By Jeleel Olawale
The vice-chancellor says his invitation was not directed to ASUU as a union “but to the academic staff including members and non-members of ASUU”.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, has directed its members to ignore the invitation for a meeting with the academic staff of the institution by the vice-chancellor, Eyitope Ogunbodede, a professor of dentistry.
The union described the scheduled meeting by the vice-chancellor as an act of “treachery,” insisting that anything short of its conditions for the disbursement of the earned academic allowance (EAA) would be resisted.
But the vice-chancellor has said his invitation was not directed to ASUU as a union but to the academic staff including members and non-members of ASUU.
Meanwhile, a faction of the union, under the umbrella of the Congress of Nigerian Universities’ Academics (CONUA) has said its members are free to attend the meeting, saying since it has not held a congress on the matter, there was no decision to embark on strike yet.
Newsmen had on Monday reported that Mr Ogunbodede had invited all academic staff to an emergency general meeting slated for Tuesday morning at the Oduduwa hall on the campus.
The meeting, this newspaper reported, was in response to the declaration of a “total and comprehensive indefinite strike” by ASUU on Monday over the unresolved controversies on the delayed disbursement of the EAA, which had been deposited into the university’s account since December 13 by the Nigerian government.
ASUU kicks against meeting
In a telephone interview with newsmen on Monday night, the chairman of the university’s chapter of ASUU, Adeola Egbedokun, described the vice-chancellor’s move as treacherous, querying when the university management adopted the strategy of meeting lecturers one-on-one to address issues.
According to Mr Egbedokun, the vice-chancellor has been busy working towards ‘balkanising’ the union by giving support to those he described as renegade.
He said; “ASUU is not taking part in any meeting with the vice-chancellor tomorrow or any other day. That meeting is treacherous. If not, why did the management engage the union in the first place to address the issue? Why didn’t the VC go straight to the general staff meeting on the meeting rather than engaging us?
“The vice-chancellor had told me in a conversation that he was only being magnanimous with ASUU to still allow its existence on the campus and confirmed that he was among those who formed CONUA. What that implies is that he would have loved to crush us but God didn’t allow him. But in all this, ASUU members are resolute.”
He said “it took the conviction and logic of reasoning of ASUU to ensure the payment of part of the owed EAA by the government, and that it would be counterproductive for those working against the interest of the union to seek to dictate how the byproduct of the same union is disbursed”.
I’m an ASUU member -VC
Mr Ogunbodede did not deny his involvement in the formation of CONUA, describing it as a product of resistance against “certain illegal steps taken by the former leadership of the union” over the selection process of a substantive vice-chancellor to succeed the immediate past substantive vice-chancellor of the university, Bamitale Omole.
He, however, said he remains a member of ASUU and “the highest paying check-off due member of the union.”
“So, If as ASUU you don’t want to honour the invitation, that is fine. You can tell your members not to honour the invitation, but if your members see that they want to hear the other side of the story, they will come. And this is an academic community. It’s not a marketplace. People are intellectual and they need information. Also, we didn’t come here because of unionism. We came here to work and the development of Obafemi Awolowo University. The issue of unionism is secondary.”
Mr Ogunbodede said the last time he met with the leadership of ASUU on the matter, the meeting spanned more than five hours.
“So, that ASUU is boycotting doesn’t mean that their members are boycotting. If you bring out forms tomorrow now for members to fill, everybody will fill it,” he added.
Meanwhile, the vice-chancellor has said so much ground has been yielded to ASUU on the matter including the approval of its computation method and the decision to pay the arrears of 2019/2020 instead of the formula prescribed by CONUA which he said would have taken of backlogs from 2013 academic sessions.
He, however, noted that there were lots of discrepancies identified in the 1,051 forms submitted by ASUU, saying some were either not approved by the heads of the departments of concerned lecturers or that the calculations are far higher than what should be due to some of the lecturers.
The VC said; “You know there are a lot of discrepancies already identified. For instance, five people can be teaching the same course but you are claiming you taught it alone. In such a situation, it is the HOD that will confirm but many of the forms are not authenticated. Aside from that, there are some of those forms that they have submitted that are so blank that you don’t know how they computed money for such people. No details. And there are people who actually were not on the campus in 2019/2020 that they gave substantial amounts of money to in their own computation.”
He said that was why the university requested joint verification after the institution’s audit unit had vetted the list.
“We had suggested that both ASUU and CONUA should be represented on the joint verification team but ASUU has insisted that it would not allow that. It is claiming the money is for ASUU when everyone knows that the funds are for all academic staff that deserve it based on the amount of the work done,” he added.
He said the other unions, Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) “have since shared their share of 25 per cent of the allowance”.
“So it is unfortunate that the academic staff whose case is less precarious compared to the three other unions are the ones that are unable to agree to an acceptable formula,” the VC noted.
Meanwhile, the chairman of CONUA on the campus who doubles as the national coordinator for the union, Niyi Sunmonu, said his members are free to attend the congress.
Mr Sunmonu said the faction may hold a congress to decide the next level of action after the meeting with the university management.
“Because CONUA has not held any congress to declare any strike, CONUA is not on strike, and therefore, members of CONUA are free to attend the meeting,” Mr Sunmonu told journalists.