(By Oluwafisayomi Agbolabori)
“If I could rename Nigeria, it would be HOPE. Is not that what we have been doing? Hoping for nothing and we all wait like the Israelites, stuck in the desert and expecting God to shower us good ‘captains’. Since my elementary school days, I have been assured over and over again that I would be one of tomorrow’s leaders – good for them,tomorrow will never come because no matter what you do, it will always be tomorrow. But the leaders of yesteryears are still ruling directly and indirectly today and preparing to be the bosses tomorrow. So, when will my owntomorrow come? Hope?“
HE who hesitates is lost. The superiority brawl between the Federal Government and Academic Staff Union of Universities has gone too long. “Where two elephants fight, the grass surfers” goes a saying – in this, the poor students roaming the streets are the grass beneath the two world powers. So many bulldogs have been barking but none has actually decided to bite.
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) is one. To me, this association is for some selected pockets. What actually does it do? Who does it stand for? For quite a while now, they have been organising what we can call “big eye balls that scare no one” judging by the past experience. Day after day they make their irrelevant existence known by calling for false protests, unlike the West African Student Union that was one of the external forces that ended colonial rule in West African states, Nigeria inclusive. This divided house has not done any meaningful good for Nigerian students other than passing “vote of confidence” on the few enemies of the masses. To cite few examples of its inept, inadequate and ineffective status in the Nigerian students’ community, has it, as the sole representative of Nigerian students, called for a debate to ask candidates seeking students’ votes into our political offices of their agenda to improve the standards of educational sector in this country of ours? What did it do concerning the death of students that were killed by guns and other lethal weapons in some of our tertiary institutions recently? I can boldly say nothing.
And so, if the end cannot justify the means, of what benefit is NANS to the students’ world? Instead of serving as government puppets, it should be the most vibrant students’ union fighting not only the government but also the private bodies that collect students’ money with no social responsibility. What are the contributions of telecommunications, financial and industrial giants to our tertiary institutions by organising free shows to market their services and to further encourage laziness on our campuses? I can’t blame them. It is the system in which we find ourselves.
In other nations, financial, industrial and telecommunications institutions sponsor researches to bring about national development. If the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo could be queried by the late Prof. Sam Aluko when he was a student on budgetary issues, what then stops NANS as a body to ask our political office holders why students are not in school.
Another bulldog that has refused to bite is the Nigeria Labour Congress. As the father of all the labour unions, what actions has it taken so far to put more pressure on the government? More words and no action. The apex union for some time now has been preparing its striking arsenals but, unfortunately, the eggs are yet to hatch. What stops it from staging a solidarity strike to press the needs of ASUU? Or has it been deceived into believing that the national treasury is so dry that N87 billion is out of the reach of the government while the treasury ‘managers’ expend billions to organise rallies and unproductive conventions to further send the nation into more confusion? Maybe it is afraid that students would graduate and compete with it in the labour market – whatever the answer might be, it is a selfish one. If the eye itches, the whole body suffers, this seems not to be the ideology of NLC.
The idea behind every union is collective bargaining – ASUU, a union being bullied by the Federal Government, should be defended and supported in every way by the apex union if it means well for the future of ASUU and the Nigerian labourers whose wards are the majority shareholders in this “shortage”.
If I could rename Nigeria, it would be HOPE. Is not that what we have been doing? Hoping for nothing and we all wait like the Israelites, stuck in the desert and expecting God to shower us good ‘captains’. Since my elementary school days, I have been assured over and over again that I would be one of tomorrow’s leaders – good for them,tomorrow will never come because no matter what you do, it will always be tomorrow. But the leaders of yesteryears are still ruling directly and indirectly today and preparing to be the bosses tomorrow. So, when will my owntomorrow come? Hope?
No one doubts the importance of continuity if it is a good and genuine one but in this scenario, it is a bad, self-satisfying, evil-thought, negative and retrogressive one. Still talking about tomorrow, the graduates of 70s, 80 and early 90s could count how long gone, dead and buried the standards of our education is today. The formula that worked yesterday might make matters messier if applied to today’s mishaps. In this fast and furious socio, political and economic world, ‘the captains’ are still applying 17th century’s rules to rebuild 21st century’s rubbles – impracticable. Tertiary institutions are the citadel of learning, an institution where ideas are hatched and ideals hewed to take a nation to a higher height in the comity of nations, but it seems that ‘the captains’ are unaware of this call, can you actually blame them? Most of them got their first, second…third degrees on their beds, how would they now care if students are learning in the classes or roaming the streets? It is all for naught and naught for all to them.
Just like the feudal lords paid paltry to the serfs, the capitalists give meager to the proletariat and the colonial masters paid the indigenous wee in order to keep them working to survive – so is the trend between ‘the captains’ and the masses.
A half-baked graduate is a ‘sorry-being’ – he will neither get a well paid job nor opt to farming which requires lesser or no formal education in as much as he can distinguish between raining and dry seasons in this part of the world, and then, he becomes a burden not only to himself but also to the better-offs. Should we still continue this game and hope for a better Nigeria in the year infinity and the land of eternity? The foundation of educational sector has gone rust and needs urgent resuscitation. It is saddening and embarrassing that many undergraduates of today can neither write their names nor their course of study – what a shame to a country that claims to be the giant of Africa. Who should we blame? The students, their parents or the teachers? The fault is ‘‘the captains’’; an underpaid, unpaid, over-laboured and over-burdened cannot perform optimally, struggling parents will not assist in home works if there is any at all. All these have monumental consequences to tomorrow for us as a nation.
It is high time ‘the managers’ applied, appropriated, formulated and implemented meaningful and sustaining programmes and policies to this neglected but most important of all the sectors in a nation if it wants to develop and boasts of itself in the comity of industrial nations. And as the followers, it is time to tell the barking dogs to either bite or keep mute.
• Agbolabori is a 300 Level Economics student at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi.
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