A DAWN AND NEW ORIENTATION IN NIGERIAN NATIONAL STUDENTS UNIONISM.

Being the Text of an Address Presented At the Formal Opening of the Extra-Ordinary Convention Holding at the University of Maiduguri.

By National President, Segun Okeowo.

SALUTATION

Mr. Vice-Chancellor Sir,

Distinguished Scholars,

Members of the Mass Media,

Colleagues in Students Administration,

Comrades and Compatriots,

On behalf of the entire Nigerian students, I extend to you salutations for making time available to grace this Convention.

THEME OF THE CONVENTION

This Convention is extra-ordinary; it is summoned to achieve two fundamental ends. First and foremost, to accomplish the task of ratifying and adopting our own draft constitution which is about 12 years old? Secondly, issues affecting the state of our Nation, Nigeria. At the end of this Convention, we shall make known to the country through the mass media the resolutions adopted during the three-day traffic-jammed program.

TRUE CUSTODIANS OF THE NATION’S CONSCIENCE

By now the Nigerian public must have sincerely admitted that the Nigerian student can no longer be branded as exuberant, vandalistic, erratic, undisciplined or anarchical. Gone are the days of “bread and butter” students’ unionism; our major concern today is the state of the Nation.

We students see ourselves as the most authentic custodians of the conscience of the National and the most dispassionate evaluators of the state of the Nation. We are the naturally accredited representatives of our parents and the illiterate colleagues, majority of who cannot articulate their feelings and views. We are not only the inevitable and incontrovertible potential leaders but partners in the progress of today.

We believe and hold it basic in our mind that this country belongs to all of us and not to any section of it. We see ourselves as the emblem of national unity and solidarity in this country. We volunteer for the National Youth Service Corps and Operation Feed the Nation. We therefore will not allow any leader of today to will to us any shady or shoddy national inheritance.

That is why we shall be failing in our public-imposed task of watch-dogging the Nation’s conscience if we keep mute in the face of daily revolting system. According to Wole Soyinka: “The man died in him who keeps mute in the face in the face of tyranny” In his letter to the youths of Africa, Frantz Fanon has this to say: “The future would have no pity for those men who, possessing the exceptional privilege, of being able to speak words of truth to their oppressors, have taken refuge in an attitude of passivity, of mute indifference and sometimes in cold complicity” 

In fact Nigeria of the last quarter of the century cannot afford to breed a generation of youths who are merely academical geniuses but who are politically robots and ideological nonentities.

INDISCIPLINE – CONSCIENCE OF INJUSTICE.

It is most unfortunately that in spite of our patriotism and devotion to the Nation, many un-informed sections of the society still describe us as personification of indiscipline and, more often than not, we are made the scapegoat of societal maladies. We like to assert that indiscipline is not an exclusive preserve of the younger generation but rather it is cankerworm that has eaten deep into the fabrics of the society.

Even if the younger generation is undisciplined, they are a projection of the society. It is however heart-warming that the military regime did not succumb to the blackmail of certain sectors, when the idea of nominating us into the Constituent Assembly came up. Our membership of the Constituent Assembly is the most classical of our being highly responsible.

To describe Nigerian’s economic and social dilemma as masculine is to stress the obvious and one would have thought that the military, being masculine by orientation, would prescribe masculine panacea but rather it contends itself with feminine, gradualist and moderatist approach to the Nation’s daily-increasing problems.

No better anatomy of the Nation’s situation can be more authentic than the Head of State’s recent evaluations at Jaji and during the 1978 New Year message and at the NISER Workshop at the University of Ibadan. But these are more description of the Nations decadence and sheer moralizing on the societal maladies. According to Marxian dictum “We must effect change” 

The nation is quick to blame every problem on indiscipline and, unfortunately, instead of finding the root cause of indiscipline, it merely makes innocent students and youths the scapegoat of national organised inefficiency. The elder generation which is the incontrovertible architect of indiscipline and who should be rightly called adult delinquents, left scot free.

Let me assert here and now that the root cause of societal indiscipline is injustice and unequitability. Vivid description which are recorded for us in one of the songs of Jimmy Cliff, the Caribbean reggae singer:

                Too many people are suffering

                Too many people are sad

                Too little people have everything

                While too many have got nothing

Everybody seems to know the problems facing us but nobody of consequence is prepared to take the bull by the horn. Whereas the army rules by decrees and edicts, it dodges the issues of evolving an ideology for the country on the pretext that the people can decide on such a fundamental issue. Perhaps they are right but they could equally have deferred other fundamental until the civilians take over.

REVOLUTIONARY MANIFESTO FOR A NEW SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC STRUCTURE.

Having discovered after seventeen years of national day dreaming perpetuated by the ruling clique that “moderatism and graduatism” cannot save us; we have no option but to go revolutionary. It is pertinent to recall that 17 years ago colonialism changed cloak in a government of moderatism. Neo-colonialism has since ensured that the shameless day light robbery and looting of our country’s resources remained with the active connivance of internal reactionaries and its local errand boys.

Thus, the shame of our empty political independence without the concomitant economic independence and social justice are the basis of “indiscipline”, poverty, diseases, ignorance, squalor etc. Nigerian students totally reject the continuous criminal perpetuation of exploitation and oppression unleashed against the working people of our land. When shall we stop all the ineffective sermons and Sunday school rhetorics on indiscipline, low profile and stop declaring bogus humanism. To hell with our indigenous exploiters, be they civilian or military personnel.

The utterances and actions of our leaders who rule against their personnel wish and desire indicate trusted elites and power wielders who are Nigerians in name only. Having been tutored in the laws and morals ethos of their mentors, these sworn enemies against the genuine freedom of our people continue to view Nigerian situation behind bourgeois and unrealistic spectacles.

Great obstacles have been created in the way of the masses by this ruling elite because they profitably benefited from the present decadent exploitative system which we inherited from colonialism. The empty “Jaji declaration” is too naïve to be taken seriously. Exploitation of the many by the few, be they civilian or in the armed forces cannot continue. Capitalism which has and will continue to fail us is dying and no amount of cosmetic reforms can save it.

We Nigerian students will never conceal our views and aims. We want the complete overthrow of the existing social, economic and political conditions. Let the capitalist ruling class and members of chambers of commerce tremble. We want a socialist revolution. Nigerian Students and our allies- the oppressed and exploited masses have nothing to lose but our elite-made claims. We have the wealth of our land to win.

Nigerian Students and the downtrodden working class unite and effect the following:

[a] Free, provision of Nigerianised education for all children in public schools.

[b] Abolition of private ownership of land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

[c] Nationalization of all means of production, distribution and exchange. [Foreign or indigenous owned since both are conduit pipes of exploitation]

[d] Abolition of all rights of inheritance, merit must be the watchword.

[e] Establishment of industrial armies, agricultural armies, housing armies, transport armies, health armies etc.

[f] Creation of Nigerian secular state which shall neither be associated with, nor adopt any religion.

[g] Genuine democratization of all facets of our national life. Down with exploitation. Down with internal reaction any tendencies.

1979 CIVILIANISM – A CHALLENGE FOR ALL STUDENTS AND YOUTHS.

Twelve years ago, when most of us were mere toddlers and when Nigeria was only five years old as a sovereign nation under a civil rule, the army took over the reins of Nigerian government. The elder generation of politicians and the soldiers have, for seventeen years, dominated the political scene of this country with little or no challenge whatsoever from the younger generation.

It is not within the scope of this brief expostulation, to give an evaluation of the 17 year old post independence orientation of the nation under either or both of them. Our contention is that whereas the country belong to all of us, [old and young] we, the younger generation, were never given even more opportunity of consultation talk less of participation. Perhaps the fault was ours, may be because we refused to assert ourselves.

Today however, the younger generation cannot and must not accept the status quo any longer. A revolutionary dawn of political awareness and national orientation has emerged and as incontrovertible partners in progress, we should demand not only consultative but full participatory rights in Nigeria s national administration. We must not be denied these fundamental rights or else the consequence will be confrontation.

It is not the case that the younger generation of this country wishes to eject the elder generation from the position and status of administrative authority they have the unchallengeable monopolized for so long. Rather our contention is that if birds will not engage in unhealthy rivalry, the sky is wide enough for both the old and the young to fly simultaneously.

Let me hasten to observe however that the younger generation seems to be developing a tendency of apathy and nonchalance towards national politics. Man according to Aristotle, a political animal; politics is life and any youth that has no political motivation is but a living dead; Politics is not a dirty game, it is the collectivization of people’s potentials for communal welfare. It is the absence of sound political motivation and awareness that are basically responsible for the profuse planlessness and disjoint priorities that are characteristics of our current national orientation.                    

Perhaps one of the most progressive and rational decisions taken by the FEDECO is the reduction of the voting age from 21 to 18. Another dynamic step taken by the Constituent Assembly is the slashing to 35 the age of presidency which the C.D.C had earlier pegged at 40. The FEDECO and the Constituent Assembly, by these modifications, have perhaps inadvertently given wide opportunity to youth of this country. It is now left for us to seize and utilize to our advantage the opportunity.

I like to wind up this message by reminding all youths and students of above to ensure that they are youths that are not technically rendered politically impotents in 1979. The only way to ensure this is by ensuring that we all register for voting at the Registration Exercise now ongoing on all over the country. It will be self-defeatism to think that we cannot effect a change in the system we all grumble about.

LET US DO SOMETHING PRAGMATIC; REGISTER FOR VOTING IN 1979.

The struggle continues

Our victory is certain;

Segun Okeowo

National President, NUNS

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