Many Nigerians could not believe the recent spectacle of the Yinka Gbadebo-led National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) passing a vote of confidence on Dame Patience Jonathan, wife of the President and President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan himself.
Yinka Gbadebo and his fellow sycophants include some former presidents of the once prestigious Students Union. They fawningly told the First Lady that they have endorsed her husband for a second term. Their sycophancy went up notches higher when they met the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, a former university lecturer under whose watch the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education were on strike for more than half of their academic calendar.
Mr. Gbadebo and his co travelers gave President Jonathan the hitherto non-existent and meaningless award of Grand Commander of Nigerian Students. That conduct and action negate the principle and charter of demands of NANS. It is completely at variance with what NANS stands for or stood for since one is now confused about NANS. If such honour exists at all, it’s the sole prerogative of the NANS Congress, not even the NANS Senate, to ratify before being conferred on the beneficiary. Thus, the conferment of the Grand Commander on Jonathan is null and void as it lacks the requisite legal backing of the appropriate organ of NANS charged with the responsibility.
There is nothing wrong in the leadership of NANS paying a courtesy visit to the First Lady, the self-styled “Mama Peace” and “Mother of the Nation” or to her husband, the President, whom she adoringly calls the “Father of the Nation”, since by virtue of their positions they are symbols of the State and deserve due respect. What is wrong however is using such an opportunity for personal aggrandizement instead of pursuing the common interest of the greater majority of their constituents – the students. The Yinka Gbadebo-led Union Executive has completely derailed from the focus and priority of NANS and this has exposed the level of rot in modern student unionism.
Nigerian students like their counterparts across the world have historically been the last bastion of the oppressed. From Soweto to Sharpeville in South Africa, from “Ali Must Go” in Nigeria in the 1970?s, the French Students revolt in the late 1960?s and American students during the Vietnam war, students have always been in the vanguard of the struggle for a better society.
The Chibok school girls who are their immediate constituency have been living in nightmare since their abduction over 145 days ago, yet not a word was uttered about them by Mr. Gbadebo and his coterie of shameless sycophants. This is wicked, heartless, unconscionable and in bad taste. They should have used the opportunity to challenge the First Lady to use her immense influence and the President to use his innermost powers to address the Chibok girls’ issue and the rot in the education sector which requires the declaration of an emergency. Only 31% of the students who sat for the General Certificate of Education (GCE) recorded passes in 5 subjects and above including English and Mathematics. The Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education only resumed recently from their prolonged strikes.
Mr. Gbadebo and those former NANS leaders who went on this misplaced and opportunistic courtesy visit are a disgrace to the fond memories of our past student heroes who laid down their lives for a better Nigeria. They are not and can never be the true reflection of the minds of Nigerian students. They have politicized NANS but the will of the majority of Nigerian students shall prevail. As the first convener of the Forum of Former NANS Presidents, I completely dissociate and distance myself from the shenanigans of these former NANS leaders who condescended so low, to the extent of being blindly led by those they should guide.
God bless Nigeria!
Comrade Daniel Onjeh is a former president of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and the West African Students Union (WASU)
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