Wine Politics in Nigerian Institutions of Higher Learning; A peep into the world of student’s politics....By Franklin Onwubiko


 Politics in Nigeria is fast becoming one of the most lucrative businesses and in the world at large where political actors acquire enormous wealth that spans for many generations whether active or inactive. Nigerian politicians, consciously or unconsciously, are fast influencing the students in the dangerous act of politicking and trust; students who are fast learners, already are picking up and becoming masters of the game.
"God fatherism" which has over the years dominated the political setting of Nigeria is fast creeping into Nigerian higher institutions and this has continued to generate massive concerns.
The Student’s Union Government (SUG) and other Student bodies or associations which constitutionally exists to protect and project the interest of students under such aegis, have proven over the years to be platforms for the accumulation of wealth by the privileged few. One of the assumed benefits of these associations aside from the aforementioned is that it serves as a platform for the training of future leaders in the society.
In the past, integrity, good character and love for selfless service characterized the ascension of one to the leadership positions of these associations and unions but like the late Prof. Chinua Achebe said, things have fallen apart. Political positions under these associations have become so competitive and exorbitant that fears are being allayed that in the near future, the virtue mentioned above for the assumption in the executive positions of these student bodies would become a far cry. Currently these virtues are matched with the size of one’s pocket. The steps leading to one’s election into the executive chambers of these associations have become discouraging to persons who may want to champion the right course for the students. It has become a war of pockets and of “Godfatherism”.
This is not far from what is obtainable in our country where political office seekers visit self-acclaimed stakeholders and opinion leaders with bags of money soliciting for their support in coming elections. Instead of throwing money around, the Nigerian student politicians embark on what this reporter term wine politics. This has become prevalent on Nigerian campuses as political office seekers throng the houses of perceived opinion leaders and self-acclaimed political heavy weights on campus with bottles of exotic and local wines one after the other.
It was observed that such persons who are visited with bottles of wine include various class representatives, departmental or faculty presidents and some highly placed officials, past and present SUG office holders, lodge and hostel presidents, even some student fellowship coordinators and priests/ pastors, to mention but a few.
I believe this is a case of misplaced priority when one should ordinarily go directly to the students and sell his mandate to them; such a person is busy distributing wines around. Political campaigns could be likened to advertisement campaign because the politician tries to advertise himself and his capability. Just like in advertising, there is need for the definition of one’s target audience in politics and this is where most of these aspirants derail. They have left their target audience and are pursuing shadows. The students are wise and have conscience and would decide even without bribing one’s way through, the right candidate to vote for.
It is laughable that most of the recipients of these wines have little or no contribution to the success of one in the election. Some of them are graduates already but continue to loiter around the campus with the notion that they still wield political strength to manipulate the consciences of student-electorates.  I visited a close friend of mine and fresh graduate recently and was baffled at the display of different exotic wines neatly stacked. I anxiously asked if he was into wine dealership already as he waited for the National youth service Programme, he laughed and answered, “My brother, when these SUG aspirants bring these to me for political blessings, why won’t I accept, "abi good thing dey purge belle?"
I smiled and asked how he was going to support all of them simultaneously when obviously he would be going for youth service soonest, he smiled again and answered, "Who has time for all these?" I’m only reaping what I spent during my time in active students politics" It is not as if the recipient would perform any magic for the generous giver in the elections. It is believed that the motive behind the gift of wines is to woo the perceived stakeholder into convincing his friends and the likes to support a particular candidate just as what is obtained in Nigerian politics where opinion leaders are "blessed" to convince their subjects to vote for a particular candidate.
Whereas some are unsupportive after receiving these gifts, others throw their weight behind the candidate with the costliest of wines. So it is not even about any wine but exotic wines. A friend of mine jokingly said, before you embark on the journey of contesting for any elective position on campus; get yourself a truck load of wines. There was a case in one of the departments in social sciences, UNIZIK, where a few perceived big wigs in the department teamed up openly against a particular candidate who obviously was the people’s choice in a bid to ensure he loses so that their preferred candidate emerges. However, unluckily for them, the students overwhelmingly voted for the right person. The winner of the poll later confided in me that the reason for the attitude exhibited by the perceived big wigs was solely that he refused visiting them with bottles of wines.
I was also witnessed another twist to this issue where I was with a friend who was seeking for a political position and he had a call from one of the perceived political gladiators. I became curious as to what transpired in the call. He told me that the caller who is one of the political gladiators as they would want to be known in the University called to remind him that he has not paid him a courtesy call. I decided to pretend not to know what that portends and asked him to go and pay him a courtesy call immediately. He frowned and said, ‘ Frank, this is far beyond what you know, you don’t pay a courtesy call just like that, you go with a bottle of wine’. Still pretending, I told him we could get a wine of about seven hundred naira (N700). Again he laughed and said, "My brother, for their kind of personality, it’s exotic wines, Champagne,  Moet, Rozay and the rest and I don’t have that kind of money yet to throw around".
This is just a tip of the iceberg regarding what is obtainable in Nigerian institutions of higher learning. Most of these students borrow thousands of Naira to buy assorted wines in pursuance of their political ambitions. It becomes funny that after such expenses, some of them are screened out before the actual elections.
I spoke with some students as regards this trend on campus and diverse opinions on the issue were recorded. While some school of thought argued that such practices should be nipped in the bud to forestall escalating into something worse, others believed it is nothing but a show of respect to the ‘elder statesmen’ on campus and recognizing their worth in canvassing for support and as such it’s no big deal.
A student politician, Romeo Chike posited that this act emanated from Nigerian politics where politicians try to bribe their way into the hearts of opinion leaders and the issue of “godfatherism”. ‘The attitude of bringing wine or money to someone (a political head) is an indication that you want to buy his conscience, perception and judgement. The issue of incapability comes to play here. The act simply portrays incapability on the part of the aspirant and that he is not sure of himself, hence he resorts to buying people to his camp’, he said. Another student politician who wouldn’t want her name on print added a new twist to the world of students’ politics, this time on the part of the female politicians. According to her, whereas some female students are not financially capable to champion their course with respect to the purchase and subsequent distribution of assorted wines like their male counterparts would easily do, some of them are pushed to or even offer to ‘pay in kind’ to win the political big wigs over to their camp.
A friend of mine who once contested for a position in one of the SUG elections told me a pathetic tale of his ordeal with one of the perceived ‘godfathers’ which I found quite interesting. In his words, "I visited an old friend of mine who happens to be a former president of his department to intimate me of my ambition. On telling him about my intention to contest, he laughed and asked if I was anticipating his support when I visited bare handed. I initially thought he was joking until he said he had an appointment to catch up, and that I should call him when I am serious to discuss politics. I was disappointed as hell that day.
The earlier this malady is nipped in the bud, the safer and better our students’ politics become.
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About Ukandu Jerry Paul

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