As the strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) continues, President Goodluck Jonathan has described the teachers' action as subversive and no longer a strike.
ASUU has refused to call off its over five-months old strike despite the intervention of the president in a marathon meeting held recently at the Presidential Villa, lasting about 13 hours.
Jonathan spoke late Friday night at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Bayelsa State caucus meeting held at the Government House, Yenagoa and presided over by the party's state chairman, Col. Samuel Inokoba (rtd).
The president was reacting to a plea by the former governor of the state, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, on the December 4 deadline given to ASUU to call off the strike or be sacked.
Alamieyeseigha had noted that the same date was fixed for the burial of late Professor Festus Iyayi, who was killed by the convoy of Kogi State Governor Idris Wada on November 12 while on his way to Kano for a National Executive Committee meeting of ASUU on the same industrial dispute.
That ASUU NEC meeting was meant to deliberate on the latest government's offer after a meeting with President Jonathan on November 4 which went into the wee hours of November 5.
The meeting was called off in the wake of the author's death. Alamieyeseigha had appealed to Jonathan to reconsider the date in order not to be seen as insensitive.
While responding, Jonathan lamented that despite holding the longest meeting in his political career with ASUU leaders, the union refused to call off the strike.
He said: "What ASUU is doing is no longer trade union. I have intervened in other labour issues before now, once I invite them they respond and after the meeting they take decision and call off the strike. At times we don't even give them a long notice unlike in the case of ASUU that was given a four-day notice before the meeting.
"As you are meeting to resolve trade disputes, you expect the trade unions to get their officials ready. Having met with the highest authority in the land for long hours, was enough reason for ASUU to immediately issue a statement within 12 or latest 24 hours to state their position, whether they were accepting government's offer or not. And if they are not accepting, they state the reason why.
"But despite the fact that I had the longest meeting with ASUU in my political history, we did not start that meeting until around 2 p.m. and the meeting ended the next day in the early hours of the morning. As far as the government of Nigeria was concerned all the critical people that should be in a meeting were there, so what else do they want? "After that they didn't meet until one week, despite the fact that you met with the highest authority. It was unfortunate Prof. Iyayi died.
"The way ASUU has conducted the matter shows they were extreme and when iyayi died they said the strike was now indefinite. Our children have been at home for over five months.
"We didn't give them ultimatum it was the Committee of Vice Chancellors that took that decision, the supervising minister of education only passed on the decision. What ASUU is doing is no longer trade dispute but subversive action. "But like you rightly noted, so that we will not be perceived to be insensitive; we will consult on the deadline."
The federal government had on Thursday given ASUU a week ultimatum to call off its strike or consider themselves sacked.
Jonathan, however, thanked the Bayelsa people for their prayers and support when he took ill in London and was hospitalised. He stressed the need for stakeholders to be united, saying the key to political success is the unity of the people.
According to him, most of the states where PDP lost elections were as a result of division within the party.
"Any state where the PDP is united, it will win elections. I thank you for the unity in the state," he said.
The President expressed happiness that the state was no longer experiencing division among party stakeholders as was the order of the day before the coming of Governor Seriake Dickson.
"I'm happy that the division in other states PDP is not here. The unity is not automatic because as Vice President, I knew what I passed through.
"This is the first time this dichotomy among Abuja politicians and stakeholders in the state has been removed, and I'm grateful and I am happy the governor is leading it. I'm glad that the deadly virus has been killed.
"I'm against imposition though I am a leader of the party, but I believe I need to negotiate and consult for any appointment. "If you disconnect from the grassroots then you are gone as a politician and I thank you (the governor) for making this unity happen".
He also gave kudos to Governor Dickson for the physical development of the state. "Before now militancy and cultism were the order of the day, Bayelsa was not safe but with Dickson coming on board, that is no longer happening. Bayelsa was so unsafe that the small hotels were abandoned, this peace and unity is very important to me," the president said.