Much Ado About NANS Endorsement of Jonathan, By Chika Onuora

Jonathan signs budget

With less than six months to the 2015 general elections, it has become a fashionable, if somewhat laughable, daily occurrence for various groups — some of them obviously put together in a hurry — to endorse President Goodluck Jonathan to run for a second term of four years in office.  A good number of these groups have no pedigree to speak of and nobody, quite rightly, bothers with their endorsements.  However, when the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) recently endorsed Jonathan, quite a number of people paid attention.

As reported by the media, the President of NANS, Yinka Gbadebo, led the association’s National Executive Committee members on a courtesy visit to the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. During the visit, Gbadebo and his team reportedly passed a vote of confidence in Jonathan.

According to Gbadebo, Jonathan earned the association’s support because: “As pragmatic and visionary Nigerians, we can see through the veil of distraction and boldly applaud the Goodluck administration for infrastructure and social transformation.”

If Gbadebo had stopped there, perhaps the debate that later arose on social media platforms over the NANS visit may not have occurred.  But Gbadebo went on to add: “We have unflinchingly determined to put all political detractors and evil geniuses to shame in 2015 by giving Mr President the singular and total support of all Nigerian students.  As a united association, all students have been mandated to cast their votes for President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to emerge victorious and continue the good works of transformation.”

It this marching order that Gbadebo and his executive team have given to all Nigerian students that have got some people rising up in textual protest on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.  As social media activism goes, Gbadebo’s traducers are not without their own detractors. In others words, just as there are those who are opposed to Gbadebo’s NANS mandate to all Nigerian students, there are also those who are in support of the NANS directive, and therefore opposed to those who disagree with Gbadebo and his executive team.

Considering that many other associations have endorsed Jonathan without anyone raising an objection, why has the NANS endorsement ruffled some people’s feathers? One likely reason may be that NANS, unlike some of those groups that were clearly put together for fleeting reasons, has a history that is deeply entwined with the Nigerian democratic struggle and was one of the foremost groups that opposed military rule.

It follows therefore that there are many who have emotionally invested in the idea of NANS as not just a pro-student movement, but also a group representing a pro-people tendency.  Consequently, the possibilities of a difference of opinion, especially among those who consider themselves guardians of the historic pro-democracy activism that has shaped the NANS narrative, cannot be ruled out.

Be that as it may, Gbadebo and his executive team have been very clear in their reasons for pitching the tent of all Nigerian students with President Jonathan.  For instance, they commended Jonathan’s support to Nigerian students and youths which he demonstrated through appointing six past NANS leaders to serve in various capacities in his administration.

Gbadebo said these past leaders include the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, Minister of Education, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Kingsley Kuku, and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Students and Youth matters, Jude Imagwe.

Moreover, for those who may feel NANS should have chosen to float or sink with the opposition All Progressives Congress, the experience of students of the Lagos State University (LASU) is still too fresh to ignore.

Lest Nigerians forget, LASU students were at loggerheads with the government of the APC frontline leader, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, for many months.  The issue at stake was the increment of the tuition fee of LASU, a school owned by the APC-controlled Lagos State Government, from N25,000 to between N193,750 and N326,250.

Meanwhile, within the same Lagos State, the tuition fee at the University of Lagos, a university owned by the Jonathan-led Federal Government, has remained at an affordable N15,500 for several years now. Even though Fashola has now backed down and returned to the status quo ante, NANS obviously could not ally itself with the APC considering the implications of the party’s anti-people education policies.

Without belabouring the point, it is worth recalling that in January 1, 2014 when President Jonathan addressed the nation, he said, “We have diligently carried forward the purposeful and focused implementation of our agenda for national transformation in priority areas such as power, the rehabilitation and expansion of national infrastructure, agricultural development, education and employment generation.” If Nigerian students, as represented by NANS, are satisfied that Jonathan is keeping faith with them through appropriate investments in the education sector and youth empowerment programmes, it is not rocket science why they have decided that they will support him come 2015.  And no one should begrudge them for their decision.

Miss Onuora sent this piece from Asokoro, Abuja

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