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‘how To Revive Student Unionism’. by iamseun (m): 12:11pm on January 19
Mathew Oluwaseun
University of Ilorin (Unilorin)
Mechanical Engineering
500Level, Nigeria.
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Mr. Jeff Onyeagbu is the principal cinematographer at the Institute of African Studies, #University of #Nigeria, Nsukka (#UNN). He was one of the institution’s founding fathers of Students’ Union Government (SUG). In this interview with JAMES OJO (400-Level Mass communication), he speaks on the challenges facing students’ unionism in Nigeria and the way forward.

What can you say about students’ unionism in the past and now?

There are differences between the old SUG and today’s . I suppose this is due to the level of students’ interaction in the union. Then, there was a high level of students’ participation and interactions which constituted more solidarity. That solidarity was fired by the zeal for the oneness of the whole group. Students then wanted to make a mark in the sands of time and they put students’ welfare first. The first era of students’ unionism dealt with national consciousness. Then, they believed that whatever happened in the country affects everybody including institutions of learning.

Students were not just concerned about their welfare, but about the whole country. You cannot get that today. In those days, the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) now referred to as the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) was together and there was neither faction nor tribalism.

But gradually, the power attached to SUG began to reduce. It began to wane to state level and then to town level. Now it has reduced to just within the campus and even at that, some students are not conscious of their SUG president.

What are the factors responsible for the dwindling fortunes of the union?

I think two factors are responsible for students’ disinterest in the activities of the union. The first factor is the way the school authority regards SUG. How well does the school authority care about the SUG or is the SUG just there for fancy? Did they just set up the SUG because other schools have it or because they really care?

The substance is lost. The school authority does not allow the SUG to handle their money. That is the secret. If it is a government, it should have access to its treasury. How can people pass a budget blindly? To get money from the school authority is very difficult. At the end of the day, the speaker would impeach the SUG president and say that the president is corrupt, that he is not even sure of what he is saying. The economy of that office is not in the hands of the SUG president, hence, their powers; the substance of that office is diminished.

Secondly, we should talk about the electoral process. During election, the school authorities want to choose their own candidate and these are people who would not really put students’ welfare first.

Now, SUG functionaries who are supposed to come into office do not even know how to legislate in the House. When you see them, you would find out that the person is bereft of ideas. If one is able to have entrepreneurial ideas, that person will be able to oil some of the projects from entrepreneurial activity. He would carry himself with comportment; he would have the power of bargaining, the power of transaction and negotiation. The person can call the school authority and tell them that even though they don’t want to fuel their projects, it will be done.

Today, look at the condition of students on campus. Whenever an #SUG functionary becomes confrontational, they do something to his certificate.

thenationonlineng.net/revive-student-unionism/

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Don not get stuck at the well of argument. Let God be your vindicator. Let Him fight your battles. He will vindicate you better than you can vindicate yourself.

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