The Ideological Postures of the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Federal Government of Nigeria in Industrial Dispute.

Author:Arua, Ifeanyi E.


The attempt to unravel ideology in discourses is an age-long practice among scholars across disciplines. This is with the understanding that ideology is often obscured in discourse. Some of such ideological discourses emerge from political institutions and social groups. Different socio-political and cultural groups, institutions and organisations have certain underlying ideologies. The ideology of each group is the unifying and binding force, varying from group to group and defining them as well. The government of every nation and different unions have their ideological leanings to which they are ardently committed.

These ideologies usually manifest in the activities, values and norms of members of such groups and express in their conversation and general interactions with others. Besides, traces of such ideology could emerge from their discourses. The correspondence emanating from institutions and unions is a veritable source of such ideologically laden discourses since their beliefs, norms and values are expressed therein.

The study of ideology has attracted scholarly attention over time. The earliest use of the term ideology can be traced to the works of the French philosopher, Destutt de Tracy (1796) who employed the term in his memoir to depict what he called "science of ideas", viewing ideology from scientific perspectives and suggesting that ideology as a system is embraced by political, religious, social groups or movements. Hence, ideology is found in the activities of various individuals in different fields of endeavour such as political science, sociology, literary criticisms, cultural studies and linguistics. Ideology could be individually or collectively held and can be seen as "complex, dogmatic belief systems, by which individuals interpret, rationalize and justify behaviour and instructions." (Hinich and Munger, 1994:10). Some social scientists regard it as a set of shared ideas that order and direct group life (Barnett and Silverman, 1979), implying that it could be held collectively by a group of people, dictating their mode of operation. It is "what persuades men and women to mistake each other from time to time for gods or vermin" (Eagleton, 1991:xiii). Eagleton (1991) further argues that:

"meaning sustains domination": by promoting the dominant group's view of things, making it seem natural, treating as the universal case, denigrating other views, excluding anyone who holds them and obscuring all of the above operations (p. 5) This implies that certain groups are not only powerful and dominant but they naturalise such hegemony, which could be reflected in their language. Socio-cognitively, ideologies are viewed as "basic frameworks that organise social representations in the minds of group members" (Van Dijk, 1994:1). Similarly, ideology could be the basis of socio-political cognitions of groups (Lan and Sear, 1986; Rosenberg, 1998). These views imply that various groups' ideologies determine their value, opinion about social issues, general world views and attitude (Bloor and Bloor, 2007). Shojaei, Youssefi and Hosseini (2013) believe that ideology is representative of who we are, what we stand for, our values, our relationships with others (those who threaten our existence and interests). The centrality of ideologies to the existence of a group makes members to jealously guard against every threat to it such that every available medium is employed to sustain it. This explains why dominated groups relentlessly struggle to resist organised dominant groups' ideologies.

Fairclough (2001:77) explains ideology as "ideas that arise from a given set of material interest". Every group has a fundamental interest to protect which suggest why Van Dijk (1998) regards ideology as "the basis of the social representations shared by the members of a group" with existing "mental framework of views about society and the cognitive and social functions of such a framework for groups." From the foregoing, individuals or groups can pay any price to protect the ideologies considered as foundational to their very existence.

In Nigeria, Osisanwo and Oyeleye (2013) have worked on expression of ideology in TELL and The News media, focusing on the representation of the 2003 and 2007 general elections. The study reveals that the maxims shape the views expressed in them and determines the perspective from which the elective is conceived by readers. Taiwo (2007) investigates language, ideology and power relations in Nigerian newspaper headlines, aiming at unravelling the underlying ideology in the newspaper headlines' construction. His findings show that the headlines have implicit ideological meanings revealing the opinion of the people whose interest is being worked for and whose interests are being undermined. The study concludes that editors manipulate headlines to shape the views for the readers on national issues. Bayram (2010) on ideology and political discourse examines the discursive strategies in the speeches of the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during a debate in the world economic forum in Devos in January 2009, from the perspective of his ideological, cultural and language backgrounds. Bayram discovers that Erdogan has succeeded in attitudinal and identity construction through the use of language. The study concludes that ideological elements and linguistic backgrounds are reflected in the Prime Minister's speech during the debate. It proves that ideology is an inherent constituent of discourse as seen in Erdogan's political discourse. These observations synchronise with van Dijk's description of three ideological perspectives from which ideology can be viewed-syntactic, semantic, stylistic and rhetorical levels; interlocutors' processes of production, reception, understanding and the social dimension of scripts as a sequence of contextualised, controlled and purposeful acts, a form of social action situated in a context. Similarly, Herbermas (1977) and Hodge and Kress (1993) observe these as the relationship between ideology and language where language is a tool users employ to manifest, twist, express, manipulate and undermine others for some purposes. The present study, however, focuses on the ideological differences between the Academic Staff Union of University (henceforth ASUU) and the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN). To determine how these groups are different ideologically, there is need to investigate their ideological postures, hence the correspondence between the two parties will be critically analysed to unravel the differences in their ideologies. But first, a brief on ASUU and the FGN is necessary.

ASUU and the Government

The relationship between Academic Staff Union Universities and FGN has been fraught with conflict and a history of contending issues since 1978 when it was founded. Active in struggles against unfair treatment of it members, ASUU fought the military regime in the 1980s. The union organised a national strike in 1988 to obtain fair wages and university autonomy. For this reason, the union was banned on 7 August 1988 and all its property seized. In 1990, the ban was lifted and again banned in 1992 after another strike. However, in September 1992, most of its demands were met including the right of workers for collective bargaining. In 1994 and 1996 other strikes were organised against unlawful dismissal of lecturers by Abacha Regime. In 2002, Justice Mustapha Akanbi was petitioned to investigate the authorities of University of Ilorin (Unilorin) for corruption and misappropriation of funds. In 2008, ASUU went on strike...

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