Concern as Student Union leaders copy Nigerian politicians’ bloated cabinet sizes

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BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO

Some concerned stakeholders have accused Nigerian mainstream politicians of influencing the upcoming generation wrongly in political administration and leadership styles.

Specifically, they said the trending political culture of plethora of appointments by Students’ Union leaders was a signal that the nation’s future in terms of politics and governance was bleak.

Nigerians were recently thrown into shock following the appointment of no fewer than 30 aides by the President of the Students’ Union at Akwa Ibom State University, Abasifreke Benson.

In a letter he signed, the student leader said the appointments of the special assistants were pertinent to ensure his administration’s effective and smooth running.

The appointments include the Chief of Staff, Chief Press Secretary, Chief Security Officer, and eight SAs on media and publicity, among others.

Similarly, the Students Union President of the Osun State College of Education, Ila Orangun, Taye Adeoluwa,appointed 30 aides for the smooth running of his administration.

Adeoluwa, in a statement, said, “After due consideration, investigation and thorough screening, I hereby offer these appointments to the following personalities for effective and smooth running of this administration.”

Amidst economic turbulence and mass poverty, President Bola Tinubu parades 45 ministers and about 20 special advisers, thus setting a record for the highest number of ministers since 1999. This development is not different from what is obtainable at the state government levels across the country as governors also maintain bloated cabinets.

Nigerians have described the development as insensitive and costly at a time governments have called upon the populace to endure record inflation and general hardship. They said the President and Governors’ failures to rein in the cost of governance from the top was disappointing and wicked.

Reacting to how leaders of undergraduates have decided to emulate mainstream politicians, a renowned human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, described the appointments as a destructive political culture that hadtaken over Nigeria’s higher institutions.

“What will the President of the Union then be doing in view of this long list of appointees and aides? His Excellency forgot to appoint a Senior Special Adviser and a Special Adviser on Legal Matters.

“There is a terrible political culture that has evolved in Akwa Ibom State; the culture of seeing ‘political appointments’ and proximity to power as the beginning and the end of life. This destructive political culture has infested higher institutions and is very sad,” Effiong lamented while referring to Benson.

Another citizen, Ekoh Collins, said, “This is exactly what is happening at the top that the followers are copying and practising.

This is a clear indication that our students Union government is only now instituted to embezzle funds instead of solving the union’s problem.”

Meanwhile, findings by The Point revealed that the appointees would not be receiving any statutory salaries or incentives from the Students Union body and neither would the management of tertiary institutions affected consider paying them in the budget.

In an interview with The Point, the immediate past President of the SU of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Olayiwola Folahan, said the aides would operate as volunteers and that they were necessary because the President’s duties were so demanding.

“I am not sure if there is any budget for Students’ Union Presidents to use in paying their aides. At least, I am sure that OAU doesn’t pay its Students Union Presidents and so, their aides should not expect any incentives. I think everybody would have to work freely and it is also an opportunity for them to have leadership qualities and assist the President,” he said.

Folahan justified the appointments, saying, “Students Union Presidents have enormous duties to perform on campus and out of campus and so these aides assist them because the Presidents cannot do everything. He has a lot of responsibilities. So, the Presidents parading many aides is to also give them leadership experience.”

Also condemning the appointments in an interview with The Point, a former SU leader at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Tobi Olanipekun, said the controversial styles of governance of Nigerian politicians had crept into students’ unionism.

Olanipekun advocated for attitudinal change from ivory towers before students join the politics of the larger society.

While asking the managements of tertiary institutions to re-examine how politics is being played on campus, Olanipekun said higher institutions of learning ought to be places that should set the pace in political administration, according to global standard.

“I have always said that the Students’ Union is a reflection of the larger society. They see government officials appointing many aides, and you see aides to Governors, Senators and others also having aides. That style of the mainstream politics has crept into the Students’ Union and this will boomerang sooner than later for our country.

“I believe very strongly that it should be the Students’ Unionism that should be the bedrock of what happens in the larger society.

Unfortunately, even the young students’ union leaders are exhibiting the traits of the mainstream politicians,” he stated.

“I am also disappointed with President Bola Tinubu for appointing 45 ministers at a time we are talking about cutting the cost of governance. We are the future and we need to do things rightly,” he added.

Explaining how student leaders get funds for their activities, Olanipekun said, “The Students’ Union appointments don’t come with any monetary benefits. At FUTA, students pay directly to the school management and when the Students’ Union writes their budgets, the management will now allocate money to them from their purse. Depending on the campus’ financial strength, the yearly budget of students’ unions is between N4 million and N20 million.”