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STUDENT UNIONISM IS DIFFERENT TODAY – MAXWELL NYANABO, INTERIM SUG PRESIDENT UNIPORT

INTERVIEW 261

Last week Tuesday will remain one i will fondly remember as i sat with a dynamic young man talking talks. Don’t pay any attention to me.  Sitting with me that evening at the conference room of the Student affairs was Maxwell Soye Nyanabo, the  interim SUG President. Maxi was the Speaker of the legislative arm of the student Union Government. He assumed the post after of the elected executives of  the concluded rescheduled SUG election was suspended due to alleged irregularities and protest from a wide section of the student population. The guy spoke well as a student leader and he was able to prove that he knows his onion.  As we talked, i remembered my days as a student leader. Memorable indeed. I engaged him in topics ranging from Student unionism to exam malpractice, from cultism on campus to what makes UNIPORT unique. Please put on your glasses if you need one and join me@the conference room as i talk with  the humble Comrade Maxwell Nyanabo

 

How does it feel being the SUG President of Uniport?
This is not the first time i am actually leading. I have been speaker, leading over a hundred Parliamentarians. So i have been serving Nigeria students. I feel it is a clarion call to serve Nigeria students. We are ready to relinquish power as soon as the election process is rectified.

Does it make you a different person?
Not really. I am still myself.

Do we still have students unionism as it was in those days?
Actually i will say No! Because from information we gathered in the past, we heard of agitations. This time we are doing more of dialogue. Gone are those days when students go out to the streets, shutting gates, etc. I believe the only thing that is constant is change. If you can get what you want through writing, i don’t think there is need to go out shooting. So there is a difference between now and then because we get what we want through writing and dialogue. The spirit of the union is still there but but in a different way.

Students Union Governments in Nigeria were capable of bringing change to the system, but today you can hardly feel their impact. They can’t even bark talk-less of biting.Could it be the reason that it is weakened because of interference from the authorities in imposing candidates. What’s your take on that?

I want to correct that notion that the Student Union Government is weak. The power is still there. If there is interference from the management, then it is the fault of the student leaders because there is no way the school’s management will come in if they were not invited by the leaders. It is the selfish leaders that would have hijacked the process to the management for their own interest.

What is the role of the SUG in contemporary Nigeria?
The SUG is a government that can mediate for the students. If we have challenges or difficulties, it is the Student Union Government that comes in to mediate for the students. We represent the students at all levels. We have the issue of poor hostels, poor lecture halls.
The Student Union Government was not founded by the management but the by the students to represent them at all levels, not only in the school but outside.
We are working on a one month skill acquisition on catering, computer engineering, etc. Why are we bringing all these? At the end of the programme the students will be awarded certificates.it is not all about being awarded a university degree but they need this skills to back them up after graduation. We are trying to get sponsor from organisations like the NDDC. Let it not be that we are just here to learn and go, because what we do in school is more of theories. We hardly carryout practicals so if we do this programme, it will help our students have what the labour market actually need for them to have a job.
So the SUG works for the common Nigerian students. We help them defend their right. Some students don’t even know their right. They are being intimidated because they don’t know their right. The SUG helps them to know what to do when their right is being violated.
We are discussing with the management to bring down the cost of our hostels. Those are the things the student Union Government is doing for the students.
You know that an ordinary student can’t just walk up to the VC but the Student Union Government has free access to table before him their problems. So those are the basic things we are doing.

What do you bring into this office that you think will make you stand out as one of the best in UNIPORT?
Like i said before, the skill acquisition programme is our initiative and the first of its kind. We want students to know that this interim government can actually deliver. We are working on the transport sector, the hostels. We are working to give them good certificates that will help them after they graduate. I am doing this to make my fellow students feel good so that when they go outside

Cultism in our schools seems to be old fashioned today. What could be responsible?
Gone are those days when students come into the campus without good information and at the end of the day, they don’t graduate. In those days you see people graduate at 35 or 40 but today you see young ones of 17 and 18 graduating, students that have a bright future.
Our security system has also been beefed up by the management. So the activities of the cult groups have been weakened. There is no way you can remove cultism completely on campus but if students are well informed on the disadvantages of being a member, they will be able to make a wise choice. So today, information and security has helped to reduce cultism.

The standard of Education in Nigeria is one of the worst in the world despite the human and material resources at our disposal. Why is this so?
You said something about human and material resources. What are the material resources we have? I am a science student. I can tell you that if you go round the laboratories, you can hardly find good Lab equipment. There are some practicals we hardly carryout because no equipment.
Some days ago i chatted with a friend who said her younger sister schools in Ghana and i said, what is there? How can someone in primary 3 be sent to Ghana to learn, in a place where her family members are not in. She said it is because of the facilities they have there. Its possible.
Our lecturers do more of the theories, so what would you achieve without being involved in practicals.
A German Philosopher will say ” show me, i will forget, teach me, i may forget but involve me, i will never forget.” The truth is that we are not well informed. We just go to classes for theories and no practicals.

Exam malpractice has become embedded in our academic culture . Why do you think it still persist and how can it be reduced?
I am not ignorant that to some extent we have unserious students. A lecturer will not set an exam on what he has not taught. The problem we have is that our lecturers are not doing what they are suppose to do. For example , the university policy says that if you don’t attend 70% of classes, you won’t be allowed to write an exam, but if attendance is not taken and exam is set for a student who has not been attending classes, what do you expect that student to do? You have not given to the person, so what do you expect that person to give back to you?
I am a year 4 student and i don’t do that. I am a member of the Scripture Union here on campus. It goes against our doctrine. No matter how busy i am, i still find out time to study. That is why i can contest for office on campus. Our policy is that if you don’t have 3.5, you can’t contest.
The truth is that we are being given that which we know. Another thing is that most lecturers hardly come to class. I did a course this year that the lecturer did not come to class at all but exam was set. Tell me, what do you expect me to do? Although i have seen the past questions but that is not enough. I expect the lecturer to come to class. The lecturers should be there to guide the students.
I am not saying that the lecturers are not trying. They are trying to some extent but they have to implement all the University’s policies.

Millions of graduates are unemployed. What should be done to prepare undergraduates for life after school?
That is why the SUG has brought this skills acquisition programme to kelp students after school. Out there, people are not looking at what you graduate with, whether first class or not. They are looking at what you can offer practical wise. If you have what it takes, you can be self employed and even employ other persons. This is because you have the practical knowledge.
We are co-operating with the university Entrepreneur Center to make sure we are not just giving out paper but a good certificate they can use.

Do you think the NYSC programme is still relevant?
It is relevant. We come to the University to get experience, but in the NYSC, you are there to serve your country. As a graduate, you  have the knowledge and experience and you take it to the NYSC to help children in the secondary schools where you teach during the programme. The students need the information and experience you bring to them. That is why i say that part time students should be allowed to go for the NYSC. If you look at our part time, you will see students that are 18,19 and 20 years of age. Students that are willing to serve Nigeria, not looking at the money.
To me it is a clarion call to serve your nation to give back. But the issue of Boko Haram should make the government send Corps members to places that are safe. They should send them to places where their life and future will not end. We have lost lots of our future leaders in the hands of Boko Haram, but i am still in support of the NYSC.

What is outstanding about UNIPORT that makes it different from others?
We are unique in our way. If you go to any office today, you will see our Unique students. The President of the country, the Rivers State Governor, the former Governor of Bayelsa State were students of UNIPORT.
Once in a while, the school’s management organizes leadership training to change our mentality. I believe we are unique in that, because we are being given that which we need. Our medical doctors are unique. The university has what it takes.

Ogaga Onokwakpor

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