Some Students will buy Phones, Cars with Student Loans – ABU Zaria, SRC President

President of the Students Representatives Council at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Mohammad Aminu Abdulazeez, discusses the Federal Government’s Student Loan Programme, the National Association of Nigerian Students’ activities, and other pertinent issues with OLUMIDE OLUSEGUN.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Mohammad Aminu Abdulazeez, the President, of SRC, ABU Zaria. I am from a family of five, all boys, and I am the second born.

How was it growing up in a family of boys?

As my mother always said, she is having a Barrack in her house. She has always wanted a girl, but as God does His things, she never had one. So she is proudly a mother of three boys, Alhamdulillah.

What is it like at some point when all of you would engage in the fight?

It is not easy growing up with all boys at home, childhood was chaotic at home, but Alhamdulillah, we have all grown to become gentlemen.

What has it been like being the President of the Student Representative of ABU Zaria?

It has been a great experience so far. All challenges that we have faced so far, we feel we have tackled all, even if not all, at least 80%, Alhamdulillah. It has been an experience that I will never forget in my life. I have been a member of the Council for years, I was a PRO in the Student Representative Council; a Director of Sport, and now the President. So I have had lots of experience during those years, I have seen mistakes that other Presidents have had, and we try our best to work on those mistakes and achieve greater things. Alhamdulillah, so far, we are trying our best.

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So do you see this experience transforming you into a Nigerian politician?

Yes, it is something I have always dreamed about. I have always wanted to, and being the President of Mini Nigeria, the most cosmopolitan university in Nigeria, with representation from the 774 local governments of Nigeria, I know it’s not easy, but I think if you can be a leader in Mini Nigeria, which is ABU, the largest university in Sub-Sahara Africa, I think you can strive in the real politics. It is something that is grassroots and it is a foundation for me to build and gain more experience. Inshallah, I see myself in the Green Chambers very soon. We will start from there by God’s grace.

How do you compare Nigerian politics and student politics?

Nigerian politics is very vast. Nigeria is a very big country, with different cultures, and everything. Being the Student Representative Council President, I try as much as possible, to work with all regions, like ensuring representation from all regions of the country. What I might see as nine, you standing opposite to me, you will see it at six. So, we try as much as possible to be more cosmopolitan. When it comes to appointments and establishing committees, we try as much as possible to bring different religions and different tribes together so that we work together as one Nigeria to achieve our desired goals. And so far, Insha’Allah, I have tried my best. Even during my election, I made sure I included and carried along the ladies with respect to being gender sensitive. As I am talking to you now, at the executive level, I have five ladies we ensure they joined the council. I try as much as possible to be very diverse.

The Student Union President of the University of Ibadan, Aweda Bolaji recently called on students to shun practicing student politics like Nigerian politics is practiced. Do you agree with him?  

Honestly speaking, it would be nice if that happened. Also, I would like to see situations where all Student Union Governments across all states would adopt rotations in their office allocations where we would stop having a situation where in the Southwest only Yoruba would be their executives. I don’t know if it is a school structure or something, or if it is the northerners who don’t apply over there. But if you go to schools down there, you will see that 80% of the Executives are Yoruba and have no representation from other places. You can see representation from the northern part over there is very low, which is different over here. I don’t know if it is because some of our people grew up over here, or due to migration or whatever, but you can see, like in the Student Representative Council here, we have representation from both the eastern, southern, and western parts of Nigeria. We all contest, and whoever wins is declared the winner. We are not tribalistic or whatever. So we try as much as possible to vote on competence, instead of being sentimental about religion, or culture. So if we, as the Student Representative Council, and SUGs in other schools, try to emulate that in all universities in Nigeria it will be great. If it is possible, some positions should be rotated. So that everybody will be carried along, and everybody will feel represented in the SUG or SRC of their institution. I think if we can do that, it will be an advantage to the student unions. I look forward to the day that I will see such things happen, where a northerner will be the President of a student union in Port Harcourt or Cross River University and where a Yoruba man will be the President of Usmanu Danfodiyo University. It shows one Nigerian and patriotism.

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With the structure of the National Association of Nigerian Students, you barely see an election without a crisis. Why is this so?

I think that is the only problem I am having with NANS, the violence. We went to NAN’s convention, I saw with my two eyes what should not happen. It was a very bad experience for me. For the representation, I like the fact that this year, it should be a Northerner, next it should be a Southerner and a Westerner as well as the rotation of some seats. But you see, that issue of gunshots, violence, and all, I think if at this level of the students union and all these things are happening, then what do you think that person will do when he is in charge of Nigeria or as a governor, or House of Representatives? He will use violence.  So, if it is possible, we should try as much as possible to eradicate it as fast as possible from the system. Violence is not for us. Nigerians are not known for violence, so we should change that perspective.

How would you describe the situation of the education sector, especially in the area of lecturers and non-academic staff welfare and infrastructural development?

The strike is a fundamental right of ASUU and Non-Academic Staff Unions, Their welfare is expected to be taken care of and on the part of the government, you would also ask, are there funds to be released? It is something we should also consider. It is not that the government doesn’t want to invest. If you check, you will discover that most governments run the country and their respective states on loan. So you are left wondering if one sector, like the education sector, would just make a request that could take all the money again. So I think the government and the education sector should try as much as possible to come to find a middle ground on their matter. Again salary increase for workers is very important.

The implementation of the student loan programme has commenced. What is your take on this initiative?

I support it a lot, especially with the hardship that Nigerians are facing it is timely. Seriously speaking, I know of the fact that many students will continue their education because of this loan. If it wasn’t introduced, particularly with the increase in tuition fees, we would have high rates of dropout. At my school, we tried as much as possible to educate students by engaging an expert who took them through the processes for the loan.

A lot of people believe in this national cake mindset. So there are concerns some students may end up not paying it. Are you not concerned about this?

I am very concerned because we Nigerians there are ways we do things that baffle me a lot. Some people have the means to pay the school fees. Do you know that some people who would apply for this loan may have already paid their school fees or their parents can pay? Some may invest the money. So if you know you can pay the school fees, don’t bother to apply so that other people can benefit. So that those who are less privileged can get the opportunity. I just want to plead on behalf of the students, that if it is possible, the government should try to increase the number of years to repay and probably reduce the interest.

Are you saying the government should screen out people whose parents can pay the loan?

If possible. I don’t know how they can do it. If they can identify the less privileged students, they should be the ones that should be given this loan because some people don’t need it. And if it is a very big amount of money. I know people who will buy phones and cars. They will not pay back. If I buy an iPhone for N500,000, tell me how that iPhone will generate money so that I can pay back the loan. So, I think the government should screen or look for the less privileged to give this money, rather than making it open for everybody to apply. A millionaire’s son can apply for the loan, which we are 100% sure his parents can pay for his tuition.

The Federal Government and Labour are currently a loggerheads over minimum wage. And the present is preparing to announce a new minimum wage. Considering the current economic situation. How much do you think it should be?

The truth is, don’t forget when the minimum wage was made to N30,000, there were some States that could not pay because they didn’t have the money. Government should just find ways to subsidise other things, if possible, for markets to have cheaper things. But seriously, even if they should make minimum wage N150,000 to N200,000 Naira to do, I am 100 percent sure there are some States that would not be able to pay.

The issue of kidnapping and the security of students have been in public discourse for a while. Some time ago, some students in your school were kidnapped. What is the current situation?

Things are calm now unlike before. Just the advice that I give students is that, know where you are going and know when to go out. Whenever you are going out, make sure someone knows where you are going, and whatever will take out of campus must be very important.

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About Olumide Olusegun

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