Filed in General by on January 26, 2010

Student unionism and the politics of today
By Chinedu Okeke
Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It is said, ‘if nothing is done about anything, things will remain the way they are”. It is with great enthusiasm and unbridled sobriety that I decided to write on this issue that is of uttermost importance to the welfare and growth of our society and the nation at large.

Student unionism began in 1925 with the emergency of West African Student Union (WASU) and was partly pioneered by some Nigerian students in London. They fought the colonial masters for the rights of Africans.
National Union of Nigeria Students (NUNS) inherited the same idealism from WASU and the student union matched on as a platform of change and of informed activism.

The union then enjoyed support from radical intellectuals and academia. The union leaders were purely idealist and fire brands. Under the leadership of Segun Okeowo, NUNS became directly involved in national politics for proper funding of education for Nigeria students.
They suffered all manners of maltreatment yet remain adamant insisting they are fighting against the forces of feudalism, parochialism and tyranny in our political system.

NUNS suffered all forms of brutality under the administration of a man that see nothing good in Nigeria student and who has zero tolerance to student unionism, General Olusegun Obasanjo. He even placed ban on NUNS but kudos to the administration of Alhaji Shehu Shegari’s that lifted the ban leading to birth of National Association of Nigeria Student in 1980.

Despite all these, the present leaders of today NANS use the platform to project and endorse the never-do-well in our society into political positions. I could remember in 2005 when the then NANS president Orkuma Hembe used the platform to campaign for Obasanjo’s third term bid and even went further to award him “Defender of Democracy”. Yes I can see how he has defended democracy- $16bn lost in power sector, charade in railway system, social insecurity, etc.
He seems to forget that it was this same defender of democracy that destroyed NUNS and under whose administration some NUNS fighters were rusticated from their various Universities. He was supporting a man who was brought out of the valley of shadow of death and entrusted with the destiny of our great country but instead of re-writing history of our nation, used the opportunity to haunt his opponents.

He was only under the influence of petty donations made by the president and his aides. It is obvious that the union leaders of today use the position to acquire wealth and gain access to the corridor of power. NANS has indeed been turned into a sycophantic cabal!
Hembe and his cohorts endorsed OBJ for third term the day he (OBJ) pledged #5m for proposed national secretariat of the union. They gave awards to unmerited government functionaries and their cohorts for primary aim of deriving monetary gains. I can still remember how they had group photograph in Abuja pledging “aluta Salute” with presidential #10m donation in their hands.

They saw nothing wrong in what they have done- third term confusionists!
Looking back, the NUNS/NANS of old were effective and progressive in line with the nature and place of the Universities at the time as a strategic resource for the production of ideas and manpower for societal growth. Students were at the centre of this as agents of change and leaders of tomorrow with strong stake in the future of the community. But today, students are the centre of cultism, fraud and prostitution.

Aside NANS national leadership intellectual collapse, the various structures of the union- state joint committee and students’ unions have either sold to politicians or lack the requisite intellectual wherewithal to lead successful and genuine struggles of students. While I blame the student leaders, I must also blame the school authorities and the state in destroying the legacy of genuine students’ unionism either by buying over of student leaders or by use of naked force like police and victimization to deal with genuine student activists.

The Nigerian government has denied its citizens right to proper education. How can a country be wallowing in unimaginable wealth yet the capitalist government cannot provide qualitative education to its citizens which has lead to incessant strikes every now and then.
How can student leaders emulate leaders who continue to regenerate itself in brazen corruption, imperialism and insecurity? Leaders who practice a brand of politics that goes beyond the greed for lucre.

Student leaders who are supposed to be the Joshuas of today are already in the same track with our leaders . Just recently our legislatures are pressing hard to grant themselves immunity which will give them more elbow and courage to cart away our resources while in office without being queried by the public. And who knows the next bill may be “immunity for life” for any public office holder as one Ota farmer already has one. Freedom of information bill and that of electoral reform are lying effortlessly in the house and they are more concern about immunity. Recently Nigeria was rated 158 th by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Human Development Index (HDI) in human development and our leaders are doing nothing to
ameliorate these lapses.

Our student   union leaders have cultivated the idea of accumulating much wealth to own fat account in Switzerland, own estates in London, and probably travel to Saudi Arabia for treatment of headache.
It is time the Nigerian students call these leaders to order and stop them from mortgaging us for lucre. It is time we the Nigerian students start afresh and build a new organization that will base its ideas on transformation of the society from the decadent neo-liberal system that prioritize profit for the rich few against the warfare of the people; to an egalitarism system where the wealth of the country will be collectively used for the people’s need against that of imperialism and its hangers-on in the country polity.

We should understand that obstacle to growth of active unionism in Nigerian campuses is lack of focus and cogent reasons of our struggles. It is time we see reason to uphold the genuine legacies of unity that has once existed and return to the status quo and not just participate in the union’s activities to fulfill our ulterior motives.
As Edward Albee would say, “sometimes it is necessary to go a long distance out of the way (to learn) in order to come a short distance correctly”. Fellow Nigerian student our struggle for better tomorrow continues. Aluta Continua!


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Comments (2)

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  1. Com Pwakim Jacob says:

    You are very correct Mr Okeke.its hightime we correct this canker worm or we are consumped by u enumerated,unionism was used as a vanguard for social transformation as obtained in other developed societies but very bitter 2 note that,the drivers of the social transformation are not different 4rom the evill doers.

  2. Unionism (1925) started well simply because they were aiming at the same goal despite their individual different i hope one day student union leaders will one day stop defiling themselves with portion(crumbs) of the king’s meat and let them know THEY ENJOYED THE SYSTEM AND DESTROYED IT ALUTA CONTINUA!

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