ARTICLE : STUDENTS UNIONISM, A LOST TALE By Obiora Okeke || @amobioraokeke

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A Government is said to be a body with the power to make and/or enforce laws to control a country, land area, people or organization and as well advance all necessary social amenities for the betterment of the people.

The National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) was a students' union bringing together Nigerian students both within Nigeria and across the diaspora.

NUNS was founded in 1956, following structural changes in the West African Students' Union.

In April 1978, Nigerian students were faced with the imposition of increased fees, and NUNS participated in a series of Campus protests across the whole of Nigeria. The government responded by sending in the army and police, leading to the death or serious wounding of over twenty students. Three universities were closed and NUNS was banned. Several university staff and students were dismissed.

In 1980, The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) was founded as a replacement for the banned NUNS.

The Students Union Government (SUG) on the other hand was established in several tertiary institutions to see the welfare of Students, ensuring unity, orderliness and Promote a cordial relationship between students, School Authorities, Local, State and Federal Government, thereby bringing about effective representation.

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In a democratic state like Nigeria, it has been a heavy burden on the Student Union Leaders to be at the forefront of promoting and protecting the interest of its members (Students). Most students unions have lost the essence and objectives of it's establishment as "MANY" have been hijacked by the University Management, State or Federal Government.

Students Union which was more or less a Pressure group was geared at Promoting good Governance in all levels of Government, defending and agitating for Justice thereby bringing about a positive Transformation in the society.

The Responsibilities of Students Union Leaders goes beyond the title (Hon. Comr. and Barr/Justice) attached to their names and goes beyond the fame and benefits they get. It is a call to Service which every level of Dedication, Accountability and Transparency is required and must be pursued with every form of integrity and honesty for effective representation.

Students Unionism in most institution today, have been laid to rest. Fear, Greed and act of embezzlement has become a character trait most Students Leaders posse and this does not just affect the institution but the nation at large.

Today, 4th January, 2019 makes 2 months ASUU embarked on an indefinite strike over implementation of 2009 agreement regarding the decay in public universities, disregard of agreements reached with the union in 2013 and 2017, as well as the failure to pay the arrears of the shortfall in salaries, even after the presidential initiative on continuous audit verification by the federal government.

I appreciate the moves and efforts made by the National Association of Nigerian Students earlier but after the meeting with the President yesterday, I have a different view of the efforts. 

My View:
- A union set up to advocate for students goes into political negotiations for their own interest while millions of students remain at home over ASUU Strike. 

- A union we all expect to remain neutral as we together pressurized FG and ASUU to resolve the 8 weeks strike went to declare support for PMB's reelection while we (Nigerian Students) remain at home. 

- If they so much cared to see ASUU strike end why didn't they also meet with striking lecturers? 

- Should we be begging to return to classes even when education should be every government's priority? 

- What did NANS do when the tuition fees of several institutions was hiked without genuine reason.

- My NANS President called my striking lecturers (ASUU) hypocritical because they're fighting for the betterment of the decayed public universities and their welfare. 

- Even when President Buhari admitted that ASUU's demand are  genuine,  NANS said ASUU is economical with the truth. 

Well if what I know student's unionism to be is what it is, then such won't happen again.

Do you still remember "Ali Must Go of April 1978?" It was a nationwide agitation that brought the National Union of Nigeria Students (NUNS) into an open confrontation with the Olusegun Obasanjo led Military government and the stern looking men of the Nigerian Army. It started when the government asked the students to make more contributions by adding 50Kobo to their cost of meal per day. The increment meant that their cost of meal would rise from N1.50 to N2.00 then. 

Today, the history of students unionism in Nigeria will largely be incomplete without mentioning Segun Okeowo (NUNS President, 1978) and the infamous protest that demonstrated the strength of Nigerian students.

Do we still have such Students leaders today?

Majority of those we have can't even mobilize or address their colleagues.  Is that Unionism? 

Students are seriously suffering in public universities and no drastic measure have been taken to confront and solve the ordeal. 

Students are subjected to do certain things and no one is there to agitate for them. 

Today many students are  turning to business people, wayward, robbers, prostitutes, vagabonds, criminals and many other bad professions just because we can't return to classes and am yet to see that landslide move by our leaders. 

I weep for Students Unionism because they've been held hostage and silenced by some powers. 

I pray that the true spirit of ALUTA will be restored on our students leaders again.

Thank You. 

Comr. Obiora Okeke
Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike.  
4th January, 2019. 

Please note, everything expressed in this article is only but the view of the writer.  We don't intend to defame anyone but express deeply our feelings over the situation. 

You can connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and twitter @amobioraokeke.

Aluta Continua, Victoria Acerta


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