By Chidera Anushiem and Martins Isaac
In George Orwell’s evergreen classic, Animal Farm, it is seen how Napoleon, a pig, had bamboozled every other animal, eased out his only worthy challenger, Snowball, another pig, on his way to power. Ultimately and much to the dismay of his followers, Napoleon began to dine with humans — the species who had subjected them to generations of suffering and penury. By then, it had become too late for the animals to salvage the situation and save their farm from impending doom.
While on a courtesy visit to President Buhari, NANS President, Danielson Bamidele-Akpan, rocked the oft-tumultuous sea of social media when speaking to the President. In the video footage that emerged online soon after, he was seen to be saying, among other things, that “…some of us are privileged. We know exactly what is happening. We know that ASUU is being economical with the truth. We know, without fear or favour, that they are being hypocritical….” He also mentioned that: “This constituency [students] ha(d)ve large population numbering about 80million. I can assure you today that if this constituency is WELL UTILIZED, WE’LL PULL NOTHING LESS THAN 20MILLION VOTES FOR YOU.”
But in towing the path of Napoleon in dining with the ones who are responsible for the debacle, Danielson has betrayed the entire students whom he claims to be leading. He has portrayed a behavior that opposes the very purpose of scholarship and reeks of high-handedness and a strong belief in the specious authority he wields. Alas, he doesn’t realize that he is wrong on many fronts.
First and foremost, if the NANS President were an introspective fellow, he would have realized that NANS is a body which has long lost its credibility. It is an ‘Association’ which, today, starts and ends on paper. The students whose interests are the primary responsibility of the association no longer associate with it, and the leadership of the body is in no way associated to the ordinary student who it is meant to protect. Rather, as evidenced by the words of its President, the student body has resorted to employing highfalutin rhetoric in a bid to save its face and remain relevant to groups of people who have since left it behind.
Secondly, it is a hallmark of crass democratic disorientation for one man to promise another man the votes of 20 million compatriots whom he did not create. Apart from the ambiguity of the word ‘utilized’ which he used as a proviso to make his promise (which he has come out to defend by claiming that he wanted ‘our constituency not to be ignored’), that number is simply bogus and unrealistic when the numerical strength of Nigerian students is put into perspective.
To begin with, www.worldometers.info like any other source put Nigeria’s population on Monday December 31, 2018 at 198,489,496 making the country the 7th most populous country with a growth rate of 2.61% in 2018.
Getting 80million out of this figure represents 40.3% of the total population. Quite on the contrary, www.indexmundi.com placed Nigerians age 15-24 to be 19.61% of its total population (using 190,632,261) on January 20, 2018. That gives you 37,382,986. While it is quite true that voting age starts from 18 and there are students in tertiary institutes who are beyond 24 years of age, further reports show that people in this new age bracket are quite around the same figure above.
In 2014, with a total population of about 178million average in between statistics put forward by the National Bureau of Statistics and the UN, Nigerians between the age bracket of 18-35 (voting plus tertiary institution worthy age) amounted to 33,652,424 according to www.ngyab.com.
Corroborating the fact above is Dr H. S. Abubakar of the department of Educational Foundations (UDUS, Sokoto), in a presentation titled “Counseling Youths for National Healing” at the 43rd International Conference organized by Counseling Association of Nigeria (CASSON) in August 2018 at the FCT Resource Center, Abuja said: “Youth in Nigeria includes citizens of Federal Republic of Nigeria aged 18-35years (National Youth Policy, 2009)… comprising 33,652,424 members…” [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2014].
Taking that into consideration and going by the fact that Nigeria’s highest annual growth rate of 3.5% according to the UN, it is highly impossible to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that the population of youths of 18-35years (students and non-students) in Nigeria number 80 million, let alone students. This casts aspersions on the NANS President who perhaps should be made to explain how he came about the figure of 80miilion students.
On a closer look though, in search of where the self-acclaimed president might have gotten his figure, uis.unesco.org reveals there are 78,038,446 students in Nigeria. Yes, this is close to the 80million which verily validates his point.
However, a breakdown of that figure reveals Pre-primary students to be 5,779,085; Primary (31,037,469); Secondary (25,346,640) and Tertiary (which he supposedly presides over) to be at a measly 15,875,252 students. What is strange, thus, is: all things being equal with all tertiary institutions spread across the 36 states registered under the NANS, the ‘president’ will have just about 15million to mobilize, let alone produce 20million votes. Except, as has been often alleged, the NANS President is suggesting underage voting across the country.
However, although countrymeters.info using the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division reveals that the country has a 79.89% (male) and 65.33% (female) literacy rate among its youth using UN entities such as African Youth Charter (15-35 years), Professor Danladi Matawa, the Director-General, Nigeria Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI) on January 14, 2017 with the population of the country speculated to be averaged at 188million amongst credible sources revealed that Nigeria “statistically has 67million youths” aged “15-35” with only a measly 20% having more than secondary school certificate. This, in corroborating uis.unesco.org figure of 15.8million meant Nigeria in 2017 had about 13.4million students in tertiary institutions.
Of this 15.8 million Nigerian students, NUC boss, Professor Abubakar Rasheed further revealed that only 1.9million Nigerian students are currently studying in the about 164 Nigerian Universities across the country, roughly 1% of the total population. This, being the latest report on students’ population across the country even makes it more difficult to make the remaining 78million to be distributed among polytechnics, monotechnics, colleges of education, EACs et al.
Perhaps one would be hitting the nail on the head, at this point, to conclude that if there is a body that is being economical with the truth and being hypocritical here, it is the NANS. The truth, however economical ASUU may be with it, is that government-owned tertiary institutions in Nigeria are currently in a negligence-induced coma, seeking a good Samaritan — just any one — to wheel them into Intensive Care Unit for prompt and adequate treatment. The one to whom this responsibility falls on has repeatedly failed them, and any one who wants to call the bearer of this responsibility to order cannot be described as being economical with the truth, especially by a group who failed woefully at the one chance it got to tell the truth to those in the corridors of power. That NANS attacked ASUU whom many believe the members are underpaid is unfair and unbecoming of students expected to be right in their thinking. The picture below shows that from the outset, NANS set out to take sides with POWER as against REASON. In conflict resolution, when entering as a third party – even if you are the suffering party, it is expected that you maintain absolute neutrality atleast in the public and try to facilitate and ensure the coming together of both parties to a mutual agreement not devoid of concessions if need be. It is called a win-win situation where both parties are relatively and mutually satisfied. The act as displayed by NANS not only exposed their shortfalls and apparent lack of leadership skills but also, their insincerity and genuine nonchalance to the plight of the student population who reposted their trust in the body’s capacity to cut short their forceful stay at home with an action that boasts the tendency to aggravate the whole matter.
When a meeting between President Buhari and the NANS executive was announced, one would have thought that the students, who are the figurative grass that suffer from the two elephants’ fight, were on their way to proffering solutions to the listening ear of the elders, to speak the truth—however bitter— to power, and to return home much to the satisfaction of the students whom they claim to represent. Alas, if you thought so, you were living in a fool’s paradise.
Also, it is worth mentioning that something is fundamentally wrong with the structure of the NANS. The factional president of NANS (who committed such unforgivable gaffe) as of today is no more a student, having graduated from Nasarawa state university in 2011, served in 2013, and finished his masters last year (2018), a month after his election. The Zone B Coordinator of the South South – Okereke Godson C Bishop is (according to him) rounding off his master’s programme in FUTO, Owerri being a class of 2011 himself as an undergraduate. The PRO – Adeyemi Azeez Amoo has been rightfully alleged to have served as NANS JCC Chairman around 2011 himself, continuing a chain of many graduates who have decided to rather than move on with life, continue to use NANS as a platform of bargaining power. This is no fiction with the NANS President confirming via his Twitter handle (@danielsonakpan) that he was at PDP convention at PortHarcourt in response to a claim by a certain Deji Adeyanju, that they were given #150million for whatever reason (a claim they have since come out to deny). That his tweet did not in any way correspond to the allegation is an aside, but it must be said that it is palpable that a body of Nigerian students are not represented by any undergraduate student, nor Students’ Union of any school according to Friday Omadewu Ajayi – former Chairman of NANS JCC FCT AXIS. If NANS will ever get it right, the process must start with a total overhaul of its supposed leadership who are either no longer students at all or about to be master’s degree holders. Definitely, if the national body of the most enlightened section of the country did not get it right with its leadership, how will the country whose ‘honeypot’ is surrounded by league of old men, less educated persons and ‘corrupted’ intellectuals not always lead us wrong.
In all, it is because of graduates like the NANS President that ASUU is on strike today. However ‘economical’ ASUU may be with the truth, that truth still remains that our educational institutions are lurking in murky waters, desperately seeking for a messiah to lift them to sky-high clouds of quality and excellence. And if there is anyone who has the interest of the nation at heart, such a person must be concerned so as to ensure that the continuous mass production of half-baked graduates who cannot speak truth to power is nipped in the bud.
Chidera and Martins are students of the University of Ibadan and members of the Union of Campus Journalists. They can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com respectively.