By Gracious Egedegbe
There is a big conspiracy going on as the election into representative posts at the level of OAU student union. This big conspiracy is a conglomerate of several conspiracies currently cultivated by various seemingly influential individuals in various camps. These individuals with vested interest have so much at stake that they will be willing to go to lengths to influence the results to favour themselves and alignments.
Before this writer goes forward, there is the need to impress upon the reader the sensitivity and significance of the elections. OAU, like every other entity, have evolved through the ages. There was a time when it rivalled with the University of Ibadan as the hallmark of Student Unionism. Slowly, as the efficacy of mass protests and related acts waned, there was the need for a more up-to-date approach to representing students. Let the reader know that we live in changing times where the need for responsible, informed and proactive leaders cannot be overemphasized. The calibre of representatives elected will reflect in student unionism, how the school will relate with students, improvement or lack of welfare and ultimately the general image of students (and graduates) in the eyes of all observers.
This informs the conspiracies going on in several quarters. While this writer does not claim to have interacted intimately with all parties involve, there is no gainsaying that there are plans on how to sway votes in several camps.
The first camp may be referred to as the modernist. This group hopes to present itself as fitting for 21st century unionism. On the face of it, this represents the students’ need: group of individuals that will use methods that fit well with the changing times. One would expect consultations, intellectual struggles, and social media protests amongst others. It could be argued that this will be most welcomed as students are tired of having the academic calendar disrupted due to unionism related activities.
However, it can also be argued that these sets of individuals are cowards who are only interested in the economic, political and egoistic gains that could be accrued from entering the seat of power. These sets of individuals are wholly concerned of much benefits come to themselves rather than agitate for the rights of student, the ultimate price of rustication notwithstanding. To even postulate further, these individuals are ready to capitulate to the management on any matter of divergence than represent the views of the students.
This informs the views of the second camp who are commonly (and erroneously) all labelled as leftists. While it is in the leftists’ ideology to agitate for a populist society, where the right of the common man is acknowledge and respected, other individuals may also share that view without the necessary label of leftist. These groups of people (leftists or not) believe in the class struggle. As far as they are concerned, the management has a far-reaching power that ultimately makes them the oppressor in any given situation. Their primary aim is to involve students as much as possible in the decision-making process as well as fight exploitation.
While their objectives sound interesting and beneficial to all students, the question that arises it: “to what extent?” While some individuals in this camp are conscious of the students’ frustration with long unnecessary breaks, majority of them believe that the prices of indefinite breaks, victimization, suspension and ultimately rustication are necessary price to win the struggle. They argue that fear will only keep the students in administrative bondage. They fail to realise that in pay their “necessary price,” they adversely affect the lives, aspirations and goals of many students. Furthermore, the cost of living is climbing higher by the day and many are eager to complete their studies and help ameliorate the financial conditions of their families and relations.
To strike a balance, there is a third camp that believes that confrontation with the management is inevitable as well as the consequences that come with them. This group of persons believe that for any true unionism to occur there must be the preparedness in all ramifications to resist any and all exploitations and callous actions (or inactions) towards the student population. However, these individual are not entirely focused on victory that they will sacrifice the convenience of the student community. They believe that certain concessions may be necessary as the need arises.
The only objection to this is their seemingly hypocritical nature. One may tempted to ask, “Why go to battle when you already have the mind to surrender and make compromises?” It would seem that these individuals feel weak to totally confront the myriads of challenges in student unionism and will only go as far as “my legs can carry me, after all, I cannot kill myself.” It would seem that these individuals want to bask in the favour of the students as well as maintain secure relations with other parties.
At this point, the reader might ask, “What exactly is the conspiracy?” The conspiracy lies within the student population. Overtime, there has been a gradual ingraining of individualism. This has manifested itself in exploitative acts by students against students, nonchalant attitude about the welfare of other students and total disregard for the need to aspire for the common good. We have unwittingly conspired amongst ourselves to abdicate our responsibilities to a select few not minding what happens as long as our interests are protected.
This conspiracy reveals itself in mental lethargy, apathy for general student welfare as well as exploitation without the thought of giving back. It is the conspiracy being played out over time that has led to the gradual demise of student unionism. This conspiracy facilitates the growth of individuals with plans and aspirations that are only concerned with their ideologies and vendettas rather than the welfare of the students. It is this conspiracy that (if left unchecked) will sound the knell and herald the deceasing of our great nation, Nigeria .
By Gracious Egedegbe