NANS, student unions must shun Nigerian politics – UI Student Union President

Students’ Union President, University of Ibadan, Aweda Bolaji speaks with Olatunde Oluwasola on his emergence, Student loan programme, cultism, politics, and ASUU strike, among other issues.

Tell us about yourself.

My parents are Mr and Mrs Aweda. I hail from Oyo State. I am a Christian and am currently a student at the University of Ibadan, where I am pursuing a degree in Veterinary Medicine. I completed my primary education at Golden Green School in Aiyetoro and proceeded to Iganmode Grammar School in Ota for my secondary education. My passion for animals and the diverse opportunities that veterinary medicine offers drove my decision to pursue this field. However, my journey has not been without its challenges. I had to write the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) exam three times before gaining admission into the university.

As the newly elected Student Union President. What inspired you to run for the position amid a tight academic schedule?

What inspired me to contest is that I have always been involved in things related to student welfare since the 100 level as well as my secondary days. I remember vying for a position during my secondary school. Since then I have always been interested in anything that has to do with student welfare; and how to make things better and improve things. So, even though I was the former executive of the Union, I was actively involved in student union activities. So when the time came, I felt that since I had the experience and had always been available for students, I should just take up the challenge and I know I can make things better.

Some believe that Student Unionism has a way of affecting academic performance, do you share the same belief?

Yes, student Unionism has a way of affecting academic performance because you will be engaging in different things at the same time. Academics is the primary reason why you are in school but you must also be able to manage your role effectively as a student leader. I believe that as student leaders we should be able to manage our time efficiently.

What is your take on some students who engage in thuggery and cultism in union activities?

Well, cultism, thuggery, and other social vices should be far away from the Students’ Union. At the University of Ibadan, our student union is called the “Father of Intellectual Unionism”. What we do is to engage in intellectual fight not in cultism and other social vices.

In almost all elections of the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) especially at the National level, there are fights and sometimes loss of life during elections. What is your take on that situation?

I think that NANS and other student organisations that fight and have a loss of life during the elections do so because of a lack of purpose. Our primary aim is not to engage in partisan politics or to engage in party politics but to be in charge of the welfare of students. I feel like student union bodies like NANS and other student unions should be distant from politics.

Do you think it is possible to have a NANS election without factions and crises?

With the current structure of NANS, it will not be possible. Except there is a reform and there is a new kind of mindset from the holders of the positions and the organisation.

The Federal Government commenced the student loan programme and barely a few hours later, it was reported that no fewer than 3,764 students from 126 institutions sent in applications for the student loan and currently over 60,000 have registered. Are you concerned about this programme and what is your take on it?

I don’t think that student loan is an opportunity for a government to outscore its responsibilities of properly funding Education. Since the government has billions of naira to borrow people why can’t they use it to properly fund education?

Are you saying the Federal Government should have not adopted the student loan policy but rather used the fund on Education?

Yes.

But some have said such loans will still go back to the government purse when repaid. Are you afraid that some people may not repay?

Yes.

What measures do you think the government should implement to ensure that students repay their loans?

They have done it by linking it to their BVN, NIN, and other details. Beneficiaries of the loan who failed to repay should be stopped from traveling.

The economic situation of the country has thrown many into hardship. How will you describe the situation?

The economic situation is very bad everywhere. People including students on Campus find it difficult to survive. You are aware that every school is a microcosm of society. And if our parents out there are finding it difficult to survive, they will not have much to support us. We have to balance things amidst the rising cost of goods and services everywhere on campus. It’s quite bad. The economic situation is bad and I think the Government should do more in trying to get the economy right and to make life easier for the common man.

It was gathered that students are finding it difficult to return to school because of the hardship. What is your advice to the government on this?

Yes, as I said, the government must do more in trying to make things better by trying to ameliorate the situation of the country.  A lot of things have to be done because people find it difficult to survive. It is when you have eaten well that you will of education. So the government must act to avoid the situation where there will be more poor people. The situation is worrisome.

The Japa syndrome has also continued to ravage critical sectors of the country. What can you say about this situation?

The issue of japa which is the ‘brain drain’ is very critical in this country because we have lost a lot of brilliant individuals to developing countries and it is very bad. It is affecting every sector of the country including the education sector. Lecturers and others are leaving the country. The situation is worrisome.  

What should be done to end the Japa syndrome?

It is to ensure that things get better in this country. People should have here those things that they are going to other countries for. People travel out for better working conditions, better pay, better rights, and better social amenities. If all of those things can be provided in Nigeria, I think they would not go.  Some are only trying to manage the temperature and climate overseas which is different from ours because of what they went there for. I think those things are available in their fatherland, they would not travel

There are indications that the Academic Staff Union of Universities may embark on strike actions soon due to the failure of the Federal Government to comply with their demands. Is this not worrisome to the student body and what is your take on the matter?

I stand with ASUU on their decision to embark on strike. Of course, they have engaged the Federal Government but they didn’t get the expected response from the government. So, I stand with ASUU on it.

The Nigeria Labour demanded a minimum wage of N615,000 for workers but it was dismissed and the Federal government offered N60,000. What is your take on this?

I stand with the position of the Labour Congress because what can #45,000 or #60,000 do in this disheartening economy? It is very bad. What can workers buy with the #60,000 minimum wage? Look at the statistics. We have to analyse how much it would take for an average person to survive per day with that. I believe that the minimum wage should go up. That is the way to make sure that people survive in the country because people are living in abject poverty. They work from morning till evening and do not have enough money to meet their daily needs. It is very bad. The Bible says, “He who does not work should not eat.” So, people who are working from morning to night surely deserve to eat, and if they must eat they must get better pay.

How much will you suggest the minimum wage should be?

I can’t suggest the amount minimum wage should be but I can only say that the suggested amount for minimum wage should be determined in consideration of the conditions I have mentioned earlier.

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