‘We are hungry and tired’ – OAU union members cry out
By Gbenga Ilesanmi
The ongoing crisis rocking Obafemi Awolowo University is assuming a more frightening dimension. Some members of the striking unions, the Non-Academic Staff of University (NASU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU), OAU branch, have said that they are not only getting tired of the hard-line stance of their leaders on the strike, but have also turned to begging as a means of survival.
The two unions about a month ago embarked on strike to protest what they claimed was the non-adherence of the dissolved Governing Council of the university to the guideline on the appointment of the new Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ayobami Salami. They have taken the matter to the High Court at Osogbo, Osun State. As of now the case has been adjourned to October to enable the judges observe their annual vacation.
However, not satisfied with the seeming delay of the case, the leadership of the unions decided to make the school ungovernable, blocking the administrative building day and night. In response, the Federal Government dissolved the Governing Council.
This reporter observed that at the various car parks on the campus some persons who said they were non-teaching staffs in the university were reaching out to car owners for money to feed and transport themselves home. They claimed that the ongoing strike had made it difficult for their salaries to be processed.
Some of them who spoke under the condition of anonymity revealed that many of the members of the unions were now effectively being affected by the standstill and had begun to feel the pains financially.
One of them spoke thus: “We all thought that the matter was going to end quickly. Our expectation from the court was dashed. We couldn’t get a restraining order against the Council. Even the dissolution of the Council we called for, which the Federal Government answered, appears to be yielding no meaningful result. The truth is that we want a VC that will pay our allowances. We don’t think the new VC we are fighting against his appointment will pay since he was a part of the old administration. Look, many of us are tired; we have borrowed too much. It’s the reason you see some of us are appealing to members of the university community for financial assistance. With hunger and weariness now in the mix, I don’t think we can hold on for long.”
Another member who shared similar view expressed unhappiness with what he called “the stubbornness of our leaders”. According to him, “even the eminent traditional ruler in the town scolded them some days ago for being too rigid and lawless in view of the fact that we have already taken the matter to court. Look, others may pretend that they are okay, but some of us are hungry and fed up with this boring sitting at the Senate building. We are hurting ourselves. If our leaders will listen to us, this is the time to beat a retreat. The music is no longer good to the ears.”
At the Humanities Car Park behind the Senate Building, a woman who gave her name as Esther said she couldn’t endure the hardship occasioned by the unions’ action. She was seen soliciting money from car owners. Wistfully, she said that she couldn’t understand why the unions were “fighting the war of some professors to our own disadvantage”. She said it was not fair the way the time of students was being wasted and many of the workers subjected to hardship. “I depend on my salary. If it doesn’t come then I’m in trouble like now. Our union leaders should allow these professors sort themselves out while we return to work and get our salaries.”
A lecturer in the university also lent credence to the solicitation of money by some members of the unions. He wondered why the workers were subjecting themselves to suffering in the name of protesting an issue that did not even concern them. “That’s cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face,” he reasoned.
When contacted, one of the unions’ leaders said they were not ready to speak to the press on the strike, noting that the case was already in court.