HISTORY AND STRUGGLES OF ASUU AT A GLANCE
THE Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) grew out of the Nigerian Association of University Teachers (NAUT). The NAUT was formed in 1965, covering academic staff in the University of Ibadan, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, University of Ife, Ile-Ife and University of Lagos, Lagos. The NAUT’s orientation was mainly for improvement in the conditions of service of its members, and for the socio-economic and political well-being of the country. According to Attahiru Jega, NAUT hardly even took any noteworthy position on national issues.
Ideologically, it seemed to be a middle-class fraternity with viewpoints not too divergent from those of the post-colonial state. On the few occasions that it issued public statements, they tended to be conservative and sympathetic to the regime (Attahiru Jega: Nigerian Academics Under Military Rule, p. 8).
To see why NAUT became unsuitable for the development of the university system in Nigeria, it is useful to understand that the development of the university system was a function of the sociopolitical and economic direction of the country. Eskor Toyo puts it correctly when he places “the root of ASUU’s problems and struggles in the character of the society itself and the bad faith of primitive bureaucracy and crude militarism…” (The Roots and Significance of ASUU’s Struggles, P.2).
ASUU was formed in 1978, at the period of the beginning of the decline in the oil boom, when the country faced the consequences of the failure by its rulers to use the country’s-oil wealth to generate production and a social welfare system. Military dictatorship had eroded deeply the basic freedoms in the Nigerian society. Academic freedom and university autonomy were casualties of military dictatorship. The funding of education, and so of universities, became much poorer. These factors required a changed orientation of the union of academics- from 1980.
ASUU’s orientation became radical, more concerned with broad national issues, and the union stood firmly against oppressive, undemocratic policies of the country.
THE 1988 STRIKE :
The effects of World Bank (WB) and International Monetory Fund (IMF) imposed Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) conditioned the struggles of ASUU. The academic staff became impoverished due to non-implementation of the Elongated University Salary Scale (EUSS). But even if it were, it would not have addressed the problem of brain drain. In 1988, ASUU went on strike on the following set of demands:
✓ Setting up of a Joint Negotiation Committee between the Federal Government and the University Staff Unions: and,
✓ University Autonomy.
The strike led to the proscription of ASUU on August 7, 1988 by the then Military Administration of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. With Professor Jibril Aminu as Minister of Education, the Federal Government banned ASUU, seized all its properties, made announcements directing all universities to immediately pay the EUSS, backdated to January. ASUU responded by forming a new UNIVERSITY LECTURERS’ ASSOCIATION (ULA). But the proscription broke the back of the strike. Members returned to work. The President, Dr. Attahiru Jega and the Immediate Past President, Dr. Festus Iyayi, were detained and tortured. Passports of ASUU officials were seized. Dr. F. Dimowo (late) and Mr. E. Amade (Ag. Chairman and Secretary of the University of Benin ASUU respectively) were also detained.