On November 11, 2015, the Students’ Union of the University of Ilorin organised a Leadership Training Programme on the theme, “Redefining Student Leadership in the 21st Century”. My presentation on the occasion was on “Aloha Unionism: Strategising for Effective Conflict Management” in which I canvassed an ideological re-orientation from “aluta” mentality to “aloha” leadership philosophy.
The crux of the submission is that since leadership is everything, good leaders know how to manage conflict, which is a normal or natural human phenomenon. The fundamental thing in any conflict situation is self-control and there is need for leaders to be disciplined. Ultimately, as far as student unionism in the 21st century is concerned, it is high time Nigerian students replaced “aluta” with “aloha”. What is aluta? And what is aloha?
I once wrote in another column on April 7, 2014, thus: “Aluta is a Portuguese word that means ‘struggle’. The term, Aluta Continua, (“the struggle continues”) was popularized by the Mozambique Liberation Front (or FRELIMO) leader, Samora Machel, who used it to mobilize people against Portuguese rule in his country. Aluta is also the title of a 1971 film depicting that anti-colonial struggle and it gained further prominence when Machel adopted it as an unofficial motto after becoming the first President of Mozambique in 1975.”
“The wind of aluta blew into our lexical climate in the early 70’s due to that connection. To an average student, aluta means riot, protest, trouble or simply ‘we no go gree’. It is a battle cry that had found eloquent expressions during the heady days of ‘Ali must go!’ in the late 70’s. Many students were attracted to aluta especially during the years of military rule and some even adopted it as ‘nom de guerre’. Till today, aluta still fascinates some students the same way swimming in a lagoon would fascinate a child, a silly little child,” I noted further.
On the other hand, Aloha in the Hawaiian language means, “affection, peace, compassion and mercy”. Since the 19th Century, it has been used as a form of greeting meaning “goodbye” and “hello”. If Lagos State is otherwise known as the “Centre of Excellence” and that of Kwara State is “State of Harmony”, the nickname of the US State of Hawaii is “The Aloha State”, meaning “state of affection, peace, compassion and mercy”.
Since the words we use shape our world, students of the 21st century will have to discard aluta and adopt aloha, just as the students of the University of Ilorin have done. No longer should student unionism be destructive, disruptive or counter-productive. Rather, it should be progressive, proactive and peaceful. Protests and language especially should be peaceful and conscious efforts should be made, as much as possible, to guard against violence in speech and in deed.
It is in this regard that I was saddened by the language of the SUG President of Obafemi Awolowo University, Omotayo Akande. It is no longer news that the authorities of the university shut the institution for a “mid-semester break” on December 1, 2015 apparently in response to the protests of the students over their poor hostel facilities.
So, the SUG President’s statement partly read: “History will be made again as we prepare our intellectual arsenal and Aluta weaponry and proceed to the barricades. The Congress of the Great Ife Students on Friday 27th November 2015 unanimously expressed their animosity to the obnoxious state of our welfare, dilapidated hostel and among other administrative misdemeanor.” The point is that we can actually achieve our purpose just as Mahatma Gandhi, who inspired Marshall Rosenberg’s “nonviolent communication”, without necessarily “shouting”, as I discussed here on July 7, 2015.
To respond functionally to conflict situations that occur in every dynamic human environment, parties involved, both authorities and students, should observe the tips of conflict management by accepting conflict as normal, seeing themselves as calming agents, listening actively and analysing conflicts when they arise.
Parties in conflict should also model neutral language, separate the person from the problem, work together, agree to disagree, focus on the future, “move past position”, share interests, be creative, be specific and maintain confidentiality.
In summary, the only thing constant in life is change. Therefore, there is need for paradigm shift in student unionism from “aluta” to “aloha” in Nigeria. This is more so in today’s context of democracy, rather than the past era of military dictatorship.
Re: Minus character, plus disaster
Youths lack role models that practise morality, character, equity, accountability, conscience, fairness, justice, patriotism and service to humanity. Feyisetan Akeeb Kareem, Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State.