A begging duel that would have settled the perennial Tom and Jerry fight between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) came recently when Adamu Adamu, Honourable Minister of Education granted audience to the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) – tragically, the meeting ended earlier than it started and thus exposing the leadership deficiency in Nigeria. While the minister was deadly intolerant, the students showed crassly doses of ineptitude, indecorous and cluelessness. That meeting would have been the apt venue where the real issues that have bedevilled the Nigerian education system would have been ironed out. As usual, typical with who we are, we let that ‘Superbowl’ moment pass untapped!
The irony of this quagmire is the reality that presented itself, Adamu Adamu had lived almost all his activism life writing in support of ASUU, by the interplay of fate, he found himself on the table of decisions to address and put an end to everything that was wrong with education in Nigeria. As they say, he holds the knife and the yam and could therefore cut into desirable sizes. While the academic union hailed his appointment as minister, the man would eventually become their albatross and choking nightmare. Under his reign, ASUU embarked on one of the longest strike actions on two occasions. So las las, it’s not he who sees the problem that has the solution!!
Adamu Adamu used to be the darling of ASUU, then he switched camp, and he is today, at their whipping end. I want to ask, what makes people change drastically from their once obstinate stance? This man wrote in his weekly column for over 20 years supporting ASUU, then comes the twist of being made education minister and boom those things he canvased for became offensive to him. What really happened? Is this another case of class suicide -a repeat of the Tai Solarin doctrine?
And the leadership of the student association that came as an arbiter went ballistically off points, uncouth and garrulous. Even though the NANs leader cannot be said to be disrespectful because he didn’t impugn on the person of the minister but he did lose the opportunity to speak sense to the government and ASUU. In arbitration, you use civility, coated in emotional stamina to marshal home your points. ‘We are going to block the roads and act like the Endsars campaigners ‘ certainly does not address the issue at hand. He left the main issues and went haywire dancing to the applause of alutaism. He forgot he is not a judge but an interventionist, he buried his message in a noisy braggadocio, he left the meat that was on the table and went into the mud dragging what wasn’t dragging him. He lost the golden opportunity to state the plight of Nigerian students in the hands of government and ASUU. He failed to tell the world how students pay rent to landlords but are never around to occupy the houses, how students pay school fees but never in school, how courses of 4 years span to 8 years etc. Like a typical Nigerian leader, the student leader came to fight not in substance but in rhetoric and he lost it tragically.
In school, we were taught to argue our points with decorum without being emotional and verbose. Being diplomatic is a magic wand in the hands of an oppressed person. A prepared student leader would have held his ground in logic, confidence, excellent command of English and charismatic posture to punch the minister with the fist of reasons and not spittle of indecorum. Whoever told our students that being combative was a tool of engagement got it wrong. In activism, you engage, comrades don’t confront, only those without the spirit of revolution resort to confrontation.
Unionism used to be a bastion of intellectual hub, it was that place that we rush to be where we hear sound arguments, deep intellectual masturbation and ejaculation, it was where every student rush to get that fulfilling orgasm. Everything changed when the big guys who struggle with grades took over the struggle and the good guys recoiled into their shells. And since then, it’s been utter displays of many lows in students’ leadership.
To get back to the beautiful days of vibrant and robust student unionism, we must redesign the entry requirements for contest. Any student that aspires to be a leader must have sufficient academic standing of at least 2.5 CGPA, this way, you encourage classroom performance and rich intellectual leaders.
The NANS leader and the Minister had a lamentably awful outing; the guy lacked depth and finesse while the minister showed intolerance and utter disdain for the students. And collectively it was a lost opportunity to address the perennial ASUU /Government imbroglio.