Freedom of UIMSAites, by UIMSAites, for UIMSAites

“There are Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, sits a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”

Intellectual UItes!!!

Students of the First and Best pride themselves on their intellectuality. We claim to uphold enviable ideals; knowledge, logic, and of course freedom—a mind that knows is a mind that’s free. In UIMSA, the standards are even higher; excellence in all respects is not just the expectation, but the normal.

However, when it comes to leadership, the average UIMSAite like the average UIte has perfected the art of being a professional bystander. They act interested without being obtrusive. They will ask questions but not be questioning. They expect accountability, but will not demand it. And they will be quick to praise, but almost never criticise.

On Power and Accountability

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There is a belief that autocracy is generally “evil” and democracy is inherently good. The reality is that there have been great autocracies, and there have been shoddy democracies, and you do not even have to research far to find them.

But democracy has not endured as a popular system of government because it is excellent. Democracy thrives because it gives freedom and power to the average citizen. This freedom is represents dignity and hope, so even when governments continue to fail, the people will continue to choose democracy.

If UIMSAites are asked today if they would like to go back to military rule in Nigeria, many would say no. Even though our freedoms are not completely guaranteed in the pseudo-democracy that is Nigeria, at least we have a semblance of them. And yes, we do value our freedoms; we stormed X with hashtags when a Nigerian youth disappeared after he made a statement to against someone in government, we raised our voices against the Lekki massacre, we spoke for the woman who is being victimised by a company for criticising their product.

But let’s leave the public square of social media and come back home to our campus and Association—a microcosm of Nigeria. We complain that we are unable to protest when Management takes an action that we consider unfair. Yet, when we should express our freedoms; we take them away with our own hands.

Barely a week ago, two UIMSA Executives allegedly overstepped the bounds of their authorities in dealing with a UIMSAite. Yet, when approached, the UIMSAite involved and all eyewitnesses declined to speak on the issue. Instead, a private settlement was agreed on. No one can argue the fact that it was their choice to settle in private or public.

The real issue however, goes deeper than a few UIMSAites choosing not to seek accountability in public. It reflects a carefree attitude towards the actions of our leaders, and a hesitancy to call them to order when necessary. When the older generation tells us, “be quiet, don’t rebel, don’t cause trouble”, we wear the Gen Z façade and refuse to be silenced. Yet, when approached to tell hard truths, ask important questions and demand our dues from the leaders closest to us, we retire into our shells. We are not hindered by any authorities, but by our own minds and perspectives.

Fragile images and Misplaced loyalty

Student leaders appoint campaign leaders to manage their campaigns. Once elections are over, they should probably consider employing a PR agency to manage their public image. The obsession with image among student leaders is amazing . Public appearance is important, no doubt, but when this begins to interfere with transparency and accountability, there is a problem. Student leaders are excessively guarded when asked questions or approached for clarification. They are constantly wary of their image or that of the Association being tarnished.

What is even more perplexing is that the average UIMSAite has self-appointed themselves as PR for their chosen leaders. They would not ask pertinent questions from them, they would not answer questions about them and they would most certainly not say anything against them, even under the protection of anonymity. Some would ascribe this to loyalty. But a loyalty that is so blind has to be questioned; lest it become hero worship.

Leadership is accountability

When Edmund Burke said, “There are Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, sits a Fourth Estate more important far than they all”, he was not just alluding to the fact that the Fourth Estate holds tremendous power. This power vested in the Fourth Estate is really for the people—who will always hold the greatest power of all. This power is for the average citizen to speak without fear and to question without guilt. And as long as we remain in this system of government, our leaders must be ready to answer when questioned.

The Fourth Estate will continue to speak where many listen. But if UIMSAites truly want the freedom of democracy here in UIMSA, they will have to claim it for themselves.

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