President Goodluck Jonathan today attempted to justify his government’s plan to sack lecturers in 61 universities, citing the refusal of the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to call off the five-month old action even after 42 of its chapters had opted out.As if the government fears a backlash, he offered this defensive line: "This is why we make bold to state that there is absolutely nothing dictatorial, draconian or undemocratic in the order by the Federal Government for striking lecturers to return to work or face dismissal.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doting Okupe, warned in Abuja at a press briefing that if the lecturers are now sacked, nobody should blame the government or accuse it of being dictatorial.
"The ASUU leadership refused to accede to the wishes of 42 of its 61 chapters nationwide, who voted in favour of the agreement with the President and the calling off of the strike; but in a surprise volte face presented government again with a new set of demands and considerations outside the terms agreed at the presidential intervention," Okupe said.
He argued that in view of the fact that the government had reached agreement with ASUU to make available N100 billion for the provision of infrastructure on campuses of 61 universities covered in the needs
assessment of universities, with a further commitment of another N200 billion over the next two years, in addition to N40 billion of the N90 billion Earned Allowances demanded by the lecturers, they were expected to reconsider their stand.
“This was despite the fact that the ASUU leadership in the meeting with President Jonathan failed curiously to articulate the basis of the calculation of the demanded N90 billion earned allowance, which has been on the table since 2009,” he said.
Okupe stressed that the government has shown good faith and commendable commitment by acceding to most of the demands of ASUU, calling the attitude of the ASUU leadership “a pre-conceived and calculated treacherous plot” aimed at undermining the Presidency and subverting the government of Nigeria.
“This is clearly a hallmark of a leadership that is determined to employ subterfuge in an attempt to hold government, students and their parents and other stakeholders to ransom in a reckless and irresponsible display of insensitivity, lawlessness and absolute lack of patriotism and even the fear of God,” Okupe said. Unfortunately, all this is perpetuated using unsuspecting but otherwise loyal, patriotic and responsible
members of ASUU whose families are also sad victims of this reprehensible and callous attitude of their leadership.”
Saying that the “Transformation Agenda” of President Goodluck Jonathan was visibly on course and has recorded much progress and outstanding achievements and indisputable achievements, he warned that “no sector, no matter how seemingly important, will be allowed to derail our collective destiny.”
Speaking at a caucus meeting of the Bayelsa State Peoples Democratic Party in Yenagoa at the weekend, President Jonathan described the ASUU strike as no longer a trade dispute but a rebellion.
The government plans to fire the lecturers on Wednesday.