The protracted strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has lingered for nine months now leaving the affected students looking at a bleak future. Many feel like their future is being jeopardised – and indeed, it is, because they have already lost one irreplaceable year to the strike.
Students have devised various means to get the Federal Government and ASUU to consider their plight and reach an agreement so they can return to the classroom. Through the year, they have trended the #EndASUUStrike hashtag on Twitter to drive home their demands – to no avail.
And now, it has morphed into the currently trending hashtag – #SaveOurFuture – which aptly captures the crux of their plight, because it now appears as though ASUU and FG are gambling with the students’ future for failing time and again to reach an agreement for the past nine long months.
But then, it is one thing to trend a hashtag to communicate grievances and an entirely different thing to get FG and ASUU to act on their demands.
No doubt, some movements which have yielded appreciable results started with a hashtag on social media – however, an extra step was required to get the desired result. Even history has proven that mild agitations or sustained hashtags alone are not enough to get the Nigerian government to take the grievances of its citizens seriously.
Consider the #EndSARS protest. FG had turned deaf ears to the plight of the youth who were being harassed and extra-judicially killed by the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and until after young Nigerians took to the streets and made attempts to engage with their elected representatives, that concrete steps were taken.
The sad thing about this, however, is that the government does not appear to be sincere about getting justice for the aggrieved victims whose rights were violated by the police. But the good thing is, they listened – sparingly or attentively – and paid attention to the issues when they showed their unrelenting determination to put an end to human rights violations by the rogue police unit.
It is, perhaps, time for the students who are affected by the ASUU strike to borrow a leaf from the #EndSARS protest to get FG and ASUU to budge. Trending a hashtag alone or just taking to the streets might be a starting point to getting both parties to listen up; but they will also need a strategy beyond that, such as forming small localised pressure groups to engage with their elected representatives such as their house of representatives members, local government Chairmen and traditional rulers to deliberate on the issue to forge a way forward. After all, a dialogue is said to be the most effective way to resolve conflicts.
On the other hand, FG and ASUU must take urgent steps to end the impasse because the future of the affected students is on the line.