On September 1st 1999, while travelling to the University of Agriculture, Markurdi to plead the case of some expelled union activists, Moses Oisakede lost his life in a car accident on the Ankpa-Markurdi Road.
Moses was travelling in the official car of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). In the car on that fateful day with Moses (who was the NANS President) was Livingstone Akwanga (who also died in the accident), Kennedy Tabuko, Mike Igaga, Steve Ekwerare, Oluwole Babalola, Vincent Agada and Olamide Olatunji (myself). The car ran into a ditch and somersaulted, while attempting to avoid a pot hole. Moses died on the spot, while Livingstone died in my arms on the way to the hospital, after about 40 minutes, trying to get a vehicle to convey him to the hospital.
Moses Oisakede, who at his death was a 28 years old Bio-Chemistry student of the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, had one philosophy of life, which was that “the value of a life is in its contribution to humanity” Between the time of his election at the UI convention in December 1998 to his death in September 1999, he was an exemplary leader of the NANS. Moses who assumed office at a time when the leadership of NANS was being lobbied and hijacked by big money bags and the government, strove to lead without any blemish. Unlike what obtains presently where NANS has been turned into a platform for personal aggrandisement, doling out awards to one discredited politicians or another, jumping from one government office to another while student interests are being attacked, Moses pursued the interests of students without allowing any distractions. He was always on the road, visiting schools, meeting with various schools management, always agitating for a better welfare conditions for Nigerian students and it is not only befitting but also ironic that he should lose his life on one of the numerous trips he undertook in the course of his stewardship.
Eleven years after Moses’ death, it is very disheartening and saddening to discover that the issues which led to the untimely demise of Moses Oisakede and Livingstone Akwange are still prevalent within the education sector and the nation as a whole. These issues are; arbitrary expulsion and dismissal of student union activists, bad and deplorable conditions of our roads, poor state of facilities on our campuses and poor state of health facilities.
One of the common features of the military era was the expulsion and dismissal of student activists without due process of rule of law. It was explained then as a reflection of the national polity, since military men were ruling Nigeria, the Vice-Chancellors too were behaving like military men. But interestingly, eleven years after the departure of military men, the Vice-Chancellors are still behaving like military men. Scores of the student activists are presently expelled or dismissed from various institutions of higher learning across the country. Expulsion and dismissal of student activists rises as a result of intolerance on the part of the vice-chancellors or school managements to dissenting views. In a country where the minimum wage is between N5, 700 – N7, 500, you find a federal institution of learning charging up to N40, 000 as school fees (please how do you reconcile that), inevitably some people are not given access to education and a certificate. Meanwhile to get a decent job, you most likely need a certificate from an institution of higher learning. I am hard pressed to remember when last I read of a student activist expelled from Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge or any of the numerous universities that litter Europe (where the children of our ministers of education and all other political office holders attend) yet on daily/weekly basis student activists are either expelled or suspended in Nigeria.
Moses would certainly not believe that eleven years after his demise, the state of Nigerian roads are worse than they were when he was plunged into a ditch while attempting to avoid a pothole. From Sokoto to Ibadan, Maiduguri to Lagos, Enugu to Aba, all over the nation, the roads are in terrible and horrible conditions. Tens of thousands of Nigerians lose their lives and properties yearly due to the deplorable conditions of the roads, while trillions of naira are pocketed by the contractors and their collaborators in government. In every budget, the works ministry is allocated large sums of money and at the end of the year the minister in charge can not point to how many kilometres of road was built or repaired.
Eleven years ago, when we set out from Ekpoma, the aim was to get to Markurdi to attend the public sitting of the presidential visitation panel set up by then President Obasanjo to look into the various unrest in the universities and redress all cases of victimisation and injustice perpetuated by the vice-chancellors of the military era. Eleven student activists were earlier expelled from the university and the students’ union was banned by the vice-chancellor, so the affected students did not have any mouth piece to voice their grievances to the visitation panel. It was therefore very expedient and imperative that NANS should be at the panel to present their case. Ironically, the same Obasanjo was a president for 8 years that witnessed attacks on student activists and acute under funding of education.
However, at this point, there arises a dilemma. The affected students had at a senate meeting of NANS specifically requested that Moses be physically present at the panel. The reason was that the vice-chancellor, Prof. Gyang had succeeded in bribing previous NANS executive officers who had tried to intervene in the matter. The expelled students trusted and believed that Moses would not betray them. The NANS senate thereby resolved and mandated that Moses should be physically present to make the case of the expelled students at the panel. Unfortunately, the timing of the panel coincided with the examination period at the Ambrose Alli University. Moses had to decide on whether to go against the senate resolution and not go to the panel sitting or put his academics on the line and head to Makurdi. The panel sitting was fixed for a Wednesday; he had exams on Tuesday and Thursday. Finally, Moses arrived at a decision. “Sistar” (he calls me), “I will go to Makurdi”, I was quick to ask how he planned to do it without missing his exams and he replied, “If I miss the exams, I can still re-write it another time, but if I miss Makurdi, those boys might never have the chance to write an exams let alone fail it”. How philosophical that statement turned out to be; Moses missed his exams and he also missed Makurdi, but at least, as a consolation for his soul, I am happy to tell him that “those boys” did have a chance to write exams, though he had to sacrifice his own chance.
Sacrifice is what leadership is about, but not so for Nigerian leaders. They do not and can not sacrifice anything for their followers. That is why the senate president earns N88 million per month, while minimum wage is N7,500 per month. Nigerian leaders can not sacrifice, that is why some weeks back, the federal executive council, voted about 23 billion naira for the purchase of three aircrafts to add to the presidential fleet, when the entire nation is in darkness and factories are running on generators. Recently, the British Prime Minister travelled to attend a conference via rail, according to him “the recent economic crisis has made my government cut down on expenses”. Can you imagine President Goodluck travelling to Cameroon by rail, (please spit it out).
I remember very vividly the song which was composed and rendered with solemnity by the students of Ambrose Alli University at the burial of Moses Oisakede.
Moses don die o!
Alele ku ele
If dem no expel us, Moses no go die
If dem give us good roads, Moses no go die
If dem build hospitals, Livingstone no go die
Na now u go know say government people bad
Simple condolence dem no fit to send
Moses don die o!
Alele ku ele.
It is a pity that eleven years ago, we are still at where we were, perambulating!
Former NANS Activists and Currently the Director of Administration of a Private School in Lagos.