I don’t know whether I should start this treatise by congratulating the Army of Nigerian students for what we have collectively waited for-An end to the protracted ASUU strike, which at a point, seemed like it won’t go shrivel, or whether to start by apologizing for my deliberate use of the rather harsh adjective -‘Foolish’ which I must say was not in a calculated attempt to drag traffic to this post and which I am staunchly unapologetic to, irrespective of whose ox is gored. Not even after chanting my ‘wini mini mari mo’, could I get a preference, therefore, I have debased the essence of whichever comes first, and would not congratulate us as our actions and reactions throughout the eon of the strike is not even worthy of any approbation as the irrationality and idiocy we displayed throughout the period was so towering that a description of us as ‘FOOLS’ will only amount to a mere understatement or sarcasm.
If there are two things I have learnt or discovered as the strike reared its ugly head in the past six months, it is the sad reality that Nigerian students, lack a voice. It is true that there is an association called the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and respective Student Union Government’s across the 52 public universities but it is not only melancholic but also calamitous that they scarcely understand what it means and what it takes to occupy the positions they occupy. They like to parade themselves as comrades, but it is doubtful they truly understand what it takes to be a comrade. For them, it is about status as little or nothing in their actions suggests that they understand what makes a man a comrade.
Secondly, I realized that many of us do not know that we are the major stakeholder in the Education industry. And because of this ignorance, the leadership of ASUU and the Federal Government (FG) has jointly reduced us as ragdolls and pawns in their game of chess. We are thrown here and there at will, yet we sit bewildered like jjc’s and do nothing.
I never supported the leadership of ASUU in their strike because right from the genesis of the strike, I have always been of the opinion that, with the level of funding our universities have gotten before the strike, they should have performed considerably better than they were even before the strike. I dismissed the lecturers as only being after their pockets and not in the interest of me and you as they like to posture about. Even when woken up from their slumber and asked why they have vacated the classrooms, what they will tell anyone who cares to know is: we have vacated the classrooms in the interest of students and their future. How Cheap does ‘Talk’ sell these days in the markets anyway? Well, if they chorus that, like our nursery school rhymes, it is because we allowed them to use us as a bargaining tool. We allowed them to use us as securities in the Money Market.
But despite not endorsing the strike action, I saluted them for one thing-they kept at their guns, they would not put their hands in the plough and look back, they know what they wanted and they knew how to get it and at last they have gotten it, using us as leverage or collateral. But did we ever care?
No, too many of us cared. I noticed that, from our attitude and temperament throughout the period. For many of us out there, it was even an opportunity to hustle and make some money. The strike can last as long as it wants, who cares? We were more interested in making some fast money and buy the latest gadgets in town or catch up with the latest fashion trends so that whenever the strike is called off, we go back to our various campuses and show off. It is immaterial what we have lost; it is immaterial that we have been at home for 5 or approximately six months. The money we have made is enough consolation. I even heard some say that the strike should not be called-off until January so that they can collect get their December salaries or round up their December ‘runs’ or hustling.
“Who goes out to the streets to protest these days? Who has that time? Protest for what? Are we in the Arab world? Is this Egypt? Some asked, and others will come out bold to tell you, “When the Umbrella body of the students has been compromised?” Fair enough, the umbrella body of the students has been or was compromised, but are we not the people whose mandate they have? Are we not the ones who gave them the authority? What did we do to show that they have been compromised and make our voices heard in seeing that a Vote of no confidence is passed on them? We abruptly did nothing but took to the uncensored Social Media to engage in ‘Skelewu’ dance competition and got trapped in the net of the crazy Entertainment industry while our future hung in the balance.
The leadership of ASUU has shown each and every one of us what can be achieved through a committed struggle. They have shown us what unionism is all about and that if our umbrella body-NANS has compromised, they have not. If the NANs have forgotten their Mission and Vision Statements, they still memorize theirs like the Lord’s Prayer or the ‘Ash hadu al lahila ha illahu wa ashadu anna Muhammadur rasul lullah’ and what they have to show for it is the 200 billion Naira the FG has deposited in a CBN account and the immediate payment of their arrears of salaries in the last 5Months. But is that all? No. they also forced the government to put pen to paper that none of the members of the union will be victimized for taking part in the strike. A lot right? Well, it is nothing too difficult to come by if we too have shown the same level of commitment that they have always shown but the only difference is that we don’t care. The gentility of a lion they say is not stupidity, but you know what? In our own case, it is more than stupidity; I like to call it ‘Suffering and smiling’ in the words of the High Life Music sensation, Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
Accepted, the strike has come and gone, and many of us are now hustling to do our last ‘runs’ to get the latest BlackBerry, or Android device, or to get the latest wrist-watch or the recent shoe in vogue. And for those of us who are privileged to drive cars in the campuses; to get the latest rims for our wheel or even change to a different car entirely. In all these hustling and bustling, permit to tell us that before we foolishly pack up our bags and baggage to return back to school……,
Let us hold our so-called lecturers accountable. I can see many of them are already reveling and carousing that it is victory at last. Why not? Are we not told that “All is well that ends well”? Not even the death of Professor Festus Iyayi, the sacrificial Lamb and the greatest victim of the strike will dent their ululation. They now wait for their phones to beep so that their arrears of salaries will come in if at all, they haven’t been paid as I write. I can only imagine how the fast approaching yule tide will be for them. No doubt, it will be a special one with so much money around to spend. I think I even have to pay my HoD a visit when he least expects so that I can get my own share of the ‘Awuf Money’. Yes, awuf it is, because they did not work for it and our Landlords in school will not take the five months strike as an excuse not to pay their rent. As they will always tell us, “My house is not a Hostel”. But as they celebrate, they should remember that ‘awuf dey run belle o!’
Back to our discourse- Before we foolishly return back to school, let us make sure we hold these men and women who like to wallow in contrived sanctimoniousness as though we do not know that our universities have become ivory towers of sleaze and a corruption rate that is second to the cash cow-NNPC, accountable. We must let them know by our actions and ‘body Language’ (apologies to Waziri Tambuwal) that the era of parading themselves as ‘tin gods’ is over. That just as they claim to have fought for our interest and the overall interest of the Education sector, we want to see them live it by walking their talk and not just mounting the podium to feed the gullible masses lies and make-beliefs which are in conflict with what they exhibit in our campuses.
The era of selling of ‘hand outs’, asking our female students for relationship and some even taking them in to sleep with, for marks in return is over, the era of collecting sums of money from students called “sorting” in exchange for marks or upgrading their c+ to a B, or their F9’s to a D. The era of not coming for lectures for a great part of a semester and coming at the nadir stage, to dish out handouts that are fraught with unpardonable grammatical errors is over, the era of victimizing students who refuse to be cowed into silence is over. The dark years of collecting wads of expensive textile materials to supervise projects of final year students and a whole lot of shenanigans these so-called lecturers exhibit in our campuses without confrontation, should be a thing of the past, but then that is if only we want them to be.
How do we do that? We can start by speaking out at any giving opportunity when faced with such treatments by these Jobbers who call themselves our lecturers. Some few weeks ago, the polity was heated up by the irascible and grumpy act of a sitting-governor for assaulting a widow somewhere in Benin, Edo state. We all saw what became of that act. We all saw what became of the said governor- Adams Oshiohmole. How he was forced to stoop so low into sharing a cup-of tea with Mrs. Joy ifije and her son and even offering her a Job- not forgetting the 2 million naira cash given to her, all in a bid to atone for his rather being consumed by his emotions and trampling on the person of a citizen who might have voted for him 2 years ago at the polls. Well, while we all scampered for a space to comment on the act, I was more concerned with what can be achieved through the Social Media and most especially what we, as students can achieve if we explore the same window. God bless whoever recorded that scene and had it posted to the internet but will we be bold enough to record ours and put them across?
Before we foolishly get back to school, let us know that our being referred to as ‘half-baked’ graduates the moment we are churned out, is because by our omissions and inactions, we want to be regarded to as so. We must make it a point of duty to show that most, if not all our lecturers are also ‘half baked’ and ethically wanting by speaking out at the slightest aggravation from the university authorities tailored to our collective injury. We deserve the right to be shown our scripts after collation. We reserve the right to apply for a re-marking of our scripts when we are not satisfied with how they say we have performed without any victimization from any quarters as they have demanded from the authorities. We reserve the right to be shown transparency in their dealings and in the day-to-day running of our campuses. Who says, Students cannot go on strike? Just in case many of us have forgotten, our lecturers who have now taken strike as a medium to press home their demands, went on strike in their own days as students for one reason or the other. One of my lecturers will always tell us how they once went on strike because they were not served warm/hot water to take their bath and so many other trivial issues that led them to vacate their classes to the extent that they were pleaded with to return back to their classes. And to know that all these took place while the Military were in power, overwhelms my mind.
We must not foolishly stand bemused while they parade themselves as demi-gods of some sort. I have it on good authority that many of these lecturers don’t mark our scripts or even when they manage to do so, hardly read through our scripts to see where we have hit the point and yet still have the temerity to refer to us as ‘half-baked’. If the bread is consistently half-baked, should not the baker be bundled out in a bakery firm worth its salt and that is committed to customer satisfaction and profit maximization? This is a food for thought I guess for the authorities, but before we foolishly return back to our campuses, we should learn to keep the ‘Big Brother’ eye in George Orwell’s 1984 on our lecturers.
They have fooled the Government and masses into believing they are ‘Holier than thou’ and it is our duty to hold them to their words. The Social Media is a turf we can operate on, to air out the spoils in the system to prove to the government that it is not just funds that sets a nation’s university system apart as I have preached in several articles. It takes a whole lot of commitment from those whom these funds are bequeathed to. How they manage it to see that they make the best out of a little. But since our lecturers in their muddled brains thinks it is all about money, we must watch with eagles’ eye to see that they kowtow that lane.
Before we go back to school, we should be mindful of the fact that we have sat at home for 5-6 months and less is what we cannot settle for. The only way to make these wasted months count, is not by the few thousands, many of us may have saved and the new gadgets we have secured for ourselves, but by making sure our lecturers change from their bad-ways and see that we are baked well as graduates so that the labour Market will not have to condone with ‘half-baked’ graduates so-called.
There are series of social media Outfits committed to this struggle to wit: @OccupyNaija, @AsuuProtests, @EiE and a host of others. You can always blow the whistle through these twitter handles and it will be taken from there to a logical conclusion and justice served while your anonymity is guaranteed. All you need to proffer is the name of your institution, the lecturer involved in any shoddy dealings and the department in question and you would have just done your part. By these, we shall get them on their fours and let them know that ‘Big Brother’ is now watching them.
I will like to stop here for now. The ball as the game stands, is now fully in our court or our half. How we choose to play, is a different thing entirely. Whether to play to the gallery or put the ball in our opponent’s net to make them know that we are now wiser than we use to be and as they have always thought us to be is a question of choice. We do not necessarily need the Umbrella body of the students-NANS, as they have eaten the proverbial porridge even in our campuses.
Whether we like it or not, we are stakeholders in the education sector, and our roles in making it better cannot be overemphasized. A lot in making it work lies in our hands, we should not only stay and watch others play ball and even go ahead to use us as a wager; we should get our shorts, roll our pants, off our shirts and join in playing this game. If anything, to see that it is determined in our favor for once.
I have long started playing my roles to this cause however little, whether we choose to play our own roles or not, is beyond me. But just before we foolishly return back to school.
The writer is a Law student and a Public Affairs Commentator. He is on twitter @RayNkah