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"How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article - Education - Nairaland

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"How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article by conscience(m): 12:16am On Dec 12, 2005
Was That NANS...?
By Reuben Abati -GUARDIAN NEWSPAPERS 11/12/05
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) celebrated its 25th anniversary in Abuja on Wednesday, Dec 7, and to give the occasion a big lift, the students organised an award ceremony and also launched an appeal fund for a proposed national secretariat of the association in Abuja. Students' unionism in Nigeria is older than 25 years but NANS emerged against a historical backdrop in 1980 that is worth celebrating. But the way the present students' leaders went about the celebration has turned out to be an assault on the history and achievements of the students union movement and a reminder of the destruction of key centres of activism in civil society.

What was on display in the 25th anniversary of NANS was opportunism, if not infantilism; perfidy of the highest order and gross irresponsibility. It is either the students' leaders were suffering from amnesia or they were under a spell. The celebration of NANS at 25 ought to have been prefaced by a return to the circumstances and ideals that produced NANS in 1980. Before the emergence of NANS, the national students' body in Nigeria was known as the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS). Before NUNS was the West African Students Union (WASU) under which umbrella students from West Africa fought the colonial masters and insisted on the rights of Africans to take charge of their own destiny and affairs.

NUNS inherited the same idealism and students unionism was soon established in Nigeria as a platform for change and informed activism. By 1960, there were few universities in the country but the university system was so well established and so properly linked to the development process in the making that its voice in the affairs of the nation carried substantial weight. The students were also aware of this and it was no surprise that the Anglo-Nigerian Defence pact was aborted solely on account of the objections of students. By the 70s, an increase in the number of universities and other higher institutions of learning, the spread of Marxist ideology on the campuses and an obsession with revolution and change, inspired also by the failings of the post-colonial elite, had given a fresh edge and dynamism to the students movement. The students saw themselves as agents of history and they wanted to make an impact on the history of their society. They enjoyed the support of radical intellectuals in the labour movement and the academia, and found a ready anchor in the ideology of the Left. The students leaders of the period were idealists and fire-brands.

The symbol and rallying point of this image of the students' body in the 70s was Segun Okeowo under whose leadership NUNS became more directly involved in national politics. When the Constituent Assembly was constituted in 1977 to deliberate on a new constitution, NUNS had to be given a slot on the body. During the period, Okeowo led Nigerian students into battle against the Nigerian government on a number of key issues: the funding of education, increase in tuition and accommodation fees and the presence of soldiers in schools to enforce discipline. Negotiations broke down between both parties and the students went onto the streets nationwide in the famous "Ali must Go" protests of 1978. The Federal Military Government responded with anger.

It announced the proscription of NUNS and ordered the arrest and detention of Segun Okeowo. Radical university teachers in Ibadan, Lagos, Calabar and ABU who were accused of supporting the students against government and of "teaching what they were not paid to teach" were also arrested, detained and sacked. But the students remained adamant. They insisted that they were fighting the forces of feudalism, parochialism and tyranny. They regrouped and announced the formation of a National Organisation of Nigerian Students (NONS). In December 1979, a new national executive was elected. Both the new NONS President and his Secretary were soon rusticated from the Bayero University, Kano. Students' union leaders in other campuses received similar treatment. The man in power was the then General Olusegun Obasanjo. He had zero tolerance for students' unionism. Nor could he stand progressive academics or academic freedom in whatever shape. In 1980, however, the civilian government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari lifted the ban on NUNS. The students responded by changing the identity of their national body, and hence emerged, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS).

The 25th anniversary of that moment ought to have been used to pay tribute to the leaders and martyrs of the students' union movement and to rededicate the association to the Nigerian project. With the emergence of NANS, the struggle for a better Nigeria became even more challenging for the students body and at every stage, Nigerian students have had to stand up against a power elite which always demonstrated a less than honest interest in the development process. Even the Shagari government tried like the Obasanjo government before it, and like successive governments after it, to suppress and compromise the students movement. The more popular strategy was to politicise the movement, use blackmail and intimidation, infiltrate the ranks, co-opt the students and cause division. In addition, carrots were dangled before students' union leaders. But these measures hardly changed the resolve of Nigerian students as agents of change. Many died in the process; other students were rusticated. The students' struggle has had its own fair share of heroes and martyrs (Segun Okeowo, Kunle Adepeju, Akintunde Ojo, Chima Ubani, Chris Abashi, Emma Ezeazu, Chris Mammah, Labaran Maku, Banji Adegboro, Ben Oguntuase, Lanre Arogundade, Omoyele Sowore, Olusegun Mayeigun ...) who tasted battle and stood for principles in the many theatres of war (anti-SAP and removal of oil subsidy riots between 1989 and 1991, June 12 protests, anti-military campaigns etc) where and when Nigerian students stood beside labour and other pro-democracy groups to insist that Nigeria can be governed differently for the benefit of its citizens.

The present leaders of NANS did not consider this worthy of achievement. Instead they have used the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the association to project and endorse the same man, Olusegun Obasanjo, who destroyed NUNS, and against whom the emergence of NANS in 1980 was a triumph of sorts for Nigerian students. These new leaders were not pitching for irony. They in fact used the platform of NANS to campaign for the extension of President Obasanjo's tenure contrary to the Constitution as it is. The NANS President, Kenneth Orkuma Hembe spoke like a Third Term "confusionist", and declared: "we make bold to say that until the elites bring somebody better than President Obasanjo, we will not let him go in 2007." He and his colleagues then decorated President Obasanjo with an award: "Defender of Democracy". Surely the sub-text here cannot be lost to the public: is NANS responding to MDD and MRD, the two groups campaigning against President Obasanjo's attempts to subvert democracy? An appreciative President Obasanjo then seized the platform of NANS to advise Nigerian youths. And to show that he was truly appreciative, he gave NANS a personal donation of N5 million and further announced a donation of N5 million by his friends and Ministers. Thus, publicly, Hembe and his colleagues sold NANS to President Obasanjo. Publicly, they took money from the President and joined the Third Term campaigners! Decorating Obasanjo as a "Defender of Democracy" on the platform of NANS insults the memory of all those who died in helping to build the association. They must be turning in their graves!

It is telling and sad that this is what NANS has been reduced to. It has been taken over by fund-raisers, and opportunistic leaders, young men and ladies without principles who can be hired to do the bidding of politicians. More than 72 hours after that show of shame, it is sadder still that no branch of NANS has issued a statement from any of the colleges and universities to denounce the national executive and disown their perfidy. We are in the era of students union leaders who use the position to acquire material wealth and gain access to the corridors of power. Student union positions have become like political offices: an avenue for self-enrichment and promotion. Dialogue with the establishment has become dialogue with bank managers.

Only two years ago, NANS was factionalised at the national level and the source of contention was not ideas or principles but access to privileges. It was the reconciliation efforts that followed that produced the present national executive but see what the fund-raising students' elite have done. By joining the Third term campaign, seemingly on behalf of all Nigerian students, they have brought the association to an all-time low and betrayed its history and the legacy of its past leaders. What the capitulation of NANS after the fashion of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria which also declared support for the President's perpetual stay in office shows, is that the Obasanjo-must-stay machinery is truly at work and on rampage. One after the other, key instruments of opposition and change in civil society are biting the dust. The process is gradual but the impact is bound to be devastating.

The NUNS/NONS/NANS of old was effective and progressive in line with the nature and place of the university at the time as a strategic reservoir for the production of ideas and manpower for society's growth. Students were at the centre of this; they were not just members of the community, they were the leaders of tomorrow with a strong stake in the future of the community. This idea of the university in Nigeria is long dead. The university is now the centre of cultism and fraud, perpetrated by both students and lecturers. NANS was bound to assume the shape of the environment in which its members are nurtured. But even more disturbing is the failure of values and standards in the general community. Too many Nigerians are busy looking for money and power by any means possible. Members of NANS took a group photograph in Abuja with their fists raised in the "aluta" salute. With Presidential N10 million in their hands, they could not see anything wrong in what they had done.

But they must be called to order. Patrons and trustees of NANS must stop the present leaders of the association from mortgaging it for lucre. The students at the branch levels must respond to the disgraceful outing in Abuja, and take a stand. If they do not, the impression would have been created that those fundraisers were acting on behalf of all Nigerian students as they claimed. The search for a Third Term for President Obasanjo against the provisions of the Constitution that brought him to power in 1999 and 2003, and which can only be achieved through a manipulation of the law, is the most sensitive issue in Nigerian politics today. NANS is too important an organisation to be lent to any anti-people or illegal campaign for power.

The crisis that overtook the radical movement, beginning with General Ibrahim Babangida's assault on civil society, is yet to be resolved: it is as far as we can see, a crisis of leadership, integrity and legitimacy. Nigerian students must therefore worry more about the leadership recruitment and selection process among their ranks. They must redefine the place of the association in the public domain by simply providing answers to the question: what does NANS stand for today? When that has been done, then the progressives within the association must rise against Kenneth Hembe and his team of money-minded supporters and impeach them from power and office. He has boasted that he will mobilise Nigerian students for President Obasanjo. He must not be given the opportunity to do so. What has happened to NANS is tragic. It is a sad day for Nigeria.
Re: "How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article by Seun(m): 1:17am On Dec 12, 2005
Source, please.
Re: "How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article by layi(m): 10:34am On Dec 12, 2005
What other source?
He said
conscience:

Was That NANS...?
By Reuben Abati -GUARDIAN NEWSPAPERS 11/12/05

Re: "How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article by Seun(m): 10:41am On Dec 12, 2005
That's not good enough. We need a direct link. Why is it so hard for people to simply copy the url of the page from where they copied the article?
Re: "How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article by conscience(m): 3:25am On Dec 13, 2005
Seun:

That's not good enough. We need a direct link. Why is it so hard for people to simply copy the url of the page from where they copied the article?
How do I copy url of the page pls?
Teach me.
The source is indicated and publication disclosed.
Thank you.
Re: "How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article by Seun(m): 12:22pm On Dec 13, 2005
While you are viewing the news report, right-click the address bar and select 'copy'. Then paste it into your post in Nairaland the same way you pasted the contents of the news page. As shown in the picture below:


Do you understand it now?
Re: "How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article by conscience(m): 3:23pm On Dec 13, 2005
Yes sir.
Thank you sir.
Re: "How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article by Seun(m): 8:38pm On Dec 13, 2005
You're welcome, sir. it seems that this bit of information is not well known. How do I explain it to ppl?
Re: "How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article by otokx(m): 2:02pm On Dec 15, 2005
this is the vanguard version of the same story

http://www.vanguardngr.com/articles/2002/editorial/ed15122005.html
Re: "How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article by chelsea4su(f): 1:23pm On Oct 13, 2006
One of the dead was my father Banji Adegboro, i feel so sad whenever i read things like this, Says, Sesan Olajumoke Adegboro.
Re: "How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article by omofineboy(m): 6:12pm On Oct 15, 2006
Dr. Reuben Abati is my man anyday, this is good account of how NANS was destroyed by poverty ridden leadership, I think it all started in 1994. NANS was factionalised becuase of ideas, by govt agents among Nigerian students, it continued until year 2000 or so. Kudos must be given to some credible leaders of NANS especially Segun Okeowo, Segun Maiyegun and some Students Union leaders, Anti-sap protest was about the most successful which was coordinated by Maiyegun and other patriots. I respect these guys.

It is disheartenning, having participated in NANS activities, became an excutive, was hounded, intimated, arrested, detained just becuase we fought bad governance to see the rot in NANS today. I was sad when I watched them on TV. some of us fought with all our mights, not minding what happened to our academics, I could recollect the treatment we got during Abacha days, simply because we supported NADECO.

We really enjoyed it anyway and everyone that knew us that time still gave us the respect, Unionism or activism has been turned to money- making venuture, the first NANS President to use offcial car donated by Abacha was Dare Ogunlana, he was the first worse leader we had in NANS. They were the apostles of Abacha for life just like Hembe and co.

I think the past leaders of NANS and right thinking student leaders must come together and hold a summit to safe NANS from further embarasment.
Re: "How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article by chelsea4su(f): 4:24pm On Nov 13, 2006
n
Re: "How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article by Seun(m): 4:35pm On Nov 13, 2006
chelsea4su, sorry that your father died. sad
Re: "How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article by chelsea4su(f): 12:54pm On Nov 20, 2006
@seun thank you.
Re: "How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article by ndenum(f): 2:26am On Feb 03, 2007
its so dishearten when things like this happen sad. we all complain but then we allow those who ruin nija use us. i do hope for a change of heart for the youths of nija,we are the hope of that nation. check this out:

http://www.onlinenigeria.com/articles/ad.asp?blurb=355


NIGERIAN STUDENTS’ MOVEMENT IN PERSPECTIVE
Without mincing words, the state of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) is nothing to write home about. The Nigerian students’ movement has lost all the radical fibres it was formerly recognized for. The media is replete with condemnation and open disgust about the treacherous cum fraudulent activities of the Kenneth Orkumah-led NANS national leadership with its being the second group after MAN to publicly declare for the ruinous third term agenda. Even before this time, the NANS leadership had identified with various anti-student, pro-establishment policies including acceptance of the hostel privatization and N1000 compulsory insurance policy of the federal government and the insurance agencies. Not only this, it had at various times recognized through giving of awards to, anti-student moneybag politicians who have at one time or the other, individually or severally supported policies and agenda that put money out of the pockets of the poor people of Nigeria to those of the already super-rich. In short, it has become another pawn in the chessboard of the ruling class while standing against everything that NANS originally stood for. To day, there are more than four secretariats of NANS each seeking patronage from politicians.

However, to be fair with these leaderships, their predecessors had laid a solid foundation for this “historic” sell out. One could vividly recall the reactionary, pro-state positions of the Tony Nwoye, Daniel Onjeh, Segun Olaleye, et al, who all sold out Nigerian students away to the corrupt and backward set of ruling class in place today, just to satisfy their pecuniary interests while Nigerian students are being daily attacked through the commercialization and privatization of education policies among other anti-poor policies of the Obasanjo government and it clones in states. In fact, one can trace the history of ideological death of NANS to the 1994 convention in which power was taken away from the hands of the undemocratic ex-Stalinists to the hands of the reactionary, pro-state elements, who banked on the general dissatisfaction of the student activists with the undemocratic means in which the organization was being run (by the ex-Stalinists) to entrench themselves in the leadership, adequately supported with funds and logistics by various government agencies.

While of course one supports the condemnation of the proclamation of the NANS leadership on corruption and he dead third term agenda, it is ironic that majority of those that are condemning it are found wanting in condemning the governmental policies of education commercialization and privatization over which the various NANS leadership have sold out. Some of them, including some respected journalists, even join the government to attack radical unions who stood vehemently against authoritarian local school administrators and the state.

Aside the NANS national leadership intellectual collapse, the various structures of NANS – Zonal, State Joint Campus Committees and even, each students’ union – have either sold out to managements or politicians or lack the requisite intellectual wherewithal to lead successful and genuine struggles of students. Yet, during the radical days of NANS, the Nigerian students’ movement is not only known for fighting for its members but also that of the workers and other oppressed strata. One could easily recall the anti-SAP struggles and the anti-military struggles. Then, you have no business in being students’ union activist without having a leftist leaning; without having any ideological understanding of the society. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union which many uninformed ex-Stalinists could not explain at the as being a product of the undemocratic and bureaucratic nature of the leadership of the Soviet Union, the best of the then student activists dissolved into human “rightism” while the reactionary layer become agents of various governments at all levels. Successive student activists could not see any true example of a genuine ex-NANS activist but those who have turned their radical credentials to means of survival.

Coupled with this is the collapse of the genuine leadership of labour movement which would have mobilized the power of Nigerians masses – including students to fights successful imperialist governments in Nigeria since independence. The lack of the ideological base of the human rights organizations on the campuses and their failure to give a scientific economic cum political analysis of the Nigerian state led to their isolation from other mass organizations including workers’ movement and subsequent infiltration of their organizations by the pro-state elements. While the former led to lack of a holistic manner of struggling by genuine students’ leaders which make them to adopt sectarian, anti-working class and anarchistic methods of struggling; the latter led to degeneration of these organizations in many campuses leading to sell out among students’ activists who rise to union offices through the credentials of these organizations but sell students out to the management and the state, thus signaling the collapse of many students’ unions. Added to this is the conscious role of the school authorities and the state in destroying the legacy of genuine students’ unionism either by buying over of students’ leaders or using Unclad force like the cultists, police and victimization as in OAU now) to deal with genuine student activists. This also found its resonance in the structures of NANS. We are witnesses to how the special assistance to President Obasanjo on students’ matters, Mr. Akinjo Kolade Victor (himself an ex-president of the OAU students’ union) usually comes to NANS convention to bribe senators and use brute force of the state to stop genuine student activists from raising their voices against bad governmental policies.

Therefore, Nigerian students’ movement must start afresh and build a new organizations that will base itself on the idea of transformation of the society from this man-eat-man, decadent neo-liberal system that prioritize profits for the rich few against the welfare of the working people including the students; to an egalitarian system where the wealth of the country will be collectively used for people’s need as against that of imperialism and its hangers-on in the country’s polity. The genuine activists remaining on campuses must stand up and build a new pan-Nigerian students’ movement that will not only defend the rights of Nigerian youth to free, well funded and qualitative education with democratic impute of the workers’ and students’ unions in the running of the education sector but also link its struggle with that of other sections of the oppressed layers –workers, artisans, professionals, etc and defend people’s rights to better socio-economic system that will defend people’s welfare. The present NANS is not sacrosanct; it was also an offshoot of other students’ organizations – WASU and NUNS. The present NANS has played its historic roles and it is now serving as fetter to the struggles of the Nigerian students and people.

This is the time when Nigerian students ought to be asking why Nigeria will be wallowing in unimaginable wealth (over $200 billion since 1999) and yet the capitalist government could not provide free, qualitative education to its citizens which has led to just ten percent of Nigerian youth being in schools. Rather than for government to fund free and qualitative education, it has continue to starve it more of funds while encouraging private individuals (majority of them, politicians and government lackeys) to gain huge profits from government-induced public education collapse e.g. Bell University (Obasanjo), ABTI-American University (Atiku), etc. and from facts just emerging from the presidency that it is the same money stolen made from the cold blood of Niger Deltans and from sweat of workers. This contradiction requires a solid, consistent and radical students’ organization that will be able to expose and raise the banner of the progressive unionism. We must also know that the demands of students are also political because the present age government is one whose ideological basis is rooted in scrupulous globalized capitalist neo-liberalism; and the invisible hands of the market and imperialism. This crooked government, while it continues to regenerate itself in brazen corruption, will continue to stand for imperialism; stand against public education, social welfare, etc. Therefore, the new Nigerian students’ movement, if finally formed should link up with other pro-people and working class organizations to provide the requisite leadership and the radical working people’s party that will champion the demand for massive funding of social services – free education, free health, adequate wages and pension, clean water, cheap and public transportation, mass and cheap housing, job for all, etc. if the nation’s economy is nationalized which will provide enough fund, that is currently being held by just 1% of the population who are controlling 80% of the nation’s wealth. The examples of recent French movement where students played major roles along with workers, in battling Dominique Villepin’s anti-poor labour policy among other historical references (which Nigerian press refuse to shed light on) are signs of what a genuine students’ movement can achieve if it bases itself on genuine ideas. Now is the time for genuine radical students’ unionism.

IBRAHIM KOLAWOLE (ibrolenin@yahoo.com)
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife
 
 
 
Re: "How Nigerian Students Murdered Democracy" Article by justise: 3:47am On Dec 23, 2010
Bump for my homeboy article

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