by Femi Owolabi
As at my last click on this page, only 470 persons have liked the page. What percentage should I accord that to, considering the hundreds of thousands of Nigerian students that are Facebook users? My ageing mother who seldom check her Facebook account still boasts of more that 500 friends.
Student politics has long been the playground of budding party apparatchiks keen to try out dirty tricks, but the current state of NANS goes beyond anything I’ve been seen before. At this new era of governance and many other things via social media, it is a catastrophic blow on my face when I’ll google the official website of the supposed largest student body in Africa, National Association of Nigerian Students NANS and the first search result says “Sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry. This site is currently unavailable. If you are the website owner- please contact your hosting provider.” My jaw dropped in befuddlement and I screamed, “it’s a lie!’ This website, I know was functioning during the reigns of Daniel Onjeh.
Another search result is a Facebook page: As at my last click on this page, only 470 persons have liked the page. What percentage should I accord that to, considering the hundreds of thousands of Nigerian students that are Facebook users? My ageing mother who seldom check her Facebook account still boasts of more that 500 friends.
I didn’t bother to check for a twitter handle and I couldn’t waste my time clicking on the next page. If an operational and functioning site were to be, it would appear in the first page of my search.
However, on the info of the Facebook page is another website address:
http://www.nans.edu.ng, you will be shocked to see what comes up at the click on this link. And reading the information provided on the info page, I shook my head pitifully at the loosely written and the nonsensical introductory lines- lacking in historical and intellectual depths. This is a womtomboulous disaster and damage on our collective intellectualism as Nigerian students. Whoever, or whatever they are, those currently in charge of NANS are a bunch of former hungry boys- now procrasturbating over the very issues that affect over 60 million Nigerian students.
This is not even what I wanted to write about, but if NANS is not remunerative with the cheapest internet presence that is Facebook- taking a full advantage of this for proper coordination as we saw how socio-media was the vehicle for the OcuppyNigeria movement in January, which other way can it use for mobilization at this information age?
NANS is dead, a friend said to me. I should agree. I retired from NANS politics in 2007 after the struggle that produced Com. Babale Bashir, but I think NANS died when Com. Daniel Onjeh left, and this is even evident from the NANS website. It was then we started having different factions. A Femi Struggle is NANS President from Zone D, another Yinka Dada is NANS president from zone D, and many other presidents from other zones, all presiding concurrently. We’ll later discover that all these self-made NANS leaders are there running gbemustic agendas.
The legitimate and first obligation of student unionism is to advocate for “students rights”, broadly defined. They should also play a major role in the national movement against unpopular government policies and tuition hikes in education. Unfortunately, during the January
anti-fuel-subsidy-removal protests, a NANS president was said to have stood on government’s side. Just the way the then NANS president Kenneth Orkuma Hembe said the Nigerian students have endorsed President Olusegun Obasanjo for a third them in office (Daily Trust December 8, 2005). When NANS doesn’t even have a functioning website, how would it mobilize 1million
online signatures to raise a petition against the policy of how students purchase JAMB form for 5k, and then pay another 5k for one nonsense post-UME? And yet a very few are admitted on merits.
May God forgive whoever bought the conscience of NANS. I can recollect that NANS used to be one of the strongest of opposing voices in the 1990s when late Sani Abacha was attempting to copy the likes of Mabutu Sese Sekoh and Omar Bongo in becoming a life President. In those good NANS-years, student with their unionism movements, were known to stand firm in criticizing the
injustices of our leaders thereby effecting major changes. There were instances when the authorities clashed with students when diplomatic precautions failed to work; the 1978 ABU students riots is too significant to be discarded. During the uprising many students’ lives were lost while agitating for the ouster of the then education minister, Colonel Ahmadu Ali. The “Ali Must Go”, riots like many in those days, was a tremendous achievement by student unionism in Nigeria: it has opened up the eyes of our leaders to the fact that students knew their rights and can fight oppression no mater the intimidation.
Sad enough. And I remember one of my last NANS outings. A letter was sent to our chapter to attend a conference which theme was on sustainable development bla bla. Comrades were mobilized and we traveled down to Abuja, to Shehu Musa Yar’adua Centre, the venue of the conference that we later, surprisingly saw was conveyed by ‘NANS president’ Yinka Dada. Speakers spoke one after the other and the content of their speeches wasn’t thematically devoid. Until, Yinka Dada took to the podium and suddenly, we realized that we were in for a mobilization to support Atahiru Bafarawa’s candidacy for president. Dada would later say that over 60million Nigerian students are represented here to throw their supports behind Bafarawa. An award was also presented to him in the name of NANS. And then, Bafarawa’s branded t-shirt, face caps were flying and comrades rushing to get theirs.
And when it was known that it was a gbemustic agenda, we didn’t dull ourselves as we actually waited too to get our share too. I shamefully collected the 500naira that got to me when rumors had it that Dada was given 6million naira.
Is it not time we check on these people using NANS name for other agendas? Or should we rather call for the cancellation of NANS? I challenge NANS to dismiss my accusation by tendering its stewardship.
Femi Owolabi (@fEMIoWOLABI) is a writer, former NANS member, and a research consultant. He is the author of the novel Echoes in the Web.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.