NANS: Nigerian Students in the Crosshairs of Corruption, Violence, and Neglect, Written by Olakunle Okebiorun

A shocking video surfaced on the internet, revealing the harrowing extent to which Nigeria’s National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has degenerated from a voice for students’ rights to a corrupted, violent group manipulated by self-serving politicians. The brutal attacks between student members, armed with machetes, paint a disconcerting picture of the political climate in Nigeria, underscoring the perilous state of the nation’s youth and political culture.

The malady afflicting NANS is not merely a singular case of corruption, but rather an endemic issue in Nigeria’s political sphere. For years, politicians have exploited students, using them as proxies in their power struggles, and offering hollow promises while fostering a toxic environment of corruption and violence. This systemic decay has caused a malignant ripple effect throughout the country’s institutions, fueling a maelstrom of mistrust and disillusionment.

In a tragic twist, the Nigerian government has neglected to empower NANS with the resources it needs to effectively champion the cause of the country’s youth. Instead, NANS has been left to languish in a morass of corruption and violence, bereft of the guidance and support needed to become a strong, peaceful voice for Nigeria’s youth. This failure underscores the Nigerian government’s inability to prioritize the needs of its young people, resulting in a generation of disillusioned and disenfranchised citizens.

Nigerian youth, bereft of proper education and adequate opportunities, find themselves adrift in a sea of uncertainty, susceptible to the enticing lure of violence and corruption. At the root of this disquiet lies the government’s continued neglect of the young generation, a disturbing pattern that has stoked disenchantment and division among students. The same government that fans the flames of inter-student violence during elections has failed to furnish the youth with the skills and support they need to thrive in a rapidly-evolving world.

In a wider context, NANS’ decline is symptomatic of a pervasive trend of deterioration among Nigerian civil society organizations. Once-vibrant youth groups, such as the Nigerian Union of Students (NUS) and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), have fallen victim to the same maladies that plague NANS—corruption, infighting, and an unwillingness to prioritize the needs of the young. This deepening rot threatens to undermine the potential of Nigeria’s youth and the capacity of civil society to effect meaningful change.

NANS’ descent from a promising beacon of Nigerian youth to a quagmire of corruption and violence is a poignant parallel to the trajectory of the Nigerian state itself. Both entities, once filled with promise and possibility, have been compromised by the corruptive forces of greed, disunity, and a lack of vision. The bleak trajectory of NANS underscores the acute need for comprehensive reform across all levels of Nigerian society—a metamorphosis that, if realized, could awaken the country to its untapped potential and reclaim its future as a prosperous, just society.

The harrowing case of NANS illustrates the crying need for Nigeria to forge a new, fairer social and political contract. A system that consistently and egregiously fails to guarantee fundamental human rights and opportunities to its citizenry—especially its youth—is bound to collapse under the weight of its own injustice and inequity. The country’s future hinges on a fundamental restructuring of its social, political, and economic systems, with a renewed focus on the needs and aspirations of the young generation.

The fall of NANS is, at its core, a result of the larger failings of Nigeria’s political elite. These leaders, blinded by greed and myopia, have squandered Nigeria’s most precious natural resource—its human capital—in favor of short-term gains. By neglecting to invest in the country’s youth, they have fostered an environment in which corruption and violence have become the only means to achieve power and influence.

For Nigeria to heal and move forward, the country must pivot towards investing in its youth, crafting a system that prioritizes education, opportunity, and civic engagement over corruption and violence. This requires a comprehensive revitalization of NANS and other youth organizations, the creation of more opportunities for young Nigerians, and a renewed commitment to promoting civic education and engagement. These measures can help rectify the damage wrought on a generation of young Nigerians, and cultivate a more positive, hopeful future for the country.

To truly set Nigeria on the path towards a peaceful and prosperous future, the country must tackle the underlying issues that have led to this situation. This includes dismantling the systemic corruption that plagues both government and judiciary, as well as rooting out the culture of impunity that has become entrenched in society. Without addressing these deep-seated issues, Nigeria risks remaining mired in violence, corruption, and stagnation, denying its people the chance to fully realize their potential.

In the end, the fall of NANS should serve as a jarring wake-up call to all Nigerians. The experience of this once-prominent youth organization serves as a sobering reminder that the country’s future rests on the shoulders of its youth, who must be nurtured and supported by a government that understands its responsibility to invest in their education, opportunities, and well-being.

If the country can learn from the mistakes of the past, and invest in its youth through education, opportunity, and accountability, then the country can begin to heal and move towards a brighter future.


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