It was not the best way to start a year. A business visit to an older friend on January 3 had forced me to wait for him in his home office where we were assaulted with the thrash that passes for NTA news these days. For those of us who were addicted to NTA 9pm flagship news in those days, you will definitely feel pained to the bone marrow seeing the mess viewers are served nowadays.
More painfully, the same hogwash was fed to international audience as a friend who accompanied me could only lament what the station “the largest television network in Africa” has become. We watched it on the NTA International channel on pay television. From the fact that the first five or six stories either had to do with President Muhammadu Buhari or APC campaign activities as seen in footage of the information minister and other officials of the party, we did not know the worst was yet to come. As the friend I was with teased me on the kind of journalism NTA practice now, I continued with the meal of rice and fish our host served us while we waited for him to join us.
That was when the visit of Danielson Bamidele Akpan and his gang of buccaneers posing as leaders of the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) to President Muhammadu Buhari earlier that day came up. Here was a group of students whose schools were under lock and key as their teachers with another strike for an umpteenth time for better welfare and higher funding of their schools with a call on the federal government to honour agreements earlier entered into with them. They came bearing a giant birthday card for a man whose 76th birthday celebration was on December 17 last year, nearly a month earlier. Our NANS leaders also promised our president at least 20 million votes as they are in the majority, quoting Akpan’s exact words.
Now, it’s a campaign season and politicians will always be politicians – to the chagrin of those who sold Buhari to us as the next thing that happened after sliced bread – and so they will do anything and everything to seek votes especially as we have less than 40 days to the presidential election. Painfully too, the methods of seeking those votes have not changed as all manner of folks and groups visit our president regularly now promising votes and more votes. It’s only the villa occupants that are different the style remains the same. I was waiting for Akpan to mention something about the strike or even toe the usual line of appealing to Buhari to do something about the strike that has kept students home for about two months now. I mean we all remember how under the military in those days they will gather people to come and plead with the maximum rulers to rescind a decision and thereby save face. But this was not to be and the chief host too spoke on how the war, or whatever is left of it, on corruption is proceeding.
I nearly choked on my food even as the reportage left my stomach in knots. NANS getting audience with the president and not saying a word about an eight-week strike of university teachers? Though reports later emerged that maybe those who visited are not the authentic leaders of Nigerian students as there is another faction led by Obande Gideon Obande just as Akpan is alleged to have graduated four years ago and even completed his national service, it says so much about the political consciousness of today’s young people that a group of mercenaries could hijack a once virile and politically relevant social movement like NANS and engage in reactionary politics. The NANS of my generation in the late 80s and early 90s not only protested on the streets but also engaged the ruling class in intellectual arguments. Without google or Internet, we provided alternative to the structural adjustment programme of the Ibrahim Babangida government in open debate.
Even some of our leaders then now in bed with the APC–led government like Opeyemi Bamidele and Ogaga Ifowodo must surely be ashamed of the antics of these wannabe student leaders. No doubt, folks like Bamidele Aturu, whom I first met in January 1990 at the University of Ibadan students’ union building shortly after he rejected a national award, must be turning in their graves. But I don’t blame Akpan and his fellow marauders, the blame lies at the doorsteps of those who, hiding behind smartphones and tablets, continue to ignore the political process surrendering it to their mercantilist mates who go by the nebulous tag “social media influencers” peddling lies on behalf of their oppressors. While political education might be zilch, it is up to the young people to reclaim their destiny.
And to the folks at NTA, how do you go to bed every night seeing what you churn out as news?
Have a wonderful 2019.