RSUST: In The Eyes Of The Storm

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Academic activities at the Rivers State university of
Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, penultimate Monday was paralysed following
an industrial dispute declared by the Academic Staff Union of Universities
(ASUU) in the University over the re-appointment of Professor Barinmne Fakae as
the institution’s acting Vice Chancellor.

The re-appointment of Prof Fakae for a second term at the
expiration of his first tenure had generated so much controversy within and
outside the university community which climaxed to a proclamation of an
indefinite strike by ASUU. The union among other demands requested for a
reversal of Fakae’s appointment by Governor Chibuike Amaechi, the visitor to
the institution.

ASUU, among other considerations accused the state governor
of not following due process in the selection process of a new Vice Chancellor
in accordance with the statutory provisions establishing the university.

However, the state government, through the state
Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs Ibim Semenitari stoutly
defended government’s wisdom in re-appointing Fakae as acting Vice Chancellor,
citing, among others, his unprecedented achievements in elevating the
university from its former 76th to 19th position out of 117 universities in the
country.

Mrs Semenitari explained that the governor followed due
process while re-appointing Fakae as the Vice – Chancellor, noting that
Professor Fakae, as a respected senior citizen of the state had brought honour
and glory to the state and elevated the nation’s premier University of Science
and Technology to enviable heights, and wondered why on earth anybody could
fault or ignore such impressive feat.

It would be recalled that the Dr. Felix Igwe-led executive
of ASUU in RSUST last week gave a one-week ultimatum to the state government to
reverse Fakae’s appointment which expired last Friday culminating to a full
strike on Monday.

As much as we appreciate that both sides of the dispute may
have good reasons for their respective positions on the critical issue of
appointment of a new Vice Chancellor by virtue of the enabling law establishing
the institution, methinks however that RSUST has had enough of crisis in its
history.

This current crisis which to many stakeholders – parents,
students, staff among others is one too many and, from all indications, could
be averted if and only if the parties concerned could appreciate each other’s position.

Hitherto, the university had lost so much, leading to
extension or loss of academic programmes and sessions, backlog in call-up for
national service, accumulated convocation/graduation of students,
de-accreditation of some academic programmes and delay in the release of
results. The list is, indeed legion.

Expectedly, stakeholders: students, parents and staff were
worst hit by the ugly scenario as the university kept on degenerating to
unacceptable level up till few years ago when normalcy was restored in the
university.

It is against this backdrop that everybody strongly feels
agitated by the current imbroglio between the government and ASUU. The matter
can be amicably resolved on a round table.

The need for an open-minded dialogue is therefore inevitable
and imperative so that the university can transit to the next level of academic
excellence and infrastructural development.

We must not allow the institution to degenerate further.
RSUST is our baby. We must not allow it to die or suffer from any mortality
occasioned by human infallibility.

Rivers people must ensure that the vision of the founding
fathers of the institution is sustained and realised now and in future.

ASUU needs to have a re-think on the issue and open up
channels for negotiation for immediate resolution of the grey areas.

To insist on strike will, for sure, expose the university to
too many uncertainties. Students will
again be delayed, facilities compromised and milestones achieved so far
will be jeopardised.

We think that ASUU should firstly shelve the strike since it
is avoidable and then dialogue with the government on the way forward.

Ironically, reports of violence and battering of Dr. Felix
Igwe, ASUU’s chairman by unknown persons is most condemnable and unacceptable
in a civilised and democratic society. I believe strongly that the ASUU boss is
not the issue. The matter goes beyond him as a person. But if it is perceived
that he is using the office to enhance his popularity, then and only then,
lawful means of easing him out will apply.

ASUU, government and the governing council of the
institution should go back to a round table with open mind and honesty so as to
resolve all the issues at stake.

 

Goodluck Ukwe