by Kunle Wizeman Ajayi
The current student leadership of NANS, under the gluttonic Tijani Usman, showed its true colours by openly awarded contracts to the drug scandal embattled Senator Buruji Kashamu. As a result, many commentators have cursed and mocked the students’ movement entirely. Many other people have entirely cursed the NANS leadership for derailing the traditions of the founders of the association.
Prof Itse Sagay, for example, believes the action underscores the current rot in our society as even the Senate endorsed Senate President Saraki who is being prosecuted for false asset declarations. NANS is a movement that cannot exist outside of our social reality. Yet, the objective conditions within which her members live and study demands an association that is vibrant in the pursuit of the livelihood of its members.
Many students live in the most horrible conditions on their campuses. This is prevalent even in supposed ‘world class schools’ like UNILAG where the mass of students stormed the streets lamenting the colonisations of the hostels by bedbugs! Many other students in UNICAL; ABSU; and ESUTH has also protested against the horrible welfare conditions on their campuses.
The ruling class led by President Buhari is still lost over the policies on education. Many are waiting for the unveiling of the portfolio of ministers to know what may happen next. But this administration shows that it does not have the key to revamping and advancing the educational sector.
Meanwhile, the crux of this piece is the interventions that are truly needed to consolidate the ongoing fight to rebuild the students’ movement. Of course, the right-wing controlled-NANS is losing its influence on students, but never yet on their politics. The cord that ties the students’ movement with its politics is an umbilical one.
Socialists believe that student-activists need to spread their tentacles and confront these tasks more tactically and frontally. It is the subjective factor that is missing. The mass of students need to continue to challenge the cruel objective situations they face and not be held back by the reactionary current leadership of NANS.
This is why the left must venture to go beyond critiquing and fighting in defence of the movement to taking over it politics. The next NANS convention must be of concern to us as it is zoned to the most reactionary base in the country. While not focusing just on the elections, our struggle must consciously lean towards contending solidly with a radical alternative programme.
Specifically we need to recreating strategic political programmes that unite and propel the movement forward. The NANS zone D should collaborate with radicals and socialists in taking up this course. The lecturers union, ASUU, and NLC are both displaying much willingness to collaborate with genuine students’ groups. This opportunity should be explored as strategically and comradely as possible.
One can conclude by drawing inspirations from the struggles of the South African students against truition fee increments. That struggle started on one campus and spread to 22 other instituions within 24 hours. Later demonstrations forced President Jacob Zuma to back down on the proposed increments for next year. The national students’ union still has as a major demand FREE EDUCATION AT ALL LEVELS.
Students here face similar issues of fee increments and underfunding of education. They are also resisting as is evidenced in the many struggles across campuses. The missing link is a progressive connecting force in the form of a central union that coordinates the struggles.
Just like South Africa, the rebuilding must start from campuses through sharing of constant solidarity and united actions. It is such from campus based struggles that the right wing control of the students’ movement can be dislodged. Radical broad left initiatives like the All Nigeria Students Against Neo-liberal Attacks (ANSA) – originating in Ife – should unite with others like the Coalition of Left and Progressive Students (CLAPS), the Education Rights Campaign and the National Association of Nigeria Comrades (NANC). The broader, the brighter.
The students’ movement is battling to move forward. But student activists who can shed their sectarianism and egos and fight comradely, honestly, eye-opened, and resolutely together are needed to direct the struggles forward!