A Gross Misrepresentation of Nigerian Students and Youths
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) totally condemns the Yinka Gbadebo-led leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) for the award of Grand Commander of Nigerian Students to President Goodluck Jonathan.
This award is an embarrassment to the community of students and youth in Nigeria. The best response to this national shame is for students and activists on all campuses to rise up to reclaim the NANS from racketeers and careerists like Yinka Gbadebo and his gang. A return of NANS to the democratic and mass platform it used to be and with a leadership that is sufficiently bold enough to defend student interests is vital if the ongoing onslaught on public education in forms of fee hike and commercialisation is to be resisted.
Fearful of the widespread unpopularity of his pro-capitalist and viciously anti-poor government which has failed Nigerians in all ramifications, Jonathan and his handlers hope to use this award to rehabilitate his battered image in the run-up to the 2015 general elections. Like a drowning person, Jonathan is prepared to hang onto any straw. This is why despite the lack of credibility of NANS which most Nigerians derisively see as an association of non-students and unemployed youths, Jonathan is not in the least embarrassed to be identified with it. As the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together.
This award may have been conferred in the name of Nigerian Students. Certainly, it enjoys no endorsement and support of Nigerian students and youths. In 1988 when the students of Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife were to confer on late Chief Gani Fawehinmi the award of Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM), not only was the award ratified by the union parliament, Chief Gani Fawehinmi was invited to the campus where he received the award in the presence of thousands of students and the media. If the organisers of this national charade were confident of themselves, instead of taking the award to Aso Rock they should have invited President Jonathan to any campus of their choosing to receive the award.
In any case, this award will further strengthen the belief in many quarters that those who claim to be leaders of NANS are mostly non-students who are using the association to line their own pockets. Otherwise how could a genuine student, who is studying under inhumane academic environment as exists on all campuses across the country or who is faced with the prospect of losing their studentship as a result of outrageous fees, support President Jonathan or wish to have him continue in office beyond 2015?
Definitely, this award will anger millions of Nigerian Students and youths. This is not surprising. President Jonathan's government has been a failure in all ramifications. Its failure in the area of public education is embarrassing. From 7.3 million few years ago, the number of out-of-school children has increased to 10.3 million under President Jonathan's watch. If the situation in the North East is factored in, certainly the number of out-of-school children could be well above 12 million. Public Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education were if taken together, closed for more than two years as a result of strikes caused by the government refusal to meet genuine demands of education workers. Despite the success of the ASUU strike in particular in forcing a marginal commitment to release N200 billion to fund public tertiary institutions, the government has responded with steep increases in fees. Students at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) whose fees have been jerked up would definitely not support an award purportedly presenting Goodluck Jonathan as a student-friendly President.
However this award is coming on the heels of a similar fraudulent award of Senior Advocate of Nigerian Students conferred on Governor Fashola of Lagos State by the Sunday Asefon-led Southwest (Zone D) leadership of NANS. Just like President Jonathan, Fashola and the APC badly needed an image laundering after the bitter defeat students and workers of the Lagos State University (LASU) gave them in the victorious struggle for reversal of hiked fees. For all its shallow radical posturing, the NANS Zone leadership is not so much different from the National Leadership of NANS. Both are simply two sides of a bad coin. While the NANS President Yinka Gbadebo and his team of racketeers represent the pro-People's Democratic Party (PDP) wing of NANS, the Asefon-led Zone D leadership is the pro-All Progressive Congress (APC) wing. What unites the two wings however is readiness to sell out students to the highest bidder.
The ERC considers both awards as a gross misrepresentation of Nigerian students who are burdened by skyrocketting tuition fees, a broken public education system and an uncertain future all which are direct results of the pro-market capitalist policies favoured by the governments of both President Jonathan and Governor Fashola.
As election approaches, the two main capitalist parties in Nigeria - PDP and APC - are falling over themselves in a competition to use education as a ruse to hoodwink the people again. But in reality, neither the PDP nor APC deserves the votes of students, youth and workers. Nigeria under the rule of either of these political parties will continue to retrogress, public education will continue to be underfunded and commercialised while majority of the people will continue to wallow in abject poverty in the midst inexhaustible wealth.
There is urgent need for the emergence of a mass working peoples' political alternative that can fight for socialist change. If a genuine political party that represents the 99% should exist today and is able to aggregate and give political expression to the palpable anger of students, youth and workers who are yearning for change, both the PDP and APC can be easily swept away in a deluge of mass uprising. It is to this end that the ERC supports the formation of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and plays active role in building it as a credible and formidable platform.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Michael Ogundele
National Coordinator National Secretary