By FANORO Abiodun Olusoga
All over the world, unions have become important element in the operations of organisations. They are however guided and regulated by operational rules, founding objectives and mission of the platforms that give them opportunity to exist.
It is therefore a golden rule that leaders who emerged to lead the unions must subordinate themselves to the authorities and operational rules of the platforms, which naturally, are bigger than them. in other words, union leaders are first employees who must have first pledged their allegiance to the platforms.
However, recent events in some organisations are threatening to reverse this order where “I beg-to-apply employees, after using the platforms to emerge as union leaders ,suddenly began to see themselves as demi-gods who should no longer subordinate themselves to the rules and regulations of the organisations.
A baffling case in question is the suspended Chairman of Federal University Oye Ekiti (FUOYE)’s, chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Nigeria Universities (ASUU), Dr Akinyemi Omonijo, who the University alleged used his power as chairman to cover up a lecturer in the Department of Water Resources, Management and Agrometerology, Dr Rufus Ewanlen, who abandoned his duty at FUOYE and secretly travelled abroad without the knowledge or permission of the University Management or his Head Of Department (HOD).
According to the University, in order to prevent the institution and the HOD, Prof. Ogunwole, who is now the Vice Chancellor, Bowen University, Iwo, from knowing about the absconding of Ewanlen, the ASUU Chairman quietly took over teaching of courses assigned to the absconded lecturer. When the issue was brought up at the departmental meeting, the ASUU leader was reportedly rude to the HOD after admitting that he had been taking the courses of the absconded lecturer.
The HOD issued Dr. Omonijo a Query where he was told to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for “standing in for Dr. Ewanlen” and “for this nefarious academic misconduct” The departmental query was followed by an administrative query from the University’s Personnel Department where Omonijo was accused of misconduct. The ASUU chairman denied either playing any role in the absconding of Ewanlen or “standing in for him”, but admitted he had been taking his (Ewanlen) courses for some time.
Replying the queries Dr Omonijo said, “It is not true that I am standing in for Dr Rufus Ewanlen by taking most of his classes when he, according to you (HOD), absconded from duty without the prior knowledge or approval of the Head Of Department.”
Explaining the circumstances that made him to take Ewanlen’s classes, the ASUU chieftain said, …during one of the days that you were not in the office, 400 Level students converged at the entrance of Departmental office and they were looking for you. I asked them what the matter was all about as one of the senior members of the Department.
They told me they had problem with who was to teach them WMA 407 and WMA 415 and at that point I asked them about those that were assigned to teach Tropical Weather Systems. In their response they mentioned Emeritus Prof. Olofin and Dr Ewanlen. Thereafter, I advised then to see Emeritus Prof. Olofin on the matter and they told me that Emeritus Prof. Olofin said he could only teach few of the contents in WMA 407. The same thing applicable to WMA 415…”
Having laid out the self-made statement of the ASUU leader, it is very important and logical to subject it to critical and analytic interrogation which will help bring out the salient truth.
However before the interrogation, it is very important to first point out in a clearer term, that unions and their leaders in any society, are strategic entities with strategic and important societal roles to play for the attainment of collective peace, safety, security, efficient law and order which are very germane to good governance.
Intellectual based unions and union leaders, are like lawyers and journalists, who by privilege, occupy a very strategic position in any society, with the responsibility to promoting rule of law and good governance.
If what Ewanlen did was a breach of FUOYE’s governing rule, a foul on collective rule of law and assault on good governance, then, Omonijo, as a responsible union leader with the duty to promoting rule of law and good governance, even while accepting his denial of having no hand in the escape of Ewanlen and that he was not standing in for him, has no doubt been blinded by protectionist syndrome, which made him not to report his observation that his colleague had abandoned from duty, to the appropriate authorities in the department. Instead, he considered it more expedient to take over albeit illegally, teaching the courses Ewanlen abandoned, thereby helping to sustain his colleague’s affronts on FUOYE’s governing rules, collective rule of law and the expected good governance!
When interrogating Omonijo’s self-made statement, certain elements, in the statement, require, proper and critical scrutiny for the purpose of establishing where the whole truth tilts.
One of them is the fact that he admitted he was a senior member of staff in the department, just as he also admitted he was once Acting HOD. The question that should naturally arise is, “What responsibilities did these positions confer on him when he learnt from the 400 Level students that Ewanlen had abandoned his classes? Is it to take over teaching of Ewanlen classes or report his observation to the appropriate authorities in the department?
In the language of the Military panel that tried late Dr Beko Ransom Kuti on the allegation of accessory after the fact, will Omonijo not be accused of same?
Is it not funny and an assault on common sense that the union leader found it more convenient sending the 400 Level students to Emeritus Prof. Olofin and not the HOD?. For weeks, he was teaching the two courses and had time to send the students to Prof. Olofin, but could not find time within this long period to report to the authorities! Would it not have been safer for Omonijo to stay away from taking Ewanlen’s courses as others did, including Prof. Olofin, if truly he had nothing to hide or cover?
The ASUU chieftain as he has rightly denied, is never an impersonator, because he never told the 400 Level students he was Ewanlen, however he cannot run away from being described as an impostor for arrogating to himself the illegal power to assign to himself, teaching of the absconded lecturer’s courses and for presenting himself as the “new” lecturer handling those courses . There is no other name for this unilateral usurpation, than insubordination and gross misconduct unexpected of a man of his status. He, without any equivocation, undermined authorities of the HOD and the university!s Management.
It is however an irony of fate that while Omonijo continues to carry this burden and search for reprieve/relief, the local ASUU has refused to release the report of its Investigative Panel on the embattled union leader, which some felt could offer him a quantum of reprieve because they are of the opinion the report would favour him.
This could be the reason why agitations for its release have continued since the past three years.
There is however another school of thought which claimed that the report was not released because it was unfavourable to the ASUU leader.
Fanoro, a senior journalist, is also a Senior Information Officer at FUOYE.