Akin Akande, Abuja
Apparently frustrated by the ongoing strike by members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which has entered fourth month, President Goodluck Jonathan has pleaded passionately with the union to have a rethink over their decision for the sake of the students who are the worst hit by their.
This was as he cautioned the union not to abuse the freedom of association and the right of workers to go on strike or even use it to the detriment of the nation.
The President noted that whatever the grievances the union members might have, keeping students out of school for four months is quite unpatriotic.
President Jonathan made the appeal when he commissioned the College of Engineering Complex in the Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), Ekiti State, a three-storey College complex also named after him.
He said: “I once again appeal to the entire membership of ASUU to pause and ponder on the adverse effect of their action on the future of the vibrant youths of this great nation. The collective destiny of tens of thousands of tomorrow’s leaders should not be held hostage to vagaries of labour disputes. As long as we are humans, as long as we are a developing society, this labour dispute must come up.
“I believe that labour has the right to go on strike, but in that strike, any action taken must be built on patriotic zeal. In as much as you can go on strike, you must be patriotic to our country. No matter how and what you feel about Mr. President and the Federal Government, I plead with ASUU that for the sake of our students, they should resume classes”.
Jonathan observed that, while four months would have been enough for the striking members of ASUU to drive home their point on the grievances they may be nursing, keeping the students beyond four months which is equal to a whole semester raises suspicion of an ulterior motive on the part of the union.
He said: “If it is a genuine strike, keeping students out of classrooms for almost four months, by that they have demonstrated to everybody that they have a case. And if the strike is motivated by some other interests, they have also achieved that by keeping students out of schools for more than a semester.
“I always says that even in the developed societies, we hear about labour dispute and there is no society, even the most developed that has provided the facilities for every worker.
“Our security services, the Police, the Armed Forces, Navy, Air Force and para-military, intelligent services are also operating in an environment that is not the best.
“If all of us should go on long strike because our environment is not optimum, then, definitely we can never get the Nigeria of our dream. So, let me use this unique opportunity that I am interfacing with our future leaders, our students, to plead with ASUU members”.
Promising that the Federal Government would continue to work with all Nigerians to build a better country for all and future generation, President Jonathan maintained that as long government had shown commitment to improving the qualities of infrastructure in the universities and the operating environment, ASUU should reconsider its stand.
He stated further that if students of private universities could get their Degrees within three and half years as witnessed in ABUAD, “it is unacceptable that students of public institutions are kept for extra one or two years”.
Congratulating the founder and President of ABUAD, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) for building for the country such a magnificent citadel of learning, the President said he was deeply humbled by the decision to name the College of Engineering of the institution building after him.
“It is often said that great minds live great history behind them and this. History is built on a very great vision. The vision of Aare Afe Babalola founder of this promising institution is a noble one,” he noted.
President Jonathan noted that historically, some of the greatest institutions of learning in the world were shaped by the vision, foresight and personal experience of their founders.
He described Babalola as a man of, “unassailable character, profound vision, an epitome of the highest ideals and a quintessential Nigerian patriot.”
On his part, Afe Babalola who recalled that the university built some three and half years ago was worth over N60 billion in private investments noted that with over 4000 students from 36 States of Nigeria and FCT, the institution is reputed to be the fastest growing private universities in Africa.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria said ABUAD is the second best private university in the country and the 14th best among all public and private universities in Nigerian, adding that his decision to invest in the education sector was informed by his firm believe that government cannot fund the sector alone.
Noting that the best universities in the world such as Oxford and Harvard are privately owned, Babalola said the naming of the College of Engineering of the institution after the president is in recognition of the immense contributions of the administration to education sector.
He also appealed to the President to intervene in the development of the Ekiti Airport, saying in spite of the over N600 million approved by the Federal Government for the commencement of the project in 2011, nothing has happened at the site of the airport.
Governors who were present at the event were Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo); Ramalan Yero (Kaduna); Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe) and the host governor, Kayode Fayemi.
Also in attendance were Minister of Police Affairs, Caleb Olubolade; Supervising Minister for Education, Nyesom Wike; Minister of State for FCT, Olajumoke Akinjide and Sen. Phillip Aduda (PDP-FCT).