NOW THAT THE UNION IS BACK: A GUIDE ON BUILDING A STRONGER POLITY (PART II)

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Rumour has it that the Student Union Electoral Commission is making attempts at reviewing the modalities and eligibility requirements for participation in the forthcoming elections. This is just one of the drastic moves made by the management towards suppressing the autonomy of the incoming student union and guaranteeing against the emergence of another radical union leader that will go the extent of telling off to the faces of the school’s administrators the faults and flaws with their decisions. Another we have heard comes all the way from Queen Idia hall.  It has been reported that the hall management has point-blank stated that a particular student that has once been evicted from the hall will not be endorsed by the hall and would not be voted for. The import of this notice is that there is no more opportunity for any female aspirant to emerge the next President as the only female aspirant running for the office has received backlash from her own, and when one’s own clan deserts one, what will be one’s fate in other clans. It is trite that these other clans – hostels – have priority for their own members rather than someone else. Therefore, we can as well expect nothing good to come from this Nazareth.

On the eligibility requirements for participation in the forthcoming student union elections, an informant in the Student Union election commission told the UCJ that the management plans to come up with a requirement that will place a second class degree as the minimum class of degree for participation in the elections. We were also told that another rigorous modality is that only students in their penultimate year will be qualified to run for the desired office of President. If these modalities are eventually finalized and adopted, the result will be an indirect move by the management to pave way for a certain candidate, of the four current aspirants, to emerge as the winner at the elections. The young man who happens to be a law student is being looked upon by the management as the less evil of the four devils. Viewing him as someone who has more to lose if confronted with an SDC case, the management is certain he will use his senses well and lead the Union according to their whims and caprices. They have chosen their preferred candidate and all that is left for the electioneering process is a formality, devoid of meaning, devoid of essence.

With the manner they have handled this particular election process, they are creating an atmosphere of trembling obeisance. We need not go up the pinnacle of the Ivory Tower to know that this will only lead to the falling through of the incoming Students’ Union. At least, we can take a glimpse from the happenings in the Aso Rock with the cabals who man the Federal Secretariat and practically direct the affairs of this country. If this revision of modalities succeeds and comes to stay, our management will practically function in the office of ‘cabals’, or better put, ‘godfathers’ that will commandeer each and every action of the Student Union. To me, that will be the death of the Students’ Union. Forgive me and do not misunderstand me, I do not support the me v. them relationship between the management and the students; in fact, I do believe that lecturers are in loco parentis and have nothing to gain going against their students.  But there is a place of not unsettling constituted structures or manoeuvring them. So, I believe, on a probability of 1:0 that the management’s candidate will eventually emerge, winner, and when that happens, only the management will determine whether we are going to have a strong polity or the incoming Student Union will only be a bunch of ‘yes-men’ acting as provincial governors for the management.

Before we proceed, it is important to note that the management has more leverage in this game of chess the Students’ Union has been dragged into, and whether it is checkmate eventually, they decide. But what is more important to note is that the management will lose nothing even when it allows the aspirants the benefit of the doubt. An analytical by this writer shows that since the proscription of the Union in 2017 till its reinstatement in August 2019, there has been a lot of brainwashing of political ideologies within the four walls of this university community. The radical move taken by the suspended leader of the erstwhile Union has been bastardized as inappropriate and unfitting of emulation by many of the politically minded students in this varsity. In fact, to an electorate desirous of ‘getting out of the varsity and getting into the job market’ soon enough, the selling political ideology is no longer Radicalism but Intelligentsia. Anything that falls short of that standard will be turned down by the majority of the students-electorate.

With knowledge of the near impossibility of the incoming Students’ Union breeding another ‘radical rascal’, the management can sleep with both eyes closed, withdraw their busy selves from meddling in the politicking for a desirable Students’ Union leader and rather make this election as democratic and credible as it ought to be. One may well say that the Students’ Union is a microcosm of the federal government of Nigeria and is intended to be a training ground for future training leaders, but if we raise weak leaders for a weak union, we would be digging the grave for the Nigerian polity as we would eventually be raising weak leaders for a weak nation.

It is not only the management that has something to do about building a stronger union, the emerging union leaders also have much of the quota to give. Majority of the students in this varsity can easily see through the façade that the Students’ Union may project about itself; if its leaders are puppets for the management, they will know, and they will reject their leadership for that. This is why the Students’ Union must create an image of strong leadership about itself and imprint this impression deeply on the minds of their followers. Upon assumption of offices, they must be willing to take initiatives, without necessarily thinking what the management will do. This is not to say that the Students’ Union leaders need essentially to be antagonistic towards the management. Each of them have their own sphere of authority, and unless the Students’ Union goes in contradistinction to set rules of the varsity, they should not cower in submission to each and every wish of the management. They are leaders in their own making, and not representatives of the management. They must behave as such to be treated as such.

For the incoming Students’ Union to be commanding of the authority of the students, it must be relevant and creating relevance for itself consists in the Union leaders organizing events and activities that will correlate with the interests and objectives of students. Now is not the time to spend millions into so-called fun activities that will add nothing to the economic value or professional pursuits of students. The job market has become more competitive than it was years ago, and with other universities spearheading the move for comprehensive training in response to the current demands of the job market, it is high time the Students’ Union leaders also turned towards proactivity and became a contributor to the professional and financial pursuits of students. Masterclass trainings on the acquisition of different digital skills, empowerment programmes and career advancement programmes should be prioritized over Students’ Union weeks that attract only a minimal audience, cause noise around the university and most likely, end up in tears as students see their C.G.P.A dwindling due to poor time management during the period of the several fun activities in the University.

In conclusion, a strong polity is not necessarily a radical one. It is not one that goes a hundred steps ahead of its followers and refuse to carry them along. It is not one that wallows in corruption, cowers in weakness and kowtows to every dictates external bodies make. It is one that knows its place in the sphere of things and finds a balance between giving its followers what they deserve and not giving the management what is too disrespectful or crude. With the stalemate in student union leadership for thirty months, readers, it is either we have a strong polity now or never!

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