Comrade Olaseinde Adeyinka, fondly called NEWTON by his admirers, is a 23-year old former Students Union President (SUG) and a final year Student of Federal University of Technology (FUTA), Akure, Ondo State. In this interview with our correspondent, the activist said his number one priority for running for the apex leadership of the Nigerian Students is to effect a positive change through reformation of the values system of members of his generation. According to NEWTON, the time for the real students to take over the leadership of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) from those he described as “Career Students” is now. Excerpt
You served a SUG President of FUTA, what are your legacies?
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 a 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 percent. I left the mark of the “People’s President” – I was easily approachable, I received calls at midnight from students harassed by some unit of the police force, and I’d rush down that night; I made a 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. All, 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.
You are almost the youngest person to run for the office of NANS President in the last two decades. Do you think the current NANS system will allow you triumph at the upcoming convention of the umbrella body of Nigerian Students?
Amazingly, yes! Very well. 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 emerged 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 back NANS to the young majority, to the actual students who can relate more to students’ peculiarities will be actualized at the coming 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 “SORO SOKE” generation, is up to the task.
What are your programmes for the Nigerian Students? Simply put, 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, ring 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 a 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 values and institutions of unquestionable integrity globally.
Nigerian Students in public universities have been wallowing at home for almost 10 months due to an industrial action embarked upon by ASUU. If you emerge as NANS president, how will you ensure this ugly scenario is not allowed to happen?
“When two elephants fight, the grass always suffers.” ASUU is a union itself, paddled with the responsibility to ensure its members have the best of life. FG 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? As NANS President, I will ensure if at all there is a reason for them to clash, the fight would be shifted from the figurative grass of students to 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 at heart.
The ripples from #ENDSARS protest is still booming. How will you ensure that the rights of Nigerian youths are safeguarded?
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 the youth of this country. I founded the SIR NEWTON REBIRTH INITIATIVE after an antecedent marked with exploits as a student leader where I served meritoriously as a class Governor of my faculty in my first year, served as the PRO of my state’s indigenous association, to serving as the 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.
Lastly, what will you like to be remembered for after your tenure 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 student. In the spirit of Aluta, with the support of the people, we shall conquer all obstacles and ensure NANS experiences a rebirth. Vox Populi, Vox Dei (The voice of the people is the voice of God.). Thank you.