Sonala Olumhense: Students, let me tell you how to end the ASUU strike without violence

by Sonala Olumhense


To begin with, there are two people in Abuja who are answering your name.  The first answers the title of Senator; the other, Representative, powerful titles in your name.

If you are a student and you are sitting in front of your father’s television set in the dark instead of being in front of a lecturer getting a degree, you are a fool.

But foolishness is curable.  If you are willing to take your fate in your hands, here is my foolproof five-day plan for getting your life back.  There is no shedding of blood or destruction of property, but you will rise from being a spectator in your own sport and put on the jersey to play in it.

There are a few assumptions: that you are outraged at the games that are being played with your life and want to return to school; that you worship nobody who has a last name; and that you are in touch with at least one other student who also wants to live, not die.

To begin with, there are two people in Abuja who are answering your name.  The first answers the title of Senator; the other, Representative, powerful titles in your name.

In your name, as you probably know, they earn the fattest salaries of their kind in the world.  In your name, they earn the fattest allowances, live in the best homes, and drive the most luxurious official cars.

They do all of this, and more, because they represent you, your family and your larger community.  Most of them lie about this, of course, because in Abuja the dog in the hunt hunts for the dog.  The time has come to call in the debt.
In the Upper House, there are 109 Senators.  Most are expired and discredited ex-this and ex-that who smuggled themselves into the premises somehow.  They are there because the law recognizes them as the legitimate representative of a certain chunk of the Nigerian population.  One of those chunks is yours.

And then there is the House, which is made up of 360 men and women, each representing another defined chunk of Nigeria known as a constituency.  You are in one of them, and are known as a constituent.
Under this plan, you can change your own life in a few days by changing the lives of these powerful men and women.  They work for you, remember that, so make them earn it.

I have one more assumption: that you know the website of the National Assembly.  It is:  You will find mug shots of your Senator and Representative there.  They address themselves as Honourable ThisPerson or ThatPerson, myths that are often very powerful when unchallenged by citizens who lack get-up-and-go.

If you take a moment to study that website, you will notice that the Senators and Representatives are effectively hiding in the open.  They have meaningless email addresses ( [email protected] or [email protected]).  To use them is to put a message into a bottle and throw it into the Atlantic.

What is worse is that they do not list their telephone numbers.  That is an insulting thing for a federal legislator to do, because it suggests he is in Abuja for himself and that he works for himself.  Again, he works for his constituency or district.  He works for you, and now you have a good reason to remind him.

Day One: Write two letters, one to each of them.  Identify yourself as a student from his constituency who needs his help to return to school within the week by ensuring that the government resolves the ASUU strike immediately.  Tell him that you are asking for urgent and substantive involvement, not platitudes.

If you have writing or technology skills, use the Internet.  Publish a blog.  Use whatever email address you can find for them, including the general one I have listed here. Drop a copy off at his homes in the area.  Send a copy to your favourite newspaper and website.

You will be ignored.  Chances are that your mail will not be read at all, but give the Senator and Representative the benefit of the doubt and send the letter anyway.  Find a friend, relative, or concerned student in Abuja and have them drop copies off at the National Assembly.

Day Two: Write to the Dynamic Duo again.  Ask what has been done in response to your distress complaint.
Remind them that they work for you.  Tell them that you are not asking for a favour; you are simply demanding that they do their work, which is to present your best interests as a constituent at the seat of power.  Stress that you simply want to return to school.

Tell them you expect them to work with their colleagues as a House, or as the institution known as the National Assembly, to intercede with the executive to resolve the ASUU impasse right away, and that this is your instruction as your representative.  They work for you, but if you do not remind them, they forget, conveniently.

Day Three: Write an open letter to both constituencies.  If you are in touch with other students in the area, you can pen a joint letter.  Complain to other constituents about the situation and that you simply desire to return to school with no further delay.   Ask for their help to put pressure on the Senator and Representative.  They, too, can write to the Senator or call him.  Many of them know his family.  They can inform his wife his homestead is in tumult. Use text messages and social media to broadcast your complaint and request that people forward to others.

Crank it up: Publish the Senator’s phone number; he is a public servant.  Publish the Representative’s phone number; he is a public servant.

It is no excuse that they have not listed their numbers; these distinguished servants of the people ought to have publicly-listed phones.  In any case, within your constituency, you are creative enough to find it.  Encourage the public to call him, especially between 6p.m. and 6a.m. Sleep deprivation is a legitimate weapon of conflict.

If you can find their phone numbers, you can probably also find their private email addresses.  Publish them as well and encourage everyone with Internet access to write to write or forward their messages to them several times a day.  The mailbox will probably fill up and be rendered useless.  Damage is also a legitimate weapon of conflict.

Day Four: Write to the distinguished Senator and Representative again.  Tell them about your efforts to reach them for help, but you must demonstrate this.  You know their homes, don’t you? If not, all you have to do is ask within the area.
So crank it up a little more: List all the glittering new fortresses where you have left letters for him or are planning to leave letters for him.  In order to ensure he believes you, state the address and location of each mansion, and list all the cars you can see parked in them.

By Day Five, your Senator and your Representative would certainly have changed their phones.   But remember, if your friends have also been busy, nationwide, there will be millions of people, 469 of them federal legislators, who will be grasping the meaning of democracy for the first time.

Your school may not magically have reopened, but you would have reinvented the entire political terrain, a lesson that will be available at future elections, and in-between. They work for you.


Read this article in the Sunday Trust Newspapers

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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