Wake up to your leadership duty, NANS
Sir: It is no exaggeration to say that Nigerian students are in pain. Literally. The preeminent category of Nigerian students, Nigerian undergraduates, have been at home for well over six months; no thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the unending impasse between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government. This enforced time at home has undoubtedly taken an incalculable economic and psychological toll on Nigerian students, especially Nigerian undergraduates.
It was amusing to see how the government almost panicked into resolving the impasse during the EndSARS protest when it became apparent that many disgruntled Nigerian students were at the forefront of the protests. Since the protest ended, however, many meetings between ASUU and the Federal Government have yielded nothing. So Nigerian students have remained stuck at home. In this period, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has maintained a deafening silence.
Comrade Sunday Asefon was recently elected president of the preeminent body of Nigerian students. At over 40, he immediately got the critics on his back. He has since gone further to denounce the EndSARS protests and call for the closure of private universities.
NANS`s history is rich with the struggle for democracy in Nigeria. Even in the days when the country suffocated under draconian and deleterious military regimes, NANS fought. It`s indefatigable contributions played a pivotal role in ushering democracy into the country.
But in subsequent years, the rot and malaise afflicting many Nigerian institutions and associations have seeped into the body. The credibility of the body has rapidly bled away for many years as it has cultivated an unsavoury aptitude for blowing hot and cold at the same time. So compromised and complicit in Nigeria`s struggles have NANS become that it has lost its moral authority as the mouthpiece of Nigerian students. Most Nigerian students have no doubt that NANS has become a tool in the hands of unscrupulous politicians.
It is why Asefon must consider his mission at NANS a redemptive one. Nigeria currently stands at critical crossroads. Nigerian students are languishing at home; the education sector is in tatters; insecurity is at an all time high; the economy is badly struggling and families have been plunged into grinding poverty. Trust in government is at an all-time low.
In the face of the country`s myriad problems, President Muhammadu Buhari has sought to constantly reassure Nigerians that his government is doing its best to set Nigeria on the best course for both short and long terms. To say that many Nigerians do not believe him is an understatement. Many Nigerians have neither confidence nor trust in the current government.
Kene Obiezu wrote from Abuja.
Asefon has not been elected a government official. But if he can provide visionary leadership, NANS can rebuild its badly depleted credibility and again offer a powerful platform to Nigerian students. NANS can raise its voice in holding the government to account and opening up the civic space. It can force better conditions for Nigerian students who crucially will supply the next crop of Nigeria`s leaders.
The morning tells the day and for Asefon, the whistle has already sounded. He must hurry because by his utterances so far, he risks abandoning the Nigerian students he has been elected to serve.
Kene Obiezu wrote from Abuja.
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