By Bisi Olominu
Forty days to the general elections in Nigeria, things seem not to be going on well. The ad-hoc staff for the elections are on strike and the end to the strike unknown. The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has cried out that the ongoing industrial strikes embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), may affect the coming general elections if not settled on time.
ASUU began its indefinite strike on November 5, which many thought would be settled in no time. But the strike has dragged for over two months and there appears to be no end in sight. To compound matters, ASUP has also been on strike since December 12, 2018.
The two bodies actions have created fear for INEC that the strike if not resolved within reasonable time time would create grave danger for the country and the electoral system. INEC is eyeing over one million ad-hoc workers for the election, which begins on February 16, 2019.
The bulk of these workers would comprise lecturers and students of Federal Government tertiary institutions nationwide as well as National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members.
But, according to the election umpire, this may no longer be because of the strike.
The lecturers at their last meeting with the federal government had vowed that there was no going back on the industrial action. At a briefing at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), ASUU National President, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi urged the government not to drag ASUU into the election.
He implored the government to, among others, “demonstrate serious commitment to implement the spirit and letter of the 2009 Federal Government/ASUU agreement and consider the implementation of the 2013 and 2017 Memorandum of Understanding it signed with the union”.
“All we are asking for is the improved infrastructural development of Nigeria’s public universities to be globally competitive,” Ogunyemi said at the briefing.
He said it was not true that the strike would affect the February 2019 elections.
ASUP too has vowed not to back down until its demands are met. The strike followed the government’s alleged failure to implement its agreements with the union since 2016.
According to ASUP leadership, its members too would not bulge, if the lingering issues between the union and the government were not addressed before the elections.
As it is now, the nation is in a grave danger and if urgent steps are not taken the coming elections may not hold.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, needs to train the ad-hoc staff, mostly sourced from higher institutions across the country, but less than two months to the coming elections, such has not been done.
Speaking on the issue, a university don from the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Dr. Gbenga Abimbola said that the strike if not settled on time is capable of derailing the 2019 elections.
” ASUU strike, if not resolved before the elections, will no doubt impact negatively on the polls. This is because both staff (especially academic) and students are used as ad-hoc staff in the elections.
“My concern is particularly on the senior academic staff of federal universities who are usually hired as returning officers for elections conducted by INEC at all levels. If members (professors) withdraw their services and refused to participate, it will impact negatively on the integrity of the polls.
“This is because they appear more likely to be neutral than others who may be sponsored by politicians. Secondly, they are already used to the exercise and as such require less training unlike fresh men and women who may be new to the system.”.
But in his reaction to the issue, the Vice Chairman, South, of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Barrister Bankole Oluwajana said that despite the ongoing strike, INEC is equal to the task to solve the problem.
According to him, in all human endeavours, there are always challenges, providing solutions to the ongoing strike would not be a problem.
“The ongoing strike will not cripple the election; it will be settled before the general elections. INEC is capable of tackling the problem headlong without affecting the election”.
The Publicity Secretary of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the Southwest, Mr. Ayo Fadaka in his reaction said the ongoing strike would not in any way affect the coming election.
He added that if the strike would in any way affect the election, INEC would look critically at the issue and find urgent solution to it.
” This is not the major problem of our party. Our major concern is the role of the security agents in the election. We don’t like them intimidating the electorate during the coming election.
“If this does not happen, INEC will look out for a way to solve the problem”.
The Publicity Secretary of All Progressives Congress, APC, Ondo State Chapter, Mr. Steve Otaloro assured that the strike embarked upon by the university lecturers would not in any way affect the 2019 elections.
He said that the strike has to do with the welfare of the lecturers, but INEC job is for individuals who want to boost his or her life.
“The job of INEC is a call to national duty, it concerns everybody and I don’t think that anyone will like to sabotage it”.
Otaloro assured that the ongoing strike embarked upon by the university lecturers would be settled before the February 16 general elections.
Leave a Reply