Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The limits of aluta

TWO reported incidents last week - two days apart - about students in higher institutions have forced a painful conclusion that many students have lost focus. In the quest to acquire knowledge, they want to live big, by whatever means. They have so abused their privileges and have brought their families into disrepute. Perhaps, this should not be stressed too far because we all know the materialistic society we find ourselves. It is bewildering the rate at which boys and girls, men and women are pursuing wealth or ostentatious lifestyles on the campuses, and how they drive themselves to the extreme in search of money to satisfy the ego.

The taste of an average student has changed completely to one of life on the fast lane. There is so much peer group pressure that a little success makes another want to belong. An average male or female student now wants to ride not just a car. He would rather cruise around the campus in a flashy car. He or she wants to compete with bankers or some well paid oil company workers at restaurants; she doesn't want to be left out of the latest in the fashion world, yet the he or she is not in paid employment! From the parents too come barely enough to sustain them in school because most families are currently going through tough times, dancing to 'meltdown', a hit album every family (and country) is enjoying so much now.

It is not as if great students are totally extinct, no. They only come far in-between. Memories are made of the days of Segun Okeowo and other leaders of the banned National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) which later transformed to the present bastardized National Association of Nigerians Students (NANS). Those were the days when students talked in unison and the government listened because they are dealing with articulated, progress-minded youths. At the individual level, the country has witnessed also the era of students whose commitment to the fatherland brought them and their families honours. Many have deservedly taken a place on the roll. For example, Felix 'Owo Blow' Owolabi, Member of the Order of the Niger(MON). An ambassador of the University of Lagos as a student of Physical Education, he shone brightly as a member of the Eagles which brought Nigeria her first gold at the 1980 Cup of Nations. So was 'Chief Justice' Adokiye Amiesimaka (MON), from the same institution, noted for his penetrating runs on the left flank in the same team. This article is by no means restricting the achievers list to the sports circle. They cut across socio-economic spheres. In the same vein, Unilag is not alone in the production of notable leaders. The premier university(Ibadan) and others such as Ife, Nsukka, ABU, Benin, Calabar and more have been excellent, too.

It is unimaginable therefore that from the same great institution (Unilag) today comes the likes of one Lawal Nurudeen who was reportedly jailed for a love scam by an Ikeja High Court for 19 years, specifically for obtaining $47,900 from an Australian woman, Pee Leo Rosalind Summers by false pretence and forgery. The convict, a final year student of the Survey and Geo-Informatics Engineering department was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment on each count. Nuru had met Summers,56, on the Internet in 2007 and introduced himself as a Briton working in Nigeria. The lady was looking for a husband and Nuru fraudulently filled the gap. He invested part of the proceeds in plots of land and a car which were recovered by the EFCC. The rest is history, as they say.

Forty eight hours after the publication on Nuru's misadventure, another Mathematics undergraduate of the University of Ilorin, a certain Kadiri Aliu was being sentenced to three years imprisonment for trafficking in illicit drugs. The NDLEA had arraigned him for allegedly trafficking in cocaine, heroin and Indian hemp to which he pleaded guilty. Aliu's conduct, the judge of the Federal High Court ruled, was despicable. He brought disgrace to his parents who may have invested so much in return for nothing, the judge added. He was described as a danger to the society.

Lawal and Aliu are not the only greedy students with insatiable appetite for luxury living on campuses. We have had cases of students who see virtue in armed robbery, kidnapping, drug peddling, 'Yahoo Yahoo'(Internet scam), cultism and prostitution and are parading the campuses as big boys and girls because of the spending power or the wealth they are exposed to. They flaunt it to the envy of colleagues. So long as they have not been caught, they are still students. In all fairness, this is one area the private universities are trying to make a difference probably due to the tight screening processes they subject their students to before admission. The missionary bent of many of these institutions is really working in their favour for now. The public institutions have not succeeded much in this direction owing to the set-up and limits to intrusion of privacy of students.

WE can hardly divorce the students' craze for material things or instant wealth or a life of luxury from the general malaise in the country. The rot is so deep-rooted everybody wants to ride in private jets, everybody wants to stay in duplexes at the least, no one is interested in being seen as a pauper any longer. An average Nigerian worker is no longer contented with monthly earnings; he wants to register a company with CAC to actualize his contract dreams. It is no longer fashionable sending children to public schools; private schools would be a lot better and if possible keep all the children abroad as status symbols. An elected political office holder starts working from the first month in office to amass wealth to fight the next election four years away. To do this successfully, he has to hold the people hostage and suffer the 'fools' who gave him the mandate until he requires their services again.

It goes without saying that when corruption is promoted in high places to give a few the means to loot the treasury blind, there's little left for the masses to do than to join them if and whenever the opportunity presented itself. Once students for instance realize that the billions of naira that could have been pumped into the education sector are being wasted by a few greedy fellows, the society is indirectly preparing a set of aggrieved souls for ignoble life in future. They just can't wait to graduate before they buy their own cars and build mansions, assuming they resisted the temptation to belong to the group of fast guys on campus.

Life has turned full circle in parenting too. Parental influence has waned completely just as the larger society has failed to check the loss of core values. The multiplicity of religions and worship places has had very marginal effect on these anti-social acts. The society celebrates only the famous and the wealthy. Vanity prevails everywhere.

For students, it is quite normal to struggle or - in their parlance- make runs, but any runs outside of open, legitimate small business ideas to support pocket money from parents or guardians is unacceptable. A prostitute is not a pride of any family but that's what you find among many girls on campuses today. Cultists relish taking lives of fellow students in the competition for power and influence. If a student utilizes his precious time to surf the net all through the night to ensnare innocent people, it is a misadventure. Such people are nothing but a disgrace to the nation.

Every student sees himself as an activist while passing through the higher institution. The battle-cry is always aluta continua (the struggle continues). But there should be a limit to the aluta. A student that ventures into robbery, drug peddling, kidnapping, Internet scam or prostitution is a potential danger to society. His taste for the big apple is one gone awry.