20th May, 2022
By Olalekan Adigun
I read the news piece 2023: I’ll Scrap Nigerian Senate, Invest Funds Saved From The ‘Coven Of Thieves’ On Education — Sowore on Yele Sowore’s SaharaReporters and was caught aback as to what is going on in this country. My first instinct was “Maybe he was misquoted” or it’s the usual “sensational headline” that Sowore’s online news platform is known for. Alas, in feeding my curiosity, it wasn’t the clickbait type of piece I hoped it was: Sowore meant what he said in the headline!
Let me set a background here. Sowore was president of the University of Lagos Students’ Union (ULSU) in 1992. As it is typical of ex-Students’ Union activists, there is the tendency to always bask in the euphoria of their numerous “victories” whilst on campus. Many of these activists were “lords” or “cabals” whilst on campus. These guys had all the solutions to societal problems whilst on University campus especially during the military era in the 1990s.
Do not get me wrong, there is nothing bad about Students’ Unionism. I often encourage students to take an interest in their Students’ Union activities. I am of the belief that Students’ Unions serve as the basis for political leadership. It should be a training ground for future leaders(hip). Like St Paul said in his letter to the Church in Corinth, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). On his part, Sowore has refused to grow. He may have attained age 50, but unfortunately still thinks or acts like the teenager who was ULSU president about three decades ago. If not, he would, by now, know what works when he was a Students’ Union president and what does not work in the reality of political life. That is why political scientists talk about realpolitik.
From Sowore’s tweets, from which the news was scooped, it is obvious he is still imbibed in the populism that wins elections for student leaders on campuses. One then wonders if Sowore knows what it takes to expand, or reduce the membership of the Nigerian Senate, let alone abolish it. While it is convenient to excuse Sowore as a Students’ Union leader who was active during the military era, can we say he has imbibed the military authoritarianism he claimed to be fighting as ULSU president? If not, does he think it takes just the Nigerian president to scrap the Senate–an arm of the National Assembly that can consume even the President himself?
For the records, I served the Great Ife Students’ Union as a two-time member of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) and I know there were attempts to amend its Constitution. One such attempt is a proposed clause for a minimum of the controversial 2.5 CGPA requirement for contestants for elective offices (introduced by the university management in 2008). Those who served in this period know it was nearly impossible to include this clause in the sacrosanct Constitution of the Great Ife Students’ Union.
I was added to the WhatsApp group of ex-Students’ Union leaders of the Obafemi Awolowo University. This group comprises people who distinguished themselves in the service of the Union and are still committed to the ideals of independent students’ unionism. In one of our discussions, one member, who was frustrated as to how the once-vibrant Union has become engulfed in corruption and decadence, suggested a clause should be added in the Constitution that allows five former Speakers to impeach a sitting Students’ Union president or any other official. Curiously, I asked where this strange procedure is being practiced. I wanted to know how that would work. This comrade’s argument was that the five speakers should act as Nigeria’s Council of State, which comprises former presidents. I made extra effort to educate this hyper-active comrade that the Council of State is a purely advisory body and lack the power to impeach or remove a sitting president. To say this comrade who was supposed to have graduated several years ago still thinks this way makes you wonder what is still happening!
In any case, this is a Sowore-type mentality. All noise, no substance. The earlier people realize that running a Students’ or Labour Union as a “comrade” is dialectically different from holding political offices, the better for everyone. For Sowore, who was ULSU president about three decades ago, to still think he can unilaterally scrap the Senate-something even a military governor won’t dare say should convince you he’s not mentally graduated from “comrade” group think.
For Sowore to be able to pull this through, he will need the input from the same Senators he wants to lose to jobs, at least 25 state Houses of Assembly, and the 36 powerful Governors. Does Sowore know when populism ends? To know this, he needs to graduate from this students’ union mentality – and fast!
-Olalekan Adigun, an Accidental Writer, sent this piece from Lagos. His Twitter handle is @MrLekanAdigun. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org