Ilumination

As a Nation Thinketh…

June 20, 2022

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The Federal Ministry of Youth and
Women Affairs organized a programme
in 2007
They held the programme in the six
geopolitical zones of Nigeria.
The one for the South-West was
meant to hold at the University of
Ibadan but it was moved to Abeokuta.
The ministry invited undergraduates
from schools in the south-western zone
of Nigeria

I led the team from Bowen University
to this event. Professor Ayansina was
the Dean of students affairs at Bowen
University at the time. He came with
the team as an adviser of sorts.
When we got to the venue,
we met a riot!

Some students had ganged up against
the officials of the ministry over
the terms and conditions of the meeting.
They wanted to collect 25,000 per day
for attending the event. They wanted
to be lodged in a five star hotel.
They wanted to eat buffets and
drink at the fountain of pleasure.

They claimed the minister had collected
a huge amount of money from the federal
government as allocation for the event
and had embezzled 90% of the fund
while organizing the event with a
paltry sum.
They were already singing
all those Aluta is our madness
songs.

It was a terrible sight
The students from OOU, Crescent University
and Bowen University (which I represent)
were the only ones who
didn’t join the violence. The students
were going to burn down the federal
government owned facility where we
were being hosted. The organizers
had to invite the police. When the
police officers arrived, the organizers
explained that the were sub contracted
by the ministry to organize the event.
They explained how much they got
from the ministry and how it was
being spent. To placate the students
they said the minister will come in
person and they can then ask him
whatever questions they desire to ask
The students settled down reluctantly.

A professor of Peace and Conflict
resolution spoke to us first. He
was based in Ogun State and he
pleaded with us to be slow to take
to violence when all we had to
do was ask questions.

The dinner that was prepared for
everybody had been poured away
by the angry students during their
protest. We all had to find something
to eat by ourselves.
Bowen University gave each student
participating 5000 naira each as
pocket money so we’re able
to eat dinner that day and sleep.

The next day the event started with
a series of lectures followed by an
open questions where issues were raised
about Nigeria and what the youths
think is the solution to the issues
we are facing as a nation.
People began to speak and I
was shocked! Every student
that was given the microphone
insisted that they want their share
of the national cake!
I mean, you will hear something
like “I want to chop my own
money too, this money is
everybody’s right”

While one is talking another will
shout from the crowd “Must the
same people continue to “chop”,
we want to chop our own”
After about an hour of this
“We must chop” discussion.
The members of the panel stood up
and asked a
student from Bowen University to
come and speak. Now I must confess
that we don’t have an aluta culture
in Bowen University but it was not
alien to me. I had spent some
years in UI and I have friends at
other institutions but the issue on
ground was intended to stimulate
our minds and stir us towards
creative and critical thinking.

“Chop I chop” ideology won’t solve
the problem of the country. I went
to speak. When I got the micro-
phone I stated boldly that I don’t
See a future for Nigeria given the
way the “youth” had behaved
since the moment we got there the
previous day.The protest of the
previous day was in my opinion very
unwise and the stance the students
were taking on national issues was
quite silly. I usually speak my mind
and I did. The students got angry.
I mean all of them stood and started
screaming at me.
“Your father is stealing money from
the government, that is
why you can afford to pay the school
fees in a private university”
“Your Father is a thief, you’re a thief”
Another riot was going to start,
the police were called in again
and the session canceled.

The lecturer that went with us
called me afterwards and said
“I admire your courage but do you
think that approach is wise? It is
like poking a dangerous bear”
I laughed.
I am a dangerous Christian and
I have seen my future. A million
of them can do me no harm.
I was so sure of that.
After two hours they asked us
to restart the meeting, so we
gathered again.

This time a lady was to speak
to us. She was trained abroad
and had been involved in some
of the community advocacy and
social Work. She began to explain
to us that we needed to build
relevance at our various grassroots
and build a strong network across
ethnic groups and tribes in order
to form the sort
of alliance that will get us to
the point where we can change
the things we don’t like as citizens.
She said it will not be overnight
but if we keep at it we will become
a movement. She advised that we all
make friends and keep in touch
so that we can work together
in future. The students just laughed
and mocked her.
I listened to her.
I respect her.
She was wise.

When she was done, the students
were asked if they had any questions
They had formed caucuses at this point
and chosen the person that will speak
for them. Their leaders spoke one
after the other and they all choruses
one thing: “What time is the minister
coming so that we can discuss
Iur payment with him.”
Wow!
I didn’t get it!

I started shaking my head in disappointment.
One of them, a lady
came close to me and said
“This Is your first time at this event,
that is why you are shocked. We
have all attended quite a few
and we know we were entitled
to money. I said “Okay”
She said “If we don’t protest they
will give us coins and pocket the
money meant for our transportation
and inconvenience.The government
already gave them this money knowing
we will travel here from our
various schools. We need to let them know
we can’t be robbed”
I nodded.
We went on a short break and
I got to meet a fine babe from
Crescent University. It was during the
Ramadan (Crescent is an Islamic
University) so
the students were fasting. She told
me her school was quite similar
to mine because I was echoing
their position.
Interesting.

The minister showed up the third day,
he apologyzed for not being around
for the first two days and asked us
how the event had been and what our
recommendations and resolutions were
The organizers told him we had not
participated satisfactorily because we
were protesting over food, money and
refused to take the meeting seriously.

The minister (a northerner) I have
forgotten his name said “We organize
this all over the country.
In the North, students use the
opportunity to network, make friends,
meet new people, form good relationships
but in the South it is
the opposite and you guys are very
educated and enlightened but you don’t
see the need to work together to
achieve a common objective.
Didn’t the Bible say whatever a group
of people make up their mind to do in
unity is
almost certain to succeed?”
The students began to make noise.

The minister kept quiet and brought
out a bag. He gave each of us an
envelope full of money (25K each)
Then he called my name and said
“I will like to see you”
I followed him to an office.
He thanked me and said “There
is hope for Nigeria, please raise
more people like you”

-GSW-

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