by Abimbola Adelakun
In a repeat of Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha’s failed civilian transfigurations, President Goodluck Jonathan is being endorsed by vainglorious organisations.
The 1990s birthed the rent-a-crowd presidential endorsement movements. First, Arthur Nzeribe, Abimbola Davies and Jerry Okoro had sought an extension for Babangida’s military junta via the auspices of the Association for Better Nigeria; their activities contributed to what would later culminate into the June 12 crisis. Not to miss the military gravy train, after the “step aside” of the self-styled Evil Genius” and a palace coup ushered in the Abacha administration, a similar organisation, the Youth Earnestly Ask for Abacha, founded by the trio of Daniel Kanu, Johnbull Adebanjo and Emmanuel Okereke took over the farce.
The new kid on the block is the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria that seeks to sell the Goodluck Jonathan candidature to Nigerians. While TAN is relatively new – or a reincarnation of the previous Neighbour-to-Neighbour organisation that campaigned for Jonathan’s election in 2011 – its tactics are reminiscent of the Abacha and Babangida inglorious years. Like the ABN which claimed 25 million members and YEAA that boasted it organised a Two-Million Man March, TAN is creatively accounting for its gravy. One day, its promoters announced that 8,000 support groups were asking for Jonathan to contest; the next day they gleefully announced they had collected 1.8 million signatures in the South-West; 1.6 million in the South-East and 4.15 million in the South-South. In a country where we can barely collate census figures, TAN’s spin is that it is very efficient in collecting data.
The point is not that Jonathan cannot or should not have a team to manage his campaign. The issue is these organisations’ consistent presumption of the slow-wit of the average Nigerian to see through all the put-ons that precede their campaigns. My unsolicited advice to TAN: Since these methods are so painfully overused, why not skip the pantomime show and move on to the serious business of engaging Nigerians on the Goodluck Jonathan Presidency?
The irony of all these beg-the-President-to-contest movements is that like all fly-by-night ideas, none has outlived its promoted presidential candidate.
Except, of course, the National Association of Nigerian Students – the supposed civil society body that has given itself the job of endorsing one president after the other. Lately, it announced it had thrown its weight behind Jonathan’s re-election. When and how it became the duty of a student association to endorse incumbent presidents’ continuation in office remains foggy to discerning minds.
Here is the conclusion of the whole matter: TAN and its allied outfits will eventually peter out but NANS will not. And, that, is a huge disappointment.
Given the steady decline of NANS into an “anything goes” outfit over the years, its endorsement of Jonathan is not out of sync with its previous sophistry. NANS supported President Olusegun Obasanjo’s infamous Third Term agenda and flattered him with a shambolic “Defender of Democracy” award. This same group lost three members to a road accident some years back while on a similar errand to bestow a “Governor of the Year” award on Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State. A couple of years ago, it was going to confer a high profile Kirikiri returnee with the Kwame Nkrumah award in the name of the All Africa Students Union. The latter organisation disowned it calling the promoters a band of frauds but they still did not back off from that pursuit. Last week, they eventually slapped the Nelson Mandela icon award on the same George. Over the years, NANS has been involved in a lot of amoral activities that one wonders if members of its body have a say in its affair or they have surrendered all their political judgment to their “leaders.”
The president of the association, Yinka Gbadebo, was quoted as saying he would mandate all students to cast their votes for Jonathan. How he proposes to “mandate” his colleagues into voting a candidate of his choice is not as worrisome as the blatant manner he makes these declarations without any scruples about being embarrassed if contradicted by his constituency. Are the members of the student body so politically apathetic that someone can make these claims on their behalf and they just keep shut? So, what do folk learn in universities these days if not to speak up for themselves?
NANS, obviously, is a band of opportunists looking to eat and for whom no perfidy, no level of ignominy, would be too low to wallow so long as it guarantees supply of “stomach infrastructure”. Their desperation to be included in the routine sharing of the national cake perhaps explains why you never see these professional students ever associated with anything academic.
These same students that hail Jonathan’s “transformation’ in the education sector are the same ones whose schools were shut for extended periods losing a year or more. Can they not see that they are victims of the structural deficiencies and rot that set the Nigerian educational system backward by decades before running their mouths about Jonathan’s student-friendly posture? Are they blind or they are just dumb? And even more poignant, as they laboriously transit into Nigeria’s ever-widening labour market in a matter of months or years, would these students not be casualties of the perennial problem of unemployment in the country? Where were these student leaders’ months ago when fellow youths, graduates and job seekers, were trampled to death in a badly managed employment exercise? Did it ever occur to them that the fate of those job seekers was intertwined with theirs? What efforts have they put up for the abducted Chibok girls? If they cannot engage the government productively on key issues that affect Nigerian students, why can’t they just limit their activities to their various campuses instead of meddling in national politics?
Why this feels like a major let-down on the part of NANS is that when their present activities are viewed against the backdrop of association’s history – the times in the past when students had combined the intellect, youthful drive and genuine activism as drivers of change in the society- what emerges is a picture of how the mighty has fallen.
That these so-called leaders can reconcile the all too many contradictions in their mind and still go ahead to launder the President with empty words only shows that they do not know much of what ails Nigeria. And, this, sincerely, saddens the most!
This piece by Abimbola Adelakun wass culled from YNAIJA
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