I have read a few comments, including the one by Otito Atikase - my former mate in FUTA and our Students Union President then, arguing that the Nigerian Students starting their protest in Lagos amounted to political partisanship.
Those pushing such arguments are wrong. I provide my rationale below:
(1) Nigerian students under the umbrella of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) can protest anywhere in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They can however add zonal arrangement to their protest. But they have to start from somewhere within the Nigerian geography.
(2) There is an interconnectedness in Nigeria, indeed in air travel all over the world. Someone landing in Lagos Airport might be connecting flight to another city like Abuja, Akure, Enugu, Katsina, Owerri, Nnewi, Jalingo. The Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos is the busiest of all Nigerian Airports. So, strategically, these younger ones are quite strategic to have started their protest from MMIA.
(3) Lagos, being the Former Federal Capital Territory, and now the commercial heartbeat of Nigeria, is strategically positioned as the number one stop for many international businesses. So, the Nigerian students wanted the international business community to be aware of the ineptitude of the Government, and how the Federal Government seemed comfortable with the closure of Public Universities for 7 months in, supposedly, the time of peace. Nowhere in the world would a University be closed for 1 day except a public holiday or a protracted war! Nigerian government must be displayed to strangers as hardly solving any problem.
(4) I agree with Atikase though, that NANS should have started their protest much earlier when the current ASUU-GOVERNMENT imbroglio was just 2 to 3 months old. Not now when it is 7 months. But, it is better late than never.
(5) Indeed, it is good the protest is coinciding with the political campaign. Very strategic. The issue of how we should run our public universities, nay our entire republic, will come to the front burner of the political campaign and discussion.
(6) These 2 million stranded students should organize simultaneous protests in selected cities across the country. They should mobilise a minimum of 50% of their population and organize from city to city - Lagos to Port Harcourt, Kaduna to Yola, Enugu to Gombe.
(7) They should be ready to fight to finish. Indeed, if possible, they should ensure 2023 election does not happen except the 30 years old ASUU-GOVERNMENT imbroglio is resolved. And not just that the 7 months closure of the Nigerian Public Universities should end, but also that the incessant, fruitless ASUU strikes MUST end permanently. Maybe this last one can yield a final fruit.
(8) Members of the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Police and all Security Agencies MUST ensure these students - the future of Nigeria - are protected. After all security agents also have children, nieces and nephews in public universities, who are at home. So, they should look these students and see their younger brothers or sisters, their nieces and nephews, and their children. They should please protect them, and do them no harm.
(9) I have written many interventions on ASUU strikes, and I believe this protest by the Nigerian Students is another intervention. And starting it from Lagos - the commercial capital and former capital territory, and in the busiest Nigerian airport is in order. They should organize to spread it to other cities in the country.
May God protect these protesting Nigerian Students as they ask Nigerian leaders and politicians to wake up from their slumber, to jettison their ineptitude and to become problem solvers.
- Olarinre Salako wrote
from the USA
September 20, 2022.