On the Students Union Government

I have been seeing the use of corporate language within the students’ movement. Some of them have become institutionalised. Two examples of such include the addition of “Government” at the back of the Students Union. Another is the use of the corporate world “Office”. There are others and I confess that I was guilty of the latter – once or twice before correcting the strange deviation. Now, let’s take them one by one. /Students Union Government:/ The student movement is not a government. It is — as described — a Movement.

It is analogous to the labour movement and has historically been an ally of the labour movement. The labour movement has a goal which is to articulate the aspiration of its members. So has the students’ movement. With its might and strength, the labour movement can neither claim to be a government; nor claim to have a government. A government, in broad terms, is the machinery of administration that controls the state. The state is well-defined with a territory, population (because membership is not voluntary), and sovereignty. The government of a state, therefore has an effective defence, Police force, immigration and the power to punish offenders according to the laws of the land, a civil service, and a resource control system. It has the power of life and death. In contrast, a student movement is a pressure group.

Period! The interests of its members are all that are important. Nothing else is. It hopes to influence the policies of the government. Therefore, it is ideologically incorrect to think of a Students Union as a Government. It betrays its purpose and meaning. The existence of a legislative body — or judiciary in some places — is simply to serve as a training ground for future leadership. /Office:/ Offices in a student movement are not independent of the movement itself, therefore, nothing at all emanates from the office. All offices within a Students Union exist inside the “Executive Committee” or “Council” in some places. The offices cannot independently take decisions. There’s a contradiction in the use of “Office of the” something to describe or qualify a position in the student movement because it is not a corporate organisation.

It is (supposed to be) mass-based and the leadership shouldn’t divorce itself from the masses. It is dangerous. There are neither independent offices nor individualised positions on a Committee. An advantage is that an erring or rebellious member of the leadership cannot take independent decisions against the collective decision of the leadership committee itself. Chairman of so and so. It is a movement unlike the Federal Government or its ministries and parastatals FRSC or NNPC whose leadership structures are hierarchical. That’s why students historically refer to themselves as “Comrades” – for those that really understand the meaning of the word. It denotes equality, collectivism and fraternity.

Ojo, Aderemi Ibadan, Nigeria ojderemi@gmail.com @RealOjoAderemi


Ojo, Aderemi is a Historian, teacher, public speaker, writer, politician, and community organiser. He was trained at the University of Ibadan and was President of the Students Union.

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