The plate number indicates that this is the official car of the president of the National Association of Nigerian Students. It would make many student leaders who fell to police bullets across the campuses in the long history against authoritarianism in Nigeria to turn in their graves. Products of that struggle, wherever they may be in the world today, would equally be flabbergasted by this, a luxury car for the president of NANS that could not have come from contributions from the students in Nigerian universities and similar academic institutions devastated by the neo-liberal diagnosis.
But then, what sort of leaders would be so ignorant or disrespectful to the spirit of NANS struggle as to confuse ideologically unclear young people and make them believe in the value system represented by this sort of gift? And to think that this is happening under a government parading a President Muhammadu Buhari, an Adams Oshiomhole, an Ogbonnaya Onu and an Adamu Adamu is, to say the least, appalling! How did we descend so fast? The assumption is that although all governments degenerate, there are always some individuals in every government who take it upon themselves, no matter the cost, to ensure that certain things never happen. This is not necessarily because they are angels or seek to be angels. It is so that it is shown that the spirit of man is a conquering spirit. Even if the car was not given by anyone in the present government, it is incumbent on certain people in power to expose it rather than assemble the same student leaders in the Presidential Villa for an interaction with the president himself at a time their academics are on strike in a struggle for modern universities. That is another strange certainty that academics need to go on strike before a General Muhammadu Buhari isolates the universities for a uniquely personal transformative touch into 21st century entities.
Is it any surprise that there is now a huge split in the student movement, the sort of thing that political leaders should guard against given that it is the repression of radical student platforms and replacement of them with cultism by the authorities that partly accounts for the security situation in the country today. A faction that goes by the name National Union of Nigerian Students, (NUNS) has issued a statement rejecting those they call compromised, pseudo student leaders and declaring their determination to rebuild the studentry into “an ideologically driven movement”.
Parts of the lengthy statement issued by Ridwan Oladimeji who signed as the National Mobilisation Officer January 4th, 2019, reads as follows:
*We restate our solidarity with the ongoing strike action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics(ASUP)
We of the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) decry in strongest terms the position taken by purported students’ leaders masquerading as the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students, (NANS) condemning the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities and Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics at the meeting held with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on 3rd January, 2019. We restate our solidarity with the ongoing industrial action by the education unions and call on mass of Nigerian students to give the demands of the struggle total support as they are in line with the age-long agitations of our movement for improved funding and better-equipped education sector, neglected by a myopic neo-colonial ruling elite.
The National Union of Nigerian Students is the oldest pan-Nigerian students’ mass federation. Right from our flag independence without political independence, the National Union of Nigerian Students in concert with conscious forces in the broader labour and revolutionary movement have always mounted popular struggles against varying socio-economic and political attacks on the mass of the working people.
The ageless combativeness of the National Union of Nigerian Students reached its pinnacle in 1978 under the leadership of the unforgettable Segun Okeowo with its nationwide lecture boycott and mass protests against the attempt of the then General Olusegun Obasanjo’s military junta to commercialize education with the widely-hated Minister of Education, Ahmadu Ali as a point of anger for what has become historically known as the “Ali Must Go” struggle. The clampdown on the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) and other popular forces took varying pragmatic forms with mass arrest of leading students’ activists on various campuses and mass sack of conscious academics, who are “teaching what they are not supposed to teach”. This was combined with the purported ban on the National Union of Nigerian Students.
It did not take the conscious forces in the National Union of Nigerian Students much time to regroup as National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) with the same structures of the National Union of Nigerian Students, exercising their right to organize democratically without the stamp and seal of the despotic Obasanjo-led military junta. The pioneering generation of the National Association of Nigerian Students and arguably some subsequent leaderships up till the mid and late nineties kept true to the genuine fighting tradition that began with the National Union of Nigerian Students.
However, the National Association of Nigerian Students of today has completely deviated from an ideological institution and degenerated into rival gangs of foot soldiers for different wings of our ruling class and has no similarity whatsoever with the true fighting traditions of the National Union of Nigerian Students. The last held National Convention of the National Association of Nigerian Students was devoid as usual of any serious discussion of the state of the nation or the education sector as it used to be in the days of the National Union of Nigerian Students as well as for a period under the National Association of Nigerian Students. It was more of blood-letting and angling for pecuniary favour from members of the ruling elite willing to install their puppets as the leadership, wherein the obvious is the situation of the current abysmal headship led by Danielson Bamidele Akpan.
This was confirmed further by the rotten strike-busting, unguided ambushing and pro-state statements made by the foisted elements led by Bamidele Danielson Akpan, who claim to be representing the interests of Nigerian students purportedly under the banner of the National Association of Nigerian Students during the course of the premeditated and highly compromising visit to President Muhammadu Buhari, where the latter utilized the opportunity to lash out at the ever conscious labour movement for his inexistent “fixing of infrastructure”. Indeed, it is a sad day for the movement as all the noble fighting and agitational traditions known with the students’ movement were thrown into the dustbin and replaced with chagrin ineptitude and disdainful scorn. This is a tragic departure of the revolutionary militancy and resulting to solidarity lacuna between the students and labour movement, exact opposite that characterized the fighting leaderships of the ideologically-driven students’ movement that began as NUNS and rechristened as NANS before the rotten degeneration set in.
It is on our strong conviction of the need for an ideologically-driven and democratically-run pan-Nigerian students’ mass federation that we have RE-ASSERTED THE EXISTENCE of the NATIONAL UNION OF NIGERIAN STUDENTS which was never banned as it does not owe its existence or dissolution to any despotic military junta or their contemporary civilian co-conspirators but derives its mandate from the mass of Nigerian students.
We call on Nigerian students to reject pseudo-students’ leaders who are wheeler-dealers and embrace the rebirth and revived National Union of Nigerian Students as a new, fighting, mass federation of Nigerian students that keeps true to the age-long fighting traditions, ideologically-driven solidarity with the broader labour and revolutionary movement and struggle for total economic and political liberation that the students’ movement is known for in this country.
We call for a conference of genuine mass-based fighting students’ organizations within the students’ movements to discuss how to rebuild the students’ movement and rescue the movement from the jaws of rotten pro-state elements. We are prepared to work such genuine students’ groups to push for the implementation of the demands of the education unions.
We reiterate our call for proper funding of education. Under the current 2018 budget of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government of Nigeria, a mere 7(seven) percent budgetary allocation is allocated to education to cater for over 2,000 schools in extant violation and contravention of the statutory 26% budgetary allocation. Despite all the assurances to the contrary, the commercialization of education sector has been a complete tragic tale with the standards of our primary and post-primary educational institutions fallen to the lowest dregs, now surviving on the crumbs of the Augean stable of corruption perpetrated by the same bourgeois . The result is dearth of infrastructure benefits and unrelenting wave of astronomical fee hikes across different institutions across the country, deliberately reducing the ailing nation into a veritable torture chamber. We reject in entirety the proposal of the Wale Babalakin-led panel to commercialize the universities and introduce draconian tuition fees ranging from N250,000.00 to N500,000.00. We are prepared to resist any attempt to hike tuitions both at the court of public opinion and by extension at the court of competent jurisdiction simultaneously.`
We declare our solidarity with the all the labour centres in our country, the Nigerian Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress and United Labour Congress in their demand for minimum wage increase. Our support for the implementation of minimum wage increase is premised on the fact an increase in minimum wage would improve the purchasing power of students who are reliant on the income of their working parents to survive on campuses.
We also call for the payment of N100,000.00 Cost of Learning Allowance to Nigerian students to cover academic expenses including research, field study as well as feeding among others. We have joined the three labour centres at the barricades since the beginning of the agitation for minimum wage increase and we will continue to push for the aggressive implementation of the minimum wage increase and the payment of our N100,000.00 Cost of Learning Allowance for Nigerian students .
We call on the labour movement to arise and provide direction to the entire mass of working people by building a mass political vehicle through which genuine social transformation can take place. We assure the labour movement of our readiness to be part of this process.
Not yet time to burn the NANS Charter then?