Background of the Study
The nature and character of the university as an academic organization entails the achievement and maintenance of a harmonious environment conducive for the working together of various groups of staffs and the management team for the attainment of preselected missions and objectives. However, in recent years, the industrial relations terrain in the Nigerian University system has been saturated with series of industrial conflicts with consequent adversities on the advancement of knowledge (Ajayi, Modupe, 2000).
The contemporary world is increasingly multicultural and the identity crisis resulting from this sometimes threatens sustainable human development. This makes the promotion of understanding and dialogue to be a prime issue in the management of multiculturalism, global peace and security (Oloyede, 1999). Conflict is an inevitable friction in any organization. Efficient and effective management of conflicts is fundamental to the development of any society, but the prevailing situations in Nigeria constitute a reversal of this reality. Conflict in higher education is inescapable. Conflict exists at every level of our academic world. And while conflict can be negative and can cause deep rifts in the framework of the institution, it can also be used as a tool to take the institution and the people in it from stagnation to a new level of effectiveness. What makes the difference is conflict management (Holton, 1998). Conflicts will always occur but a well managed conflict will not degenerate to violence. Since violence will not erupt without conflict as antecedents, one can assume that many of the conflicts in tertiary institutions and insecurity degenerated is because their antecedents (causes) were not properly managed or that the conflicting parties did not explore the power of communication and conflict manager’s personality in resolving the crises (Agbonna; Yusuf & Onifade, 2009). The importance of tertiary education to the national development cannot be overemphasized. However, no meaningful development can take place in a crisis-ridden system torn apart by crisis as witnessed in the educational institutions in the country today. Experience has shown that students’ crisis is as old as the tertiary institutions in Nigeria itself. Today, students’ militancy in the nation’s tertiary institutions has come to be a very issue of serious concern. However, revolts, protests, unrests and violence, as well as incessant closure of universities s for months in the wake of unrest have become a regular characteristic of Nigerian’s tertiary institutions (Adeyemi; Ekundayo & Alonge, 2010).
Conflict today has become part of organizations. This is more so in an organization as a university with a structure that allows two or more units or groups to share functional boundaries in achieving its set objectives. In universities, people with differing nature -students, lecturers and administrative staff – have to work harmoniously together. Hence, the organizational structure is such that staff and staff, students and students, and staff and students share functional boundaries of exchange of knowledge. Conflicts will always occur but a well-managed conflict will not degenerate to violence. Since violence will not erupt without conflict as antecedents, one can assume that many of the conflicts in tertiary institutions and insecurity degenerated is because their antecedents (causes) were not properly managed or that the conflicting parties did not explore the power of communication and conflict manager’s personality in resolving the crises (Agbonna; Yusuf & Onifade, 2009). It has been observed that Nigeria universities has for decades been faced with so many crisis ranging from conflict between academic staff and university administrators, students versus Academic staff, students versus university authorities , Non-Academic staff versus university administrators. The conflicts have given rise to distrust and hostility among professionals and academics thus contributing in hampering smooth, effective and efficient administration in the universities. It also appeared that despite this situation, stakeholders in education seemed to develop non-challant attitude towards these conflicts. If this role conflict is not checked it can be descriptive and negative as people involved will often see one another as enemies. This is unwholesome for the University community and Nigeria educational system as a whole. University education is arguably the most important and crucial component in human capital development. It is considered indispensable to the building of a strong and viable economy (World Bank, 2008; Akindele, Oginni and Omoyele, 2012). As Oziengbe and Obhiosa (2014) have argued that functional education is an important ingredient for national development. Furthermore, knowledge accumulation and its applications are seen as a major factor in the economic development of any nation leading to competitive advantage in the global economy. According to Ogu (2008), educating the citizenry of any nation is essential to its social, political, economic and cultural vitality. Okebukola (2008) opined that higher education provides the much needed human resources for actively improving the economy of nations and guaranteeing rapid changes. He asserted that “the greater the opportunity given to the citizenry for higher education, the more expansive the horizon for rapid social and economic development”. University education can, therefore, be considered a platform on which the future development of a nation rests (Anyim, 2012). Indeed, Obasanjo (2012) opined that a nation can only develop in relation to its achievements in education. These assertions are not misplaced in that extant literature posits that educational systems are responsible for producing the skilled manpower and the knowledge needed for technological advancement and economic growth. Quite apart, university commands a lot of respect and trust. According to Clarke and Edwards (1980) in Arikewuyo (2008) “Universities, since their medieval beginnings, have been founded to preserve the positive heritage of society. They are committed to promote society’s corporate wellbeing and advancement by refining the ability of their members to select reasons and understand by enquiring into and seeking to explain the development and function of man as part of the natural world and by acting as guide and critic in those areas which can be informed by a university’s resources of knowledge and specialized skills”. This is why much emphasis is placed on quality education in many nations. However, with reference to university education in Nigeria, the few universities set up after independence undoubtedly possessed world-class stature with outstanding scholars in almost all the disciplines.
Statement Of The Problem
Conflict is inevitable given the wide range of goals existing in organizations. Educational institutions such as the South-West federal universities in Nigeria have experienced different types of conflicts (internal and external). These conflicts may have had effects on the work effectiveness of university staff resulting in low morale, inaction, frustration, lack of commitment and low productivity. The incessant conflicts resulting in strikes and closure of universities revolve round the non-implementation of agreements between the university staff and the federal government. Most conflicts have had immediate effects of distortion of academic calendar in the university leading to fatigue and lowering of professional standard. The constant resort to conflict resulting in the closure of the universities can now be referred to as a vicious cycle of strike, negotiation, arriving at agreement, postponing strike, waiting, nonimplementation of agreement, warning strike, and full blown strike. Unresolved conflicts in the universities seemed to have resulted in serious consequences on staff effectiveness such as employee low turnover, low morale, reduced productivity, quality problems, reduced collaboration, passive/aggressive behavior, inefficient management credibility, negative upward attention and distrust (Cram & MacWilliams, 2011).
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