UNILORIN ASUU: Endless Face-off In The Ivory Tower
WHO will resolve the age long imbroglio among the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Ilorin branch? Besides, who could have thought that the crisis, which had dragged for over 15 years, during which some of the major actors died, would still be a relevant issue in the academic news today?
These posers and many more are covert developments threatening peace at the Ivory Tower, which a procured stability in its academic calendars over the period of the hostility seemed to have dwarfed.
But only a cursory dissection of the modus operandi of the industrial aspect of the institution, a favourite of many prospective University candidates, could truly depict some signs of friction among the members of ASUU.
At present, members of the chapter of the ASUU of the University are in two opposing camps. The development had been like that for the past 15 years and unless the two groups swallow their pride, it may continue like that for many more years.
Successive administrations, since the commencement of the face-off seemed to have benefited from it as they succeeded in embracing one group in a ‘Divide and Rule’ style to the exclusion of the other. The crisis, indeed, started during the tenure of Professor Shuaib Oba AbdulRaheem. What had then started as a minor rift between the ASUU of that era and the varsity authorities over the need for the local academic staff to shun the strike declared by the National body, has now snowballed into an intractable crisis. Already, there are five pending legal actions before both the National Industrial Court (NIC) and conventional courts over the issue.
AbdulRaheem’s successor, Professor Shamsudeen Amali had a relatively peaceful tenure, apparently due to the fact that 49 of the academic staff, who had supported the National ASUU’s directive by embarking on the strike against the interest of the then authorities had already been sacked. But when the Supreme Court ordered their immediate reinstatement in 2009, under the tenure of Professor Ishiaq Oloyede, who succeeded Amali, some of the survivors of the group, reorganised and retained Dr. Taiwo Oloruntoba-Oju as the Chairman of their own version of ASUU. Professor, AbdulGaniyu Ambali, who took over the mantle of leadership from Oloyede, is at present the Vice Chancellor of the institution.
Oloruntoba-Oju’s group, citing an award from the NIC, and getting the supports of the National ASUU said it is the legally recognised ASUU body at Unilorin. He had thus remained the Chairman of his group, when the likes of Professor Ayo Omotesho, (2001-2003), Dr Kola Joseph, (2003-2006), Dr Sa’ad Omoiya (2006-2009), and Professor Wahab Egbewole (2009-2012) had been chairmen in the other body, enjoying the supports of successive authorities. Dr AbdulRasheed Adeoye of the Department of Performing Arts, Faculty of Arts is at present the incumbent chairman under this group.
The institution now suffer from the dearth of external supervisors from other universities, required under academic stipulations to moderate undergraduate and postgraduate courses and assessments.
The development was said to have emanated from the sanction slammed on the institution by the national ASUU, through its National Executive Council, as a penalty for its alleged refusal to recognise its local chapter headed by Oloruntoba-Oju.
But speaking with The Guardian on the development, Adeoye said “the rumour” of non-moderation of examinations at Unilorin remained the greatest fallacy of the century and a cheap propaganda aimed at discrediting the institution.
This position was supported by Egbewole, a Professor of Law, who claimed to have “last week” served as an external supervisor at the Rivers State University of Technology.
According to Adeoye, “it is not correct to say that our academic activities are not being moderated by external supervisors. In fact, it is a lie put up to destroy the University. Before I emerged as the ASUU chairman, I had served for a period of two years as the Head of Department (HOD) of Performing Arts. There was no single programme we embarked upon that was devoid of external moderation, otherwise it would be described as illegal. We are not hooligans, but people who have respect for academic etiquette.
“After the Supreme Court ruling of the year 2009, and when they (Oloruntoba-Oju’s group) came back to the system, their case was like the Biblical 99 sheep and the lost one. The shepherd tried to bring them back into the fold, but the result was for these people to institute five different new cases against the university and us, including the one by the National ASUU. They made it difficult for genuine reconciliation.”
He said the University authorities canvassed prompt withdrawal of the cases instituted in the courts in order to engender true reconciliation, but alleged refusal by Oloruntoba-Oju’s faction to comply.
Besides, he accused the delegation of the national ASUU sent to broker the much needed peace of prejudice, adding that the delegation allegedly paid them an impromptu visit, whereas Oloruntoba-Oju’s group was duly informed before time.
Adeoye noted, “they stormed the campus in a guerilla warfare style. They even showed partiality before the proposed peace discussion. We asked them to no avail to take the cases out of court so that we could talk. Sometimes, we spent between six and eight hours in court over this issue. For how long are we going to continue like this?
“One of the bone of contention is that they want accumulated salaries over job not done. Besides, they want backdated promotion, which is a strange concept in the academia.”
On the reason for the non recognition of the leadership of Oloruntoba- Oju’s led faction, Adeoye said the recognition could only come if other members of Oloruntoba-Oju’s led executives were on ground as many of them had left the services of the University for greener pasture elsewhere, adding, “only Oloruntoba-Oju is standing and the relevant rule talks of a group and not one person.”
He added, “the truth is that, our friends want to stop exams moderation but they couldn’t. If they failed in 2001, why would they not fail in 2015? They accused us of being a lame duck union, but few days ago, we gave an ultimatum to the Vice Chancellor over a pressing issue. He quickly toed our line. We are into constructive unionism and not rascalism.”
For Egbewole, ASUU was veering off its area of usefulness if it is being used as an agent of disruption to smooth academic calendar. He added, “we had since 2001 taken a collective decision here at University of Ilorin never to embark on strike again and on that decision we are standing till date. If any splinter group is saying otherwise, how popular is the group here on campus? You are first an academic before being a unionist, so what is the joy of any academic if exams are not moderated? But the truth is that no single year ever rolled by without us having external examiners here doing their job. I think it is the new management that has given the splinter group a leeway. See, out of about 1,000 population of the academics here, I doubt if they are up to 30.”
In his views, Oloruntoba-Oju told The Guardian that the management of the institution since the period under review had often preferred a lame duck localised union, comprising of mostly the stooges of the Vice Chancellors. Besides, the ASUU factional leader queried the legitimacy or otherwise of the alleged monthly deductions from the source, check off dues of all the members of the academic staff “that are not in anyway remitted to the national ASUU.”
Oloruntoba-Oju, while alleging that the university authourities since the tenure of AbdulRaheem had been using money to induce a pocketful of unfaithful ASUU members to moderate exams at the institution, said the pressure to withdraw cases from courts by the rival group was cynical, adding, “their union has three cases pending against ours out of five, so, who should have the burden to withdraw cases?”
He noted, “the ASUU had once placed sanction on the University and it was re-introduced. Part of the sanction is that ASUU would not come and moderate exams at the institution. As expected, many of the external examiners refused to participate in the moderation.
“The situation here is that the University has not allowed the true union to operate on the campus. The NIC had declared as illegal the group of persons declaring themselves as ASUU. In fact, their election was outrightly nullified by the NIC. But unfortunately, the University management had connived with this group and declared them the ASUU recognised to operate.
The lawlessness has even been extended to ASUU members from the NEC because each time they are sent here, the University authourities often use security personnel to harass them.”
Oloruntoba-Oju while reacting to the moderation of examinations at the university alleged that the administrators of the University preferred the recruitment of impostors in the name of moderators, without relating with the national body of the union.
He added, “in this era of democracy, it will be impossible for any administration to insist on the fact that national ASUU will not operate on the campus of a Federal University. What are they hiding? There must be checks and balances. It must not be a feudal system. Do you know that our people are yet to be given their entitlements despite the Supreme Court’s judgment in our favour.
“They asked us to withdraw cases from courts, how do you settle out of court when the people you are supposed to settle with are chased out of the campus. Besides, out of the five cases, the other group, backed by the management, instituted three. If we withdraw the cases out of courts, then what are we going to settle?”
The Deputy Director of Information of the University, Mr Kunle Akogun said the University would not pass any comment on the rift between family members of the same destiny and profession.
One strong point no one can take away from Unilorin today is that it remains the most sought after Ivory Tower by admission seekers because of its penchant for running uninterrupted academic calen
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