On May 4, students from the University of Benin (UNIBEN) and Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, staged a protest in Benin over industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) – the one that began February 14 and was yesterday extended for another three months.
The protesting students barricaded the Oba Ovonramwen Square popularly known as Ring Road, causing gridlock in Benin.
Speaking on behalf of the students, Foster Amadin, President of the Students Union Government, UNIBEN, said, “We just want to express our grievances as regards the ongoing ASUU strike because we have stayed at home for over 79 days.
“The truth is, we are not for ASUU neither are we fighting for or against anybody, all we know, and all we want is to go back to our classes.
“Most people are already running 30 years, and when they are already 30, they cannot get a good job, they can’t even serve and when you are asking for a job, they will tell you to bring your service call up letter.”
Idiahi Thomas, an official of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) said, “The government is busy purchasing forms for over a hundred million naira; an amount presidents of other countries cannot earn constitutionally.”
The students in Benin had another protest Monday, and barricaded the gate of the Benin Airport, along Airport Road, in protest against the three-month extension to the ASUU strike.
The President, National Association of Nigerian Students (NAN), Sunday Asefon, in a statement titled ‘ASUU strike extension: The silence of the government and the ruling class; the nation must feel the heat’ called on students across the country to occupy all federal roads for a minimum of three hours on Tuesday.
Also, some students of the University of Lagos Monday, stormed the institution’s gate to protest the ongoing strike.
In Ilorin Tuesday, students rallied around the University of Ilorin, Kwara, taking the paths of their counterparts nationwide in protesting the lingering strike.
About two months ago, ASUU asked Nigerian students to join them in the strike to bring an end to the problems permanently.
ASUU national president, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, said, “We have to explain to the students to be part of the struggle, not saying ASUU is not doing this. Any day they and the parents decide to ask the politicians, where are your children schooling? If they said they are not in Nigeria, you don’t vote for them.
“They have to own this struggle that we are fighting on their behalf. You don’t expect a student leader driving Prado, visiting Government House and think any government will take you serious. When we were in students union, we dressed with jeans and T-shirt and struggle but today what do you have? Wearing suit, driving prado around the country.”
He did not need to say the last part. The student union leader could be an entrepreneur or come from a comfortable family. Looking poor is for the old Christians.
But, he made a point about parents refusing to vote for politicians who are responsible for these failed systems in the country, and that may be a start, but, these politicians understand the system and may rig their way in.
One way is the kind of system #EndSARS used to drive conversations all over the world. That level of unified protests across the country can be a substantive push on the back of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labour and the President who has been really quiet on this issue.
Over the years students have become much more passive, and it is because they neither trust the system nor the striking lecturers themselves. If you passed through a Nigerian school system, you may understand the latter.
The national body governing Nigerian students has also, over the years, become a political tool and is gradually becoming a shadow of itself.
The voices of students can be heard when they stand up for something greater than themselves – an educational career and the betterment of the education sector in Nigeria.
If students continue to sit and watch, the ASUU-FG debacle may never end.