Following threats from the Federal Government, leaders of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday relocated from Abuja to their various campuses in readiness for expected crackdown.
It was gathered that President Goodluck Jonathan might no
longer be directly involved in negotiation with the lecturers because he is angry with ASUU leaders for three reasons, namely their contempt for the office of the President, their decision to issue new conditions and their alleged backing by some external forces.
Investigation revealed that after spending almost a week in Abuja for the resumption of talks, the ASUU leaders were left with no option but to go back to their various campuses.
It was learnt that the leaders felt disappointed that in spite of the fact that they had avoided making the negotiation talks a media affair, the Federal Government bungled the opportunity to wrap it up.
A top leader of ASUU, who spoke in confidence, said: “Our leaders have returned to their campuses. They were disappointed with the Area Boy or Agbero method adopted by the Minister.
“The military style of the Minister of State for Education will only compound the situation.
“So, we are back to our trenches as it was the situation during the military era. We are ready for the worst now.
“If the situation becomes uncontrollable, we will also go underground and resort to guerilla tactics.”
There were indications yesterday that the Federal Government might level sabotage allegation against the lecturers if they remain unyielding and the strike paralyses universities.
A senior government official, who confided in THE NATION, said: “We hope that they will not overreach their bounds, because what they have done in the last four months amounted to economic sabotage.
“If they continue to take the law into their hands by paralysing activities in the universities, we may try them for economic sabotage. This is also the extreme end the government may go too.
“Let them study the enabling laws to see what they have been violating. We are not yet disposed to wielding the big stick, but if the government is pushed to the wall, it will invoke relevant laws to manage the situation. We are waiting for what they will do.”
Top ASUU leaders were said to have been placed under security watch at the time of filing this report.
A different source said: “All the security agencies have been directed to protect lives and property on all the campuses nationwide, especially in the universities that have reopened.
“Union leaders are also under watch to prevent recourse to self-help, which may lead to wanton destruction of property.
“The government will not tolerate any intimidation or harassment, and any violent union leader risks being arrested. But those who restrict themselves to the confines of the law have nothing to fear.”
A government source yesterday said that President Goodluck Jonathan might no longer be directly involved in negotiation with ASUU to preserve the Office of the President.
A government source said: “We are trying to insulate the Office of the President from further negotiation with ASUU if at all the union will allow such or there will be room for such.
“We think relevant ministers and the Committee of Pro-Chancellors/Vice-Chancellors should be able to handle the rest of the talks/negotiation.”
According to investigation, the December 4, 2013 ultimatum given by the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, followed the directive of the Presidency.
The government source added: “The President is angry because he over-indulged ASUU leaders. It is only in Nigeria you see the President sitting for 13 hours with union leaders on any issue and at the end of the day, there will be no courtesy from the union.
“While the President was expecting feedback from ASUU leaders within 72 hours, they kept him in suspense for two weeks or more.
“And instead of feedback on where the talks stopped, ASUU leaders came up with fresh conditions when even during the negotiation, they admitted that some of the clauses in 2009 agreement cannot be implemented.
“The President is human. He now has every cause to believe that the strike action seems to have the backing of external forces seeking to bring his administration down. That was why he decided to come down hard on ASUU too.”