Who Will Speak For Us?
When I gained admission into the university, I had the idea that Students Union Government was a union which comprises of students with similar goals and objectives speaking with one voice. Unfortunately, my definition or description has long been reviewed by the Students' unionists to a body of students who delve into school politics mistakenly to amass wealth for themselves. They drive around our campuses in Porsche vans, wearing starched clothes and live in well furnished rooms in contrast to our lamentable state of our hostels. Students' unionism has been typical of an oxymoron because studentship in recent times has dissociated itself from the essence of unionism.
It is quite lamentable at the same time laughable that problems in higher institutions brew when the population of students has increased in tens of thousands over the years. The offices of students' union officials have become too juicy leaving Nigerian students in the hands of leaders who are worse than the occupants of the red and green chambers. Leadership ought to be purpose driven and not that which is backed by financial appetite. As scholarly as Albert Einstein when offered the position of Israel's presidency, declined the offer saying he lacks the natural aptitude to handle official matters. There is no gainsaying Einstein made his mark on earth. The case of students’ leaders is quite different as they are sponsored by godfathers in schools' governing council or "over graduate students". Over graduate students are those alumni we see on our campuses who come to invest in students' union elections, All these have given rise to mediocrity in students' union government.
These Tom, Dick and Harry students' leaders emerge victorious and they go into government to fulfill their purposes other than to speak as a voice for the students but do the dictates of sponsors and swell their pockets. The interference of school authorities in students' politics is also a plague to students' activism, the level of tribalism that plays on our campuses is colossal where certain positions are reserved for students of host communities. Often times on our campuses there are clashes between school's anointed candidates and the Oba, Eze, Alaafin, Emir, Sultan, Ovie, Olu as the case may be. The palaces have become determinants of the lives of young students who have been christened "leaders of tomorrow"
The deplorable state of our hostels today is not due to the bad government we have in Nigeria today but due to the dumb leaders we have on our campuses who have refused to speak for the students who have no choice but to find comfort in bedbug-ravaged mattresses, bushes housing bed bugs, overcrowded hostel rooms, bad toilets and open air bathrooms (students taking their bathe outside). Students' activism can no longer be perceived in our schools, maybe it died with Abatcha. Students' Associations in the Departmental and Faculty levels are the most handicapped on our campuses, their objectives are simple -host Faculty and Departmental balls, produce T-shirts and collect dues from students in which a good proportion of the dues collected leaves the students' coffers to Faculty Deans and HODs. These Faculty leaders ought to channel the grievances of their students to the SUG when they can no longer contain the pressure. Contrary to the objective of a sane Students' Union, leaders protect their GPs to the detriment of the students they lead.
Victimization of students has become commonplace on our campuses where students are victimized for not dancing to the tune of greedy lecturers and sexually voracious lecturers who have turned their offices to hotel roos. When these innocent young women die of about ikon, their families become pained and when their wombs are destroyed they become prey to their future husbands. The students' leaders have not been able to tame these unscrupulous elements in the name of academics.
The state of over crowdedness of our lecture theatres is so much in a sorry state, where a lecture hall for five hundred students is made to forcfully occupy over three thousand students. Arise! students must not be dumb or feign ignorance of this plague,thousands of students united cannot be defeated by a few pot bellied administrators who know of our plights but have not been informed with cries and demonstrations of angry students who have not enjoyed the true benefits of studentship.The school is a micro reflection of the larger society and if we fail as intellectuals the society will die.We must not wait on our "leader" but on the miraculous spirit of "aluta" Let the unschooled man not say "thank God I didn't go to school.We must talk.
Rinata H Kassim
400 level Mass Communication student
University of Maiduguri