Student Unionism is an integral part of the operation of tertiary institutions in Nigeria, politics in school is not just about the ways of electing someone as a Student Union (SU) president or as a student leader in the school, but it is an integral part of the day-to-day activities in school.
Student political activities are about negotiations over the allocation of scarce resources and about deciding whom gets what, when and how from who. It is expedient to have a student body to serve as a mouthpiece for the entirety of the students.
Political struggle in school have different views and objectives. Some Student choose not to participate in school politics because they see it as dirty game, by that, they become political apathy. The other side of the coin is students that saddle themselves with selfless or selfish responsibilities of a student leader.
Arguably, student unionism is a learning ground that prepares an enthusiastic and a determined youth to train them for the political system beyond the school. Human being is by nature a political animal, which means everything, will do as human being is all about politics.
Student in Politics
Student constitutes a vibrant part of civil society natural elements of a democratic society such as Nigeria. Today, the students’ concern is access to free and quality education, later students may turn their attention to something that does not directly relate to their own welfare but that of the society.
According to history, student can topple government; they can drive regime change. In Indonesia for example, the student movement played an instrumental role in Suharto’s political manoeuvre and eventually take over of power from President Sukarno in the late 1960.
The students led protest against Sukarno government, even fighting his loyalist on the country street. This eroded public trust in the government paved the way for his impeachment and ushered Suharto into power. Later student turned on the man they do supported.
Throughout the three decade of his rule, they took Suharto on about corruption and the state on the economy. Eventually student occupied the Indonesian parliament ground in May 1998 demanding Suharto resignation. He resigned few days later.
This make sense, Universities are training ground for future leaders and that includes political leaders, it’s rather duplicitous to raise student when they demonstrate excellence in science, technology, and business that promise a great future, but simultaneously condemn them for political engagement.
Nigeria student unionism
In history of Nigeria, student unionism began in 1925 with the establishment of West African Students’ Union (WASU), initiated by some Nigerian students in London. The first president was a Nigerian, Ladipo Solanke. With the formation of the University College, Ibadan, in 1948, there were efforts to commence student unionism and extend its tentacles to other higher institutions in Nigeria through the formation of National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) in 1956 as the national body.
Student unionism in the past was characterised by robust debates, active or passive resistance to the oppressive tendencies of the Authorities. Indeed, those who were the forerunners of unionism then were highly articulate, intellectually inclined, and very dogged in their ways of thinking and actions.
In 1983, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) was formed to inherit the same NUNS ideology that envisions a Nigerian federation in which every youth has access to, and can afford adequate levels of education; a country whose citizens, especially the youth, have a reasonably high standard of living and can access all the universally recognized rights due them.
Over the years, NANS has abdicated from its purpose of formation as series of dramas ranging from violence during convention and election of leaders, to embezzlement of funds among others.
If we take a good look at history, the youth are not too young to lead and develop this nation. The youth must therefore seek and desire for opportunities to develop the nation. As a building block in nation building, the youth have a great role to play, we are in this together.
For we not to keep stealing defeat from the jaws of victory, the present and future student leaders across the nation must once gain embrace the ideology of the frontiers with selflessness and integrity whilst operating in peace, harmony, and unity.