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Nigeria
Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Time to halt the ongoing strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities.

We cannot expect these innocent students who have been locked out of the university system and denied their right to quality education to cultivate patriotic instincts. Why should they?

I am sad that a negotiation that took one of our most okay brains, Professor Festus Iyayi, is still lingering on.

Everything is wrong with the ongoing negotiation between the Federal Government and the Academic Senior Union of Universities (ASUU). No country’s educational system can develop the way of Nigeria. Never!

In 2013, our entire University system was closed for six months. In 2022, they have been closed for six months and still counting. Can all the Presidential candidates, please, approach ASUU and tell them how they intend to re-open our schools if they become President?

Collective Bargaining is not an ego trip; it is not supposed to be a platform to display rigidity, how much you know, disrespect for the other party’s values, and blackmail. It is not also a process for reaching an upfront disagreement, deadlock, or display of unreasonable positional and hardline tactics that foreclose rational behaviors.

Collective Bargaining, as the name implies, is entrenched in collectivism. It is a journey in which the driver and passengers should employ the joint problem-solving approach on the journey; if not, they will head for a crash. Crashing or deadlock is not supposed to be the ultimate aim anf outclome of a negotiation process.

Collective bargaining does not respond to coercion; the winner-takes-all, take it or leave it attitude. It is supposed to be a rational option-generating tool for building relationships and networks.

Above all, negotiating parties should look forward to signing a Collective Bargaining Agreement from the onset. The parties are expected to bear the principles of cooperation, collaboration, accommodation, and compromise. For parties to succeed in negotiation, the process requires flexibility, voluntarism, the preservation of the organization, this time the universities, and respect for bargaining partners.

Partners should strip the issues like the onion and take each superficial layer, finish with it, sign it off, and gravitate to the knottiest when the problems are complex and convoluted.

The longer the parties stay on the negotiation table, the more the parties become more positional and entrenched, giving room for shadow actors to hijack the process. Collective bargaining partners should understand that undue delay will lead to apathy on the sides of their constituents. The time value for money should also be a critical factor in considering the closure of a negotiation.

The more extended parties stay on the table, the more reduced the workers’ purchasing power parity, that is, the amount of Naira to the dollar needed to purchase a particular good depreciates. For instance, on January 12, 2017, Naira to the dollar was ₦312.90. On the same day in 2022, it had risen to N426.25/$. The inflation rate in 2017 was 16.5%, which rose to 17.71% in May 2022. The amount a worker would have spent to buy goods five years ago must have doubled in 2022, purchasing the same interests. If ASUU needed one billion Naira to uplift university standards in 2017, it would need triple that amount now.

If the previous agreement is not workable, the two parties should opt for a re-negotiation. Before the start of renegotiation, both parties must commit to the principles of no denial and no deceit. They should also apply the principled bargaining style that would give each party a face-saver.

At the end of the renegotiation, the agreement signed should be affordable, sustainable, and competitive enough to keep workers on the job. Once the agreement is signed the Federal Government should apply the third D principle, which is no delay in implementing the agreement.

If they cannot still work it out, there is a place for bringing in a third-party neutral they respect to help facilitate discussions between them.

If that still cannot work, then one of the parties should do the rational thing. Approach the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) or the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN).

We indeed cannot close the doors of public tertiary institutions in perpetuity. It is a double-edged sword that shall do none of the parties any good. By the time this war is over, most lecturers might have gone looking for greener pastures elsewhere. That would be at a cost to the Nigerian educational system.

Secondly, most of the students would have been lost to idleness and societal vices, which shall visit all of us with severe consequences sometimes and somewhere in the future, and in all ramifications.

Thirdly, it will not be in the Federal Government’s best interest that its workforce for tomorrow shall not be ready when needed because when they graduate, they will have crossed the employability ages by what most organizations advertise. This will be most unfair to our children. The time to halt the ongoing university strike is now!

Grace and peace!!!

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