By Emmanuel Edukugho
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC), has condemned in strong terms the parochial and self-serving political activities of some National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) ‘leaders’, saying, “We are not however surprised by the shameless activities of different factions of NANS leadership as the student body has lost its vibrant tradition and has been taken over by student opportunists who deploy it to serve the interests of different sections of ruling elite.”
One of the factional NANS Presidents, Mr. Jude Imague was reported in the media to have declared NANS and Nigerian students’ support for President Goodluck Jonathan.
Jude was quoted to have said: “we are equally unanimous in our scrutiny that that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, having served as a lecturer, Local Government Chairman, Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice President and current president of the nation is the most experienced, qualified, efficient, reliable, equitable, and fair Nigerian to lead Nigeria to the promised land in 2011 as Nigeria’s President.” This proposition is fallacious to say the least. Olusegun Obasanjo, for instance, twice served this country in the highest capacity and more than any other leader but failed woefully!
It was also reported in the statement that NANS has opened an endorsement register in all campuses for students to sign and was ready to embark on raising funds to refund whosoever purchased nomination form for President Jonathan to vie for the post of the president and to achieve that, each students will pay a fee of N50 each, which would not be mandatory.
“The findings from ERC members in several campuses across the federation where we have active members and sympathizers suggest the contrary. There are no registers anywhere. The reality is that the refund for PDP nomination fees Jude claimed would be to raised from students, which is about N10 million, is what they hope to collect from President Jonathan or whoever that is willing to pay- and that is if they have not collected the money.”
ERC said that it opposed Jonathan’s aspiration like all other anti-students/workers presidential aspirants/candidates due to their anti-education posture vis-à-vis underfunding of education at level.
“At any rate, the fact is that no parliament or congress of students has been convoked at any campus to discuss who to support among the presidential aspirants, let alone deciding on it. Using the name of NANS and Nigerian students in whatever capacity to declare support for any presidential aspirant is not only sheer opportunism, but is also undemocratic and treacherous.”
In another development as reported in Daily Trust, the NANS Zone C Coordinator, Kassim Mohammed Kassim, though was critical of President Jonathan’s refusal to increase workers salary, which was commendable, was parochial in opposing the ambition, which was fundamentally based on appointment of ministers from the zone (Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau states).
Read him: “Nigerians are suffering. President Jonathan has no regards for the zone. All the ministers from the zone are junior ministers. So I see no reason why we should rally round him for 2011.” ERC categorically stated that the reason why Nigerians are suffering is not because of the superiority or inferiority of ministers or other political office holders appointed by the president from any zone or state.
“We are pressed to ask why have Nigerians from zones or states with superior ministers including the president who is the highest public office holders not benefitted from such appointments or offices in terms of infrastructural development and improved living conditions? We have had senior education ministers appointed from different states of the federation at different epoch and yet education keeps collapsing.
The root cause of suffering in Nigeria is due to the pro-rich policies implemented by successive governments.” According to Hassan Taiwo, ERC N ational Coordinator and Chinedu Bosah, National Secretary, NANS used to be a platform for defending students’ interests, articulating and defending policies that are beneficial to Nigerians and in most cases was in league with workers against anti-poor policies.
The ERC hereby challenge Nigerian students and the present NANS leadership to re-build NANS as a platform for the defense of ordinary people, students and workers as opposed to the usage of the platform for opportunism and pecuniary aggrandizement.
It is obvious as we approach the 2011 election that most NANS leaders for monetary reasons will pitch tent with different sections of the ruling elite who are from all ramifications responsible for the sufferings of Nigerians and continued attacks on the living standard of workers, students and peasants. As we write, there have been wave of fees hike across the federation with little or no resistance from NANS. In fact most NANS leaders at different level have joined forces with school authorities and government to attack students’ interests.
However, Jonathan’s presidential ambitions, just like a Babangida, Atiku, Bukola Saraki and others presently aspiring will not be fundamentally beneficial in any way to Nigerian students and workers. It is crystal clear that the ‘generational shift’ or the ‘old brigade’ aspirants cannot move Nigeria forward! All without exception have been attacking the rights (democratic and socio-economic) of students and workers at different leadership capacity by commercializing education that is responsible for wave of fees hike across the campuses and poverty wages presently paid to Nigerian workers or supports anti-poor, neo-liberal policies of privatization, concessioning, deregulation that seek to improve the lot of a few rich at the expense of the masses.
We have arrived at this position having critically analyzed the dominant political parties (PDP, ANPP, ACN etc.) that can be best described as pro-rich establishment parties.
The Labour Party that is supposed to be the political party for working people and poor with an alternative economic agenda opposed to neo-liberal policies, has become largely pro-rich and not quite different from the parties that are responsible for the crisis confronting Nigerians.
Therefore, the hope for Nigerian masses does not rest in President Jonathan, IBB, Atiku and others like them but in the building of a genuine mass workers party with an economic agenda that ensure massive investment in the people and infrastructure and the public ownership and democratic control and management of the abundant human and material resources by workers and professionals as means of mobilizing adequate resources and preventing corrupt practices.
This, for us in the ERC, is the way out of the vicious cycle that has characterized the socio-economic and political situation in Nigeria- Any other way out compounds the crisis.