The Chairman of Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU,University of Ilorin chapter, Dr. Abdulwahab Egbewole, can be clearly described as a warlord in union politics. He was a one-time chairman, Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Ilorin branch. Egbewole was later appointed Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Ilorin, where he made his mark before his recent election. Egbewole, who runs a flourishing law chamber in Ilorin, granted this interview to select members of Kwara State Correspondents in Ilorin. Excerpts.
What are the challenges of not being a member of the national body?
There is practically nothing that we are missing for not meeting with other branches of the union. It is imperative to underscore the point that ASUU is organised at the level of branches. Everything starts and ends with each branch of the union. There is absolutely nothing that we lose by not associating with the national body.
Our strategy all along has been to take absolute care of the welfare of our members. We discharge the mandate as guaranteed by the constitution of our union. We have done this largely to the satisfaction of majority of our members and that has been our staying power. Consequently, all the issues that affect our members locally are adequately and promptly addressed.
If we look at the struggle that our members have undertaken in the past 12 years, in terms of consistent and unbroken academic calendar, it will be obvious that ours is real struggle for development. Constructive unionism is far more beneficial to the union, the system and the students who are the critical stakeholders in development of academic excellence.
The question we need to ask ourselves is how many struggles have yielded the desired results? It is settled that no matter how great the difference between parties, it can only be resolved by sitting at a round table. Agitation has never solved any problem. This is what ASUU Unilorin has realised for a long time and has taken the deliberate position of resolving issues amicably through dialogue. After all, we can always live together, it is just a matter of understanding.
What is the justification of the exclusion of Unilorin ASUU from the national body?
It must be emphasized that at no time was ASUU of Unilorin questioned nor suspended on any matter by the national body. The constitution of the union is very clear on the issue of suspension as it is of such great magnitude especially on the need to hear all parties before decisions affecting their rights are taken. By my training, I am also aware that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly provides for the principle of fair hearing before decisions are taken on anybody.
In this particular case, for the past 12 years, the national body of ASUU did not for once call or meet with members of ASUU Unilorin to ask questions about the happenings on our campus about what they heard from a few individuals. In any organised society, there is no where people will be alleged to have breached the rules and regulations without being invited to tell their side of the story before a decision can be reached.
In this particular instance, ASUU is a group of intellectuals which prides itself with rule of law. But it appears that the union is contented with merely accusing people in authority of authoritarianism, dictatorship and high handedness while in their own organisation, they breach their own rules with impunity. On the whole, I'll say without any fear of contradiction that there is no justification whatsoever for the purported suspension from the national body.
As the new Chairman of ASUU Unilorin, what are you doing to integrate the union with the national body?
By virtue of the constitution, the union is organised at branch level. It is clear that a union cannot have the national level without the branches. It must be noted that the branches can exist without the national. Be that as it may, it takes two to tango, and a leadership which is partial, biased and prejudiced cannot solve the problems of the union. Presently, the National ASUU has sued the Unilorin branch before the National Industrial Court in Lagos.
You will agree with me that the people at the national level are not interested in resolving the imbroglio because of their selfish reasons and unfriendly tendency. On our part, we are not having any disagreement with them at the national level. Whenever they are ready for dialogue, we are ready.side of the story.
What are your programmes as the new executive of ASUU of the University of Ilorin?
The first priority is to continue to maintain the peaceful atmosphere in the university by ensuring that our members' welfare are adequately protected by all segments of the university community. Secondly, we will ensure that the policy of what affects one affects all by ensuring that nobody suffers to get his/her rights.
Thirdly, we hope to engage our members intellectually by going back to those intellectually stimulating programmes like organizing public lectures, seminars, workshops, etc. that ASUU is known for. After all, to be more is to know more. We want to start by critically examining the Pension Scheme.
The revelations at the various probes on this scheme are mind boggling and there is need for our union whose members are in so many ways affected by the scheme to know about this scheme and how best their interest can be best protected.
We will also enhance the academic welfare of our members by resuscitating the moribund ASUU Journal to give our members a voice as well as enhance their opportunities. The Editorial Board will be picked from across the world and we intend to involve the best brains in all fields of endeavour.
The executive will embark on advocacy on all issues that affect us as a union as well as issues that affect the university system and the Nigerian state. We can only be truly intellectuals if we offer our views on such issues. Our policy is to cooperate, collaborate without compromising our union and our integrity.
What is your view of the Federal Government's introduction of the Integrated Pay roll Personnel Information System (IPPIS)?
I am not sure this is a well thought out policy. I say this with the greatest respect to the people involved in introducing the policy. A careful perusal of the university system suggests that the institution enjoys a lot of flexibility in terms of administration, mobility and engagements.
On this score alone, the policy is dead on arrival. Coupled with this is the autonomy that the university is enjoying and likely to enjoy. The government cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time. It is not allowed, it is unconscionable.