NANS: Can This Rotten Organisation Be Redeemed? By Tope Adesipo
The rot in NANS is huge and phenomenal. NANS has completely lost its legitimacy, reputation and mass base as actions in recent times have plunged it into. The most recent is the award it gave a wanted drug baron Buruj Kashamu.worst still, most students do not even know it exists anymore. For years now, successive leaderships of NANS have been completely anti-struggle and pro-state and sometimes attack dogs for politicians. In January 2012 during the widely-supported general strike and mass protest against fuel subsidy removal, NANS stood out shamefully on the side of Jonathan’s anti-people government. As if that was not enough, during the 2013 ASUU strike NANS again stood on the side of the government. the struggles that have broken out over the past 10 years or more in the student movement over issues of fee hikes, victimization, welfare conditions and other education attacks, NANS has had little or no role to play. In many cases, these struggles have occurred because students on campuses organized or mobilized on their own to compel their local unions to fight.The condition of the student movement is evidently not alright. For close to 20 years the student movement has lacked a vibrant and fighting national leadership the ideological and political decay of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS)is glaring to the least onlooker.the big question is can the organization ever be revived?
The organization structure is splits into zones, Joint campus committee and Local unions (SUG) there are four zones, the National president is the head and first member of the Association. respective SUG presidents,forms the legislative arm called the senate of the Nans. one rather appalling side is the fact that while one expects the president of the Senate to be chosen from amongst the SUG presidents, an outsider according to the Nans Constitution is elected as Senate president. The senate are supposed to meet regularly under normal condition but as it is today, NANS senate meetings are hardly held. The conventions, which are now held in choice hotels instead of on campus, are theaters of war with different contestants heavily funded by parties and politicians arming cultists to gain victory. my experience in Uyo in 2012, was brutal. The convention was fixed for University of Uyo, we had all gathered at the campus. waiting to be accredited, we waited for 3days to start accreditation. no communication on the reason why. After the frustration became so unbearable, we gatherred a few progressive voices to protest the treatment, poor organization before we could start the convention on the 4th day. when we did start, we were told that we can not make use of the university of Uyo premises anymore. we had to make alternative arrangements to use the Uyo township stadium.
One thing which struck me at Uyo is the age of those parading at that convention as Nans stakeholders or something. they were in their 40s. some of us who were genuine students leaders and bfvffbbbbbbbbbbbbbvfffbb v vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvyoung were few. genuine students or activists don’t want to attend because of the violent nature of NANS meetings and conventions. there were too many gun shot flying around. you can not be chicken hearted to be in that place at that time. Ordinarily given its complete disconnection from the rank and file, NANS should have ceased to exist altogether. However it has some unique features which have sustained it till now. This is the mutual interests of the NANS leadership and the some leadership of local unions in using the platform to negotiate for payment from governments and politicians. NANS is like a huge meal ticket. This is why despite its complete disconnection, NANS can still attract attendance of local unions at its convention most of whom are always mobilised with money and with each candidate providing hotel accommodation for their supporters.
But NANS cannot just be simplified to the question of genuine young students leaders taking the leadership alone. In any case, the rot in NANS is not just the product of the successive pro-state elements who have continuously occupied its leadership for years now. The enduring rot in NANS also has something to do with the ideological retreat in the student movement over the past 20 years which is a product of many factors including, but not restricted to, consistent attacks by the school management and government against student activists and students organizations. All this has caused low level of consciousness among students, a condition which best suits and sustains the guys running the local unions and NANS.The level of consciousness has to always guide and define what genuine activists can do and cannot, this means not tailing as well as not going beyond what present level of consciousness can achieve or sustain. Without building a movement around those issues that immediately affect students (like issues of inadequate hostel accommodation, fee hike, bad welfare conditions etc.) and linking this with the need to reclaim NANS, any efforts no matter how sincere to win leadership of NANS will end up in futility as most students will see it as the least important of their problems. Only an effort to reclaim NANS that is backed by mass arousal and mobilization of students can win and this is impossible without building a movement first around issues of education attacks from which students consciousness can be raised to comprehend the task of reclaiming NANS or forming a new platform.
Again, an association that is not financially independent can never be truly independent of politicians. NANS have no bank account. the Treasurer and the financial secretary exist as figure heads albeit to pursue money from politicians also. no annual due like it is collected by the local unions. the association rely on monies they can get from politicians to survive. in redeeming Nans, there has to be structural changes and this is where all students and even all former students leaders must take keen interest. Nans has to be funded independently. we must change the structure. let each students in Nigeria pay a token of 100 naira to the organization’s purse.
Simply fighting electorally to hijack leadership of NANS from these elements that see nothing wrong in giving a wanted drug baron an award for Man of the year or declaring an alternative faction is not enough to begin to revive the student movement. What is needed is patient work of building an independent mass movement from below that has roots in the rank and file and that can begin to challenge attacks on education, support pro people issues while linking this with the task of changing the leadership of NANS or building an alternative platform and also structural changes..
Former President of the students Union Federal university of Agriculture Abeokuta
@tope414 on twitter