President Goodluck Jonathan, on Saturday, pleaded with striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to shift grounds and return to class for the sake of the students. “The collective destiny of tens of thousands of tomorrow’s leaders should not be held hostage to vagaries of labour disputes.” “The collective destiny of tens of thousands of tomorrow’s leaders should not be held hostage to vagaries of labour disputes.” Jonathan made the appeal while speaking in Ado-Ekiti, at the commissioning ceremony of the College of Engineering Complex in the Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), Ekiti State. SEE MORE AFTER CUT>>>>>
The three-storey college complex, which was commissioned by the President, was also named after him. Speaking at the commissioning, he called on the entire membership of ASUU to pause and ponder on the adverse effect of their action on the future of the youths. “The collective destiny of tens of thousands of tomorrow’s leaders should not be held hostage to vagaries of labour disputes. As long as we are humans, as long as we are a developing society, this labour dispute must come up,” he said. “I always says that even in the developed societies, we hear about labour dispute and there is no society, even the most developed that has provided the facilities for every worker. Our security services, the Police, the Armed Forces, Navy, Air Force and para-military, intelligent services are also operating in an environment that is not the best. “If all of us should go on long strike because our environment is not optimum, then, definitely we can never get the Nigeria of our dream. So, let me use this unique opportunity that I am interfacing with our future leaders, our students, to plead with ASUU members. If it is a genuine strike, by keeping students out of classrooms for almost four months, they have demonstrated to everybody that they have a case. “And if the strike is motivated by some other interests, they have also achieved that by keeping students out of schools for more than a semester.” Jonathan emphasised that the freedom of association and the right of workers to go on strike should not be abused and used to the detriment of the nation. “I believe that labour has the right to go on strike, but in that strike, any action taken must be built based on patriotic zeal. In as much as you can go on strike, you must be patriotic to our country. No matter how and what you feel about Mr. President and the federal government, I plead with ASUU that for the sake of our students, they should resume classes,” he said. He assured that government will continue to work with all Nigerians to build a better country for all and for the future generation, adding that as long government had shown commitment to improving the qualities of infrastructure in the universities and the operating environment, ASUU should reconsider its stand. The President also noted that if students of private universities could get their degrees within three and half years as witnessed in ABUAD, “it is unacceptable that students of public institutions are kept for extra one or two years”. The President congratulated the founder and President of ABUAD, Afe Babalola (SAN), for the feat achieved in the institution adding that he was deeply humbled by the decision to name the College of Engineering of the institution building after him.
“It is often said that great minds leave great history behind them and this. History is built on a very great vision,” Jonathan said. “The vision of Aare Afe babalola, founder of this promising institution, is a noble one.” Noting that history shows that some of the greatest institutions of learning in the world were shaped by the vision, foresight and personal experiences of their founders, the President described Babalola as “a man of unassailable character, profound vision, an epitome of the highest ideals and a quintessential Nigerian patriot”. He charged the pioneer graduating students of the institution to become good ambassadors of the school and decent citizens that will make Nigeria proud. Earlier, in his welcome address, Babalola said the institution, which was built three and half years ago, is worth over 60 billion private investments. He added that the school, which has over 4,000 students from 36 States of Nigeria and FCT, is reputed to be the fastest growing private universities in Africa and the 14th best among all public and private universities in Nigeria. Babalola said he decided to invest in the education sector because of his firm belief that government cannot fund the sector alone, adding that the best universities in the world such as Oxford and Harvard are privately owned. ASUU has been on strike for over three months
He said the naming of the College of Engineering of the institution after the president was in recognition of the immense contributions of the administration to the education sector, especially his endorsement of the laudable transformation programmes in the education sector and in particular, the enabling environment given to the private sector. He seized the opportunity of the event to call on the President to intervene in the development of the Ekiti Airport. He said that in-spite of the over N600 million approved by the federal government for the commencement of the project in 2011, nothing has happened at the site of the airport. Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, congratulated Babalola for setting a standard in private university funding and operation. He said that ABUAD can favourably “compete with any university on earth”, with world class infrastructure and well behaved and brilliant students. Those in attendance were Governors Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo, Ramalan Yero of Kaduna, Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe and the host governor, Kayode Fayemi. Also there were the Minister of Police Affairs, Caleb Olubolade, Minister of State for FCT, Olajumoke Akinjide and Sen. Phillip Aduda (PDP-FCT), the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, HRH Festus Adejuyigbe, other traditional rulers and prominent citizens from the State.