“The blind leading the blind is not so bad, what is more jarring is the blind leading the sighted”
I had intended dedicating this column to setting the final agenda for the presidential candidates of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), and in doing that, possibly analyse the chances of both candidates (since it has become clear that Nigerians will be practically making choices between either president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, or General Muhammad Buhari) on account of how they have both led their campaigns and the overall perception of Nigerians as I feel it, only to be cut short of doing that by the INEC chairman , Professor Attahiru Jega’s spasmodic vacillations that finally led to the polls being called off to a later date, at a time most Nigerians were gearing up to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
The reactions trailing the postponement predictably, has been intense as it has kept virtually everybody talking with many pouring bile and opprobrium on the electoral umpire and some too hailing the move. On another day, we shall be giving our own reaction to the adjournment in a more official manner; this is because we have already taken to the social media site Facebook to register our immediate shock and disaffection with INEC’s behavioural indecision.
So in the alternative, we have given this column to discussing an issue that has agitated our mind for a very long time. It is nothing more than the tragic, embarrassing, ugly and ignominious dimension that student unionism has taken in our tertiary institutions. A sad trend that has left too many a Nigerian student disaffected with its umbrella bodies both at the National and campus levels and instead, dissipate that Aluta energy in concentrating on their studies to bag their chosen degrees and leave the four walls of the institution in peace. After all, that is their primary objective in school.
While the issue has perturbed me in a long time, it was not until Thursday, Feb. 5th, that my mind was riveted to it again and the decision to spare a column on it conceived. So what happened?
I was scrolling through my timeline on Facebook as characteristic of users of that social site and all of a sudden, stumbled upon a post. It was on the timeline of the ex-president of the National Association of Nigeria Students, (NANS) ‘Comrade’ Yinka Gbadebo titled in block letters, “FOR THE SAKE OF CLARITY!!!”
In that post tagged with the following persons, Famuyibo Lecoptian Holluwashegun and Orlando Odunso Adio (whoever they are),the former president who however continues to meddle in the activities of the association like its life patron said and I quote,
“last week I was unduly attacked on facebook by Fayemi’s boys in Ekiti state. (sic) The Hallelujah boys also threatened and verbally attacked my media consultant Mr. Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye. I overlooked them because I discovered that all they wanted was an avenue to become popular.
However knowing fully well that once a soldier is always a soldier (sic) I accepted the request of Mr. Maxwell Adeyemi and some comrades to intervene in the mater. I left the comfort of my house in Ibadan, Oyo state on Jan, 29th and proceeded o Ado-Ekiti to intervene. On getting to Ekiti, I contacted former UNADSU president, Deji Oso (DEJAVUU) who assisted me with contacts. Mr. Maxwell joined me in the struggle the same day (29th jan) and returned to Lagos the following morning.
Meanwhile after our intervention, which we did without making noise on Facebook, the detained comrades came out of the police custody and started threatening those of us who used our contacts to intervene.
Without much talk, the piece below was written by the ever conscious DEJAVUU aftermath the whole imbroglio. Let me explicitly declare that the position of DEJAVUU is adopted as mine”.
It was a very funny reading that let me quickly admit.
Readers who take the trouble to ascertain the above, on the Facebook page of the so called ex-president would find out that annexed to the post is another Press Release titled: THE TRUTH/OUR FINDINGS BEHIND THE ARREST OF JASPER AND THE OTHER FOUR (4) STUDENT LEADERS IN EKITI: THE UNTOLD STORY by one Deji Oso also known as DEJAVUU (one wonders what sort of student leaders bear nick names that smack of thuggery or cultism) who claims to be the former student union leader in Ekiti state and whose position, ex-president Yinka Gbadebo endorsed in the preceding post. I was alarmed as to how ex-leaders still get involved in the activities of an association outside advisory roles.
As is characteristic of me, my reportorial curiosity was jolted on seeing the posts which to me was an embarrassment to the entire over 60 million Nigerian students whose affairs, problems and concerns have been consigned for management in the hands of pseudo comrades and supposed student leaders who are everything but what ideal student union leaders should be.
I refused to drop any comment on the thread but instead decided to embark on a personal investigation with regards to the alleged arrest and detention of some student leaders with the intention to make my comment known on a more organised media platform and to put in the knowing the totality of Nigerian students who are the beneficiaries of this trust, what the trustees have made of the collective trust property.
I was going to send a Facebook message to one Maxwell Adeyemi, the media consultant of comrade Yinka Gbadebo who has been my friend and with whom we share the same goals and ideals for Education in Nigeria as a whole but on a second thought passed on it.
I met Maxwell Adeyemi, albeit online sometime in 2013 during the last ASUU strike through an article he wrote at the time when the strike became a National concern condemning ASUU for being too greedy and using the welfare of students and the standard of Education in Nigeria as a cheap alibi to gain the support of the masses which mattered at the time.
The article appealed to me, because for us then, at Nigerian Student Forum, a social media awareness campaign which I formed at the time with a group of other spirited Nigerian students at the time, to heap the pressure on the Federal Government, we took an anti ASUU stance as was evidenced in some of the articles I wrote at the time and in our Press Releases then condemning the lecturers for not having kept by faith to have the moral right to embark on a strike but not entirely absolving the FEDS of any complicity.
I remember having sent him a mail at the time, and we soon became good friends on Social Media. I have the intention of visiting him at his Magodo residence in Lagos before the end of my stay in Lagos. But unknown to me at the time, he was the spokesman of the then NANS president hence why he had taken the anti-ASUU stance on the strike action. Recall that NANS at the time under Gbadebo was pro-FG. It won’t be long before it dawned on me that the supposed NANS president was in crude terms, a PDP thug but on a light note, a card-carrying member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party.
In my desire to know more, I trawled deeper into the Timeline of Yinka Gbadebo (For the avoidance of doubt, Gbadebo is my friend on Facebook) in search of any piece of information that could cast more light on the issue. I was lucky to have found one as I soon stumbled upon another post, dated 26th January, at about 3:00 pm with the title: FOUR APC THUGS MASQUERADING AS NANS LEADERS ARRESTED WITH GUNS IN EKITI. The matter was just getting started.
The post had it that four thugs allegedly recruited by Tinubu’s son-in-law, Oyetunde Ojo who combines as the APC House of Representative candidate for Ekiti Central, Constituency 2, to terrorise the supporters of the PDP Erijiyan and Ikogosi Ekiti, Ekiti West local government, have been arrested by men of the Nigerian police force.
It further alleged that the thugs were caught with guns, axes, cutlasses and other assorted weapons while trying to escape and included Odebunmi Idowu from IlupejuEkiti, Aliyu Yusuf from Ibadan, Oladoyo Osikoye and Ogunkuade Oluadoti, also known as JASPER both from Ikogosi and the said Jasper, the National Vice President NANS(External Affairs).
It ended with a caveat namely, “I, Yinka Gbadebo, the immediate past National president of NANS, call on the Ekiti state police command to ensure that the arrested, are charged to court with immediate effect to serve as deterrent to Nigerian students. We are not touts in NANS”. He concluded by urging Nigerian students to desist from any acts of thuggery, gangsterism and hooliganism as the 2015 general elections gathers momentum.
It was something more of an irony. It was a case of a militant advising or preaching the gospel of civility. But we were not done. I still wanted to know more. The Ondo state NANS Joint Committee Chairman (JCC), Comrade Oladimeji Ayodele also known as Blackey, was to be my next point of call.
I met Blackey also during the last ASUU strike through one of my articles at the time and since then; we have been able to maintain a very robust relationship. I have always admired him for his probity and anti-government stance. It is not surprising that he bought the APC change mantra, but let us come back into the issue of the day.
Given the office he occupies, there was no way he would not know the internal mess engulfing the union which he once confided in me, was ridden with corruption and misadministration. He told me that the said Jasper, the NANS vice-president (External), wasn’t at any time caught with weapons as was alleged by Gbadebo and his lackeys, but rather what happened was that, because the structure of NANS is being controlled by the PDP, while Jasper contested for the office, he was sponsored by the APC through a certain Bimbo Dramola, a member of the House of Representatives representing Ekiti but however acted as though he was with the PDP camp in order not to jeopardise his chances.
He further revealed to me that when General Muhammad Buhari came for rally in Ekiti state, Jasper declared support for APC, telling the large number of student representative at the gathering how the present government hasn’t the interest of students in its plans and why they must vote for Buhari and APC at the forthcoming general elections and therefore, irritating the temper of the PDP, or the Gbadebo camp and with the help of the state governor, Ayo Fayose, they were rounded up, arrested and robbed against comrade Gbadebo’s account.
He concluded by saying, “people who contest for the NANS executive offices are sponsored by political parties through individuals. Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa state sponsored the incumbent president, comrade Tijjani Usman Shehu, he is over 35 years and was the senate president of NANS in 1999. Sixteen years later, he is now the president. NANS is a crazy association, they are not students”.
Now, we must be worried that a group of persons who call themselves or who are supposed to be student leaders have suddenly become so compromised that they have lost touch with the immediate short and long term objectives as representatives of the student constituency and have merely been reduced to appendages of the political class for reasons not to be distanced from a mere pot of porridge. We must be worried because as I see it as a social crime.
At this rate, given the facts that have been presented in the foregoing accounts, one is not concerned with whose testimony should be accepted and which should be discarded as far as the arrest or otherwise of some ex and present excos of NANS is concerned.
Whether a certain jasper and friends were caught with guns or not, is altogether immaterial to the issue under review. What cannot be disputed is that the leadership of NANS whoever they are, have failed the totality of Nigerian students and must bury their heads in shame wherever they are, for failing to keep the mandate of those they claim to represent. Their commissions and omissions, begs the question of leadership in the youth population.
It is instructive to note however, that this is not the first time, this body will be involved in such mess as the one already discussed here briefly. Being privy o much of its activities, one is regaled every now and again with the odoriferous comments and stories that ooze out from the chimneys of that association which used to be the pride of the Nigerian student and a force that must be reckoned with during the days of its pioneering members; the days when students understood the essence of leadership and carried on it with an enviable zest that brought dividends to the students and the Educational system generally. But we must not go into that history lesson here.
One would have expected that the association is divided against itself for reasons that border on the welfare of the students as that is the core objective of student unionism. But that is not to be. Money and loyalty has always been the issue. It has been the politics of who gets what, when and how. Having being engulfed in this trade, they have forgotten they were elected or selected to lead, whatever is the criterion of their emergence.
Its begs pondering over, how a student leadership sponsored by a ruling government can live up to its responsibilities especially where they are adverse to the interest of the government whose stooge it is. Where was it known, where the dancer dictated the tune? It has always been the sole responsibility of he that plays the piper. Yet, it is under this sort of scenario that the leadership of NANS has carried on in recent times.
It may come to many as a surprise that those at the top echelon of the association are either drop-out from school, rusticated students with connections in high places, or jobless graduates who have failed to land a job after graduation. The former president of NANS, Comrade Yinka Gbadebo, who is a the centre of the watershed in the association, claim to have graduated at the University of Ado-Ekiti from the department of Accountancy in 2006 with a CGPA of 3.75, but yet his certificate from my checks, has not been given to him for one reason or the other. Let us agree albeit with fear that he actually graduated in 2006, how come he became the president of NANS in 2013/2014 sever-eight years after graduation? The story is the same with the incumbent president who was installed by the governor of Jigawa state as report had it.
The 20th century physicist-Albert Einstein wrote that, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think”. As a serious minded individual, that has received quite a considerable level of education; I am moved to probe thus:
What calibres of student occupy the executive position of NANS? Which school do they attend? What level are they in? What is their course of study? What are the criterions for becoming an executive member of NANS? What are the long and short term objectives of NANS? Who were the Nigerian students that sat and agreed to endorse president GEJ for the 2015 presidential elections as was reported by Daily Sun on the 20th of January? Was there an online poll conducted to gauge the opinion of students before such was reached? What were the criteria involved? How was a consensus reached? Through a voting? If yes, cool but where did the voting take place?
Why is the NANS website looking deserted? How does NANS mobilise for is protests, seminars and workshops when it has not a functional website, a corporate Facebook account or a twitter account or does it go about that via phone calls or text messages? Has NANS become some sort of political organisation? If yes, what political party is it sympathetic to? As a student body, who acts as NANS staff advisers? Politicians or lecturers?
How does NANS get its funding? How are the funds utilised? Who does NANS report to? Has there been any case of financial misappropriation among its members? Are there NANS representatives in the various tertiary institutions? And finally, are we not justified in dismissing whatever has been happening there as a contemporary contradiction?
These are begging questions that needs sincere answers from the farcical leadership of the association. Onu’kwube!
If they have answers, what are they and why are they so elusive not to be within the reach of Nigerian students in this age of information?
Sad as student leadership is at the National level, more worrying is the fact that the same is the story if not even worse at the regional and campus levels. A friend of mine once described it as the test ground for potential corrupt leaders. When they are not cornering funds disbursed by management for student oriented projects, they over bloat the expense for such projects and take up their respective percentages like the subscribers of a public company.
I had the privilege of working with a student leader in my university but whose name I have personally chosen not to mention for personal reasons. We were commissioned to produce the annual campus magazine, “Giant of the Sahara”. Having served as the secretary of the editorial board and being involved at every stage of that production up to the launching which came back with an estimated return of 1.5 million both in cash and pledges there was no question of our not being remunerated.
However, since then and even now as a write, the whereabouts of those funds have not been explained to the entire members of the editorial board who worked tirelessly to see to the successful production of the maiden edition of that magazine.
Word later got to me of how the redemption of the funds were done clandestinely and the proceeds shared among the key executives of that exco. Today, he is a graduate of Islamic Studies and moves around with the swagger of an ex-student leader who took as role models, Alhaji Aminu Kano and the Singaporean revolutionary leader, Lee Kwan Yew as role models in leadership while I interviewed him. I kept imagining the irony!
As a means of sourcing funds which they embezzle, it has become a shameful tradition among SUG presidents and faculty or departmental heads to take to clandestine and dubious courtesy visits to perceived influential members of the host community of the tertiary institution and traditional rulers/politicians in pursuit of money under the veneer of courtesy calls embarked upon with a souvenir as a gift in exchange for the funds which they receive from such persons, account of which is not the entire students represented.
You could as well be labelled an ‘enemy of progress’ if you probe into dubious acts, that it, if you are lucky not to be victimised by their staff advisers but which I call crime advisers or partners in social crime who they work in cahoots with to give their ‘crime’ an official air. It is disheartening that these are people who are supposed to be potential leaders of a country ravaged by an endemic corruption.
We are not oblivious that student unions are a testing ground for students who would want to take up leadership positions after graduation. In fact, it is a platform that have produced some of our greatest leaders in the government and corporate circles but with the trend it has taken lately, the future appears very bleak as their core objectives have been raped and bastardised. As far as we are concerned, it has become some sort of enterprise, or a goldmine that comes with huge financial returns for a select few. It is for nothing that people put up all that fight and mudslinging to attain such positions. It is not because they want to serve. They rather, want to steal and loot.
We end by reiterating that there is an urgent need for a re-orientation among student leaders in Nigerian tertiary institutions with regards to the whole purpose of leadership which ought to be a virtue. They must shun all activities that cast them in bad light and blight their expected contribution to Nation building. No serious student leadership will romance or take a pro-government stance without any remorse however disciplined that government may be. One is rather miffed and obfuscated with the pro-government stance student unionism has taken in our own clime, given how insensitive to student welfare and Education generally government has been here.
We make this a clarion call to fellow Nigerian students in all tertiary institutions across the country to demand for a body that will serve to protect our interest, speak on our behalf and sincerely represent us in order to help build an Education for all society and not a league of hungry and power drunk youths consumed by their parochial sentiments.
Until then, we insist that NANS and student unionism in Nigeria remains a contemporary contradiction. God bless Nigeria.
The writer is a Final Year Law student at the University of Maiduguri and Public Affairs commentator. He is on twitter as @RayNkah/ RaymondNkannebe@gmail.com