ASUP and COEASU Should Name a Day of Mass Action to Compel Federal Government to Meet their Demands!
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) fully supports the ongoing indefinite strike actions by the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and the College of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU). These strikes again show the failure of the federal government to resolve the lingering problems in education sector.
We call on the Federal Government to immediately meet ASUP and COEASU's demands so that Polytechnic students and their counterparts in the Colleges of Education can resume their academic activities which have been disrupted for months now. The demands of ASUP and COEASU are to improve the education sector most especially the polytechnic and Colleges of education sub-sectors that have suffered neglect by the government.
We note that the Federal Government has been largely indifferent to the agitations of ASUP over the past few months which has contributed to the prolongation of the strike. It is not coincidental that same indifferent and disdainful attitude is being applied by the Federal Government to the COEASU strike which started much later. President Jonathan's anti-poor capitalist government has nothing but contempt for public education most especially the Polytechnic and Colleges of Education subsectors.
The ERC believes that further expectation that this government of looters will do the right thing simply through dialogue is a waste of time. We therefore challenge ASUP and COEASU to name a day for nationwide mass protests to compel the government to meet their demands. The ERC is confident that if ASUP and COEASU jointly name a day of protests and embark on serious mobilisation towards it, the response from polytechnics and Colleges of Education lecturers, home-weary students and concerned members of the public would be solid. Indeed if such a step is taken, we in the ERC pledge to do our utmost to ensure the success of the action.
We hold that the strike of Polytechnic lecturers which started much earlier than the ASUU strike since May 2013 has not enjoyed the same level of attention from the Federal Government as a result of two major factors:
One, as a result of the ease of exploration and vastness of crude oil earnings, Nigeria's neo-colonial capitalist ruling elite have long lost the motivation to build a truly industrial, productive and self-sufficient economy which could have given Polytechnic education its deserved place in society since its products would be required to drive the wheel of industry. Thus as far as members of the ruling elite are concerned, the Polytechnics can collapse if they like.
The second major factor responsible for the indifference which government has shown towards the strike of ASUP is the weakness of the union itself and the refusal of the ASUP leadership to build the struggle as a true mass movement to save public education. For instance there are many state polytechnics that have not joined the strike or pulled out and ASUP does not appear to be doing much to win back such institutions into the strike. Also save for occasional press statements, ASUP does not yet have a strategy to build the strike into a mass movement that will involve mass protests and demonstrations of polytechnic lecturers and students only which could begin to compel the impervious Federal Government to give attention to their demands. It was such mass protests called by ASUU, Joint Action Front (JAF), ERC and other civil society organisations that piled pressure on the Federal government to meet ASUU's demands.
Therefore, we call on ASUP to review its strategy and begin to revitalise this strike by calling mass protests and demonstrations of polytechnic lecturers an students. We make this call to ASUP because we believe that the union by its own recent experience should know full well by now that the elements occupying the seat of government at Aso Rock are capable of making promises they have no intention whatsoever to fulfill. Therefore only the force and pressure of mass struggle can win demands from this kind of impervious civilian dictatorship of President Jonathan. This is why we are calling on ASUP and COEASU to jointly declare a day of nationwide mass action that will involve rallies, protests and peaceful demonstrations.
We appeal to students, parents and the general public to back the genuine struggle of Polytechnic and Colleges of Education lecturers to save public education from imminent collapse. We call on the leadership of the National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS) and students unions in the colleges of education not to sit on the fence but to mobilize students for actions like press campaign and mass rallies and protests across the country. Nigerian students and the working masses must unite with ASUP and COEASU to fight for the full implementation of the agreement signed with the staff unions.
The ERC believes that if the demands of the ASUP and COEASU are met, it will lead to improvement in the education sector. However, it will require the democratic running of the entire education sector as well as ending of the system of capitalism and its replacement by a democratic socialist system for real and complete turnaround to be witnessed in the education sector as well as the polytechnic and College of Education sub-sectors.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Michael Ogundele
National Coordinator National Secretary