As A Nation Thinketh

As A Nation Thinketh

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 

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."
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.

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"