Let me start by sharing a story of my personal experience with you. Many of us who must have passed through higher institutions of learning may have been involved in one association or organization during the course of our studies. Such associations like the Student Union Government (SUG), state or departmental associations are most often the creation of students to meet certain objectives.
When I got admitted into the university and resume at the department I was given to study at, I met an association formed by students of the department, which has the two primary objectives of protecting the interest as well as promoting the welfare of every student in the university. By interest and welfare, it meant that the stay of every student in the department would be worthwhile, but the realization that hit me in the face is a sharp contrast to the purpose for which the association was established.
Each year, the set of executives elected to oversee the affairs of the association with the semester and session dues paid by each student, share these funds amongst themselves. To make matters worse, the Head of the Department, whom by extension serves as the patron of the association gets a large chunk of the looted funds.
This development didn’t seemed to go down with me, so in my third year and with the encouragement from a few concerned students, I decided to make myself available for election as the president of the association. My decision was necessitated by the need to set an example of a reasonable, responsible and accountable leadership on one hand and to correct the ills of the past on the other hand, but this was to be the beginning of my ordeal. It simply didn’t go down well with the very people who were involved in embezzling the funds of the association.
Did I tell you I had in my first and second year visibly opposed all the actors misappropriating our funds? I was a thorn in the flesh of successive executive members who continuously milked us dry. During this time, I saw to the dissolution of a particular set of executives whom, upon the expiration of their tenure, but with in agreement with the HOD, refused to relinquish power to the incoming executives simply because they want to collect another set of dues from the students. These and some of the other opposing stand I took against them had set me on a collision course with not just some group of ‘cabals in the department, but also the HOD.
When the time for election came, they used all available tactics and means to ensure that I did not contest or win the election. They had at a point accused me of doing the bidding of a particular religion which I do not even belong to. They arranged some influential lecturers to prevail on me into stepping down and then played the ethnic card by asking the students who are in the majority of a particular tribe, not to allow an outsider defeat a son of the soil, but all their antics failed because I didn’t give in to any of them and the students whome they had hope will dance to their tune remained unperturbed.
I eventually won the election, but could not assume office until after several weeks into the period of my tenure. Why? Rumors had spread round the campus that the election HOD had cancelled the election and ordered for a fresh one on the allegation that I rigged. What I was to be informed later was that the HOD held a secret meeting with my opponent and his supporters where they were promised that anything possible will be done to see that I do not emerge the president. As soon as I got wind of this, I wrote a petition to some senior staffs in the faculty who in turn ordered for the setting up of an election panel to verify the claims of vote rigging. At the end of the exercise, the electoral panel found no evidence of vote rigging and returned me the winner.
Soon after I assumed office and reeling from the failure of preventing me from emerging as earlier planned, the HOD invoked the policy where students are under no compulsion to pay any due or belong to any association, just for me to be starved of fund for performing my duties. As a result of this, I couldn’t do much of all I had anticipated I will do as the president, except for the ones that I used my meager pocket money to organize or the contributions from a few individuals. So invariably, I failed in doing much in office, but one thing I did not fail in doing was to ensure that the two previous executives before me as well as the HOD were made to refund the sum they had embezzled. The HOD alone refunded the sum of one hundred and forty eight thousand (148,000).
I took the matter to the school authority attaching the report of the committee set up to verify their expenditure, because my ultimate aim was to ensure that the HOD is removed from his position, but the Dean of student had to plead that the matter should be resolved at his level so that the HOD does not lose his job.
The idea behind my story is to let us know that change will come only if we rise up to the challenge. it is not just enough to crave for an ideal society if we are not ready to make it happen. We must not be held back by the fear of the consequences of fighting for change. Nobody will ever tell you that change comes so easy. You will be pushed through trials and tribulations. The people who you want to wrestle the system from will fight back and try to bring you down, but your determination and courage is what will keep you going.
When I initiated the process of sanitizing the system in my department, I was threatened and tried. Some people even send emissaries to tell me how I won’t graduate if I insist on going ahead with the report I made to the school authority concerning my HOD, but the fact that I know I was pursuing the truth was what kept me going.
I graduated from the school without suffering any harm as many had expected. As a matter of fact, I ended up scoring B in the course my HOD took despite missing one of his tests, while running around to ensure I get some things done for the students.
My action may not have succeeded in completely sanitizing the system, but it ensured that no incidence of embezzlement occurred during the period that I remained in the institution and I strongly believe that if some other persons had continued from where I stopped, the system will be completely salvaged.
This is the same approach we all need to employ to solving the problem of our country. our leaders continue to milk us dry without the populace doing much to keep them at check. Since the beginning of the year, it has been on case of corruption or the other and all this money in their trillions are funds that could have made the life of ordinary Nigerian worthwhile. This is therefore a call for all to act in bringing about the much needed change we desire. If we come together, shun the syndromes that pull down a nation, we can achieve the Nigeria of our dreams.
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Abubakar Sidiq Usman
I am @abusidiqu on twitter