THE customers (they used to be known as students) are the biggest casualties in the ongoing industrial dispute between the government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASSU).
With potential employers insisting on a certain age grade for employment, those in the public universities are really at a disadvantage. Unfairly so. The job market is already tight, a certain class stratification is now coming into play since those who can afford it have for a long time moved (tempting to say fled) into the private university sector.
This is not the way to ensure social cohesion and peaceful coexistence in any country, it is guaranteed to build up resentment with potentially dangerous consequences.
We urge employers in all sectors to show flexibility in the requiting process so that the applicants from the public universities are not at disadvantaged for no fault of their own.
The present imbroglio is a reflection of the antediluvian industrial relations format that came out of the colonial experience. The time is long overdue to have a review.
Our industrial relations system appears to be trajected by strife. It has clearly not delivered the continuously increasing rise in living standards associated famously with the German consensus building model. The German model has delivered real gains for the least protected in every decade since the end of the second world war in 1945.
An endearing feature of the German model is the interpretation of negotiation “as a process in which all sides come out believing that they have received the lion share”.
The efficacy of this model contrasts sharply with the Nigerian model in which the unions have clearly being unable to stop the erosion of purchasing power parity decade after decade. The case for a rethink of the present system is clearly incontrovertible.
This strike should be speedily resolved. It should be the first step in the overall revamping of the entire system of higher education in Nigeria. Since the abandonment of the very thoughtful report of the 1962 Ashby Commission of Enquiry into the future of higher education in Nigeria, we have not done any systemic projection and review.
The consequences coming out of the inability to do a holistic reappraisal are painfully obvious, excruciatingly so! Its time to do so now “ with the fierce urgency of now”. Without an updated university system, the country will continue to be uncompetitive even in Africa. We therefore urge all parties to think of and put the interests of the students first above all else.