FIRST SESSION IN OFFICE

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FIRST SESSION IN OFFICE

Ante-Ante-Scriptum: I believe the topic for this article ought to have read ‘first year in office’. However, no thanks to the Academic Staff Union of Universities, that caption has been automatically rendered inappropriate.

Ante-Scriptum: Created this document on my PC since June 28, 2013; opened it on several occasions hoping to add something to it. However it remained unchanged and substantially incomplete for many months. All thanks to God that today, May 10, 2014, almost a year later, I finally am able to be done with it.

It’s been up to a session now since I was saddled with the great responsibility; and perhaps opportunity too, of serving in the position of a class representative once again. Well once again, because I have had a taste of such honour in the past, only that now it is not as a leader of some kindergartners or captain of a class of high school lads; it is as the head of an assemblage of whiz kids, prodigies, soon-to-be jurists and exceptional scholars in Nigeria’s premier university; the University of Ibadan.

The first surprise came when I heard someone shout Kunle; after Mrs Olomola, our first Law 101 lecturer, declared the ground open for nominations into the positions of male and female class representatives. ‘It can’t be’, ‘it has got to be someone else’, ‘who could possibly know me by name’, my thoughts rolled in. But my hope turned vain when nobody else stood up, and the lecturer called for a second time; ‘who is Kunle?’

The second one came when after the voice vote; as if fate was bent on disappointing me, I emerged as the class representative, despite my shortcomings, both overt and covert; and despite the presence of many, better than I am in many aspects, in the same class.

I was even more surprised because I never aspired to or intended to be in such position, even though my action on the morning of that very day, which unexpectedly turned out to be the Election Day, may have triggered the outcome.

I had always wanted to be one who is not easily noticed. One who would come to class quietly, receive lectures, sign attendance registers and leave without anyone’s interference. One who would sit at the tail-end criticising whoever the class rep. was and dishing out my opinions, for the progress of the class, whenever expedient. However, with that singular turn of events, all those hopes were dashed, quashed and short-lived like the Hobbesian state of nature.

I was (and still am) not the most brilliant in the class. I was not the most experienced. I was not the most charismatic. And I certainly was not the most outspoken. How then, I wondered, could I be chosen as the one to lead a class of intellectuals, studying the noblest of professions in Nigeria’s ‘first and best’ university of learning?

The ‘modus operandi’ of what is called ‘destiny’ amazes me at times. What you think could least happen, will happen daringly and remorselessly, and vice versa. I remember that, weeks back, during our medical test [one of freshers’ many rituals] at the law clinic, I was in the gathering of some of my course-mates. One thing led to the other, and a particular lady, I’m not certain of her identity now, said in my presence that I’m ‘not the class rep. type’; and I totally agreed with her. I still think I’m ‘not the type’ though, but then, as the ‘Grand architect of human fate’ would have it, here I am.

Days turn into weeks, and weeks into month. It’s been up to a year now, and I still answer to the title: Class rep. of [now] 200 level law students class [a.k.a. LLB octal-final]. The journey from day one till this moment has been filled with the good, the bad and, of course, the ugly. I have had to do things I ordinarily would not. I have had to meet people I ordinarily wouldn’t move close. Again, I have had to forbear many things, that if I were an ordinary member of the class, I would not have.

WHAT WE HAVE DONE: My appointment into the position is not, so to speak, a political one. I did not engage in campaigning, pleading or manifesto declaration. I was not bound to ‘achieve’ anything through the office, except representing the class, connecting with lecturers and ensuring a smooth ride through our five years in the university. But then, I think it necessary to mention the few things I [and/or we] did in the past year that deviated a little from the routine practice of an average class representative. They are not exceptional, but as this is a recount of my experience in the first session, I will share them still.

  • ‘The Class Directory’: This is where it all started from, I guess. The class directory is a document I prepared before resumption, containing an almost-complete list of names of members of the class along-side spaces to fill-in other details, using the admission lists released by the university. I compiled and designed it solely based on the doctrine of necessity and a spirit of generosity, with no ulterior motives in mind. But then as it turned out, the directory which I publicised on the day of the election, was, more or less, what first endeared me to my colleagues. Anyway, the document has proved useful on many occasions, to both members of the class and non-members alike, in getting the needed contacts.
  • ‘Class versus Congress’: one of the most unforgettable events experienced in the class’s fresher days is the ‘clash with the congress’; the protest of some members of the class at the second (or first?) congress sitting. In short, we were denied our franchise, contrasting what is expressly provided by the LSS (Law Students’ Society) constitution. And rather than argue based on facts and law, the members of the class present that very day decided it best to ‘make them know’ we aren’t docile idiots. They allegedly stood on the chairs, and then some staged a walk-out. The congress was offended, and I eventually had to tender a formal apology before it weeks later. This satisfied them and, in a way, cooled their ego. End of story (or is it … well … not really).
  • ‘Gentleman of the week’: this is another of the projects I embarked on for the class. Every week, I would choose a particular member of the class (male-female-male-female, in that order, week after week). The chosen one would fill, in a form, information such as nick, favourite food, best friend, role model, hobbies, best day on campus, message to colleagues etc. And this would then be uploaded on the Facebook group, as well as the Whatsapp group for others to see. The aim of this apparently is just to bring members of the class into one accord, by facilitating familiarity.
  • ‘Public Address Item’: Aha, well, this came up close to the close of the session. I thought since most of the time, my colleagues complain of not being able to grasp my vocal announcements properly. After I have spoken, many would still ask for what it was I said. Hoping to find a lasting solution to this hitch, I decided to get a mini-public address system; a device that resembles a radio and has a mouthpiece to speak into. I didn’t think to use it several weeks after we resumed from the strike, but when I did use, it really felt awkward, plus it turned out not to be of much use too.
  • ‘Unbeaten Soccer Champs’: one thing that makes me really proud of being a coordinator of the class is that, it is no ordinary class, it is one jam-packed with intelligent, yet equally talented, folks. My course mates are not only bookish, and stylish, they are ‘sportish’.Consecutively, our soccer team has won up to two soccer tournaments and one soccer match, unbeaten on the field of play. First, it was our seniors that challenged us to a match, hoping to welcome us by showing us who’s boss at the faculty. But then, their plot backfired as we turned out to be no rookie at the game. After that, proving our first victory was not a matter of luck, we went ahead to also win the CBN cup and Dean’s cup.

CHALLENGES I CONFRONTED:

  • ‘The Class’: the class has, in a way, been a challenge for me in my capacity as the representative. But then, this is perfectly understandable since we are speaking of learned (or if you may, learning) scholars here; who are perfectly aware of their rights, even the most insignificant, who best know the law and again, how best to break it.

When I say the class has been a challenge, it is primarily in the aspect of cooperation and attentiveness.It is usually frustrating, standing before an audience with an important notice, and then majority of them are making one distracting noise or the other.

Another instance to buttress this challenge is in the area of attendance registers. On one or two occasions, with respect to LAW class I have had to plead with the lecturer not to input the registers. Why, because I would not be able to get back all the lists I passed, God knows why. Maybe, aliens are pilfering them in order to create a database of humans. Just maybe ;-).

  • ‘Finance’: thanks to the Almighty, this hasn’t been much of a challenge. Even though I’m from a humble background, I’ve, thus far, found it bearable to expend money on things such as transport, stationeries and recharge cards (for making calls and browsing); most especially recharge cards.
  • ‘Time management’: sincerely, if I were not in this position, I might have been one of the perpetual late-comers of the class. If I were not the class rep., I would not have had to attend to countless extemporaneous calls from the Faculty Officer, lecturers and students. I would not have had to sacrifice my time for many things that my position requires of me, or that I have made it to require of me. Maybe, this has made me a more responsible person, or maybe it has only succeeded in making not to succeed enough in my studies, I honestly do not know.
  • ‘The Whatsapp group’: this has somewhat been an issue to me since its creation. The problem is: I created the group to serve solely (or basically) as a platform to disseminate information that concern our academic life, I added as many class members as I could to benefit from this, BUT some prefer to convert the status of the group from ‘strictly business’ to ‘fun-for-all’. The group was so anarchical eventually that many leave persistently, including me, during the mid-second semester break (ASUU strike i.e.). I created another one after resumption but the same problem, of getting hundreds and hundreds of chat messages daily, resurfaced. In the end, I came to shape my mind-set into subscribing to the Utilitarian proposition that what is most important is seeking the ‘greatest happiness for the greatest number of people’. I have come to accept that this is a democracy, and the will of the majority must be respected. When the same people that you think you are fighting for turn against you, then you are only wasting your time. Like a Greek philosopher once said; to help a man against his will (e.g. preventing a suicidal person from dying) is, in fact, same as murdering him.

THE GOOD SIDE:

  • ‘Rapport with lecturers and other students’: this is one major reason why many crave to be in the position of class rep. And it is true that my being there has ignited rapport between many lecturers and me. However, I know many students who are closer to all our lecturers than I am. So, I guess it’s never about the position, it’s about the ambition and determination. I have also interacted with many other individuals [e.g. LSS officials, and excos of student organisations], not because they find my personality likable, but because they find my rank instrumental.
  • ‘Public speaking practice’: my public speaking and audience facing skills have been improved, I guess, as a result of the incessant cases where I had to address a class of hundreds for one thing or the other. But I must add, that even though I’ve done it times without count, I still hesitate, most times, before taking those steps to the front of the class.

CONCLUSION: That I may not be criticised for writing something not too far from being a facsimile of ‘So long a letter’, I will promptly conclude by, first appreciating my course mates for understanding and bearing with my inadequacies all these while – all the times I failed or forgot to pass attendance sheets, all the times I could or would not check for results and time-tables on time, all the times you called and I didn’t pick, all the times my voice was not audible enough for the whole class to grasp, all the times I did not speak when I was expected to and the times I spoke when it was uncalled for, all the times it seemed I deliberately shunned some person(s) or that I was not amiable enough, all the times I have, in one way or the other, offended either an individual, a caucus, or the whole class in general, and all those other times, in which I did other things, my frail brain would not remember. I thank you all for understanding; and indeed I am sorry for all those times.

I want to use this medium to enjoin everyone reading this not to hesitate in sharing prickly, but constructive, criticisms whenever necessary, directing them to whoever is concerned, and not minding whose toe is stepped on, not caring whose ox is gored.

What I am trying to say is: censure, reproach and lash the leader whenever he does something that is, in your honest opinion, wrong; whenever his attitude is becoming unbecoming and his actions are turning untoward.

My religion has made me to understand perfectly that the position of leadership is a very crucial and consequential one. It is one which one holding it will be made to compulsorily account for, if not in this world, in the next. My job is to promote the good of the class, and to satisfy its needs. If anyone is aggrieved as a result of my actions or decisions, I cannot possibly know unless I am told. Just like mens rea is no crime and a mere cerebral or wishful acceptance is no acceptance; a mental dissatisfaction, which is not expressed or even impliedly indicated, is no dissatisfaction at all; it is useless.

Verily, the tasks before us are much greater than the ones we left behind. Let us learn from our past mistakes, especially respecting our academic concern, and apply the lessons therein to better our present with a view to inheriting a desired future.

Let us face our studies squarely, yet also remember that facing it only will merely educate us partly and not roundly.

Let us make unity our watchword; sustain the spirit of camaraderie that has kept us thus far; and do away with all fissiparous factors, whether via political affiliations, behavioural polarity or academic envy.

And with the God of Justice on our side, like He has been on our side in all those soccer tournaments, we will get to our preferred termini; and we will be glad, in the end, that we did not get there with another set of great young minds, different from the one we are with now.

Thanks for reading; LOVE YOU ALL!

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ASUU STRIKE: A BLESSING OR A CURSE?

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ASUU STRIKE: A BLESSING OR A CURSE?

An entry for Roulette III, 2014.

It all seemed like a dream when my ENG 112 lecturer announced on the afternoon of July 1st that the class will not be holding. This unanticipated development was not because he was having another commitment or because the day had, without warning, turned out to be a public holiday. It was due to nothing save that the ‘almighty’ Academic Staff Union of Universities had decreed that activities be discontinued in about 70 federal and state universities all over Nigeria, affecting nothing less than 1.5 million Nigerian scholars.

For 4080 hours, between the days of Monday, July 1st and Tuesday, December 17th, students of most Nigerian universities were forcefully exiled to their mothers’ homes, all because of what has now been termed an ‘annual festival’.

In the words of William Arthur Ward, ‘change, like sunshine, can be a friend or a foe, a blessing or a curse, a dawn or a dusk.’ Thus, a change, a digression from normalcy, as far-reaching as the recent 6-month ASUU strike must have fallen under one of the said categories. So which is it?
I hold the view of the enlightened majority, the view that appears to look beyond the newspaper headlines and government propaganda. I believe, and strongly so, that the regretful saga, in the form of the recent ASUU strike, is more a curse than a blessing. In fact, it seems more and more, from occurrences over the years, to be a generational scourge, which we may never free ourselves from if the necessary sacrifice is not made.

While the strike lasted, it is generally known that most students were academically inactive. I myself, and many others, found it difficult to study or even engage in other lucrative ventures. This was so because of the incertitude that surrounded the whole event. Many thought, ‘what if I subscribed to a driving/computer school today, and the strike is suspended the next day?’ Or ‘what if I study myself to death now and the strike’s end is not even close?’ In essence, while our counterparts in private universities and foreign institutions were busy making good use of their time, increasing in erudition and adding great feats to their records daily; we were very busy in our fathers’ homes, watching one season film or the other.

Also, I am aware of the fact that, solely because of the strike action, several students lost the opportunity to further their studies abroad with all expenses catered for. This loss ran into millions and millions of naira. Opportunities they say come but once. I wonder if after getting their demands attended to, the union plans to undo this colossal damage by sponsoring the affected students.

Aside from this, we also have cases of students, finalists in particular, adding a year to their academic calendar all because of the insensitivity of our ‘parents’ in government and those in the zenith of the ivory tower.

Instances abound of law students who, after spending a whopping 5 years (or more) in school, hoping to start fending for themselves soon, were disallowed from going to law school at the right time.

In addendum to these is that the accursed strike also saw the death of many giants, prominent of whom is Professor Festus Iyayi, a past president of ASUU, who died while making efforts to see that the strike ends favourably. Also, I personally know of students who passed away while trying to make ends meet during the course of the strike, most being in their final year. It is simply unimaginable, the agony their parents must have passed through on hearing the news of their children’s demise.

After all these shortcomings, akin to applying salt to injury, the much awaited positive upshots of the strike are yet to be seen. Our lecture theatres still lack adequate ventilation; our halls of residence are still, in a way, overcrowded; our lecturers still use lecture notes composed in the 70s to teach us; we are still mandated to pay exorbitant amounts as school levies; and to top it all, our universities are yet to start experiencing an infrastructural turnaround.

No doubt, the federal government is blameworthy for not putting their all-in-all into the nation’s education system, and ASUU is justified by speaking against this injustice. However, the manner in which their dissatisfaction is exhibited goes a million mile in determining whether they get compensation or crucifixion, whether the students will be contented or frustrated and whether the whole exercise is a blessing or the opposite. Quite unfortunately, the union was so autocratic, the government, so unyielding, and the strike so unconscionable, rendering the whole event a huge let-down.

After all is said and done, the incontrovertible truth and irrefutable fact is that the 200 billion naira claimed to have been handed over for the development of universities can never equate with the long hours wasted in inactivity, it will never be utilised to mitigate the damage caused from lost scholarship awards, and most important of all, it can never restore the many lives that have been lost consequent to the strike action. It is therefore visible to the blind, audible to the deaf, and in fact, smelly to the anosmic that the recent ASUU strike is nothing but a downright misfortune.

THE LAST DOSE?

STRIKE NO MORE.

 1…7…0, 1…7…0, what is it again?

I try and try, but all ends in vain

1…7…0, 1…7…0, I can’t seem to remember

Those six little figures… my poor matric number!

 

I am the unfortunate Nigerian student

Hardworking, ambitious, always compliant

I am the bone-eating son of a butcher

Who none cares for a second to look after

 

While busy sipping from the Pierian Spring

The fountain went dry, an event unforeseen

The unions cut short our bid to know

Even ‘IFA’ oracle insisted we must go

Confused and dejected, we packed our bags

Thinking that the next day, we’ll be back

But days turned to weeks, weeks to months

We waited and waited, all came to naught

 

At first, to the union, we showed sympathy

But then, the issue became just too lengthy

No more were some on the fence

To all, the strikers were now in defence

 

Some learnt teaching, bricklaying and carpentry

The rich ones, out of fear, swiftly left the country

Some hurriedly settled down to marry

Some could not endure, that they got heavy

 

Alas! At this time, many were buried

Here and there, you hear a student’s obituary

But no! We did not suffer alone

The great union also lost one of its own

 

Our market women cried enough is enough

A Lagos lawyer said we can’t take it no more

Igbo youths were paid to pressure the union

Vanity upon vanity, we were left in confusion

 

The government issues threats of no pay

When union protests, they chase them away

Go back to work, we have no money

So says the vile and chubby Harvard lady

 

 Promise after promise, offer after offer

Yet the union’s stance stands, it does not falter

Then came Goodluck, like a Deus ex machina

Union got thrilled, and forgot the grounds for fracas

 

Or so we thought…

Sadly, the royal meeting yielded no result

After 13 hours of nocturnal discourse

The season-film just never halts, not even a pause

 

The media mediated,

Sending us neither here nor there

Even a silly fella under @ASUU_Nigeria

Misled much through his twitter gear

 

The game is no longer interesting

The movie, no longer amusing

The union has lost its radiance

The students are no longer concerned

 

The government again issues threats

We will sack you all, they declare

Pro-Chancellors too did speak

Resume in a week or forever have your break

 

When all hope seemed buried and lost

The authorities agreed to pay somewhat

The union knew it the best they can muster

And to all’s joy, re-opened the Ivory Tower

 

When two mighty whales brawl

It is the planktons that really hurt

The strikers have gone on another repose

But I ask, is it a stop? Have we had the last dose?

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