I was not present at any of the locations that saw Nigerian students hold peaceful protests against the perceived neglect of the country’s education sector. While proximity might seem a working excuse for me, it would not be a sincere one. My absence from the scenes speak volumes of my fright; who knows if and where hijackers lurk, eager to make a Xerox copy of the #EndSARS protests out of a well-meaning demonstration of frustrated Nigerian students?
Without a doubt, echoes of the ‘Solidarity forever!’ chant across Nigeria on Monday, the last day of February 2022, caught the attention of passionate Nigerians, likewise their unpatriotic counterparts. The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) reaction, two weeks into the month-long ‘comprehensive and total’ strike, embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), leaves behind a trail of mixed feelings.
It scares me that the NANS reaching a stalemate in its negotiations with the authorities might mean we have not seen the last of student protests: Towards the end of January 2022, I wrote an open letter which syndicated across more than a score of media outlets. In it, I revealed my worry that a strike would birth a series of nationwide protests, a phobia I hypothetically share with parents, guardians and other concerned Nigerians. I hate to say I was right, but recent developments suggest that my fears are coming to pass.
At this juncture, I must lend credence to the saying, ‘Experience is the best teacher,’ to validate a proverb that says, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” because, unlike vacations, strikes give room for needless holidays, leading to the idleness of exuberant youths. Given this extrapolation, we couldn’t agree more that every strike will spike the soaring crime rates in Nigeria even further and bring the name of our dear nation to disrepute.
As a part of my first letter reads, “The spread of criminal activities and unrest in Nigeria leads to untimely deaths and emigration to countries with higher economic development and security indices, robbing the nation of promising individuals. In other words, our falling education system leads to brain drain and flight of capital, which discourage foreign investment in our nation, and ultimately, economic hardship.”
However, it is not too late to prevent innocent students from becoming martyrs for a cause that outlived their parents, which is an eventuality of protests going south that every patriotic Nigerian should fear. Thus, I write again to reawaken you to your strategic position towards preventing unnecessary crimes, saving innocent lives and bequeathing a working Nigeria to posterity. Just in case you missed my first letter, this is another call to action.
I believe we can meet the demands of ASUU and sister associations if you, successful Nigerians at home and in the diaspora, pool resources for this cause. I remember how social media exploded when Davido, a Nigerian artiste, raised over a fifth of a billion Naira in a few days. Imagine how much difference you could make when you replicate the feat he achieved on a bigger scale. You will be doing your motherland an inestimable favour, arming generations with a well-informed judgement of who really is the problem of the Nigerian tertiary education should anything ever go wrong thereupon.
I dream of times when an average person in Nigeria will agree that education is the remedy of many societal ills and pray it is soon. Herbert Spencer said, “The greatest aim of education is not knowledge, but action,” and I agree with him. Hence, I am doing what I learnt to do to a moderate extent, hoping it can help rid Nigerian tertiary education of the ageless festival called the ASUU strike. Sadly, my quest would be impossible without you lending a helping hand towards bettering the lives of lecturers and their students.
Similarly, meeting the demand of ASUU and her sisters will improve the overall quality of tertiary education to equip Nigerian youths with the unflinching drive to remain patriotic and law-abiding, thereby reducing criminal activities to the barest minimum. Such a feat will encourage foreign investment whilst checking insecurity, corruption, brain drain and capital flight that pillage Nigeria and keep it from reaching its promising economic potentials.
Once again, I adjure you to heed my words and act now. Invest in Nigeria and help secure the over two hundred million lives that the brazen ignorance of many endangers. Nigerians could forget your sacrifice, but your descendants will live to flaunt their Nigerian descent because of it.
Read! Reflect!! And Respond!!!
May the labour of our heroes past never be in vain!
With belief in your patriotism,
Mazeed Mukhtar Oyeleye