Hi Comrades; I trust you are doing fine. You reached out to me a while ago when we were both guests on the Nigeria Television Authority’s (NTA) Good Morning Nigeria show. I had felt it was an opportunity to connect and perhaps to rebuild and to refocus. I still think the opportunity is there. This initiative about South Africa is one thing in question. Given that we are Africa’s most populous country and the youth bulge of our population, I am guessing that we would have the largest student population on the continent, and therefore the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) would most likely be Africa’s largest students’ federation.
Herein lies an opportunity therefore to play a leadership role continentally and to place Pan Africanism at the heart of NANS’ external relationships and foreign policy thrust. Besides, Pan Africanism also offers the added opportunity to build national unity and national cohesion back at home. For one thing if one is engaged in forging Pan African Continental unity on a progressive basis; then one is forced to also seek to actively pursue the cause of national unity back at home. Thence with a Pan Africanist agenda one can use the proverbial single stone to kill the proverbial two birds here – build national cohesion and continental unity.
So back to the incidents with the Republic of South Africa (RSA), and the potentially game changing role that students, African students, led by Nigerian students can play in transforming this situation. Nigerian students under the leadership of NANS should reach out to South African Students under the leadership of their students’ federation to discuss the issue of the security and safety of African students and African citizens studying and or resident in African countries other than their own. An agreement for building mutual understanding around Pan African unity can be reached, including agreements on making joint demands to their respective governments and to the African Union (AU) on the question of the necessity to urgently put in place and activate bilateral and multilateral mechanisms for the protection of citizens of other countries resident in countries other than their own.
Students can insist that since they form a sizeable percentage of the internal African diaspora, and since their parents are the overwhelming majority of the other internal African diaspora, then they should as organised bodies along with the trade unions have roles to play in these bilateral and multilateral mechanisms for the unbiased protection of residents of every country without prejudice to country of citizenship. Now why bring in the labour/trade unions? First because of the demand from NANS for South African businesses to leave Nigeria, and there is also the issue that is playing out in Ghana with respect to Nigerian businesses at the moment.
Such demands can become counter-productive, and may hurt more than they ameliorate. For instance, the South African businesses in Nigeria employ Nigerians. In other words, the overwhelming majority of their employees are Nigerians who will lose their jobs if South African businesses are forced to close shop unceremoniously. The impact on the Nigerian economy may also be negative, if not extremely so. What therefore would have been a more uniting demand? A demand more capable of promoting the kind of Pan African unity that can encourage Pan African integration, and mitigate xenophobia and thus reduce incidences of xenophobic attacks. My advice to Nigerian students therefore is that they should reach out to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU) etc. NANS should also consider reaching out to the South African students’ federation, and the other students’ federations on the continent.
These outreaches will enable NANS get the contacts of these other unions through NLC and through the embassies of their countries in Nigeria, and seek to collaboratively work out solutions to the present crisis. Nigerian students by taking up this issue should be commended. By this act they are already showing that the future of our country is their prerogative. However in reaching out to embrace their destiny, they require guidance.
Nigerian students, now is the time to rise up and embrace your historic mission, for Frantz Fanon once said – “every generation must out of relative obscurity, discover their mission; and fulfill it, or betray it”. Our future awaits our sculpting hands and our visionary minds.
Jaye Gaskia, a frontline social activist is Coordinating Director at ThinkAct Consults, an Abuja based think tank.