Democracy and the role of the National Association of Nigerian Students.
By Maureen Okagbare
If you're neutral in situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
The National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) was formed in 1955 as a body to bring together all Nigerian Students within Nigeria and abroad. The aim was to form a common platform where issues that concern students are discussed and their interests protected. It was also a mirror against the backdrop of governance in Nigeria. It was initially brought together by the Students` Council of Ife, Zaria and Nsukka1 and the name was later changed to the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS.
In recent times, it has become obvious that the students` body is being used for selfish political gains. For example, during the campaign leading to the Presidential elections of 2019, while students were at home during the strike by University lecturers, executives of the Students` body travelled to the sitting President Muhammadu Buhari. In a televised statement, the President of the body Danielson Bamidele Akpan promised President Muhammadu Buhari - who was campaigning to return to office for a second term, twenty million votes! This was widely criticized as the students` body clearly showed their baias.
I wish to pressent this article in the form of a personal address to the Students` body that seem to have lost focus on the ideology of the founding fathers.
Nigeria is beckoning at you to stand up and work vigorously towards a new era Nigeria come 2019. Nigeria call obey. In my last video, I listed 9 key factors of what Nigerian youths must do in order to be able to produce the next Nigerian President. I am here today to tell the National Association Nigeria Students 5 things that they must do in order to write their names in gold in the history of Nigeria. It is a rare opportunity because you are the conscience of Nigeria. You are the real face of change. You use the social media. You have the numbers, the energy and the intellect. It is an error to allow failed politicians to determine your future. This is the time for you to fight what your parents could not fight so that your children will not ask you questions. Most of you do not know the power you carry. The old brigade politicians will never, never give you an opportunity to lead this country if you do not take decisive and united actions now. If somebody tells you that he belongs to the PDP or APC, there is no difference. That APC is collecting 45 million naira for Presidential nomination form is enough to tell you that they have no space for you now or in the future. The leadership cannot change unless the followership change drastically. Your education is your instrument for your liberation. You must have confidence in the victory that is ahead come 2019.
You must not continue to remain silent when those that ruled Nigeria today have been ruling Nigeria before, and since you were born. They are doing the same old thing the same old way. We must not continue to put new wine in old wine skin.
We have experienced student activism in those good old days, especially during the dictatoral regimes of the infamous Ibrahim Babaginda and the thievery Sani Abacha. In 1978 students throughout Nigeria organized the „Ali Must Go” protest against tuition fees in Nigeria. In May 1989, Nigerian students vigorously protested the „Babaginda Must Go” anti-SAP demonstrations. Then there were no mobile phones and our actions spread across Nigeria like wild fire. Nigerians from all walks of life joined in that glorious struggle to set our country free from the shackles of draconian rule.
Great Nigerian students, will you watch and continue to endure the continuing misrule and the spiriting of our common wealth? Will you stand up to say ’enough is enough’ or will you forever remain silent?
Mothers are selling iced fish and kerosene to send some of you to school. Some of you manage to survive in school. After Youth service, must Mama continue to pay your bills or will you allow a politician to buy you motor cycles or keke Napep in the name of empowerment program which is their way of initiating you into the demeaning labour market? Will you graduate from school and be counted among the 87 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty? Others that graduated years before you are there. The politicians will make you so hungry so that you will collect two cups of Ijebu garri just to sell your votes. If Nigerian students cannot dot it, who can do it? Imagine how the Nigerian Labour Congress has kept quiet to the monumental and shocking earnings of Nigerian Senators while Nigerian workers continue to work without salaries in many states. Monkey dey work bamboo dey chop!
I am addressing you here to tell you that we are undergoing transformation in our national life and the ball is in our court.
We are where we are today because long before now, we refused to take the issues of our elections seriously. That is why, today, our country is being governed by illiterates, semi-literates, ritualists, certificate forgers, drop outs, drug addicts and drug pushers. We are governed by those who cannot work but encourages us to work.
We are governed by those that created this system where in September 2018 Daniel Bassey residing in Calabar used his two-year old son to borrow money so that he could pay his house rent of N21,000.
We are governed by politicians that created the situation where Benedict Azubuike and Joy Odeyemi were struck in 2013 by the stray bullets of drunken police officers and they died because the hospital refused to treat them because there was no money to deposit.
Remember Funmi Odusina, a postgraduate student of the University of Lagos, who was rescued from drowning, but was rejected by some private hospitals because of deposits. She died.
August 23, 2018 Joseph Odeh of the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi died because his treatment was delayed after a motor accident. He had no money to deposit. He was one of us.
Do you remember Okoro Oluchi of the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, who died at Amaku Teaching Hospital, Awka, Anambra State, because the hospital allegedly demanded for cash before treating her? The list is on and on. Yet when Nigerian politicians sneeze or have headache they travel abroad for treatment. Nigerian Senators earn N3b as salaries every year. Multiply N3b with the 109 Senators and it amounts to N327b. Multiply that amount by their 4 years in office and it amounts to N1 trillion,308 billion naira. (4b,360m usd). Divide that amount by the 36 states of Nigeria and each state will get N36b 333m 333thousand naira. That amount can build 18 hospitals in each of the 36 states of the federation if we estimate that building an hospital will cost N2b each. They deny us of these facilities but continue to steal our money to treat themselves in foreign countries, and we die because we have no money to pay for deposits at our hospitals.
We must take our destinies in our hands today. The oppressors will never release us unless we, as a people, come together to seize what rightly belong to us.
Between 2010 and 2017 ASUU has gone on strike four times which covered a period of 16 months. This is different from the other strikes by other tertiary institutions in various states. It is also different from the strikes by other academic and non academic staff. These are the results of negligence by government. You can imagine the psychological and emotional impact of prolong learning on students. Some students miss calls to NYSC as a result of this. Meanwhile, those in position of authority corner available scholarships for their family members or outrightly pay exorbitant fees in foreign Universities from the money they have stolen from the system. Go to Ghana and see the number of Nigerian students there. The highest number of African students in all European countries are Nigerians. Some countries in Africa which we consider poorer than Nigeria have higher budgetary allocations for education than Nigeria. Countries like Ghana, Cote d’ Viore, Kenya, Burkina Faso and others.
In January 2017 we saw how Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo state arrogantly talked down on the students of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Ogbomoso when they protested the closure of their University for eight months. The governor told them that that it was not a big deal that their University was closed for eight months. He told them that they had no right to protest the closure against a constituted authority! He went further to boast that he was owing workers in the state several months of salaries.2 Is this the nonsense you will allow to continue when their children school abroad? Such a Governor will now anoint a successor and the good people of Oyo state will allow that rubbish to stand? We give kudos to the great students of LAUTECH who did not chicken out at the governor’s visible arrogance. Such a governor will leave office and he will be appointed as a Minister or contest for the Senate to make laws for Nigerians. The time has come to say a resounding NO! Az űrlap teteje
Estimates have shows that Nigerian tertiary education institutions produce up to 500,000 graduates every year. More than half of them fall into the employment market. The Youth Unemployment Rate in Nigeria increased to 33.10 percent in the third quarter of 2017 from 29.50 percent in the second quarter of 2017. It keeps increasing. There is no better time to address this issue than during this 2019 general elections. We need leaders who are part of the society. Leaders that could feel the pulse of the people. Those that will refuse to eat because a child has gone to bed hungry. Leaders who will not sleep peacefully because hundreds of thousand have become helpless.
In the words of Fletcher (2005) Student activism is work by students to cause political, environmental, economic, or social change.4 That is why in the sixties, the German Socialist Student Union fought for the democratisation of society and vehemently opposed the Vietnam war.
That is why the Hong Kong Student activist group known as Scholarism occupied the Hong Kong government headquarters on 30 August 2012 to protest against government’s introduction of Moral and National Education as a compulsory subject in their school. They turned the protest into a musical concert attended by 40,000 persons and the government was forced to retract. In this platform, we are 100% against any form of violence, hate, ethnic or religious prejudice.
That is why students of Indonesia carried out the most important acts of student resistance in the history of this world. During the political turmoil of the 1960s they staged demonstrations calling for then-President Kusno Sukarno to eliminate alleged communists from his government, and the students later forced him to resign in 1967 because they felt that he stayed for too long in office: 1945-1967. Today in Nigeria, people who were military governors in the 80s are sitting Senators and civilian Governors. President Mohammadu Buhari was already Chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in 1977 when today’s President of France- Emmanuel Macron was born. Today Ike Ekweremadu want to contest for a fifth term in the Senate so that by the year 2023 he would have spent 20 years in the Senate. Same thing with David Mark of Benue state and James Manager representing Warri South of Delta State. The failed ex-governor of Delta State Emmanuel Uduaghan who was insidiously imposed by his cousin James Ibori is now campaigning to be a Senator in 2019 after being a wasteful governor for 8 years, Commissioner, Secretary to the State government etc. Does it mean that no other person is intelligent enough in Warri South? Now can see why students become unemployed after graduation! It happens when you give way to visionless persons to represent you.
1 Extracted from the files of Nigerian Students. Retrieved 11 August 2019
2 Ajimobi vs LAUTECH Students. (2018, January 22) Punch Newspaper, https://punchng.com/ajimobi-vs-lautech-students/ Retrieved 2018 Sept 12
3 Trading Economics. https://tradingeconomics.com/nigeria/youth-unemployment-rate Retrieved 2018, Sept. 12
4 Fletcher, A. 2005. Guide to Social Change Led By and With Young People. Olympia, WA: CommonAction.