CLAIM: Kayode Ogundamisi claimed on Channels TV that Nigerian Universities were shut for almost two years during the tenure of Olusegun Obasanjo/Atiku Abubakar as President and Vice-President of Nigeria respectively
EVIDENCE: Mr Ogundamisi’s response to our inquiry seemed a little different from his initial claim; also, his use of the word ‘almost’ makes it difficult to assign a verdict. Nevertheless, news reports and a trend analysis of university strikes during the period showed that Nigerian public universities actually lost 3 academic years, over a period of 18 months and 1 week, which could be referred to as “almost two years”
CONCLUSION: HALF TRUE
Kayode Ogundamisi, a social media influencer and one of the media and communication strategists of a campaign team setup by the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, for the re-election of her husband, Muhammadu Buhari, said that Nigerian Universities were shut for almost two years during the tenure of Olusegun Obasanjo/Atiku Abubakar as President and Vice-President of Nigeria respectively.
He disclosed this while speaking on a Channels TV programme: “Sunday Politics”. The video of Mr. Ogundamisi’s interview was shared on Twitter by President Muhammadu Buhari’s aide, Lauretta Onochie.
In the video, he said: “When their candidate (Atiku) was Vice- President, they shut our universities for almost two years. During that period, their candidate (Atiku) built a university and employed more foreigners than the people of Adamawa State. His radio station employed more foreigners than the people of Adamawa.”
In response to inquiries from Dubawa, Mr. Ogundamisi had this to say: “The Obasanjo and Atiku government spent eight years in office. If you put the total number of times universities were shut down during those years, students lost two academic years. Some students who were meant to spend four years on a course ended up spending six years.”
When Dubawa contacted an official of ASUU, Sola Fayose who currently serves as the Chairman of ASUU at the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Ondo State, he said there was never a time ASUU shut the universities for two years.
“That’s simply a blackmail. There was never a time ASUU shut universities for two years. In fact, if you add all strikes during their eight-year tenure together, it was not up to two. That’s blatant lie, misleading and false. It is a blackmail“, he said.
Now, there’s a bit of difference between what Mr. Ogundamisi told Dubawa and what he actually said during the interview. Ideally two academic years should be 12 months which equals a year, and not “almost two years” (an academic year consists of 6 months: 3 months per semester for two semesters).
Notwithstanding, we checked newspaper reports to verify the length of “public” university strikes during the said period. In Nigeria, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is the umbrella union of all Nigerian academic staff which liaises with the government on behalf staff. For years, the Union has been locked in a protracted dispute with the Nigerian government over issues of poor funding of public universities. The Union often calls out its members on a strike to press home its demands for the welfare of its members and for improved funding of universities.
At the end of military rule in 1999 when Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar were sworn-in as President and Vice-President respectively, no sooner had they settled down in office than ASUU started a strike which lasted for five months.
In 2001, ASUU declared another strike over the sack of 49 lecturers from the University of Ilorin. The strike lasted three months. The 2001 strike ended after an agreement between the union and government.
However, ASUU embarked on another strike on December 29, 2002 after the Obasanjo administration failed to implement the agreement. The strike lasted for two weeks (half a month). The issues in contention were the under-funding of universities and the need to reinstate the “unjustly” sacked 49 lecturers of the University of Ilorin.
In 2003, Nigerian university students were at home for six months as ASUU embarked on another strike over the non-implementation of previous agreements.
In 2005, University lecturers went on another industrial action which lasted for two weeks (half a month).
In 2006, academic activities were paralyzed in public universities across the country when ASUU declared a three-day warning strike. The strike eventually lasted for a week.
The 2006 industrial action was followed by another one on March 26, 2007. The reasons for the strike which lasted three months were pretty much the same as the previous ones.
These were all the strikes that led to the closure of Nigerian universities during the Obasanjo-Atiku administration. And by our calculation, universities were shut down for a total of 18 months and 1 week during the Obasanjo-Atiku administration!
Although Nigerian “public” universities were NOT closed for up to two years at a stretch, which Ogundamisi’s statement seems to imply, we cannot fault him for saying that universities were shut for “almost two years” as 18 months equal a year and 6 six months. So, Mr Ogundamisi is not exactly wrong.
If we are also to consider that he meant 2 academic years, he would not be wrong still because students actually lost more than 2 academic years. They lost 3! Nevertheless, he is not entirely right either because of the inaccuracies of his statements and the purpose for which he spoke!