Today, as we continue this discussion on ‘Aluta’ (the struggle), it is important to deal with the burning question of why we struggle or why the struggle or simply put, why struggle? This is as fundamental as the struggle itself, thus it is important for everyone to understand the basic and/fundamental reasons why we struggle.

There are a lot of reasons why we embark on Aluta struggle, and the reasons vary from time to time and from circumstance to circumstance, but most significantly, we embark on Aluta struggle when we feel that there is need to make our voices heard loud and clear by the world, when we feel that the authorities are not listening to what we are saying and thereby not taking our views into consideration while taking decisions on policy formulations that affect the institution and the people.

Let me come out clearly with lucid illustrations. When the management of a tertiary institution decides to increase the tuition and other fees payable by students without discussing with the leadership of the student union, the students are bound to resist such increment through protest, and sometimes the protest may turn violent, even though it was not what the students intended, the school will be shut and students sent home, then upon return, the students are meant to sign undertaking for good conduct and pay reparations for vandalized properties of the institution, and still go ahead to pay the new school fees.

In other places, an issue as little as unavailability of water or power in the students’ hostels may lead to students’ protest in the institution, and those who went to institutions that were not fully residential may not understand this. The reason is that these issues may have happened severally causing many students to miss classes and/tests in some occasions, and when it seems to the students that the management is not doing anything to address the situation, they go on protest.

The situation is same on the issue of state matters, when the federal or state government introduces a new policy that is considered to be anti-people policy by the national student body, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) is bound to oppose such policy and call on the government to reverse herself with threats of protests, and in most occasions the government fails to listen and the students’ body, most times, in collaboration with the Labour union and other Civil society groups, embark on demonstrations. A clear example is the increment in the pump price of petroleum products, particularly, premium motor spirit (pms) commonly called petrol or fuel to #22 in the year 2000. The Leadership of NANS then, under Comrade Philip Shaibu, resisted it and this led to a national protest that involved the Nigerian Labour Congress under Adams Oshiomole and other Civil Society groups. Also the increment in the fee for bed space in hostels for tertiary institutions in 2004 was resisted by the NANS, in fact that was the only struggle that both the NANS leadership of Comrade Tony Nwoye and the factional leadership of Yours Sincerely, Comrade Patrick Afubera, were united against the government.

Having laid down the above examples of issues that leads to struggles, it is time to elaborate further on why it ended in struggles and how it would have been handled so as not to lead to protests. When situations of power failure happen in student hostels of tertiary institution campuses, the Hall Governors or Hostel Presidents will usually notify the management either directly or through the SUG. If the management is not ready to attend to the issues at that time, maybe because there are other pressing issues being handled, they needed to make a move by sending the appropriate representative from the student affairs unit to come and take a look with a view to having first hand knowledge of the problem and maybe establish the root cause, and then it is important that the appropriate organ of the students’ representative is aware of this move so that they will communicate the students that management is already doing something to fix the problem.

In the case of review in school fees, Institution managements should realize that the old military style of making announcement of increase in fees has gone out of fashion as it has always ended in barricades and protests. Managements of tertiary institutions are encouraged to adopt the approach established by the Nnamdi Azikiwe University management in 2019 under Prof. Charles Esimone which involved setting up of a Committee for the review of fees and including representatives of the various structures of the institution including academic and non-academic staff unions, and most importantly, the student union government representatives. The process might take long, because several meetings will be involved and sometimes there may be enlarged meetings of various student leaders in what may look like town hall meeting, but the end result is that there will be a reviewed fees that is agreeable by all concerned and there will be no protest afterwards.

Again, managements of tertiary institutions are advised to always listen to the voice of the students, even if it seems that they are delaying their programmes, and very importantly, to consult with the representatives of the students, the SUG, before introducing new policies that will affect the students. This way, there will not be protests against the new policies as the students are already aware and at home with it. Students on their part should realize that the only reason we go to the point of barricades, that is to embark on struggles through protest, is to bring the authorities to negotiation table. When a new policy that is considered anti-students is introduced in an institution, student leaders are expected to raise concerns by reaching out to the management and point out in clear terms the issues with the new policy, and management is bound to set up meetings to discuss the gray areas with the student leaders, but in situations where they ignore the concerns raised by the student leaders, students are bound to take to the streets to make their voices heard by the world, that was why during any of the protests we organized in our time as student leaders, we have our position papers handy to be given to the press and motorists.

There is nothing that cannot be resolved through dialogue, so why take the wrong step first and then come back to discussion table? It is usually better to start with dialogue as that has been proven to yield better results. I wish you all a merry Christmas and Happy and prosperous new year in advance.

Comrade Igwe Patrick Afubera writes from Abuja.

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