene in the matter. And we hope reason will prevail somewhere along the line,” Ogunyemi explained.
He disclosed that the issue of formal meeting with the splinter group was not up yet, adding that it can happen when the situation arises.
Ogunyemi said the group was in the best position to discuss their grievances.
“But what led to applying sanctions against some academics in OAU was the purported impeachment of the Branch Chairperson without following the procedure laid down by ASUU Constitution. We are still investigating those behind the crisis in OAU beyond the academic staff. However, from experience, we know that VCs and their agents are usually behind most of the attempts to cause confusion among ASUU membership across the university campuses. In fact, apart from OAU, the four universities mentioned in the current crisis (AAU, Ekpoma, FUOYE, Oye-Ekiti, FULOKOJA, Lokoja and KWASU, Malete) are institutions where we have issues with their VCs. Many past leaders of ASUU have contacted us about the crisis. However, we don’t think the time is ripe to mention their names. We shall release details on their efforts at the appropriate time,” he explained.
Some lecturers from five universities – Federal University, Lokoja, Kogi State; Kwara State University, Malete; Ambrose Ali University Expoma, Edo State; Federal University, Oye-Ekiti; and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, had unveiled new academic union for universities’ lecturers called CONUA.
Addressing journalists recently during the first stakeholders’ meeting of the new group held at OAU, CONUA National coordinator, Dr. Niyi Sumonu, had explained that the new group was formed because of the need for new approach in handling issues affecting universities across the country.
Sumonu had said the first mandate of the new union was to ensure stable academic calendar in order to improve quality of education in the country’s ivory towers.
“For standard of education to be very high, we need a stable academic calendar, we need to be able to predict academic session, we need to have innovations, which are difficult without continuity.
“We also need to be at tune with modern realities, our union would approach the matter of engagement with all stakeholders in an engaging manner to have a common ground for moving forward.
“Our union is not anti-government, if government and by extension, administrators of universities are doing well, we will let the world know and will quickly knock them, provide alternative constructive criticism and take them to task where they are not doing well.
“We will not wait for them to make mistakes before we intervene. We have vision and will provide ahead what can be done to have better results. If that is done we are sure we will have a better way to move forward.
“Members believe we should have alternative ways of solving problems, members have been contributing very well to the finance of the union, when we fulfill and do all that we need to do, financial constraints will be forgotten.
“We have been at this for over three years in Ife, we have been waxing stronger and members from other universities have been experiencing what we experienced here, hence, the decision to come together to form a national union,” Sumonu explained.
Asked if the union was not out to rival ASUU, CONUA National Publicity Secretary, Dr. Nwoke Earnest, explained that another key objective of the group was to “redefine academic unionism in Nigeria and is not ready to join issues with any union.”
He explained that CONUA would prefer to proffer solutions to issues before they become problematic, adding that the essence of forming the group was to enhance interaction with the educational system without being confrontational but through a synergy that would involve all stakeholders.