Asefon Sunday is the President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). In this interview he speaks on the alleged collection of N40 million to cancel protest and how the union has been infiltrated by people with hidden agenda.
Is it true that the union is being hijacked by politicians?
To those who believe that NANS has been hijacked, I stand to be corrected; NANS has not been hijacked by any politician, though it depends on the perspective you are coming from. Gone are those days when students engaged in hooliganism and rascality. We operate scientific unionism with diplomacy.
- Ex-federal lawmakers want special courts for kidnapping, banditry, others
- Excitement as Kaduna community is gifted new school
In the days of Okewu, Segun Mayegun, Radical brothers and others, it was so easy for the struggle of the people but now, civilisation has caused so much damage to the students’ movement. In those days when the students’ union spoke, everyone listened, but today nobody carries us along.
Now as a students’ union, if you speak on campus, management will threaten you. What led to this? Most of our leaders who also passed through this chain have bastardised this organisation to some extent.
Before, the union was not polarised but now the organisation has been infiltrated by school managements and oppressors because of the unity that is not there.
Again, today if you go to any school and say you want to call for a protest, if it is not about increment in fees, I can assure you that they will not answer you. You will be fighting for them and you will see them going the other way. The consciousness is no more there.
The recent cancellation of protest has created doubt over the union; what do you have to say about that?
We agreed that there was a need for us to protest to demand adequate security around our campuses. We want a safe school where we will have confidence to go and stay. We also want to call on security to be more proactive and the president to wake up on the issue of insecurity as well during the protest.
After our exco meetings in Abuja, we have a committee to look into the modalities of how we can do the protest without it being hijacked, and most of our students are not one. I only know myself; I don’t know others but as a leader, I must provide adequate security for them and to guide it from getting out of hand.
We fixed June 12 for the protest because we believed it’s also a day we should celebrate the heroes who fought for the democracy we are enjoying today.
Four days after it was blown in the national dailies, events kept unfolding. I kept receiving different calls from different people who pretended to be in alliance with us and love our struggle and want to show support. We discovered that they were fake and looking for a platform to ventilate their agenda that was different from ours.
They kept calling some of our members who are leaders in their various institutions. We wanted to organise our protest with students in every state being coordinated and monitored by their leaders.
We also had a committee that would monitor each state because we wanted a coordinated protest so that those we want to send the message to will get nothing short of that.
I put up a letter to the Director of DSS and IGP that this is our plan across all the 36 states. I was invited and I explained to them, and the IGP said he could not stop us from having a protest, adding that we could request for security protection and not permission.
I discovered some politicians wanted to hijack it and we got a lot of intelligent information and for those who had called on me to come so they could help us to mobilise it in Abuja.
When we got to know there was a threat, we all agreed to suspend it and that a new date would be announced because we do not want a replica of #EndSARS.
There was an allegation that you collected N40 million; the possible reason for cancelling the protest; how true?
The allegation was from Sowore and it is not true. When I was contesting for the position of the president, Sowore had a candidate and was interested in the process. His candidate polled five votes and I pulled 155 votes.
He went out to say I was 47 years old, in addition to other forms of blackmail, but I don’t have an issue with him.
There is no agency in Abuja that I will collect money from and it will not be made public.
He also came out to say I collected N40 million from NNPC and I have never visited NNPC to meet their chief. When he said I collected money, he should bring out the proof. I wanted to institute a case against him but most of my people said I should not be distracted because people know him and what he stands for.
There was a dinner organised by Ondo students in April. I was dancing and students seeing their president dancing were spraying money on me. The video was later sent to me that Sowore wants to use it as a proof that after collecting N40 million, I am now spending money.
I went to a social media platform for students to raise an alarm over their plan, so the moment I shared it, they couldn’t use it anymore.
Is the protest still going to be held?
Our protest is still going to be held but we don’t want people to hijack it. We want to change the modalities of doing it. Instead of all the 36 states, we may do it according to our four zones and they will pick a state for it.
From your meetings with the minister and other education stakeholders, is there any headway in addressing the FG/ASUU feud?
It is part of what we discussed with the minister; we heard that the new ASUU president said he will continue from where his predecessor stopped. We have this problem of the government playing politics with so many things and I had advised the government to borrow leave from Singapore who turned to a knowledge-based economy.
In Nigeria, 75 percent of students who studied Medicine leave the country the moment they graduate for where the pay is better. It now shows that it is easy to acquire knowledge here and turn it into money over there.
There is a need to change our curriculum as it is part of the problem we are facing. We are not learning for the future; we are learning from the past. Our education is no more interesting and that is why even the poor in the society strive to send their children to private schools; because they can get adequate education without strike.
Our public education is neglected by the federal government as it is not funding education as it should. If the education they attended was like this then all of them would not be where they are today.
Majority of them were beneficiaries of free education and allowances and even before graduation, jobs were already waiting for them. But today, your parents struggle to send you to school and after graduation, you have nothing to do.