The convener of Save Nigeria Group, Tunde Bakare, on Monday, accused former President Olusegun Obasanjo of being responsible for the “death” of authentic student unionism in Nigeria.
He made the allegation while delivering a paper titled,’ Good Governance: Sustainability of Democracy, the Role of Students in the Forthcoming General Election,” in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
The lecture was part of the programme held to mark the Students International Day.
Mr. Bakare, who is also the General Overseer of Latter Rain Assembly, traced the history of student unionism in Nigeria from the colonial days and concluded that the body was dealt a fatal blow in 1978 when Mr. Obasanjo was a military head of state.
“General Olusegun Obasanjo’s government ordered the brutal suppression of that protest. Live bullets were unleashed on protesting students,” he said.
“As we proceeded outside University of Lagos main gate, I narrowly escaped death as Akintunde Ojo, the young man standing just beside me, was gunned down. Through that incident, Obasanjo carved his name on marble as a villain of democracy.”
“I did not mince words when opportunity presented itself in November of 1978 when I pointed to his face and said this government possesses power without compassion, might without morality and strength without sight,”
Mr. Bakare lamented that students unionism had been hijacked by those he described as “never do wells,” just he noted that the height of the fall of unionism in the country was the conferment of the title Defender of Democracy on Mr. Obasanjo in 2005 by student body.
He stated, “Nevertheless, student unionism in Nigeria today is in a sorry state. Not only has it fallen from its pinnacle of intellectual doggedness and ideological astuteness, it has lost its activist steam and has become a mere appendage of ruling political parties and a tool in the hands of corrupt politicians.”
‘The apotheosis of the perfidious degeneration of student unionism occurred in 2005 when NANS decorated General Obasanjo as a ‘Defender of Democracy’; yes the same Obasanjo who masterminded the brutal repression of unarmed students who were merely registering their displeasure over hike in fees.”
The clergyman condemned the role played by student leaders in the botched third term bid of the former president.
According to him, when the progressives rose against the third term agenda, in 2005, the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, shamelessly campaigned for Mr. Obasanjo’s life presidency agenda.
He said upon the foundation of corruption of student unionism laid by the former president, NANS had become weak and factionalised in subsequent administrations.
“In essence, Obasanjo killed student unionism in Nigeria. As a military Head of State, he killed NUNS by brutal repression and proscription. When Obasanjo returned as civilian president, he killed NANS and made it a shadow of itself, doing so this time by corrupting the body,” Mr. Bakare said.
He called on the student body to embark on journey of rebirth to return to the good old days of student activism.
“Then you must rid yourselves of cultism and other self-destructive tendencies and take back student unionism from hoodlums and charlatans,” Mr. Bakare said.
“You must restore student unionism to its glory days. After undergoing such rebirth, the student union must become a shining light to the dark polity.”