Still On The Nans Aso Rock Visit
Having read with close attention, the criticism that accompanied the NANS visitation to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari few days ago, I feel heart-wrenched for what we make of things when we seem not in the picture. While NANS appears irredeemable in the hands of those that are saddled with the responsibility of steering the affairs of the association in defending, protecting and agitating tirelessly for the interests of Nigerian Students both home and abroad, it is not enough reason for us to desert the association because, we are desperately needed to save the association and reclaim its lost glory neither are we expected to polarise it as that would make it totally forfeit the essence of its emergence. It cannot be gainsaid that the problem battling NANS is the same as what ASUU and some other Unions are being confronted with presently throughout the country.
This is not to justify the ideological crisis NANS as an association is bedeviled with, but, it must be noted that while criticizing the leadership of NANS for the visitation to Aso Villa and the presentation of a birthday card to the President, we must realize that while fighting and agitating for the better welfare of the students whose interests NANS as a body represents, there is nothing wrong in presenting Buhari a birthday card because our agitations and loyalty to humanity goes beyond political and ideological divides. Felicitation with any human on his achievements, anniversaries and ceremonies should not be a crime as individuals and/or a body, as long as such occasion is not an antagonism of your ideology.
Be it as it may, it should be noted that irrespective of the crisis a nation may be facing, age of a man does not remain constant and as such, just like some religious books noted that it is good that we count our days so that we may be put in the path of wisdom. It can thus be inferred that the gesture of Nigerian students through their representatives in NANS in giving out complimentary card to Mr President may be referred to as an approach to help restore him to the path of wisdom and awaken his common sense to the begging demands of the people as a nation and the detriments of his maladministration. There is no offense in wishing even an enemy well on his birthday or any other remarkable occasion that pertains more to his personal life than his ideological stand. It could therefore be defined as a childish act or a desperate attempt to score cheap points if there is a crime attached to giving out a card to a birthday celebrant, all because the person in question is a political enemy or obviously a failed leader who has got no good for the country.
However, as a student also, I do not agree with some statements made during the meeting and I did expect the NANS President to table some demands as they affect students' populace before the President of the country. Meanwhile, the deed has been done but it still becomes imperative that an all-inclusive NANS is what is needed to ensure that our leaders in the association speak the voice of the student mass and do not just go about frolicking and engaging in decent begging. Necessity beckons that we push that NANS be brought to a level where the voice of every Nigerian student be heard through the body and the body seems to be a true representation of what we deserve as Nigerian students. As students, we also need to get more involved in the activities of our dear association and reform it as this is the only duty we owe those coming behind us. The truth is, the desired change we envisage cannot occur if we decide to leave the ship of the association at the middle of a rudderless sea, we must all as a matter of necessity participate actively in the activities of our dear association and bring about sanity in it.
It is heart-breaking to read the lamentations of some persons showing their dissatisfaction towards NANS. While we must all agree that the attitude of the Federal Government over the demands of ASUU has been so discouraging with the students being at the detriment, however, it should also be noted that to some extent, ASUU has not been so concerned about the plights of the students but chiefly about what concerns the staff union. It is not out of place to define some of the demands of the body and their mapped out approach in achieving such as an attempt to rob Peter to pay Paul as we have seen from the aftermath of the 2013 strike of the Union.
NANS as a body deserves the right to map out its plights on a parallel note from that of ASUU and may outline a different system of approaching the quest in consonance with existing laws governing the body. As a matter of clear fact, NANS is not an arm or an extension of ASUU and as such, should mainly be concerned with the interests of the students far before that of the lecturers. At this point in time, it’s not out of place to assert that the prime concern of the association include resumption of academic activities across all campuses, proper funding of the education sector by the government, provision of facilities and amenities to enhance living and learning on various campuses, etc. For now, we ought to press the body through our elected and appointed representatives to rise in sense of responsibility to the clarion call of protecting and rescuing the education sector from total wreckage.
As opined by Marxists that education is a constituent (not a means) of human emancipation, the goal of education especially that of tertiary education ought to be human emancipation which is bringing together human beings as human beings, but, it is very sad that the value of education has been ridiculed in modern day Nigeria with less-ideological students roaming the streets which has caused us not even our dear association alone, but, our existence as youths that are seen as the vanguard of revolution, the true ambassadors of change and the veritable conscience of the country. Today, our story is that of of lies, half-truths, and of subterfuge, of fractured hopes, like the jagged edges of broken bottles and our 'dealers' that brought us to where we are today have sworn to hold sway of the country which is causing us our sanity, decency and sense of reasoning and it appears that we the younger generations have failed to learn from the horrible mistakes of the past, the hypocrisy, the deceit and outright criminality which have passed for governance in Nigeria. Perhaps, this is as a result of our failure to read history which would to a very reasonable extent enhance our knowledge and open our eyes to the unknown and, this, to my little understanding is a result of the total bastardisation of the educational sector by Babangida where he accused lecturers of "teaching what they were not paid to teach." This statement of Babangida collapsed the dreams of a non-sectarian society articulated by the Left which was to be replaced by the divisive rhetoric of those who now use religion and ethnicity to further divide our society without paying attention to education. Today, our educational system has been reduced to nothing with no Nobel laurel to be proud of and, this is as a result of the failure of successive government to invest in education.
It cannot be gainsaid that the only agenda in the minds of successive 'dealers' in the country is to destroy education and ensure that it's taken away from the reach of the people. Gen. Buhari began a war on education by dismantling feeding facilities (cafeteria) and paved the way for the introduction of fees through military repression and brutality. General Abacha also came out to declare openly through the recommendation of the Etsu Nupe Committee that the country did not need more than nine Universities at most. The Etsu Nupe Committee's recommendations would have, if implemented collapse the very foundation of this country. Obasanjo also came back in 1999 to finish his unfinished business by changing the Decree that established the Education Tax in order to be able to mismanage and divert the Education Trust Fund.
Beyond the mistake that was made at the Abuja meeting where we had expect the President of our dear association to intellectually and radically table issues that affects the students' populace, we must not, out of anger or disappointment while being pushed by emotion desert the association, but, we must, as divinely anointed revolutionists correct the abnormalities the association is bedeviled with in meeting the demands, hope and aspirations of all Nigerian students both home and abroad. It cannot be gainsaid that we have a national leadership that fear intellectual or scientific solutions to problems which is evident in Gen. Buhari's statement to be allowed to place infrastructure above education. That itself is the height of inanity and it shows that these neo-liberal elements steering the affairs of this country are not ready to invest in education, but, to destroy it so as to hold sway to the country ad infinitum without resistance and this is evident in the numbers of illiterate and semi-illiterate people we have roaming the streets on a daily basis.
The following questions have been asked with no answers some years ago by Dr. Dipo Fashina in order to access whether (or not) the Nigerian tertiary institutions are playing an emancipatory role:
• Does the education given to Nigerian youth in the nation's tertiary institutions prepare the individual to develop her talents?
• Does tertiary education in Nigeria significantly enhance the development of the productive powers of the Nigerian society?
• Do tertiary institutions reproduce oppressive ideologies and an oppressive and unjust social structure?
• Do Nigerian tertiary institutions reproduce class inequalities?
• Do Nigerian tertiary institutions contribute significantly to the elimination of religious and ethnic bigotry?
• Do Nigerian tertiary institutions promote cultural pluralism or do they tend to produce and promote ethnocentric agenda?
• Is the system of tertiary education egalitarian?
•. Does Nigerian tertiary education promote self-confidence in Nigerian youth?
• Has tertiary education in Nigeria produced a knowledge ase for cultural advancement?
• Do they have much to offer in the quest to eliminate poverty and disease?
The answers to all the questions raised is 'NO' and, tertiary institutions administrators in the country have proven to be promoters of oppression while the government has continually and successively pay little or no attention to the educational sector. Nonetheless, this is the time for NANS as a body to resist the neo-liberal policies of fascists we have at the helm of affairs as this is the only way through which the association can be set on the right track. However, we must not lose hope or sleep in NANS because, the problem facing NANS is same as what we are being confronted with in Ife, Lagos, Zaria, Nsukka, Ibadan and anywhere else, yet, we have never lose hope even with the signs of hopelessly being displayed by the Union leadership of these institutions, we must also not lose hope in NANS as it is redeemable, it is a question of commitment and sincerity.
HASTA LA VICTORIA SIEMPRE!
Kazeem Olalekan Israel (GANI) writes from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-fe