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[The Concourse] Of school resumption: time to showcase our humanity

OF SCHOOL RESUMPTION: Time to showcase our humanity

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The news about the calling off of the chronic ASUU strike was not received with expected cheers by many for obvious reasons. First, the student were already rusty, as full academic session was lost to avoidable disagreement between FG and the University lecturers.

Another reason was the second wave of Covid which is on rampage despite its perceived exaggeration in some corners; coupled with delayed resolution between ASUU and FG which made the industrial action to be called off when the ovation was low.

These made the calling off of the perenial strike action less appealing to the minds of Nigerians.
That is what obtains when unionists and/or players in corridors of power lack patriotism in pursuit of interests.

But that is not the Crux of today’s discourse. We are out to make a special appeal to the Landlords, Landladies and host communities of universities.

When Pope Benedict XVI made that ‘unheard of’ historic decision to resign from the Papacy in 2013, one man — Rev. Fr. Federico Lombardi who had caught obscured image over the years became a global celebrity of a sort. He was the Vatican spokesperson at the time. And so, was ladened with the responsibility of briefing the world on the pre-conclave sessions until the white smoke of Pope Francis’ election emerged.

More recently, in 2015, we could see how the then tension-soaked Nigeria’s political landscape made Prof. Attahiru Jega a broad daylight celebrity. At a point, midway to the final announcement of the presidential election results, Jega was the most important personality in Nigeria.

That was the same way NCDC was another average parastatal in Ministry of Health until corona virus entered Nigeria, and Dr. Chikwe Ihekwazu and his team became the centre-point of attraction to Nigerian press and over 200 million Nigerians.

In life, situations will always arise that transforms a hitherto less known personalities into VIP status (even if temporarily).

Juxtaposed with the current post-ASUU strike days, house owners in many university host communities are the most important figures today. As undergraduates return to school, news of rancour and acrimony between them and owners of many off-campus lodges are being reported.

The logic is that the students paid rent for a whole calendar year, but the industrial action chased them off the apartments. A years later today, they are back to their lodges hoisting an expired rent agreements. Landlords insisted they have to pay afresh, and these students are struck in bewilderment.

They trusted that the Landlords would give them a waiver considering the unfortunate situation that was neither their making nor the Landlords’.

It is a dilemma.

Legally, and going by letters of the Law, those Landlords were right. So long as the receipt of your rent exceeded its validity period, you’re obliged to renew or park out! But going by the spirit of the Law, it is a moral burden on them to consider the students’ ordeal and grant them a waiver.

All these are the direct consequences of lack of students’ welfare in our citadels of learning.

Two groups of people that readily comes to mind here are the University management staff members and the Students’ Parents Association. They have to forge a common front and appeal to the conscience of these Landlords to tamper justice with mercy.

While no one can justly indict the Landlords, it is worthy of note that in a recessed economy like ours, financial instability is plaguing both the Landlords and student-tenants alike. We should also not overlook the unveiled reality that government’s failure and untamed greed of our leaders made it impossible for our universities to have functional hostels, otherwise at least 70% of our students would not be wallowing in utter helplessness clashing with Landlords for rent reduction or waiver.
The level of infrastructural decay, and shameful lack of maintenance culture made our universities’ halls of residence nauseating sights to behold.

Most management staffs of our universities are engaged in private hostel business. And so for them it would be foolhardy and counter productive advocating for government to rehabilitate students halls of residence in universities. This indirect capitalist system which our leaders inordinately enthroned, is hunting us as a people.
How do you expect a senator who has the monopolist franchise of electric generator importation to support the bill on repositioning PHCN in the parliament?

But now that our parents and wards are faced with uninhabited rent, we are appealing to all parties to follow the spirit of the Law instead of its letters. There is no better time to showcase our humanity and the fraternal affection that was native to Africa before the selfish cancker worm of capitalism burrowed its way into the fabric of our subsisting culture.

We have to acknowledge and appreciate the host communities and Landlords of Michael Okpala University of Agriculture Umudike and Usman Danfodio University Sokoto. The latest news from these centres confirm that some of them have shown high level of generosity to the students and have granted pay cut on rent for the new session.

May this serve as a shinning example, and may our appeal touch the hearts of many more entrepreneurs who own the lands and houses of our undergraduates as they loiter the street in search of succour and shelter.

✍Eze Jude O.


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