Last week, students of three different universities in Ondo State blocked the Ilesha/ Akure expressway over the prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in the country.
The students who were from the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA) and Olusegun Agagu University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa (OAUSTECH), barricaded the road to vent their anger over their continued stay at home, forcing many motorists and travellers to be stranded.
They blocked the main entrance of the Institution, road block junction and FUTA junction, with Disc Jockey (DJ) playing recorded music.
It is therefore worthy to note that the ongoing protests by students in public universities if not properly managed, may metamorphose into another conflagration worse than the October 2020 EndSARS protest.
It would be recalled that from the 8th of October 2020, the protest under hashtag #ENDSARS started in Lagos and grew into large movement at various locations in Lagos and across the country principally targeted towards drawing attention to the ubiquitous incidents of Police brutality (Culture of Impunity) and poor working conditions of Police officers.
One of the demands from the protesters was the setting up of Judicial Panels of Inquiry to investigate cases of Police brutality. Lagos State Government obliged this request on the 15th of October, 2020 and set up the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry Into Victims of Police Brutality and other Related Matters, which was inaugurated on the 19th of October 2020.
Therefore, governments at all levels must be warned against allowing hoodlums hijacking the peaceful protest to score cheap points against the government and it is better to prevent a crisis than allow it fester.
It would be recalled that students from universities in the country, especially in the south west have taken to the major roads, blocking roads to protest the strike embarked upon by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other staff unions, which has crippled academic activities in the past three months.
The road blockage has caused discomfort for many road users and motorists.
Also, students union leaders across the country have warned that it would not allow Presidential primaries by political parties to take place in the Federal capital territory. This is not a threat that must be taken with kid gloves.
Speaking on the students protest, a Senior lecturer at the Department of History and International Relations, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Dr Adedayo Afe, said the protracted strike has plunged both students and parents into huge financial crisis and, serious setback for the students future.
“Whether it is going to turn to another EndSARS or not, nobody can really say, because in a crisis, we can only know the beginning, nobody knows how it will end. So, it is better to prevent it than to allow it fester. It is better for the government to do the needful and attend to the demands of the unions.
“Government is insensitive and is toying with the future of these students. When a student has to spend two years at the same level that is very unfortunate. Some of them paid for accommodation on campus, while others hired private hostels whose owners charge per year, not based on sessions. Some of their parents borrowed money to do businesses on the campus and are now in huge debts”, the Don said.
He however, admonished the students to be peaceful and law abiding, saying those who will be at the receiving end of the protest are the masses, not the elites.
He added, “a repeat of the 2020 EndSARS won’t be in the interest of anybody. What was the result of the protests then? A lot of lives and property were destroyed and nothing happened thereafter. So, whatever they want to do, I believe they should look at the implication for themselves, their parents and their families.
Former Deputy National President of Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Joseph Akinlaja, said the lingering strike by the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) shows that the country has failed to continue the tradition of prioritizing education as a tool for economic and political development, which was attained and maintained by leaders in the past.
“it is unfortunate that the government is increasing the level of illiteracy in the country. We know that education make people easy to govern but difficult to enslave. The insensitivity of those in government in the past 17 years to education is quite unfortunate. These strikes are impoverishing the people by limiting their access to education.
“That is what these terror groups are capitalizing on to have army of recruits who are very gullible and willing. How can we allow our children to be at home because of strikes on several occasions and the government will be comfortable?”
A lecturer and Researcher, Dr. Funmilola Mabel Ojo said Nigerians are heading towards another #EndSARS protest.
“This current ASUU strike may lead to another endsars protest in Nigeria if not urgently addressed. Since the government is adamant and ASUU is not ready to surrender this time because this strike will determine if ASUU always fight a lost battle.
Dr. Leke Ogunfeyimi said the students are not only protesting against ASUU strike. They are in Nigeria, they have been victims of the malevolence of the present regime. They, therefore, are protesting against malevolent leadership.
“They understand the plights of their lecturers. Some of them know what ASUU is fighting for. Revitalization of the system will also do them good. Therefore, they are protesting against the insensitivity of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Head of Philosophy Department, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Dr Layi Oladipupo lamented that the language the FG understood was demonstrations.
He warned that if the government was not concerned about the plights of the students and the lecturers and find solution to the strike, it may lead to riot.
“The language the Federal government knows is force. They rule their citizens with force and frugality and if the citizens too understand the psych of their leaders, they will take their destinies into their hands”, he stated.
On a final note, the Federal Government must be held responsible for not honouring its agreements with ASUU and for embarking on indiscriminate establishment of universities that the government is financial incapacitated to fund and it is high time it took education seriously.