In the previous times, the events that characterised Nigeria’s students world is kindly noted with core discipline, righteous values, respect and honor, regard and host of that good neighbour.
At that very time, while the military junta controls the nation’s affairs, students leaders of the era undisputedly stood firmly and held their grip on every sane, fair and justifiable cause. Spontaneously, the intimidating threats from the then administrative officers never dislodge their position to the lane of derailment.
Students’ Unionism in the past is glaringly featured as a villa where fresh and steady heads, breads courage, bravery, and of course knowledge and readiness for advanced governance. Students freely without interference, conducted, oversaw and managed her elections and ballot systems that brought in her leaders. They organised violent-free and friendly campaigns, sane and ideological students debates, matured rallies and canvass of votes legitimately within their confines. The administrators envied that reform and pretty development.
It is not hyperbolic to state that the influence, activities, contributions and involvements of students bodies in those ages are particularly instrumental, greatly relevant and influential to many, and numerous policies of government.
Students leaders led rallies to challenge unfavorable government decisions/policies, as it affected, pained and pinned students affairs, and as a matter of compulsory neccesity, affected the working class(parents and guardians).
Government were mandatorily and automatically forced to call and involve students’ leaders before taking decisions that concerns her affairs and the nation’s general affairs. Students were cogent factors to decision making.
Various solidarity movements midwived the existence of students bodies. National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) used to be a students’ union body established in 1956 with conscious efforts of resilient students, as a result of the ideological and structural changes the West African Students’ Union(WASU) faced. NUNS represented Nigeria students within and across the diaspora.
Far beyond that year of NUNS establishment, specifically in 1978, Nigerian students witnessed discomfort from government administrators. Grevious hike in school fees was a top policy of the government, it was very disheartening. NUNS responded by organising well coordinated campuses protests and rallies to challenge that obnoxious decision. Government arrested students’ leaders in return, threatened their lives and murdered their freedom.
As a result, three universities got shut down and NUNS was banned. Countless numbers of academic and non-academic staffs were fired and faced compulsory dismissal from civil service. It was a clear silence to the voice of the oppressed, borne out as a result of truest patriotism.
The above narration, as sad and unfortunate it was, narrate and give overview of what students’ unionism was like in those years. It had a cupious feature of bravery, dedication, maturity, focus, determination, resilience of purpose, and verily ‘a race of patriotism’, as apparently displayed in the students leaders.
Today, the narratives has changed. The basic attributes that abound the realms of students’ unionism and her leaders is on largest percentage, a direct opposite of what it used to be.
Nowadays, students(majority) contest union offices for fame, and coast any available relevances that surround that office. Very less percentage and few have fair notions in vying for students’ union offices.
Expectedly, students’ union officers are elected to address students genuine demands; in welfare, ease and standard academic delivery. They are voted and entrusted to rationally and ideologically fight injustice, malfeasance, morass and profligate outright actions. Students’ leaders have an hefty burden not to disappoint the expectations of the electorates(students).
In and within the square of meeting their academic assignments, students’ leaders are expected to exercise rational level of prudence in all its affairs – managing students’ affairs and relating with school management.
Today’s students’ leaders are derailing from the verge of serving with patriotic minds, they keep breaking their colleagues warm hearts.
Beyond the level of various campuses students’ unionism, at the levels of “advance” students’ unionism – where countless bodies exist in defense of students rights and entitlements. National Association of Nigerian Students(NANS) is the largest students composition in the country today and in Africa, founded in 1980. It metamorphosed as a survival, revival and resuscitation of NUNS. NANS is also(assumed) the most recognised students body – known and referenced by government and, that which students yearn to participate most in governance of its affairs.
Sisters students bodies like National Association of University Students(NAUS), National Association of Polytechnic Students(NAPS), National Association of Colleges of Education Students(NACES), Association of Nigerian Students Against Neo Liberal Attacks(ANSA), Education Rights Campaign(ERC) and host of others, exist, all with singular motive to defend her subject.
While we must keep a straight face and acknowledge the fact that some still move in line within the confines of correct ideological scope expected of students’ union in the 20th century. Most of these bodies are not truly serving her real jurisdiction duties excepted of them. They have derailed and deviated from the core values that established students’ unionism.
Students’ movement has lost the vibrancy with which it was previously known for. There have been accusations and insinuations of compromise at various levels of its leadership. These changes and negative developments are complete negation and deviation from the ideals we crave for, of a body that should be mouthpiece of the Nigerian students, last hope for the masses of the country and attendant of last resort. They are on race of self interests and non-patriotism.
Their electioneering processes are usually characterised with bloodshed, violence, despotic intentions, disorderliness, desperate quest for office and unfaithfulness. One will wonder why, it is mainly because they have become political tools for politicians to advance their political wills and fortunes – and thus, they use at freewill and liberty.
In that respect, and as a result of students’ union leaders unfounded and disgraceful attitudes, the face, image, dignity and reputation expected to be accorded to the students world has been soiled. Students demands of today are faced with un-serious concern, neglect and all time pending. Government/administrators will rather prefer giving kickback/(brown envelope) to silence the voice of the students’ leaders or rather, deploy security men to disperse and intimidate students gatherings(in protest for any demand).
The conscious efforts of the likes of Segun Okeowo, Kunle Adepeju, George Yemi Iwilade(Afrika), and particularly our own hero, Comr Olatunji Fashina(Humble TeeJay) have been made to appear like waste. While it is not and it will not.
Students leaders must oftenly identify themselves as models and leaders whose actions speaks volumes of the position they hold and those that are been represented.
There is dare and alarming need to redirect focus in ascertaining the main beauty of which they represent. They must principally acknowledge themselves as important influencers and sacrosanct stakeholders that stands for millions of students. There are hefty task on them, in true representation and as fair students ambassadors. This will hopefully help to redeem the dwindling image of students’ unionism.
In that regard, Students’ Union in Nigeria will thus be a race for patriotism and otherwise not for self interest. Thank you.
By: AbdulAzeez, AbdulMaleek
English Studies Department
Tai-Solarin University of Education, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, Nigeria.