The present economic and political situation of our country, Nigeria requires urgent and concerted efforts by all stakeholders to recover the country from the consequences of gross ineptitude of our Leaders, both past and present. This is the reason I agreed intoto with the position of Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, when he charged Nigerian youths, in 2018 – prior to the 2019 general elections, to “take back your country”. For a nation that is blessed with abundant human and vast natural resources to be in a state of perpetual poverty leaves more to be desired. It is simply a result of leadership failure over the years.

The act of taking back Nigeria is a process that requires active participation of all stakeholders, especially the youths. Among the youth constituency is the students’ sub-constituency, which is very active, virile, energetic and very mobile. The Nigerian student leadership has a well-defined structure from the campus level through the states to the zone and national level. The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), formed in 1980 at a national student leaders’ conference held at the University of Jos, following the proscription of the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) in 1978 after the “Ali Must Go” national students’ protest. Late Comrade Sunday Danladi Oladele (Baba Ladoo) emerged as the pioneer NANS President.

During the early days of NANS, the student leaders of old were mainly radicals in nature, taking up national issues that bother on the welfare and rights of the masses and addressing issues of national economic policies that will ultimately tell on the masses. For instance, the Nigerian students under the platform of NANS stood against the Structural Adjustment Programme of the Babangida regime for obvious reasons that the policy will adversely affect the Nigerian masses in a variety of ways. 

On political issues, during the battle for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria, Nigerian students were very active participants, playing active roles in the various groups that were at the forefront of the democracy restoration battle, such as the NADECO, PRONACO among others. In fact, these pro-democracy groups had student wings in their structures. For instance, during the PRONACO-organized national conference at the Lagos Airport Hotel in 2005, I represented the interest of the Nigerian students (as factional NANS President) alongside the Senate President of NANS, Comrade Musa Alechenu, while Comrade Tony Nwoye (NANS President) represented Nigerian students at the National Conference organized by the Nigerian government in Abuja. At that PRONACO-organized National Conference, we had the opportunity to work with some foremost pro-democracy activists such as Late Dr. BekoRansome-Kuti, Late Chief Gani Fawehinmiamong others. We even participated in joint protests against some policies of the Nigerian government together with the above-named pro-democracy activists.

Now that we are at the crossroads towards another election that will determine the continued existence, growth and development of our nation, it is expected that Nigerian student leaders, through the appropriate national structure of the students, should rise to the occasion, take a stand for and in the interest of the welfare of the Nigerian masses regarding who comes on board as the Leaders of our country in the forthcoming general election holding on 25th February and 11th March, 2023, for Presidential/National Assembly elections and Governorship/State Assembly elections respectively. Maintaining a neutral stand or sitting on the fence will not be acceptable in this election, as this is the only opportunity we have to remedy the situation of leadership failure that has been the bane of Nigeria’s political history. Silence is no longer golden at this time, the Nigerian students must take a stand and speak out, for as Franz Fanon puts it, “the future will have no pity on those, who possessing exceptional privileges of speaking the words of truth to their oppressors, but have taken refuge in an attitude of mute indifference and sometimes of cold complicity”. We are waiting; the entire nation is waiting for the leadership of the Nigerian students to decide, to speak and to give direction. 

Comrade Igwe Patrick Afubera writes from Abuja.

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