OPINION: TODAY’S STUDENTS’ UNIONISM: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECT BY NKET-AWAJI CLINTON - The Galaxy Times | No.1 News hub in Rivers State and Nigeria

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Friday, 8 September 2017

OPINION: TODAY’S STUDENTS’ UNIONISM: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECT BY NKET-AWAJI CLINTON


NKET-AWAJI CLINTON

In the year, 1925, the West African students in London pioneered the Union called West African Student Union (WASU). This was the first step into students unionism by Nigerian Students. The influence of (WASU) brought about the establishment of National Union of Nigerian Student (NUNS) now National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in 1956 which was pioneered at the University of Ibadan with branches spread all over institutions in Nigeria in form of the Student Union Government (SUG).

CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS.

From the first step of Nigerian students into students’ unionism, it was geared towards catering for the welfare of students. How then has it turned to be a base on which social vices like cultism is settled? What has the activities of students unionism got to do with the activities of cultism? Why do people see students unionism as what necessitated cultism? In my quest to provide answers to the numerous questions running through my mind, I engaged the Dean of Students Affairs, Rivers State University (RSU) Dr Isaac Zeb Obipi in an interview. During the interview, he had these to say:

Clinton: Sir, it is very known to almost everyone that you have played active students unionism while you were a student, to what extent has students’ unionism impacted in you?

Dr Zeb: “Most of the leadership experiences I have gathered in my life started from students unionism. I had been a monitor all through and also the assistant senior boy in primary school. Also in secondary school, monitor all through then senior prefect. In the university, I had served in several offices up to the point of becoming the president of National Union of Rivers State Students (NURS) and the president of Post-Graduate Student Association (PGSA).
Even when I was called to services I have shown leadership qualities in camp and in my place of primary assignment which made the people of the community give me an honorary chieftaincy title “The Otum Dudo of  Mbawa” (The Good Servant of Mbawa) in former Gongola now Jigawa state.  In my home town, I am the Ogbolacha II of Okirika (a chieftaincy title).

So students unionism has impacted on me greatly because it has given me the opportunity to have first-hand leadership experience, built my understanding in what it takes to lead, made me appreciate the essence of service to God and humanity. It has shaped the way I relate to people.  So students unionism has affected me greatly.’’

Clinton: What other reasons can you point out as to why students unionism was established?

Dr Zeb: “Indeed there are so many reasons for the establishment of students unionism. It provides a platform for students or youths who are aspiring to be leaders of tomorrow to have their foundations. With students unionism, students will have sufficient voice to tell management what their problems are and also suggest possible means of the solution because, He who wears the shoe, knows where it pains him most.
It is also important because it helps the students to have a sense of civic responsibility.
So for all these reasons, students unionism is serving the good of purposes.

Clinton: What do you have to say about the perception parents have about students unionism being associated to cultism which made them advise their children or wards not to take on in students unionism?

Dr Zeb: “Indeed it is wrong for parents to advise their children not to engage in students unionism, I have just told you the gains people will experience when they participate in students unionism.
What parents should advise their children to do is as they develop academically, they should also try to develop their social, emotional and leadership skills and students unionism contributes to all round development of the student in these areas.
Talking about the problem of cultism, the intrusion of cultism activities is not only found in school it also happens in the society where we live.
We have noticed that aspiring student leaders, in order for them to win elections are seen to cultivate relationships with cultists on campus. However, students unionism is not what necessitated cultism so it cannot be attributed to it. Students unionism should even help to fight cultism.

Clinton: But sir, what do you see as the problem of today’s students unionism as regards the challenges we are facing, for example, people dying and getting injured in the struggle?

Dr Zeb: ‘Present day student leaders have abused the aluta struggle. Before students will embark on demonstrations, there must proper consultations and consolidations before confrontation but these days what students do for every little thing is to demonstrate. In my days, demonstrations are well guided, they are not meant to be destructive or intended to be harmful. Demonstrations are intended to call attention to the grievances of the students where management has failed repeatedly to attend to the problems.
Before management will take a decision, certain reasons must have prompted it. What a responsible student leader should do is to, first of all, find out the reason for such decision and then see how he can meet management at the middle point and not to think that because you are a student leader, you are greater than the school authorities. That if not your own way, no other way. Sometimes they go out on the street, destroying people's properties in the name of demonstrating and of course the security agencies must do their own work and if the students get violent at that point, the security agencies have the official weapon for violence. It is in such circumstances that injuries are sustained and even deaths are recorded.
But if students get level-headed like in my days, know first the reason why management did what they did and not get radical, nothing like such will happen because of course, you can not compel the management.
Just like what is happening in school (Rivers State University), we have aluta meter, aluta vengeance and so many others all bastardizing the whole idea of aluta.
So when they embark on demonstrations without adequate consultation and consolidation, destroying properties, the school will be shut down and when they come back, they are made to pay for the damages. Is it to the benefit of the students?
This is the reason and problem why some people are sceptical of the usefulness of students’ unionism and aluta struggle. Aluta struggle has been bastardized up to the extent that it is now an item for trade, blackmail and lies.’

Clinton: What is your advice to present day student leaders?

Dr Zeb: ‘My advice to student leaders is that they should appreciate the reasons I gave as to why students unionism is important and deliver on them. They should endeavour to be transparent and accountable because sometimes lack of transparency and accountability creates the impression that things are going wrong. Student leaders should be humble and always be ready to learn. As a Chief, my followers suggest to me what they feel is right. I listen to their opinion and apply them and at the end, I take the credit. So student leaders should be selfless, humble, consultative, not to be quick to anger. To seek knowledge always, what they do not know, ask a question. And I really believe that if they are disposed to all these I have mentioned, accountability, transparency and humility, we have a better students politics on campus.’’

CONCLUSION:
Student’s unionism must be played sensibly not abusively, it must be encouraged not discouraged because it was established for good not evil. The wrong perception people have about it must be corrected. For us not to continue to have wrong persons as leaders in our society, we, students who want to kick start our political race from school politics must strive to do those things which will congeal the main aim for the establishment of students’ unionism and not do the reverse.

Aluta Continua! Victoria Ascerta!!

OGOR NKET-AWAJI CLINTON (ONC).
Department Of Petroleum Engineering, RSU.
Head of Research And Publicity NUAS RSU Chapter.

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