“Now’s the time to dissociate the bitter politics of hate in the mainstream Nigerian politics from our ivory towers”
The election timetable has been drawn by the office of the Dean of Student’s Affairs with detailed guidelines of manifestos and elections into various offices between february 10 and february 18 at both the departmental and faculty levels across the University of Lagos.
Though, there have been traces of politicking among students as a build up to the democratic process, the lifting of the ban and the release of the guideline have since, set the ball rolling with contestants spurning out across faculties to make their ambitions known.
At several juncture in the university, the sight of posters, flyers and banners are not hard to spot with varying designs and promises- a semblance of what operates in the wider society where several promises are made to the electorates but little efforts are made to list and enunciate how they are to be accomplished.
The unfortunate politics of sectionalism, religionism, departmentalism and cohortism coupled with the fierce act of Godfatherism which had become an integral part of Nigerian politics has badly found its way into the psyche of students’ representation emerging in our ivory towers or how bad can it be when voters are urged to vote on the basis of same religion or department rather that the pedigree of the individual.
There have been allegations and counter allegations of sabotage and rigging among contenders even before the elections have begun; some have even accused their counterparts of sending evil spirits on them via nightmares.
It is pertinent to note that every electorate owe it to his/herself and the student community the right to vote and be voted for without any fear or favour. While anyone within the confines of the stipulated requirements can obtain form of contests, the bulk of the electioneering rests on the shoulders of the electorates.
Incorporating the voting process with examinations surely places the students at a tight corner, but it was inevitable due to the time frame as a result of the ASUU strike. It is hoped that every student would see this as an opportunity to contribute to the leadership in the university by being a part of the election either as aspirants or electorate as a build up to the inevitable reinstatement of the student union on campus.
Though election holds at the faculty level, it is as if the politics of selection has come to stay at the departmental level as no voting whatsoever occurs among aspirants in almost all of the departments. I have witnessed one in my department where some group of students came together under the platform called “concerned students body”; their job was to persuade, dissuade and nominate representatives on behalf of thousands of students in the department.
During one of their meetings, in a bid to screen out two out of the three aspiring general secretaries, they were asked to list the contents of the minute of a meeting and to my astonishment; neither the first nor the second could utter a word, not even the third. I wondered what they were looking for as not only did they fail to give an answer, their sponsors boasted that they would learn as soon as they get into office. If an intending secretary could not even state a date as the most elementary part of a minute, I wonder if she would be able to tell the position of an address in a letter.
For different administration, the same story abounds; it’s like pouring an old wine into a new bottle. The posters and flyers, although colourful, contain mere rhetoric and plagiarised quotes that have failed to speak intellectualism to us the electorate. All we see in prints are “a new dawn”, “The time has come for a change”, “it’s about service and not servitude”, “an obligation to serve”, “for efficient and committed welfarism”- are these what we are going to export to the nation after our graduation?
Speaking at the American University, the 35th president of the United States- John Fitzgerald Kennedy quoted Professor Widrow Wilson to have said that “everyman sent out from a university should be a man of his nation, as well as a man of his time”.
A university ought to be a space where ideas flow, talents nourished and leadership qualities instilled among the students. Our ivory towers should be an almost utopian society where the quest for truth is paramount. If Nigerian students still find it difficult to play a free, fair and credible election with sound manifestoes and intellectual debates, does it not amount to hypocrisy to blame the INEC chairman Professor Attahiru Jega or Dr. Jonathan for the flaws in the country’s politics?
Student representation is a serious task that requires readiness, brilliance and a high sense of patriotism. It goes beyond collecting annual dues and organising beach parties. A student leader that is worth our votes should be one with a history of leadership and comradeship, calmness and selflessness who would represent his or her subject without fear or favour.
If what is on ground is anything to go by, it clearly illustrates that quite a handful among our intending student leaders just as their counterparts across the country are driven neither by their patriotism nor selflessness, adroitness nor brilliance, charisma nor boldness not even a sense of belonging or a quest to make the society better but a thirst for power and influence, greed and embezzlement and a means to build self-ego. A situation though abysmal, represents to a great extent, the political climate in the country.
Modiu Olaguro find “X” at The University of Lagos; He is a member of The Press Club, UNILAG.