(By Tijani Oluwamayowa)
“Lend me your ears, that I may bury my words in them, but more importantly your heart, that I may inscribe my thoughts on its walls, that we may safely transform our nation and put the departed to rest. For their sake, do not turn on the deaf ears as I play from this drum of observation and intellect. For the sake of the fallen, do not pretend to be blind as I extend these vices to your frontlet, for their sake mind my words and tend to my advice, then together we shall take a handful of the sands of fulfillment and pour on their caskets as we bid them adios and watch them in sane peace.“
THOUGH my heart is heavy but I have not come in its heaviness because emotions are known to ultimately becloud judgment and that is what I have come to do today; to judge our national malady, to appraise the educational insanity and to give resounding rounds of applause to the mediocrity of the Nigeria students (Of whom I am one). I have come to try to take you down the lane called memory, as we flip through the pages of history, trying to revisit the relics of time and learn the lessons that history teaches.
Many may have sent you condolence messages after the death of the Senate President (NANS) and other NANS faithful whose lives were offered on the altar of cluelessness of a nation seeking self-definition. I would have loved to join an army of friends, unionists and public office holders who have sent their deep regrets and say, that the soul of the FAITHFUL departed (emphasis on faithful) find peace and help, but this would be a slap on the face of the departed. Though I want them to rest in peace, but saying “rest in peace” like every other person would not necessarily make them rest in peace, but acting against the vices that put them six feet beneath our feet would be the best feat to make them find the peace. Lip regrets are only a disservice to the fallen meteors.
Lend me your ears, that I may bury my words in them, but more importantly your heart, that I may inscribe my thoughts on its walls, that we may safely transform our nation and put the departed to rest. For their sake, do not turn on the deaf ears as I play from this drum of observation and intellect. For the sake of the fallen, do not pretend to be blind as I extend these vices to your frontlet, for their sake mind my words and tend to my advice, then together we shall take a handful of the sands of fulfillment and pour on their caskets as we bid them adios and watch them in sane peace.
Over the past week, I have been buried in the pool of pain and conflicting reports. I have been trying to scan all information gotten on the screen of truth to see which one comes through, like Abraham Lincoln advised, but almost to no avail. Some reported that the riot in the University of Uyo just led to the loss of life of a promising young Kingsley, while others said they were about three to six students who lost their dear lives in the plot. With respect to the attempted peacemakers (NANS Senate President and co.), who were victims of the road crash, some reported that the death was caused by a crash into a trailer; some said it was caused by police roadblocks, and some others said that the crash emanated from the mood drinks taken by our departed faithful.
What report(s) to believe in this chronic media confusion is not my plan of action today, but the insanity that surrounds the corporate existence as Nigerian students. How we handle issues, when we react to apparent oppression and our overall responsiveness to the matters that affect us the most. We now fight the wrong enemies; we have become myopic in our dealings and now have a flare for dealing with frivolous issues. We run from pillar to post in a bid to cure ringworm even when leprosy has taken over our feeble existence.
Now to history’s lane; in 1961, the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) protested against the decision of the Nigerian government to enter into Anglo-Nigeria defence pact with the British government. The students saw it as selling the Nigerian birthright and resisted it. The students involved were victimised by the government yet they took their stand.
This was a time when the student body which you head today influenced national and even international policies that were perceived capable of crippling our existence. This was a time when they knew that leprosy if not tackled will birth banes that are beyond the management of the ring worm killer.
These times are gone; our hobbies now lie in staining the pages of newspapers with baseless interviews and write-ups, with condolence messages of deaths that could be avoided, with complaints to the man who is trying to cut our toes, while applauding the one with a loaded rifle facing our fore-head.
Over the past few years, the budgetary allocation towards Nigerian students has been extremely cruel. From 2006 to 2010, less than N300 billion has been recurrently allocated to a sector, with much more going to unsafe security, yet we have our hands akimbo. In 2011, N1.592 trillion (about 35 per cent) was allocated to security, while education was ailing at less than 10 per cent as though we live in a war ridden nation. 2012 was no different with 8.4 per cent 9394.58 billion of 4.697 trillion). The final deception came in 2013, when education was said to have got the highest allocation, with just N426.5 billion which amounted to 11.489 per cent of the national budget, all of these in a nation that is expected to give at least 26 per cent to the sacred sector (According to UNESCO).
NUNS of 1961 could preempt the government, and act against policies perceived as harsh. The same could have applied to us if we could preempt all of this. The UNIUYO crisis which led to the these avoidable deaths all began from a N2,000 and N200 introduction of GST and transport fare respectively and the inhumane intervention of armed policemen at the university. If you as the head of NANS could make NANS stand firm on the policy of “no use of arms” within our institution by the police, all of this could be avoided. Besides, if the school was properly funded as it should be, and we could fight for our rightful 26 per cent of the budget, the introduction of such fees may be impossible.
In 1983, students were expelled from the University of Maiduguri following protest against the then Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Jubril Aminu (a senator as of 2010). This was taken up by the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) and the students were restored to the university. This was one of those NANS’ victories, but since the demise of the “Ajanaku”, NANS has not found it pertinent enough to find a worthy replacement and have someone like this that would be a fierce defence for us in the days of trouble. [Sleep Well, Senior Advocate of the Masses].
Like Desmond Tutu said: “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument”! I heard you were dealt with by Oyo State’s “operation burst” operatives, due to your intentions and deeds to barricade the road leading to UCH in a bid to shut down all of the nation’s universities. Though this may be difficult to believe due to media myopia, but if any truth dwells in this then you are raising your voice, not improving your argument. We cannot achieve greater results by working on the impulses generated by these deaths without strategising on how we can on a long-term conquer these present realities.
You may wonder why I am writing to you and not the Student Union of UNIUYO, or some other person, the reason is simple: “akobeje, o ye ki o mo amala san” poorly translated as he who can binge on stew, should be able to swallow dry morsels of yam flour”. He, who takes the glory of yesterday, should not run from the blames of tomorrow.
Finally brother, I am sure I am not the first Nigerian student to write you, and may not be the last, but I plead with you, not to turn deaf ears on my feeble argument, let it not be another round of drums to the deaf or lightening to the blind. Sieve it through and take what we both know can make Donald, Kingsley, Abdulazeez, Jerry, Japheth and Asa rest in perfect peace. As youths, Benjamin Disraeli calls us the trustees of posterity; we are called to be architects of the future, not its victims.
• Oluwamayowa wrote from University of Ibadan.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”