Daily Trust (Abuja)

2 December 2013

Nigeria: Babangida to Govt - Threats Won't End ASUU Strike

Minna — The Federal Government's threat to sack striking university lecturers unless they resume work by Wednesday will not solve the crisis, former Military President Ibrahim Babangida told Daily Trust yesterday.

Education Minister Nyesom Wike last week issued a seven-day ultimatum to members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to end their four-month strike or lose their jobs.

ASUU leaders angrily responded, saying they would not be intimated into resuming work.

Babangida, who spoke exclusively to Daily Trust in Minna, said issuing threats was not an effective way of solving issues.

"Basically, I'll say both Federal Government and ASUU should apply knowledge and tactfulness in resolving this issue. Issues are never settled by threat and you need to settle quarrel in a tactful way," he said.

"For those of us who believein Islam, Allah (SWA) instructed his Prophet (PBUH) that if he wants to bring people into his religion, he should use his knowledge and tactics in talking to people.

"And I think this is what is supposed to happen between the Federal Government and ASUU. I am sure the members of ASUU are patriots; they have the interest of the students at heart because they too are parents.

"I am sure both of them can sit down together, talk as Nigerians, talk as patriots and as people who are concerned. Because at the end of the day, if that is not done, quarrelling and threat will not solve this problem. Apply knowledge and tactics in handling this problem."

The Federal Government's ultimatum came in the wake of a marathon meeting President Goodluck Jonathan held with ASUU leader early last month.

Following this, local ASUU chapters voted to end the strike, but the national executive of the union wrote a letter to the president setting out certain conditions for resuming work.

Those conditions include immediate provision of N200 billion grant for federal universities, payment of four-month salary arrears to lecturers, and review of the 2009 agreement in 2014.

Government said these demands were outrageous, and therefore issued the ultimatum for lectures to resume or lose their jobs.

'PDP defections normal'

Babangida also spoke on the crisis in the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) which led to the defection of five of its governors, saying this was normal in a democracy.

"What is happening is not the first time such a thing is happening to this country," he said.

"If we go back to 1959 to 60s political parties were in turmoil, some were breaking away and others were forming another political parties. And as recent as during the second republic, political parties have broken.

"I think this is one of the good things about democracy. The constitution allows us to form our opinion, to have an opinion and to spread such opinion. I think to me these things are normal."

He added: "We should learn to accept that this is the basic guaranteed right to accept the status quo or to decide. Once you accept that, it reduces the area of tension. It is my right to say no I don't like this; it is also your right to say OK. You are entitled to your own opinion; I am entitled to my own opinion. He's entitled to his own belief; I am entitled to my own belief. Once this common understanding is brought to the bear, then you have no problem."

Reminded that the PDP crisis led to the defection of five of its governors, Babangida insisted that this was still normal in a democracy.

"I told you this is not new. Awolowo, Azikiwe, Waziri Ibrahim, it all happened to them and for that it is good for democracy. In our part we are building a democracy in which at the end of the day, sanity and common sense will prevail and Nigeria becomes the beneficiary."

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