By Modiu Olaguro
“The blind leading the blind is not so upsetting, more jarring is the blind leading the sighted.”
The academic staff union of universities (ASUU) have been on strike for the past ninety days; according to the ASUU chairman- Dr. Issa Fagge, the strike action became imperative because the federal government had failed to honour the agreement it made with the union in 2009.
As it has always been whenever ASUU strikes, the university students are always at the receiving end of it as we are left with no other option than to sit idle at our homes recounting our losses especially the inevitable extension of our academic years in school.
Though no student in his or her right senses would want to extend his or her stay in school by even a day, the situation of things that prompted the strike embarked upon by ASUU ought to make us have a rethink and to ponder for a moment on whether we- as students would rather agree to support ASUU in this cause on their position that education has to be adequately funded or succumb to the extra year pressure in clamoring for an end to the strike.
Among the stakeholders that have been vocal on the current imbroglio is the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) headed by the National president- Yinka Gbadebo.
Gbadebo while speaking in Lagos recently, said that NANS was no longer in support of the strike as it has no moral obligation to do so urging ASUU to drag the federal government to court.
The National Association of Nigerian students is the umbrella body of students studying in all tertiary institutions in the country. Thus by implication, every student studying in a university, polytechnic or college becomes an automatic member of the body.
Before embarking on this journey, it would only be fair to give a concise definition of an association in order to ascertain whether NANS fits in.
The Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary (International student’s edition) defines an association as “an official group of people who have joined together for a particular purpose; a connection or relationship between people or organization”; Encarta dictionary defines it as “coming together and social interaction between people”.
As it is expected of an organization, we believe that any statement from the leadership of NANS ought to be the position of the generality of Nigerian students across universities; polytechnics and colleges respectively but a closer look at the antecedents, actions and statements from the leadership of NANS should make every Nigerian student wary of this body.
A colleague confided in me that quite a handful number among the leadership of NANS are either drop outs or graduates; he further revealed that the smart ones amongst them enroll for a part time, diploma or graduate course in an institution before obtaining a form of contest in order to be recognized as a student.
Clearly, ASUU and NANS are independent bodies; as Gbadebo pointed out, NANS has no moral obligation whatsoever to partake in its fights and struggles but as logical as the statement may sound, the leadership of NANS fell into a deep fallacy by asking ASUU to accept the paltry sum of 130 billion to be shared by over 60 universities.
As I wrote earlier in a piece titled “On ASUU strike: unlike a nation’s pride”, the 2009 agreement consists of quite a number of things but there are few ones that ought not to be the fight of ASUU but that of NANS, especially the funding of education. Not a single one among undergraduates will support ASUU if it had embarked on this strike because of the increase in the retirement age of professors or the handing over of landed properties to federal universities.
No Nigerian student whom NANS claim to represent and speak on its behalf would line up and sing songs of praise in support of ASUU if its reason for leaving the classroom was for an increment in pay and not the call for a better education for the Nigerian people.
If NANS had been an association that truly seeks to protect the welfare of the over 60 million Nigerian students, it would have occurred to its leadership that the clamour by ASUU on the funding of education ought not to be ASUU’s fight but theirs; or who stands to benefit from a world class classroom, a standard laboratory, a 24 hour electricity supply to the hostels, a reduced teacher – student ratio? The lecturers or the students?
How would NANS claim to represent 60 million Nigerian students when it neither owns a website nor a blog? What authority do NANS and its card carrying executives have when they have not a single presence on the social media? I searched for ‘www.nans.edu.ng, http://www.nans.org, http://www.nans.com and several other combinations but all i got was “website not available”.
A Facebook search of NANS only shows a page with a total like of “4654” as at 14th of September 2013; a scroll to the bottom of the page had a poorly constructed statement that goes thus:
“I am comrade Adeoye Adelaja, former Ass sec Gen in Federal poly Bida 2004/2005 set, i searched on facebook and i did Ŋ¤τ̲̅ see NANS, i decided τ̲̅ȍ create the page!!! in solidarity and for the sake of passing information τ̲̅ȍ all concern across all students bodies, i donate this page τ̲̅ȍ NANS, all the current Excos who which τ̲̅ȍ Manage this Page should do ♍ƺ an Email email@example.com for ♍ƺ τ̲̅ȍ admin dem”.
How on earth is NANS representing students in Nigeria if it cannot boast of a Twitter account in the 21st century? How can Gbadebo and his colleagues be speaking on my behalf and on the behalf of all undergraduates if it does not have a single notice board in the University of Lagos, the University of Ibadan, the University of Calabar, Ahmadu Bello university- Zaria, Federal university of technology- Akure, Yaba college of technology, Adeniran Ogunsanya college of education, and all the other tertiary institutions across Nigeria?
The benefits of the social media as a powerful tool was most evident during the January 2012 subsidy protests where the Nigerian people were mobilised via the online media; NANS absence on the online media would not have bothered me if other associations such as the market women, national union of road transport workers, national union of local government employees, carpentry associations etcetera were not online.
Is it not a farce that a few individuals have been parading themselves as the saviours of Nigerian students when they see nothing wrong in the standard of education in Nigeria? If Gbadebo was a Nigerian student, will he claim not to be aware that a four man room in an average Nigerian university now occupies at least twenty students?
How can NANS be a body that is concerned about the welfare of the Nigerian students when our laboratory taps are dried or is the ailing standard of education not part of its mandate?
What justification does NANS have to clandestinely take sides with the federal government (please convince us otherwise) when it is glaring that this country has the resources to fund education even beyond the 26% recommended by UNESCO; this is a country that feeds a president with 1 billion naira per annum and changes the spoons and forks in the first lady’s kitchen with 45million naira for the same period.
How does NANS claim to speak for Nigerian students when it has always taken sides with the government in power? Speaking at the 11th annual campus life workshop, the Lagos lawyer- Mr Femi Falana stated his displeasure over the lack of sincerity on the part of NANS as the association could not present itself as a witness in the court to fight the fee hike in the Lagos state university; yet, they claim to protect the interest of the Nigerian student.
How does NANS expect Nigerian students to buy the idea that the country’s economy will collapse if education gets adequate funding when there is profligacy everywhere? The politicians ride in exotic cars of the latest model whereas our professors drive about in a jeep of less than N800, 000 that was manufactured probably in the 70’s; former president Olusegun Obasanjo owns a university, Atiku Abubakar owns one, David mark earns over N600 million a year, Dimeji Bankole stole his own, Patricia Etteh stole, James Ibori laundered, Tafa Balogun stole, Bode George carted, Sanni Abacha’s loot is still hanging, General Theophilius Danjuma sold an oil block and after paying all obligations, he asked Nigerians to advise him on what to do with it because the proceeds were too much; is NANS still buying the lies of Labaran Maku and Dr. Okonjo Iweala that the economy will collapse; that there is no money in Nigeria to educate its masses?
The 20th century physicist- Albert Einstein wrote that “Education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think”- so as an individual that have received little education, I’ve been engaging myself in some serious thoughts on whether it was possible for the federal government to declare bankruptcy if it decides to cough out a paltry N1.2 trillion spread over three years on the education sector when each senator and member of the house of representatives earn at least $1.7m and $1.2m respectively amounting to over N3 trillion per annum in a country where 10 million children are out of school.
What calibre of student occupies the executive position of the association? Which school do they attend? What level are they? What’s their course of study? What are the criteria for becoming a member or an executive of NANS? What are the short and long term objectives of NANS? Who were the Nigerian students that agreed that the governor of Ondo state- Olusegun Mimiko was the best governor of the Nigerian students? What were the criteria involved? How was the conclusion reached? Was it through a vote? If yes, who voted? Where did the voting take place? Was it online or offline?
How does NANS organize students for mobilization and protests if it neither has a website nor a Facebook account or does it go about it via phone calls or text messages to all 60 million Nigerian students? As a student body, who acts as NANS staff adviser(s)? Politicians or Lecturers? How does NANS get its funding? How are the funds utilized? Who does NANS report to? Has there been any case of financial misappropriation among its members? If yes, who? When? And what actions were taken against the person(s) involved? These are begging questions that needs sincere answers from the leadership of the association.
If the questions above have answers, where are they and why are they so elusive not to be within the reach of the Nigerian students?
If Nigerian students pressure ASUU to call off the strike, I would not want us to forget that since the establishment of ASUU in 1978, it had embarked on strikes in 1988, 1992, 1994, 1996, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2013 over similar issues as the present one which makes it evident that if this problem is not solved once and for all knowing fully well that the country has the resources to heed to its demand, our children will probably be in our present predicament in a matter of years.
This is a clarion call to fellow students in all tertiary institutions across the country to demand for a body that will serve to protect our interests, speak on our behalf and sincerely represent us in order to help build an education for all society.
Until then, our heads are soaked, please NANS, stop the urine.
Information is key to liberation