If there’ll be a revolution in Nigeria, the Almajiris not BBNaija-loving youth will stir it
If Nigeria’s young are timid, tractable and apathetic to economic and political issues affecting their country blame the anvil on which they are forged. The government, the formative schools, the universities and the predatory politics – all are the forgers of today’s youth. A system which lobotomises the young from nascency has already denied them not only the ability to emote, think, act, but also the power to speak up for themselves, fight for their rights and defend themselves.
There was a time in Nigeria when the youth held the fort. They were unbending to the caprices of the military and to the stimuli of fear and avarice. I will cite two epochs for emphasis – the dawn of Segun Okeowo, the provocateur of the Ali Must Go uprising of 1978, and the dusk of Omoyele Sowore – the trenchant voice of the June 12 struggle.
In April 1978, the ministry of education led by Ahmadu Ali announced an increment of 50 kobo (from N1:50 to N2:00) to the cost of the daily meal of students. But the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) led by Okeowo will not have it down its throat without some justification. The union asked the ministry to revert to the status quo, but it baulked shifting responsibility to the supreme military ruling council. A head-to-head was inevitable.
Students poured into the streets to press home their demands but received police bullets as rejoinders. Eight students were reportedly killed. But this did not stop the righteous movement which engulfed the entire country. The youth held their ground. They made their statement and their power was felt by the military government. I call this epoch the dawn of youth activism in Nigeria.
Only 50 kobo increase in the cost of daily meals for students actuated a nationwide revolt. But today, what has changed? I will explain. Our formative schools and universities are no longer centres of critical learning. They are now robot factories where anyone who goes in as human comes out as a machine with flesh – beaten, broken, pliable and malleable. The mould from which the like of Wole Soyinka was shaped at the University of Ibadan which made him assertive and daring has long been smashed to smithereens.
University administrations in cahoots with scourges in the highest realm of government have over the years sterilised student unionism. Student leaders no longer represent their constituencies but the school leadership which most times select them. Students are stampeded out of reason and seized of the power of independent thought and critical thinking. They are instructed to parrot whatever the lecturer and the school say. In fact, the methods of some universities today are not distant from concentration camps – only that there are no gas chambers.
Another reason why we have a soluble youth population is our predatory politics. I believe student unionism was corrupted from 1999. Youth activism as we know it ended with the epoch of Sowore and the June 12 struggle. It is the reason I regard it as the dusk of student unionism.