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What Has Happened To Student’s Unionism? - Education - Nairaland

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What Has Happened To Student’s Unionism? by Patebere(m): 12:01pm On Dec 24, 2016
15-11-2016
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO STUDENT’S UNIONISM?

Union is an association or a club for people or organizations with the same interests.
Unionism is the principle or policy of forming or adhering to a union.
Student’s Union is a student organization present in higher institutions of learning. It is often accorded its own building on campus dedicated to social, organizational activities, representation and academic support of its members.
Student union is run by students and its purpose is to represent the students both within the institution and externally, including on local and national issues. In Nigeria, several institutions across the nation have their own students’ union, with all of them collectively bounded by an umbrella body, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS).
Students’ unionism in Nigeria can be traced back to many years ago, from the pre-colonial era, more appropriately 1925 when the West African Students Union (WASU) emerged. It was partly pioneered by Nigerian students in London and they fought for improved welfare for all African students in London. Their influence in Nigeria brought about the National Union of Nigeria Students (NUNS) which premiered in the University of Ibadan. NUNS metamorphosed to NANS, National Association of Nigerian Students in 1980.
This students’ unions and associations are established to ensure an effective and ideal environment for students. They are expected to serve students and represent their interests. The students’ unions are also saddled with the responsibility of resisting anti-students and anti-people policies. It is though quite unfortunate that the present students’ union in place seems not to possess the dogged and ideal spirit the premier unions possessed. The present unions seem to be shying away from its prime responsibility. They are more concerned with amassing wealth for themselves rather than standing up against the school managements and governments. This has left a lot of people asking the question, “What Has Happened to Unionism?”
History has it that the union leaders of the defunct NANS were radical intellectuals and academia; they were purely idealists and fire brands. Under the dogged leadership of Segun Okeowo, NUNS became directly involved in national politics for proper funding of education for Nigeria students. They suffered all kinds of maltreatment, yet they remained resolute and adamant, insisting they are fighting against the forces of feudalism, parochialism and tyranny in our political system. Despite the repressive policies of the then Gen Olusegun Obasanjo-led government who even placed a ban on NUNS activities, Okeowo and his co-fighters remained insistent on the struggle which is famously known as “Ali-Must-Go.
Earlier, in the historical era, Nigeria students as members and co-leaders of WASU lined up behind the nationalists to demand for Nigeria’s independence and other countries in the sub-region. In the immediate post-colonial period in 1962, NUNS protested against the then proposed Anglo-Nigeria Defence Pact which would have made Nigeria a military satellite of its erstwhile colonial master, Britain. Under the civilian rule of Shehu Shagari, NANS armed with its charter of demands consistently protested mis-governance. The Nigeria students in 1989 also picked up the gauntlet against Ibrahim Babangida-led government over the crippling effects of the Structural Adjustment program (SAP). Indeed, the Nigerian Students virtually raised the populace to action when they trooped out in Lagos, Kaduna, Kano, Enugu and other major cities to protest against SAP. The nation was grounded for days. Nigeria government after taking punitive actions against the students like the closure of some universities reversed some of the provisions of SAP and also provided some palliative measures for the people.
Nigeria students in those days also played vital roles in the liberation of other countries. During the apartheid era, Nigeria students joined the band of protesters in front of embassies of countries perceived to be supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa. There were even volunteers among the rank of Nigeria students who were ready to go into the apartheid enclave to fight for their fellow African students. That was the golden era of students’ unionism in Nigeria. An era when write-ups and articles by Nigerian students were a compelling read. An era when oratory became the norm on campus. An era when students even taught politicians how to practice democracy.
But things have changed now. The student unions and the Nigeria students body as a whole no longer live up to expectation. They are no more positive participants in the business of nation building! In this context, question has been raised about what has happened to unionism. Rather than concerning themselves with positive struggles, students now engage in anti-societal activities like cultism, prostitution, armed robbery, drug addiction and other heinous crimes. This is now the hallmark of students and unionism in Nigeria. Gun duel is now a routine in our academic institutions. Hardly does a week pass without news of maiming and killing in the name of cult wars. It is very sad indeed because under such circumstance when terror and fear reign, students cannot contribute to national development. What has happened to students’ unionism? What never took place before is now happening in our campuses. Students are now found of destroying public and private facilities in the name of violent protests. Our present union leaders can no longer stand for what is right. They can no longer demand for improved welfare for students. They can no longer stand against the government on repressive policies. Impunity is the order of the day! What has happened to students’ unionism? The present student unions seem more like just a stooge.
I must acknowledge the fact that what is happening in students’ unionism is not entirely peculiar, but a reflection of the decline in the mass movements particularly as it concerns the central labour organizations and the trade unions. It is a degeneration of value across the social strata. If we look back, we will see that the NANS of earlier times like the mid-1980s was a NANS that was as radical as the mass and labour movements. The present NANS leaders use the platform to project and endorse politicians. Rather than standing up against politicians, they wine and dine with them to the detriment of our students and the unions’ ideologies. What Has Happened To Students’ Unionism?
But all hope is not lost. If there is a time to do something about the despaired situation, the time is now. Students should demand for more accountability from their union leaders. We should understand that obstacle to growth of active unionism in Nigeria campuses is lack of focus and cogent reasons of our struggles. We should also know that students have a role in deciding the policies of not just the higher institutions of learning but also the state and federal government. Union leaders should learn that students’ union is not an avenue for personal aggrandizement but rather a call for selfless service based on sacrifice and discipline.
Also, rather than excessive SUG election campaigns accompanied with sharing of gifts by contestants, the avenue for campaigns should be public debates. This will provide platforms for contestants to present their campaign promises to electorates. It will go a long way in discouraging contestants from spending on campaigns and then seeing their elective positions as an opportunity to amass wealth. Most importantly, that measure will also go a long way in encouraging indigent but talented students who do not have the financial wherewithal to distribute gifts and posters to still contest. By so doing, sanity will be restored into the system! True Unionism will be reinstated!

-EBERE CHUKS O. EDEM
15-11-2016
Re: What Has Happened To Student’s Unionism? by ojun50(m): 12:28pm On Dec 24, 2016
It die since they start sharing money to them like pure water

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