Friday 29 November 2013


 NLC, TUC and ASUU Must Begin Immediate Mobilisations for Mass Protests and Demonstrations 


The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) considers the threat by the Federal Government to sack striking academic staff of public universities unless they resume duties on or before December 4 as the height of President Jonathan presidency's creeping dictatorship.

This outrageous and provocative order by a supposedly elected government to University lecturers to resume work regardless of whether or not their demands have been met is reminiscent of the dark days of military despotism. Above all it demonstrates the regime's contempt and absolute disregard for the rights and interests of the working people of this country. No doubt, to implement this satanic threat the Federal Government will have to employ ruthless methods consisting of arrest and detention of ASUU leaders, mass sack of its members, proscription of the union itself and drafting of the police and the army to occupy University campuses ostensibly to maintain law and order!

Here we must quickly point out that it is not ASUU but actually the Federal Government and its obstinate refusal to invest in revitalising our decrepit public University system that is sabotaging the education sector and keeping students perpetually at home.

The Supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, while announcing this devilish threat said the Federal Government has met all its commitments and obligations with respect to the FGN/ASUU 2009 agreement. It must be that the ruling elite somehow believes that Nigerian people suffer from collective amnesia, otherwise how could a whole Minister of the Federal Republic utter such a blatant lie?

Everybody knows the current strike was caused by Federal Government refusal to honour an agreement on University funding and academic staff welfare signed with ASUU since 2009. Since this strike started four months ago, the Federal Government has rather consistently and under different ruse been presenting proposals that border on unilaterally renegotiating the agreement. Everyone knows that despite the consistent insincerity of the Federal Government and insults from Finance Minister Okonjo Iweala, Senate President David Mark and Benue State Governor Gabriel Suswam, ASUU has had to shift some ground on several occasions since the strike started in order to accommodate the Federal Government. Everyone knows that at the 13-hour marathon meeting by President Jonathan and ASUU executives and NLC and TUC representatives, the government stuck to its refusal to honour the 2009 agreement and instead presented proposals which watered-down the basic ingredients of the 2009 agreement but which ASUU graciously agreed to present to their members for consideration. Everyone knows that a decision on the President proposals would have been made by ASUU weeks before now had an unfortunate but highly-suspicious accident involving the convoy of Kogi State Governor Idris Wada not claimed the life of its former president Prof. Festus Iyayi while travelling for ASUU's NEC meeting.

Above all everyone knows that the so-called new demands which Nyesom Wike claimed ASUU is making are in reality not new demands but simple request that the Federal Government begins to implement its proposals so that University lecturers can be rest assured that this is not another ruse to make ASUU suspend its strike while government would again fail to honour its promise. President Jonathan proposed at the November 4 meeting to give N200 billion for 2012 and 2013 revitalisation of public universties. This is almost December and not a kobo has been released by the Federal Government. All ASUU is asking is for the President to demonstrate his alleged sincerity. Howeve the Federal Government's violent reaction to this simple request of ASUU only goes to confirm our fear in the ERC that the government right from beginning had no intention to honour either the 2009 agreement not any agreement at all that would mean spending to revitalise our collapsing public Universities just a fraction of the billions being daily looted by Nigeria's capitalist ruling elite and imperialist multinational companies.

We support ASUU's demand that none of its members be victimised for engaging in the strike. We also demand that the salaries and allowances of all academic staff withheld under the undemocratic "No Work, No Pay" rule during the course of the strike be paid in full.

Before now the ERC had warned of the creeping militarisation of the country under President Jonathan through the use of undemocratic polices and laws and more than once open use of armed police and the army to undermine the democratic rights of workers and ordinary Nigerians. We had earlier called on the labour movement to intervene with protests and demonstrations to halt the continued descent to civilian dictatorship. Already the government has demonstrated its intolerance of the democratic rights of lecturers with brutal clampdown of the protest actions of ASUU members at a number of universities a few weeks ago. Now as it appears, the government wants to intensify the attacks on the striking university lecturers. Should this be allowed to happen, sooner than later the entire workers, students, youth and poor masses of this country would be similarly attacked by the government. This is why it is important for the labour movement to act now.

We call on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and civil society organisations to give concrete solidarity to ASUU by immediately commencing mobilisations for rallies, mass protests and demonstrations all over the country in order to clearly demonstrate to the government that it would have the entire working class to contend with if it decides to go on with its threat to victimise striking University lecturers for simply fighting for the revitalisation of the public university system.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                        Michael Ogundele                             
National Coordinator                                                         National Secretary                            
07033697259                                                                    07066249160

Wednesday 13 November 2013

ERC Mourns Professor Festus Iyayi!

A Tragic Loss to the Struggle for Revitalisation of the Public University System

Press Statement
It was with shock that the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) received the news of the death of Professor Festus Iyayi in a road accident yesterday involving the accident-prone convoy of the Kogi State Governor Idris Wada. Two other leaders of the  Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) were according to report critically injured and receiving treatment at the hospital. Prof. Iyayi alongside others was on his way to attend a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of ASUU to discuss issues related to the on-going strike of the union.

This sad news is totally shocking and heartbreaking. We commisserate with the leadership and members of ASUU as well as families of the deceased and injured and all Nigerians who support the struggle to save public education.

That Prof. Festus Iyayi died on his way to ASUU NEC is a testimony to his lifelong commitment to the struggle for a better public University education system for the children of the working masses and poor in general. He was ASUU president in 1986, yet he remained a vocal critic of government anti-poor education and economic policies since then and was until his death a prominent member of ASUU's team negotiating with government the need to honour the 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement.

This is not an act of God. Prof. Festus Iyayi's death is avoidable. If our  roads are safe for travelling and Governors and other elected officials stop their habitual recklessness and disrespect for the rights of other road users, perhaps Prof. Festus Iyayi would still be alive today.

Regrettably due to the incurable corruption of the capitalist ruling elite and the profit-first mentality of the neo-colonial capitalist system of privatisation and deregulation Nigeria operates, road infrastructures and all other means of transportation like rail, sea and air are in such devastated, abandoned and antediluvian condition that it is now according to conventional wisdom often seen as nothing short of a miracle for Nigerians to transit daily by road, sea or air and then come back home safely. Needless to stress many lives are lost daily due to the dilapidated condition of road infrastructure but this scarcely makes the news since they are not prominent individuals. According to a report by the Federal Road Safety Corps, an average of 11 people were killed daily in road accident across Nigeria in 2012. The death occurred in  6,269 road traffic crashes.

Combined with this is the "big-man" elitist mentality of corrupt government officials like Governors, lawmakers and Ministers who once they assume the mantle of leadership immediately become uncomfortable with their old humble means of transportation and now junket about in convoys of ten cars or more, blaring sirens wildly and deliberately driving recklessly along roads thus terrorising ordinary Nigerians who supposedly voted them into office.

As expected President Goodluck Jonathan whose failure to honour a simple agreement signed with University lecturers since 2009 caused Prof. Festus Iyayi to embark on the ill-fated journey is one of the earliest mourners. We want no crocodile tears from the Federal government. More than ever before, Prof. Festus Iyayi's death imposes a heavy moral burden on President Goodluck Jonathan to honour the 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement in the interest of the revitalisation of public University education and respite for home-weary students.

The Kogi State Governor's convoy was responsible for this accident. According to records this is one accident too many by the Kogi State Governors' convoy. We demand appropriate disciplinary sanctions within the ambit of law for the driver in the convoy who was responsible for this accident. However while the driver is a small fry, the capitalist ruling elite comprising Governor Idris Wada and all other Governors and government officials who have penchant for long convoys is the main culprit.

The ERC demands abolition of convoys. It is an unconscionable waste of public funds. In a rational society where there is socio-economic justice, efficient and comfortable means of mass transportation and security of lives is guaranteed, there will be no reason for an individual to move around in convoy of several vehicles. The only reason public office holders have to go around in convoys is to screen and protect themselves from possible backlash from the hopelessness and mass misery in the midst of abundance which their neo-liberal capitalist economic policies have created in society. Over 100 million Nigerians are poor in a population of 170 million. Logically, the 1% who have created this unjust condition can only move about successfully with "adequate" security which long convoys provides. This to us stresses all over again the need for a revolutionary transformation of society.

While nothing can bring Prof. Festus Iyayi back to life, our commitment to the struggle to save public University education which he spent all his adult life prosecuting is one of the ways to immortalise him. All fighters for a better Nigeria take solace in the fact that Festus Iyayi at least left a positive mark in the struggle for a better public university education for the children of the working masses and the poor im general.

May he sleep well!

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                              Michael Ogundele                                  
National Coordinator                                                National Secretary                                
07033697259                                                            07066249160


IT IS A Sell-Out of Students to the State

Ever since the inception of the long protracted strike of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), caused by the failure of the Federal Government under the President Jonathan led- administration to implement the 2009 ASUU/FG agreement focused at revitalizing the education sector, the problem of leadership in the student movement and the ultimate need to fight for a radical leadership that can adequately represent the genuine interests of students across campuses has been posed all over again and again.

Abandoning the age-long principle of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) of always fighting all neo-liberal and anti-poor policies of government regardless of whether or not it directly affects students, Yinka Gbadebo (the NANS president) right from the beginning of the strike action of ASUU and without convening a congress or senate meeting where students’ opinion can be sought openly declared his support for the federal government using rather specious arguments that exposes the pro-capitalist and anti-poor orientation of the NANS leadership. Not only did the NANS oppose the ASUU strike in words, the national leadership has equally organized protests, media propaganda and deliberate spreading of pro-government falsehood all in a bid to break the strike and allow government to wriggle free of its responsibility to fund public education.

The present NANS under the leadership of Yinka Gbadebo has shown through its action to be an active pro-government agent by taking the side of the FG and using the resources of the state to attempt to sabotage the strike actions. This is totally contrary to a clear NANS position on the state of public education in the country as enshrined in its charter of demands. But it is clearly in line with bankruptcy of the student movement in recent times. It is bestowed upon NANS to stand at all cost for the interest of its members which are the entirety of Nigerian students. Ever since Yinka Gbadebo assumed office, the numerous challenges plaguing the Nigeria tertiary institutions and students in terms of the fight for the restoration of the students’ unions in various institutions, against victimization of the students, among others, have been deliberately neglected.

The NANS leadership has been carrying on with this pro-government assignment under the guise that they are representing the real opinion of students whereas no congresses or public meetings were called by the national leadership to allow students to collectively discuss and determine in a democratic manner whether or not they would support the ASUU strike. As the ERC has consistently explained, while students are understandably angry and frustrated due to their prolonged stay at home and consequential disruption of the academic calendar as a result of the strike, this is not the same and would not necessarily mean that the generality of students if given the chance to freely express their true opinion at a congress would therefore agree to give support to the federal government. This is because we are in a situation where a majority of the working masses, students and youths are already opposed to the anti-poor economic policies of this government as the January 2012 anti-fuel subsidy removal struggle demonstrates and would not waste any time in pushing for its overthrow were a bold radical labour leadership to exist. This is why throughout this strike we have passionately maintained that the pro-government stance of the NANS national leadership is for all intent and purposes the personal opinion of Mr. Yinka Gbadebo and his acolytes , not that of the generality of students.

However, in the midst of this political degeneration and pro-government outlook of the NANS, the ZONE D (Southwest) leadership has come out differently and on the side of the struggle to save public education. The zone has been the only one out of others that believe in this cause by not supporting the rightwing and pro-government position of the national leadership of NANS. In sharp contrast to the undemocratic methods of the national leadership of NANS, the zone D called a senate meeting where there was a debate over what attitude students should have toward the strike. It was at the end of this debate, which the ERC took active part in, that a decision to back the strike and compel government to meet ASUU’s demands was democratically taken. As the ERC has explained extensively before, supporting the strike action of the University lecturers and their demands is the most logical way to push forward the struggle to save public education and beat back government neo-liberal and anti-poor agenda to abandon public education especially considering the current weaknesses of the student movement. Unlike the national officers of NANS who glaringly argue that there is no need supporting the strike of the university lecturers and that of their counterparts in the polytechnics (ASUP), NANS ZONE D stressed the needful importance to join the campaign to save public education from total collapse and by this threw their overall support behind the striking education workers.

Needless to stress, we in the ERC have times without number applauded the Zone D leadership of Com. Monsuru Adeyemo for taking this stand and seeing beyond the perpetual darkness that has blindfolded the Yinka Gbadebo led-administration of NANS national officers. Nevertheless, we condemn in totality the award ceremony organised in Abeokuta recently by the Zone D leadership where excellence awards were given out to Yinka Gbadebo and many others who have been publicly involved in campaigning against clear pro-students’ interests and supporting the federal government against striking lecturers in obvious contradiction to the decision taken and approved at the Zone D senate meeting. As far as we are concerned Yinka Gbadebo and co are meant to be exposed and condemned for their pro-government compromises which are damaging to the struggle for proper funding of education instead of giving excellence awards. What NANS Zone D has done is not different from what is happening in the larger society where big time looters of our collective wealth are celebrated with fanfare. To be able to fight for our interests as students, we must start cleansing our ranks and movement.

The ERC believes that it is out of place for Zone D that has been in the struggle campaigning for proper funding of education sector and moreover has its own charter of independent demands to then organize a programme granting awards to the leadership of Yinka Gbadebo which has been antagonizing the Zone D and largely betraying the cause of the students’ movement for his own political gains. By these awards, the Zone D is sending out confusing signals as to its political fidelity and reliability in the struggle to save public education. It could be interpreted that the Zone D leadership while it is able to struggle against the anti-poor education policies of the government today can tomorrow unabashedly dine with the same government and its agents.

This to us is a betrayal of students especially at this period when students require a Zone D leadership that is able to fight uncompromisingly against all manners of neo-liberal and anti- students education policies. To be able to lead students to resist anti-poor policies, the Zone D leadership needs to be clearly differentiated from the right wing and pro-government characters masquerading as national officers of NANS but are busy compromising students’ interests. Already in apparent answer to President Jonathan’s recent call on Universities to increase their internally generated revenues, the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB) and the University of Ibadan (UI) have hiked acceptance fee to N45, 000 and N20, 000 respectively. These are mere signs of the bad times still coming. All students of Universities and other higher institutions (Federal and States) are to expect further increases in fees and municipal charges followed by general cuts in real and actual spending on capital projects. This is because both the federal and state governments have no plan or intention to implement any agreement that would lead to a situation where a large chunk of the funds they routinely loot would now be available to cater for the revitalization of our education system.

In this situation, the kind of student leadership that can boldly and adequately represent student interests without wavering and compromising is one built on a clear radical ideology that opposes all neo-liberal and anti-poor government policies and is ready to struggle at all times to build a fighting student movement that can beat back all these attacks. To have this kind of leadership, activists must now redouble the work of campaigning for a fighting, democratic and accountable student leadership starting from the local unions up to the Zone D and national levels of the NANS. It also requires putting to bear the power of rank and file students to reclaim the NANS and ensure that irrespective of the kind of leadership in place at anytime, the NANS as an organization of students is able to at all time defend their interests and not that of the government.

The generality of students must now be more prepared than ever before to make the NANS Zone D leadership accountable by demanding that they call regular congresses and public meetings where important decisions on policies and programs can be democratically discussed and agreed. It is not clear if the decision to give awards to Yinka Gbadebo and his cohorts was ever discussed at a Senate meeting or congress of the Zone. Presenting such a proposal to give an award to Yinka Gbadebo and his cohort at any proper public/mass meeting of the Zone D will undoubtedly raise serious opposition from rank and file students who correctly see the national leadership as unrepresentative of their interests.  The ERC urges student activists, progressive student unions and radical groups to build a movement to reclaim NANS starting by publicly and firmly opposing the Zone D’s awards and if possible ensuring a retraction of these awards which does not represent the real views of students of the Zone. We demand that the Zone D leadership convene a CONGRESS immediately to allow union representatives and rank and file students to democratically discuss this matter and other matters with a view to stopping the drift of the Zone from the progressive fighting tradition it only recently rediscovered.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                     Michael Ogundele
National Coordinator                                                       National Secretary