BEING A SPEECH DELIVERED BY COMRADE AYODELE ADEWALE, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN OF AMUWO ODOFIN LOCAL GOVERNMENT AT THE SCHOOL OF OCEANOGRAPHY’S STUDENT UNION WEEK ON THE 15TH AUGUST, 2014, HELD AT NO. 2, WILMONT POINT, VICTORIA ISLAND, LAGOS.
‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.’-----Charles Darwin, 1809
I am very pleased to be with you here today to participate in this important activity of this year’s Student union Week of the most virile student union in Nigeria.
There is no better time, other than now to come together in an atmosphere of this nature to jaw-jaw on the FUTURE OF THE NIGERIAN STUDENT.
Education is the bedrock of economic, social- cultural and political success of any nation. Hence, no serious-minded nation dares toil with the welfare of its students. It is easy to identify a failing State by the attention it gives to its educational sector.
As students, you are the light of the world. The entire scope of humanity earnestly awaits your manifestation. All genuine discoveries in science, economy and governance were manifested by students or body of students. You may want to start asking yourselves about the legacies that you and your colleagues intend to give our nation.
In order to have a full grasp of the future of Nigerian students, it would be proper to take a brief voyage into the past and present of Nigerian students, to learn therefrom, before forecasting into the future.
The history of emancipation of Nigeria from the oppression of colonial rulers, military juntas and corrupt civilian government is replete with the outstanding roles of Students’ Unionism. I remember with nostalgia the efforts of the indefatigable Comrade Segun Okeowo, who in 1978 led National Union of Nigerian Students (now NANS) in a struggle against the educational policies of the military regime. The students fought on all fronts and brought education to the front burner of national discourse. What struck most Nigerians was the way the students carefully deployed and marshaled their arguments to fault the educational policies of the government.
The Nigeria students in 1989 also picked the gauntlet against the Ibrahim Babangida regime over the crippling effects of the Structural Adjustment Program, SAP. Indeed the Nigeria students virtually raised the populace to action when they trooped out in Lagos, Kaduna, Ibadan, Kano, Enugu and other major cities to protest against SAP and also reversed some of the its provisions, thereby ensuring that some palliative measures were provided for the people.
We cannot also forget in a hurry the active role Nigerian Students played in the actualization of June 12 1993 presidential election, won by Chief MKO Abiola of blessed memory. We were at the barricade, chanting in an organized manner to demand for the release of the detained president MKO Abiola and his mandate given to him.
Nigerian students in the days of yore also played vital roles in the liberation of other countries. During the apartheid era, Nigerian 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 ranks of Nigerian students who were ready to go to the apartheid enclave to fight for their fellow African students.
Those were the golden era of student 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 campuses: An era when students even taught politicians how to practice democracy. That was when student union election was akin to presidential elections in the United States with robust campaigns and oration from the intellectually deep.
The success story of Student Unionism is not limited to Nigeria. Outside the country, Student Unionism has also being a veritable tool in the fight against oppression and corruption in the Philippines, China, Arab and the Middle East. Indeed, the gale of reforms that swept China was brought about after students seized the Tiananmen Square and demanded for political changes some few years ago. Though it was at a very high cost, the students were able to force the hands of the political authority. Today, China is a more open society with a blossoming economy. Russia is also one of the countries that have witnessed positive changes through the intervention of student’s activities.
In every administration students are the conscience of the nation. They are the ones who call attention to social malady, bad governance and other ills in the society. They are usually radical and resolute about issues concerning the welfare of people. There was a time when Nigerian students proudly held successive governments accountable through incisive write-ups in newspapers, open debates and when necessary street protests, that were carried out in very civilized manner. Nigerian students have also had to garner supports and collaboration from the regional and international community over human rights abuses and political recklessness of some leaders. Unfortunately, the last few years have witnessed a descent into the abyss. I can confidently say that Nigerian students have not lived up to expectations of the nation, let alone become active participants in the business of nation building.
I must however say that we live in a difficult milieu: an era where all the ideals that give meaning to life are being gradually eroded. Unfortunately, the Nigerian students have not escaped the societal rot. In a way, that may be partly responsible for the unenviable state of Student Unionism. Things that were done with fear and trepidation in those days because the society recognizes them as inherently evil and anti-social are now being flaunted in our faces by our students. The incidents of cultism, prostitution, armed robbery, drug addiction and other heinous crimes now seem to be the hallmark of students and unionism on our campuses.it is now common to hear that some students are armed robbers, cultists and prostitutes.
It is very sad indeed because under such circumstances when fear and terror reign, students cannot meaningfully contribute to national development. Some students in the name of peaceful protests beat up their lecturers, Rectors and Vice Chancellors, even destroy public properties that were bought with tax payers’ money.
Great Nigerian Students! There can still be a paradigm shift. We can begin to go back to the era of responsible Students’ Unionism and contribute our quota to national development. Nigerian students, especially those of you in the higher institutions can effect a break in the present era of ineptitude and moral decay by electing to stay on the path of truth, righteousness and probity. Remember, you cannot give what you don’t have: Nigerian students have to purge themselves of prevailing level of indiscipline before they can stand up to be counted alongside the makers and builders of contemporary Nigerian Nation.
As the conscience of the nation, students must be actively involved in developments in their environments. Students can form pressure groups to monitor the programs of their elected representatives. This local pressure groups can also influence the society through the carrying out of socially beneficial programs such as debates, environmental sanitations and education on the harmful effects of drug use, prostitution etc. You must use debates and intellectual discourse to make your feelings known to the government. You should never allow unscrupulous politicians use you as cannon fodders in their political battles. Students should be the barometers to measure the performance of every government. You can only do this if your Unions become credible enough for everybody to believe the verdicts they give. But when students hit the streets on the prompting of power mongers and begin to wreak havoc on the society, then they would have degenerated to the level of common thugs who are ready to do the biddings of their pay masters for a mess of pottage.
Please note that national development starts from self-development. Your first responsibility is to develop yourself in diverse areas of law, economics, politics, sports, ICT, religions and so on. In you lies the future that you desire. Again, the proclivity for short cuts to success must be jettisoned. Students must study hard and desist from all forms of examination malpractices. This is to ensure that we preserve the sanctity of our examination process and of course, certificates issued by our institutions.
Great Nigerian students! You remain the most vibrant part of our population. You are not called today and tomorrow leaders for nothing. But, we can only have a foretaste of that glorious tomorrow through the way you conduct yourselves today.
The struggle to have the ideal society is an unending one and it is our collective responsibility. Indeed, we are all students is different categories. Every great leader forever remains a student…from classroom to the drawing board of life and back to the classroom again. Henry L. Doherty said ‘Be a student as long as you still have something to learn, and that will mean leaning for the rest of your life.’
Today, our challenge has moved away for colonialism and military rule. We are now in a civilian regime. The key test to the political future of Nigeria still lies in an enduring civilian government that will give rise to a democracy: A democracy based on constitutionalism and the rule of law. You must be determined more than ever, to lay a solid foundation for an enduring democracy that would be the pride of future generations of Nigerians. The present civilian government is not there yet. It is on this note that I ask you to support the progressive vision and ideology of Our Great Party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) to change and transform our dear nation in line with democratic principles into a land of opportunities, equity, good governance, progress and prosperity for all.
Great Nigeria Students! You are the greatest and most strategic asset of Nigeria. Only you can help fight the scourge of corruption and bad governance.
Aluta Continua…Victoria Ascertia!
Comrade Ayodele Adewale
Amuwo Odofin Local Government