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On Monday, Governor Agbu Kefas called for a meeting with the leaders of ASUU, the Taraba State University (TSU) chapter. After the public meeting, he went into a closed door session with the union and the university top management. It was a frank, open and very interactive exchange. Dr Kefas- an academic in his own right- was on a familiar turf. He has a relationship with univeristies dating back to his own earliest school days to when he was busy sponsoring over 500 students in the Kwararafa University in Wukari as a private citizen. For him, this is familiar territory. And although the challenges are different, the underlying issues are very similar ones he has confronted in the past.

ASUU clearly came prepared too for this meeting. Their leader, Dr Mbave was clear and concise in his demands. He regaled the audience with the hardship none payments of salaries had caused. He delved into the dynamics of the relationship between welfare and the slow response as far as salaries are concerned. The picture he painted was graphic enough to elicit reactions.

In responding, Dr Kefas told them the home truths: he needs their buy in to deal with the crisis heads on. He beamed the searchlight back at the university system itself, noting that the university needs to rid itself of internal contradictions. He solicited for their support, stressing the need for the unity of purpose. “This is a collective exercise”, he declared. “We need to be on the same page and with the same objectives. The goal is just one: the good life for both students and their teachers.”

Dr Kefas was very direct on the issue of strikes. He said strikes do not solve problems but that dialogue and constant engagement do the magic. He noted that when lecturers down tool, they and the students suffer loses.

Appealing to the conscience of the union leaders, Dr Kefas said they must make sacrifices for the future of the children they are lecturing. He urged them to see the students as family beyond the faculties. He called on them to be role models and moulders of characters. He said unless they can think straight themselves, it would be difficult for them to make any meaningful impact.

On their welfare, the governor said he is committed to them and that he has planned to create an enabling environment for their growth and development. He lamented the past salaries owed them by previous administration and said he would look into it. On the trending 3 months salaries, he ordered the commissioner of finance to promptly pay off the amount. It was a very frank exchange.
He asked the Vice Chancellor to breakdown what needs to be added to the running cost to offset workers backlog. Governor Kefas then said the payments might mean extra sacrifices but that he was willing to go to any lengths to solve problems.

He challenged the lecturers to also think outside the box and come up with creative means to raise more funds for running the school. He said the Green House project of the last administration may be revived and enlisted as a way of raising money to run the College of Agriculture. He encouraged the academics to come up with ideas as researchers and intellectuals.

The closed door meeting ended with all sides satisfied at work done.