By Seyi Ogunrinde
I honestly feel burdened writing this at this material time because never in my wildest imagination did I ever think a time would come in the life of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) that ‘non-students’ would be the ones running the affairs of the association.
For those who may not know, this absurdity has been going on for years when career students, who ordinarily should not have anything done with the radical and historic organization, are the ones controlling the levers of powers in all layers of leadership in the students’ body all for the purpose of feathering their own financial nest and extending their tentacles within and among the general populace, especially among those in the political class.
Except for those who live in illusion and thus far detached from current realities, NANS has, for long, been a toothless bulldog and at best, a butt of jokes among many Nigerians! It is beyond a debate that NANS has lost its relevance, presence, glory, prominence and even preminence before our very eyes – all thanks to the wheeling dealers masquerading as student leaders who have had to use the association to actualise their own selfish and personal agenda.
Is it not ironic that NANS that should have been at the forefront of the recent #EndSARS protests that took the country by storm was nowhere to be found? Is it not perplexing that NANS that should have canvassed some welfare package for Nigerian students during the recent lockdown triggered by COVID-19 was slumbered and snored all through the time? In the time past, the mere mention of NANS would send jitters down the spine of those in government. NANS leaders now pick crumbs from the table of political office holders.
Historically, NANS was an integral part of all the popular movements – organized labour and civil society organizations – in the country that struggled for improved conditions of living for the generality of Nigerians. NANS was always on the side of the commoners rather than be an establishment puppet like it has been the practice for some years now. NLC was made thick in those days because of the radical disposition of NANS, so with the CSOs like Civil Liberties Organisation. It was easy to transition from NANS to join CLO then or move into NLC.
Without equivocation, the glory of NANS is fast fading unless something urgent and decisive is done to rescue the association from the bunch of parasites feasting on its decomposing carcass. The invasive surgery the association needs will start with booting out career students who have always loitered around the corner parading themselves as student leaders who should ordinarily be in the House of Assembly, House of Representatives, serving as commissioners’ e.t.c from the leadership cards of the association.
Enough is enough and it’s high time real students and young folks, like in the days past when NANS was NANS, took back the entire leadership of the association for the betterment of Nigerian students in particular and the youth in general. The time is now for a generational shift. The time is now to take back the association from the jackals that have held it down for years.
It’s against the backcloth of the above that the NANS convention slated for November 27th to 1st December 2020 in Abuja offers a fundamental opportunity for real and genuine Nigerian students to form a common bond that will help redefine and restructure the leadership structure of the association. Failure to exploit this historic moment to give back the association to youthful and energetic student leaders may just mean that the burial date of the association has been postponed.
A quick run through the list of presidential aspirants in the coming NANS convention shows men who are in their forties and late thirties. Only one or two of the aspirants is actually less than 30! Which then make you wonder what these career dealers are looking for when their mates elsewhere are already prime minister and president in some European countries!
How old is Emmanuel Macron, French President, again? What about the Prime Minister of Canada? What about those young men and women in the British Parliament, especially in the House of Commons? Even in Nigeria, we already have men the age of most of the current NANS presidential hopeful serving as Governors, Commissioners, Legislators and Speakers of state houses of assembly.
Then you wonder what is driving the desperation (and not aspiration!) of these grand oldies, who are fathers already to want to lead NANS at this crucial time? Your guess is as good as mine: they want to use NANS to access those wielding political powers so they can make money for themselves and those goading them on. They want to use NANS to trade.
Dear greatest Nigerian students, the ball is in your court. And the time for you to rescue your association from the band of locusts feasting on it is NOW. Do the needful so that history may be kind to your generation for riding up to save NANS from further degeneration when it needed you most.
Ogunrinde is a Former Secretary, NANS Joint Campus Committee (JCC), Lagos Axis.