By Kevin Onuegbu
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, James – my friend, and I decided to take a walk to Mellanby cafeteria to get our favourite lunch; Egusi soup and Fufu. On our way through Love garden, a group of students, about five of them approached us, smiling and shining their 32 like they have seen some high-handed men whose favours they crave. Meek with their facial expressions, I took note of the way they stretched out their hands in handshakes and their shoulders were a bit bent over with their left hands barely supporting the right as though they were greeting two grandfathers. One after the other, they shook our hands this way. It then struck me who these guys are – campaigners. UITES tends to become more friendly, respectful and peaceful (or even colorless if you like) when they are vying for political offices. At this moment, we noticed their campaign tags which read ” Vote for …”. One of them who appeared distinctive; more elegant and well attired, started surreptitiously; ” I am so and so and I am going for the post of so and so and we are soliciting for your supports; we need them to get there”, clearly a well-rehearsed speech, but unbeknownst to him, we are pressmen – so he went on trying to convince us on his goals, plans, visions, agenda and other things ‘politrickcians’ say sugarcoatedly. Obviously, I was not moved, having been bored by the same old lines we were accustomed to hearing ad nauseam. As a matter of fact, we had been previously approached by two other groups of enchanted and high-spirited campaigners. But as experienced campus journalists, we already have a premeditated, unaltered and advice-like response which we give when caught in such situations. After a word or two, we went on our way while they scouted for more political patronisers.
While enjoying our Egusi and Fufu at the Mellanby cafeteria, which James oftentimes has boasted of to be where the best Egusi soup is sold (obviously he is a Mellanbite). While savouring the lunch there, by chance, we overhead the conversation of two ladies sitting directly opposite us. From their discussion, they seemed, just like us, to have been approached by the same over-zealous campaigners. One of the ladies said: ” I was not even listening to anything he was saying but I will vote for him shaa…he is kinda cute” The other lady registered her indifference and said, ” As for me, I no kukuma get time to stress myself, I go just dey sleep for that day”.
We were star-struck and shocked all the same. It sounded unreal and as what could only happen in the films. But here is it happening live before our ears and eyes. With consternation and dismay, we realized that elections, no matter where they take place in any sphere of human endeavours – be it academia, grassroots, state, national etc, can never be innocent.
That single experience made me wander in grave reflections on how elections are won in a centre of supposed “intellectuals”. For I wondered; “If results of elections could be decided this way in a centre of learning, what would happen outside the four walls of this intellectual environment? How would elections be decided out there – in slums, markets, villages, etc where most of its inhabitants are bereft of formal education? Or has the four walls of the university known to be the height of knowledge turned to be a beehive of unsound minds?
Clearly, this experience x-rays the attitudes of the supposed “leaders of tomorrow” who care about little or nothing about the election of qualified hands who would oversee the affairs of their union. If such students are indifferent about who represents their interests in the school administration, unbothered by qualifications of those who relay their pressing needs to the school management. How then can they be bothered by the elections of capable hands and minds that would govern our dear nation? It is also utterly disgusting that some who do well to vote are misguided and do not have credible and tangible reasons for pitching their loyalty to any particular candidate – these sets of people, just like the first lady up there, cast away their voices and their votes for looks rather than the mental capacity of the candidates. And this is an aberration to a learning environment where true, valid votes should be cast devoid of fear or intimidation.
It is at this juncture that I make a plea to all students to come out in their numbers from all nook and cranny of the university community and its environs to get their accreditation ( a right to vote) which is a first step in the path of the right thinking. Secondly, the students should avail themselves to the opportunity to attend the press night and speech night which will take place on the 28th & 29th of November respectively. As it is through these platforms that candidates would be tested as iron would be tested to find them worthy of the political offices that they are vying for. Finally and most importantly, the students should come out en masse to cast their votes on the 30th of November as this is what separates the intellectuals from those bereft of sound learning. And we ought to remember that the hallmark of education, Just as Ancient Greco-Roman civilizations engender in the minds of her citizenry is to study to show oneself approved in order to give back to one’s society .. If these ideals are not inculcated in the minds of students now then when will it? What is the purpose of producing graduates who have an apathetic notion about politics as anyone frail in learning and character would? After all, one of the goals of the university is to produce graduates who are worthy of learning and in character. Thus, WORTHINESS OF LEARNING AND CHARACTER SHALL WE PURSUE!