Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Labour, has been called out by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), over his comments, last week that members of the union were demanding N1.3trillion for their welfare, when the rest of the country is suffering, saying nothing could be farther from the truth.
Emmanuel Osodeke, president of the university teachers’ body, said contrary to the Minister’s comment, ASUU was actually fighting to redeem the institutions and restore them to the early days, where they attracted both scholars and students from all over the world due to the quality of academic activities going on in them.
Using the same platform where Keyamo spoke last week, Osodeke told his host on Channels Television, show Politics Today, that it was strange that the Minister, hitherto known for his activism and being into the streets to speak for the people could take such a position.
Keyamo, who was on the same programme on Friday, had asked parents to beg the varsity lecturers to call off their strike, as the only solution to the strike action they embarked upon since February 14, which would enter its sixth month in six day’s time.
Accusing the teachers of trying to blackmail the government, to part with the whopping N1.2 trillion as the only condition to end the strike, he said it would be impossible for the government to accede to the demand as it would mean borrowing for that purpose.
“You cannot allow one sector of the economy to hold your jugular and blackmail you to go and borrow N1.2 trillion for overheads, when our total income is about N6.1 trillion, and you have roads, health centres to build, and other sectors to take care of,” Keyamo had said.
But Osodeke, pooh-poohed the position, saying: “For us as a union, we are not talking about ASUU. We are talking about Nigerian university system that has virtually collapsed in such a way that you don’t see students from all over of the world coming to Nigerian universities as students.
“You don’t see lecturers from all over the world coming to Nigeria to teach, while Nigerian lecturers and students are all moving in droves out of the country. That is why we are on strike. It is not about our welfare; it is about this system.
“Are we proud of this system? Will Keyamo, who had spoken, allow his children to school in Nigerian universities? That is the comical thing I saw when he was speaking and for me, why I felt so disappointed is this is someone, before he joined this partisan politics, he was one of those on the streets.”