Olaseinde Adeyinka, fondly called NEWTON, is a former Students Union President (SUG) and a final year student of Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), Ondo State who is aspiring to be the national leader of Nigerian students. He speaks with YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE on the need for positive change through reformation of the value system for this generation, ASUU strike and other issues.
NIGERIAN students in public universities have been home for almost 10 months due to an industrial action embarked upon by ASUU. What do you think of the impasse between ASUU and the government?
It is said that when two elephants fight, the grass always suffers. ASUU is a union that on its part is saddled with the responsibility to ensure its members have the best of life while the Federal Government has the responsibility, under the social contract theory, to deliver the best of the education sector. Because of that, there might be clashes between these two bodies in a bid to reach a reasonable consensus. However, are there ways ASUU and FG can clash without students being grossly affected? I think this is the period when the student leadership should come in. As NANS President, I will ensure if at all there is a reason for the two to clash; the fight would be shifted from the figurative grass which is the students elsewhere, to reduce the effect on students. The educational sector is as important as other sectors; in fact, it has the single largest demography of young people. And every bit of ASUU-FG negotiations must have students’ welfare at heart.
We are still experiencing the ripples of the ENDSARS protest, how will you ensure that the rights of Nigerian youths are safeguarded if you become the leader?
Permit me to talk about my engagements before being a NANS presidential aspirant. I believe it is necessary to understand my stance on the rights of youths in this country. I founded the Sir Newton Rebirth Initiative after laying down an antecedent marked with exploits as a student leader after serving meritoriously as a class governor of my faculty in my first year, public relations officer of my state’s indigenous association, Students Union President of the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) and later appointed as Vice-President, Nigerian Students and Youths Association (NISAYA). The major aim of the Rebirth Initiative is to breed a new set of norms that will ensure the rights of everyone especially, the youth are protected. I will also stand for and not against fundamental human rights.
What are your legacies as a SUG President that makes you think you can handle NANS presidency?
I left a legacy of true unionism, with fierce agitation for students’ welfare. Before my tenure, there was this narrative that the SUG was only a puppet in the hands of the school management; hence, there is usually little incentive for student politicians to agitate for students’ rights in that respect. But my tenure ensured that students were a top priority in every one of our negotiations with those at the corridor of power. One evident outcome of that was the reduction of the acceptance fee by about 20 per cent. I left the mark of the “People’s President.” I was approachable; I used to receive calls at midnight from students harassed by some unit of the police force and I would rush down that night; I made conscious effort to solve off-campus electricity problem because I was part of the struggle myself. The mutual inclusiveness of the hardship students’ face was clear to me, and it helped me to solve the challenges better. I worked for history and posterity and today, I thank God I did that. I thank God for his grace, wisdom, knowledge and understanding all through the time I held the insignia of power at FUTASU.
At 23, you are almost the youngest person to run for the office of NANS President in the last two decades. Do you think you can win with the current NANS system?
Amazingly, I will say yes. And I believe very well too. In the course of my campaign, I’m elated by the way stakeholders are willing to be part of the revolution to ensure a new reality emerges in NANS. The hunger and thirst for a NANS Rebirth seem to be abreast already and I am more than glad to be pioneering this movement. By the grace of God, the movement to bring NANS back to the young majority, to the actual students who can relate more to students’ peculiarities will be actualised at this convention. Every system is subjected to change. The Nigerian mainstream political structure has witnessed a breakthrough with the #NotTooYoungToRun bill, I believe the best way to effect this change is to begin with NANS. Let young capable heads rule NANS and deliver, then it will be easier for Nigerians to believe that the younger generation is up to the task.
Why do you want to be NANS President?
I and the Rebirth team didn’t just wake up one day to say we want NANS presidency, it was strategically planned and ordained by God Almighty. I called it the Rebirth Agenda; to rebrand and register the NANS brand for the progress of Nigeria, Ensure the interest and dignity of Nigerian Students remain sacrosanct while maintaining a cordial relationship with the government and other organisations, bring NANS back to the young vibrant majority, initiate a lasting and cheap internet access for Nigerian Students in accordance to the demands of the global world, revive and revitalize the state of our Student Union and accord more relevance to the office of the president, to find lasting solution to the continuous strike action affecting students, help build a NANS that balances intellectualism with sagacity, a NANS that is taken seriously by men and women of valour and institutions of unquestionable integrity globally.
What will you like to be remembered for a if you emerge as NANS President?
I would like to be remembered as a person who fought bravely and with honour for the interest of Nigerian students. In the spirit of Aluta, with the support of the people, we shall conquer all obstacles and ensure NANS experiences a rebirth.
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