The students of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State demonstrated at the weekend that there is a reason to hope for a better Nigeria. They demonstrated in certain terms that the sweeping and repressing dictator is gradually loosing his popularity by the day. It’s a clear signal of forbiddance, denunciation and outright rejection in less than three months to the presidential election.
Leaders who suffer the same humiliating fate as Mr. Goodluck Jonathan in the hands of the electorate hardly recover from it. In addition, those who have observed Jonathan at close quarters describe a well-meaning but naive politician who became dazzled by servile servants and found himself out of his depth. However, he contributed to his own problems, for example by picking a silly fight with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, and the destructive invasion of the opposition’s membership database office in Lagos. And he lost the plot!
On that day, President Jonathan, notable traditional rulers in the South West and politicians had attended the Yoruba Unity Summit organised by the Committee on Yoruba Progress, South West geopolitical zone of the country. There, the president was endorsed for his re-election in the 2015 general election. But the placard-wielding students of the institution, who had converged at the Oduduwa Hall, venue of the conference, to protest what they termed “rot in the educational sector”, booed and stoned President Jonathan while entering the presidential chopper few minutes after the summit.
The irate protesters were shouting: “ole” “ole” (“thief”, “thief”) at the President and other notable politicians who attended the event. They displayed placards with inscriptions like: “We Condemn Jos Killing of Students, Students Are Not Chicken”, Don’t Sell Education As You Sold Electricity”, “We Demand Total Reversal of 2014 Hiked School Fees”, “We are Not Responsible For Jonathan’s Ineptitude”, among other inscriptions.
The students, who were in their hundreds, barricaded the road leading to the school’s sports centre where the chopper bearing the seal of the Federal Government and marked Nigerian Air Force, NAF-280, requesting that President Jonathan should address them before departing the campus. In the ensuing unrest, the convoy of President Jonathan was delayed for a few minutes as the students refused the President and his entourage passage to board the chopper despite plea by some security operatives.
While the President was boarding the chopper, some students continue to aim pebbles at the chopper before they were dispersed by security operatives. Although none of the thrown missiles touched the president. Some students who had examinations also expressed their displeasure at the condition they were subjected to owing to President Jonathan’s visit to the campus.
The Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, who attempted to pacify the angry students, was booed as students chorused on him: “Thief.” It shows that Mr. President endorses the blatant impunity of Governor Fayose and equated himself to a political rascal and phantom governor whose less than five months in office brought the nation and Ekiti State people to scorn.
But the President’s hardheaded media minders gobbled up a shabby account of the Ife incident. This was done before the dust from the protest has settled. They say Mr. president was never hooted; a falsehood the merest child would be expected to see through in this modern age of “Instant Media.” The Ife student protest simply blew up their delusion of President Goodluck Jonathan’s make-believe popularity for exerting superficial form of democracy.
It was a clear strategy to pervert freedom of expression for reactionary political ends. It is common knowledge political justice is the blackest page in the life of President Jonathan’s administration when you factor in the brutal crushing of fuel subsidy protesters in Lagos in 2011. But for wise counsel and his 2015 ambition, the President would have ordered the mauling of the students whose anger against his tottering government are growing in the masses’ resolve to see his back from Aso Rock in 2015.
It is heartwarming that the firebrand students of OAU have grasped the strength of the new nationalism, Mr. President’s anti-democratic, anti-national tide to ride it and put the nation on the path to progress. There is no better time to demonstrate, from this unlikely quarters that has remained docile for too long, that the faith of Nigerians have been destroyed in the economic structure of the nation. They now know that since the Naira has been devalued by President Jonathan last week, that the stipend from their parents cannot buy a straggly bunch of carrots, a half peck of potatoes, a bowl of garri, a few ounces of sugar and a pound of flour.
The students were simply saying: we will no longer tolerate a government that is built on the swindling idea of the majority. We want change! What good was government which promised to develop education at elections and defaulted? Was this not a fraud upon the people? And was not the PDP, which prides itself as the largest party in Africa, to blame for the disaster? The visit of Mr. President to OAU for political reasons touched off an outburst of anger and hysteria among the students who have been stranded in the bitter jungle of educational forest.
The paralysing blow the Ife students protest wrought on President Jonathan’s reelection bid is not merely passive, but it resonates at the core of his government’s failure to arrest the virtual decay he inherited from the previous PDP governments. They have taken a lead in the Nigerians’ struggle to extricate the people from the strong hold of poverty and the ruination of their future by crass political ruling class.
Who would believe that OAU students would muster the courage to haul stones and sticks at President Goodluck Jonathan? With the combined fierce looking security men of all hues who are rambunctiously overzealous for want of security acumen would have unleashed terror on the students and lit the campus for all they care. Election is around the corner and Mr. President would have his deposit were he to crush the uprising.
One of the major crisis that will dampen Mr. Jonathan’s reelection is the lack of visible development in the last six years of his administration. But he claimed he has revamped the agriculture-based economy, even though it didn’t add food to poor denizens’ table. Now, he has moved swiftly to devalue the Naira by 8 per cent, much to the gratification of the International Monetary Fund but the displeasure of impoverished Nigerians, who will soon bear the pain of stringent reforms, was not considered.
This is the moment of truth: Mr. Jonathan should redirect his fascistic manacle strength to tackling the far-reaching corruption debacle. Since he took office, his government was said to have embezzled more than N5 trillion, which made his government the most corruption since Nigeria gained flag Independence. The time to act is now. Time is running out.
Erasmus Ikhide wrote in from Lagos, Nigeria. +23480 5622 5515. Follow me on twitter: @erasmusikhide.