The Nigerian system is designed in a way to enable youths prepare for future leadership roles and political endeavours. That is why organisations like the National Association of Nigerian Students, (NANS), Nigeria Youth Parliament and National Youth Council were established for the upliftment and development of the youth. But NANS has failed to live up to its billing.
NANS is the umbrella union of all Nigerian students in higher institutions. Like labour unions, it is primarily instituted to protect the rights of students all over the country and cater for their welfare. Rather than perform those critical roles that will enhance the well-being of students, the body has entangled in utter mediocrity and nonperformance.
Student union bodies globally have similar functions and that is to project worthy ideas, initiative and perspective to school authorities and even governments. By this means, many of them have tackled societal problems and proffered solutions where necessary.
Beyond that, student union is established to promote discipline, unity, orderliness and conducive learning environment for students. However, against all expectations, many Nigerians may agree that NANS has fallen short of these indices. Clearly, the body has failed in many respects.
Gone were the days when NANS robustly engaged in intellectualism and stimulated intellectual discourse among students and lecturers on campus. Students published in scholarly journals and were soundly exposed that loyalty, courage and truthfulness were among the many virtues they imbibed.
Today, all that is history. Student unionism in the country has been hijacked by strange persons with precarious intentions. Union officials, who once set agenda for the government, have suddenly changed their behaviour and ceded their platforms to pretenders.
Because student union leaders have abdicated their roles, the quality of education in higher institutions has greatly vitiated. This development led to the existence of all manner of vices on campus such as prostitution, cultism, ‘sorting’, examination malpractice, sex scandals, robbery, drug addiction etc.
Given the ugly trend, there are public clamours to return higher institutions to the path of sanity. But we must understand that a move towards a reversal to their former status will remain impracticable if active student unionism is not reactivated or restored.
Like in the olden times, we need a student union administration that will complement the efforts of government in all ramifications. We need a union that will not only confront school authorities, but will speak up against bad governance just the way it did during the military era.
It is needless to say that student unionism is synonymous with the nation’s future. That is why it is tragic to see our future leaders jettison their prospective leadership roles for selfish interests that have consumed Nigeria and kept it where it currently is.
The student union movement requires a total rebranding because of the amazing and uncertain direction it treads. Though effort to return it to its erstwhile status is a collective one, students must particularly indigenise it, work hard and make it a reality.
Student unionism has to return to the days when it created an atmosphere for constructive criticisms,
peaceful protests, competitiveness in academics and equal representation. The current student politics, which is a reflection of what obtains today in our society, must be repudiated else it may produce the same kind of leaders we have.
It strikes me that student leaders like Lanre Legacy, late Segun Okeowo (of the 1978 Ali-must-go renown), Adeola Soetan and George Iwilade Afrika have been hurriedly consigned to the footnote of student activism while their legacies are left to rot.
Indeed, we are in dire need of student union leaders that will draw inspiration from those idealists and firebrands; sacrificial leaders who will build on the tradition of the apostles of student unionism in the country and restore the lost values and glories of the movement.
Therefore, for the student movement to attain this elevation, those in its leadership positions must enthrone the objectives and independence of the union. They must focus on the key virtues of transparency, accountability and hard work and see the mandate they have as a privilege to return the union to enviable heights.