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INTELLECTUALISM ALL THE WAY!

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My father used to say, ‘Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument’ ~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Last week, the canvas of history received a new stroke as students of the university ushered in a new crop of individuals to pilot their union. A new stroke because it would mark the first time ‘a noble man’ would become President-elect of the Students’ Union after its resurrection. And though many might not have noticed, we currently still have a Bellite as the Speaker of the SRC. And as a matter of fact, another statesman from the breed is the Vice Chancellor himself – Professor Idowu Olayinka. This formation of nobility may be a hotcake for conspiracy theorists and career propagandists, but to me it means nothing.

Away from this milords, I must share with you a more crucial and germane observation. Different persons have different explanations for the outcome of the presidential election. Some propose the ‘Twin Fall Theory’ saying Uites are averse to the idea of ‘buy-one-get-one-free’. Some say it is because of a candidate’s sudden possession by the restive spirit of aluta in the space of one year. They prophesied that the spirit would soon enough succumb to the law of gravity. This may be drawn from the theory of planned behaviour. Others even dare suggest the intellectually-repugnant ‘Fine-boy Theory’. I’m sure we all know what that implies. However milords, my humble submission is this – the age-old rivalry between the wits of intellectualism and the fist of radicalism is what again played out before our very eyes on April 16, not just between the aspirants but their followers as well. On this, I will say no more.

Since the time of the ancient Assyrians, unionism has constantly been represented through the raised, clenched fist; a symbol of resistance and perhaps revolution.  But many now erroneously consider this symbol to be a sanction of brutish acts of violence no matter whose tooth is sacrificed to the earth god. They think the only way to achieve the ideals of justice, freedom and equality is by disrupting peace and shouting choruses to the skies. They see things only from one angle but expect perfection in all directions.

Robert Cook once advised thus, ‘say and do something positive that will help the situation’. He then added that, ‘it doesn’t take any brains to complain’. What this underscores is the superiority of productive action above emotive expression. The world is where it is today, in terms of advancement, because someone somewhere donned his thinking cap, ditched his comfort zone, relaxed his finger of blame and took sincere steps to better the lot of the lot. Imagine if Thomas Edison had devoted his intelligence into blaming the government and carrying placards. We would all perhaps be having candle nights today even without bereavement. Imagine also if Alexander Graham-Bell had cursed long distances and poor transport networks rather than invent what he did. There is no telling what hurdles we would still be crossing till this day.

The whole point of intellectualism is to think. To think deeply about what to demand from the state and to think about what to give back to the state. To ask for the things you deserve and to not ask for the moon. To exert your grey matter in providing solutions and not just exercise your lips in raising objections. And in the famous words of JFK, to ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. Intellectualism, milords, is the administration of a pill to cure headache. Radicalism, on the other hand, is the banging of the head on a wall till it goes on strike. Intellectualism is to understand that it takes care to kill a mosquito which has perched on the scrotum, while radicalism is attempting to kill a fly with a canon.

I apologise milords for my many illustrations, but it is only with this that I hope to convince you. We have heard of students who start protests because they have nothing to do or too much to do (e.g. books to read for imminent tests). They call on others under some commonplace pretext, and those too join in knowing absolutely nothing about the cause of the uproar. Before you know it, a congress is called, speeches are made, lectures are stopped and the school is locked. Before you know it, the police are called, lives are lost, students are sent home and days turn to months. Before you know it, scholarship grants are forfeited, job opportunities are missed, poor parents are left wondering how to provide more allowees and lives are silently wasted.

To conclude milords, radicalism has been in vogue since time immemorial and it has never worked. In Egypt for instance, radicalism led to the overthrow of the dictator, Hosni Mubarak. And amongst other things, the radicalism of the democratically elected President equally led to the imposition of another dictator. It is high time we tried something different by enthroning common-sense above the intoxicating liquors of gira-gira. No wonder the Tanzanians affirm that a roaring lion kills no game. It takes patience and intelligence to put food on the table.

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RADICALISM IS THE WORD

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“Sometimes, anger can be a perfectly reasonable response.” – Roxanne Gay

In a world where dialogue fails and negotiations fall through, it becomes acutely naïve to romance intellectualism as a way out of this ghost town of prejudice. The Students’ Union, ever since its re-instatement, has been a rottweiler on an iron leash. It growls and barks but never bites. Why? It has been caged with the bars of the slave mentality and until it is freed, the union will always be known only for creating third-rate packages and organising lukewarm Students’ Union weeks. In kinder words, the union is doomed to remain inconsequential. Who then can free it? My Lords, I present to you, a seasoned warrior of earth-shattering vibrancy: Mr. Radicalism. 

Before we delve into the arguments, let us make something clear: the spirit of unionism in the University of Ibadan is a hot mess. It is no different from a collection of headboys and headgirls, dutifully doing the bidding of the school administration. For too long, we have sat upon the throne of injustice, wearing a crown of flames. We must refuse to continue down this trajectory and redeem ourselves. We cannot –we must not – continue to intellectualise mediocrity. We have done that for too long and the fact that one feels the need for this topic proves that it has not worked. At all! The true purpose of our being as a union has been misplaced. We need an entire overhaul of our approach to unionism. For this reason, we need to stop keeping mute in the face of oppression, all in the hypocritical name of intellectualism. Who are we fooling?

Apart from empowerment, the major responsibility of a union is to serve as a pressure group. Unionism is all about fighting for the rights of a certain people. In an era where students are repeatedly maltreated and otherised, as in UNILAG and a place called UI where the VC explicitly made it clear that the staff are his priority, it is of extreme necessity that the Students’ Union rises to the occasion and fights for the rights of its members. It will amount to nothing but stupidity for one to go to a gunfight with a pocket-knife, unless you are Jet Li of course. We cannot hope to battle the school management –masters of intellectual manipulation and vast academic resources- with our own infantine brand of intellectualism. One thing that history has proven to always work is anger – positively-channeled anger I mean. We need to be aggressive in the way we request demand for our rights.

Long ago, our Union was a raging beauty whose foxiness burned the loins of on-lookers. A true sight to behold, so many schools modelled theirs after ours. An impeccable role model, we stood high among the stars. Now, we swim with the fishes. It is indeed a petrifying affair. Forget the school management for a second; we have become a joke to other student unions, a laughing stock only to be respected in momentous sifting through the pages of history books. Our halcyon days are way behind us with ridiculous alacrity and crystal-clear veracity. We need a serious Project Work that will #BringBackOurUnion. Only a blind man will begin to argue that a revolution is not needed.

In humble conclusion, I beg to differ with my opponent’s stance. We have been on his side for too long. It is time to try another way, not for the sake of it but because, as I have argued, is expedient at this point if we are to save our union from this debilitating situation. And I believe my case is hereby rested!

CONCLUSION: This column is about you, it presents the two sides of a case courtesy of two writers from different schools of thought. “Audi alteram partem” means hear the other side before passing your judgment. Take the gavel, make your decision and slam because you are the judge in this courtroom. 

BETTER APPROACH TO UNIONISM: INTELLECTUALISM OR RADICALISM?
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