Monday, January 23, 2017 9:07 am
By Ropo Egbeleke
For the past few days after the news broke and the video of the Governor Ajimobi ‘constituted authority’ went viral, I have received hundreds of messages, phone calls and tags where my name has been referenced in comments. In fact, some commentators had forgotten that it is now more than a decade that I graduated from the University. I know quite a few people will be shocked with my assertion that Governor Ajimobi should not be blamed; however, without being grandiloquent, I will succinctly elucidate my reasons without fear or favour.
Firstly, the students gave the governor the chance. There is a famous Yoruba proverb that says “Bi onigba ba se pe igba e, ni won ma ba pe” (loosely translated as the way you present yourself is the way you will be addressed). The students presented themselves in an unorganized way but definitely not unruly as the majority of the supporters of ‘constituted authority’ will want us to believe. I am of the opinion that there is nothing unruly about their behaviour. As a matter of fact, they are too gentle and respectful considering that they have been out of school for eight months due to Oyo and Osun state governments’ inactions. Nevertheless, the student’s action epitomized a divided house, lack of coordination and poor organization.
Usually, in this kind of protest, all hands are supposed to be on deck in order to approach the problem in unison and bury all grudges and grievances among themselves. Unfortunately, the Students Union Government is factionalized because of the inconclusive election that led to the destruction of the Union Bus and the Union building and the eventual suspension of the Union. The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) is also factionalized. The little success that was recorded from the agitation was due to support from student bodies from University of Lagos and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife just to mention a few. The government is aware of this weakness and the governor capitalised on it. Is there anyone who will not capitalize on the weakness of the enemy in combat? As it is normally said, “ Let Anaconda lead followed by African Python and Boa Constrictor and let us see the bold hunter that will face them”.
The majority of those in unionism in this present era are in it for selfish reasons, if not, Ajimobi would not have dared no matter how stubborn he might be to talk in that manner with all effrontery and audacity. The only types of students these people fear most are those that are not only daring but also intellectually sound to engage in discourse. One month in Nigeria now, all reports I have received so far about LAUTECH and the student’s movement call for a reorientation of how to be physically and mentally equipped in facing ‘constituted authorities’.
Secondly, Governor Ajimobi’s utterances and reaction to the students is nothing new or strange; it is a representation of how the vast majority of Nigerian adults view the younger ones. This primitive view has its roots in our culture and religion as epitomized in the credo “respect your parents and those that are older than you”. They don’t believe that respect is reciprocal. Old time cliches such as “eyan ma n fi agba re omode je ni” ( the elder has an advantage over the younger because of age), “Ti agbalagba ba se omode, omode na ni yo be agbalagba” ( no matter what an elder does to the young one, it is the young one that will still beg the elder), “Ti agbalagba ban soro, oye ki omode o dake” (If an elder is talking, the young one should keep quiet ) and many more are so much ingrained as primordial sentiments predominant in Nigeria. I personally experienced what Governor Ajimobi said many times in the 11 years I spent in LAUTECH as an undergraduate. From Vice-Chancellors to Head of Departments, Local Government Chairmen to Governors, State House of Assembly members to Senators and Representatives, Commissioners to Ministers and even from biological fathers to spiritual leaders, this has become a way of life in the nation.
It is only in Nigeria that the adult believes that you must listen and be submissive even at the place of work. The people in the position of authority that we can question without any fear of being labelled as rude, thugs, hooligans or manner-less are those that are our contemporaries or colleagues. Any attempt to draw the attention of those older than you to their misdemeanor is never considered favourably. It is time to let our public officials understand that what is important to human capital is not chronological age but intelligence. That is the main reason I will support anybody that is between the ages of 18 and 45 for future political positions.
Thirdly, we now have students and youths who are so docile and uninformed that they hardly challenge the status quo. Quite a few times when I was an undergraduate, some will even kick against our protest against the university authorities when we agitated for our rights. Their argument: ‘we know what the management did was wrong, but we have them as fathers at home.’ I have read a plethora of comments since the Ajimobi LAUTECH students encounter video went viral that expressed similar sentiments.
Mr Governor and other ‘constituted authorities’ should stop acting like fathers: it is time to act like a Governor, Vice Chancellor or Lecturer. You were not elected to be a father. Just do your duty and if you can’t, then resign honourably. You also need to understand that without dissent, there can never be any progress or development. Give the young ones a voice like it has been done in more progressive countries. You represent the failed generation that has mortgaged the future of our generation. You’re not satisfied with the damage inflicted on us but you want to extend it to the next generation. As you have now seen, your actions and utterances can no longer be hidden. And in a few years when you are travelling without armed escorts or retinue of aides, you will encounter a protest just like Dr Omololu Olunloyo did in 2,000 on his way to Ilorin. And you will then realize that you contributed in no small measure to the degeneration of the students you tagged disrespectful and mannerless.
Ropo Egbeleke was a former Students Union President of LAUTECH. He is a conflict resolution expert and development consultant. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.