PUTTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
WHY NIGERIAN UNION OF TEACHERS CALL OFF STRIKE ACTION
Contrary to the libelous and slanderous posts and remarks respectively making rounds in open sources (the social media) and public sphere, and the numerous backstabbers and propagandists that are trying unremittingly to change the narrative of the resolution reached by the state government and the Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT, with the sole ambition to discredit the effort of the leadership of NUT in Kaduna state and the remarkable breakthrough we have recorded.
Be they backstabbers, mischief -makers or detractors that never wished the embattled teachers well, for trivial reasons known to them, we make bold to state that through our effort that they wanted to rubbish, we have been able to bargain for a fair deal for teachers who were meant to be sacked by the Kaduna state government. And this is part of the reasons we deemed it fit to call off the strike action not the dummy mischief-makers showcased. However, it is natural that mischief-makers would not be objective but, subjective in carrying out their assault.
It is incumbent on NUT to stand up against any apparent injustice aimed at suppressing the rights of the teachers and also to negotiate a fair deal that will add value to teachers and the profession. The recent strike action in Kaduna state by the body was a revolt against illegitimacy. It is explicit that government derives its powers from the constitution and even the process of governance is guided by the sovereign constitution, separation of power and due process.
Just like any citizen, government unconstitutional behavior/action can be challenged in any court of competent jurisdiction and any ill-treatment meted at civil servants can also be revolted against by labour union as well, which shows how democracy is in fierce contention with any iota of absolutism.
It was on this backdrop that NUT questioned and challenged the illegitimacy of the institution that the state government used or contracted: organized, conducted and marked the competency test. For clarity, NUT never embarked on strike action challenging why government subjected teachers to test or kicked against sacking any unqualified teacher. But, the bone of contention has always been the unilateral decision and action of the government. Statutorily, the National Teachers Institute and the Teachers Registration Council are the bodies that are recognize to organize, conduct and mark teachers exams and not any other institution or agency. This is one of the areas of dispute with the government.
The second area of dispute is the disagreement regarding the 75% pass mark pegged by the government. It is a fact that both the NUT and the government agreed on 60% as pass mark which was later raised to 75%, unilaterally, by the government. These were the nitty-gritty of the strike action. Besides, the strike action was not a war against the government, it was meant to ply government attention to the plight of teachers and to pressure government to agree for negotiation, which by any estimation we have succeeded in making government shift its ground by reconsidering the teachers who failed the competency test to reapply and undertake another exams.
To NUT, this is one of the success stories of the strike and benefits of the negotiation between the institution and government. In negotiation, you can hardly get 100% of your wish list and you will be a bad negotiator to insist on 100% even when you are not the main determinant of what should accrue to you. Negotiation is all about opposing parties shifting ground and reaching a consensus. And to NUT, this is what we have done and achieved for our embattled members.
It is boneheaded to be rigid as a unionist if your main focus is to get a better deal for your members. It is known to everyone who has been following events in this dispute that Governor Nasiru El-rufai had sworn that nothing will stop him from disengaging the teachers who failed the competency test but, he has rescinded from his earlier position to a position that he is considerate. Why should NUT remain rigid if the initial focused was to pressure the government to reverse his intention?
In war strategy, creating a viable exit point is as critical as strategizing a feasible entry point. The NUT drew lesson from various institutions and organizations that were in dispute and countries in war that sustained battles longer than necessary and in the end they lose momentum and failed to achieve the desire goal. They failed not because they lack the will but, because the process was unnecessarily dragged for too long – even overstretched. We felt otherwise to hold on to our guns when sound options were laid before us. We also took into cognizance the fact that if the protest is prolonged other issues may crop up and underscore the preference placed on our struggle.
For the benefit of doubt, State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, urged teachers who reapplied to photocopy the following: “Highest qualification, last promotion letter and disengagement letter to be attached to their application.” This achievement did not come on a platter of gold; it came through protest and negotiation. Thank you all!