The tragedy that befell Nigeria through the bad leaderships successively foisted on the country over the years, until recently, permeates virtually all segments of national life. Character appears to be the first victim of our desperate quest for lucre or relevance till we become a nation largely afflicted with acute “Character Deficiency Syndrome (CDS)”.
Unfortunately, students, touted as the leaders of tomorrow, though many of them often demonstrate inability to lead today, are not to be outdone in the muddle. On many occasions, one imagines the mess Nigeria will become when the students of today effectively take charge of all gamuts of the nation.
In specific terms, as a lecturer who has been dealing with students for close to two decades, I was scandalised by the recent noise coming from the national leadership of the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS). Just a couple of weeks after demonstrating in support of Senate President Bukola Saraki who only had to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal to defend himself, the same elements also identified with the controversial politician, Buruji Kashamu.
Apart from saying they “are fascinated by his large-heartedness… We reckon that if all wealthy Nigerians are like Senator Kashamu, the country will be a better place for all of us,” they took a step higher to nonsense and hubris. They conferred the “Golden Person of the Year” award on the embattled politician, whose election as Senator, perhaps as a comeuppance, has been upturned by the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abeokuta.
Though no court of law has pronounced Mr Kashamu guilty, hence he is innocent, the mere fact that he is alleged to be a drug baron wanted by the United States should make decent students keep a safe distance from him at least for now. But in the “wisdom” of the “ever conscious” and “ever dynamic” NANS, of all 170 million Nigerians, the only person deserving its “golden” award is such a character allegedly bereft of character.
It is a shame that Nigerian students, by this I mean only those who constitute the national leadership of NANS, have demonstrated dim-wittedness just because of a pot of porridge. It is certain the award must have attracted a sum of money shared by Tijani Usman and his co-travellers. But the Tribunal has made nonsense out of the award and shamed the students by declaring their hero unfit to occupy the Green Chamber.
It is disheartening that at a the same time it was revealed that 19,000 teachers are among the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and over 600 of their rank have died in recent times due to the Boko Haram terror, the only person that the apex student body in the land could think of for honour is someone who hasn’t contributed a toilet to assist students even in his constituency. No wonder some thoughtful students within the student body have distanced themselves from their national leaders’ shenanigans.
According to Dotun Opaleye, the Ogun State Chairman of NANS, what the national body of NANS did was “terribly disturbing”. He wondered why “men of questionable character who are wanted by American authorities for drug crimes are celebrated by the apex student body.”
Then, the NANS Chairman went rhetorical for effect: “We sincerely ask: What is so golden about Kashamu? Is it because he destroyed the Peoples Democratic Party in the South-West? What has Kashamu done for Nigerian students domiciled in Ogun State to merit such award? Even in his immediate environment, he hasn’t been able to donate a single toilet to schools like Olabisi Onabanjo University or Abraham Adesanya Polytechnic, not to mention other schools in his senatorial district like Tai Solarin University of Education.”
To regain the lost glory of NANS, its leadership must steer the association away from supporting corrupt politicians, fouling the air with noise and conferring nonsense awards on morally challenged people. The NANS functionaries should reflect on how a student body established on the ideals of patriotism and commitment to common good has become “an organization of thugs and touts available for the highest bidder,” as ace columnist Is’haq Modibbo Kawu recently put it.
Good name is better than gold and silver. It is a failure of education that those saddled with NANS affairs at the national level have sold their souls and opted to write their names in the black book of history, not its golden book. Their action remains condemnable.