Former President of the Social Sciences Students’ Association (SOSSA), Oluebube Nwosu in an interview with Deputy Managing Editor of Unilag Sun, Soremekun Seyifunmi talks about student unionism, his contributions to politics on campus and aspirations for the future.
Can we meet you, sir?
My name is Oluebube Udochukwu Nwosu, popularly called Udo. I just wrapped up my studies recently at the University of Lagos. I recently graduated from the Department of Economics, Faculty of Social Science.
Alright, Udo. What led you into student leadership?
Well primarily, I was appalled by some things I saw. I’ve always felt that anywhere I step into, it is because I think I can make a significant difference. If I can’t make a significant difference, I’m unlikely to step into that place. If it’s already good, it should just remain good. But, when it’s not good and I feel like I can make it good, then I step in.
Of course, Unilag student leaders have been outstanding in different ways, especially when it comes to providing opportunities and organising events for students. They are like top event managers in Nigeria in my opinion. These are very good, but in the area of representing the students, stating what they need and what will be good for the students, they lag.
Back in 2018, I led a movement tagged #INECToMyCampus. I felt student leaders should have been at the forefront of that movement. I looked at history and found out that a lot of movements in the past 100 years ago in Africa had students as a core part or at least involved in it. From anti-colonialism to the democracy movement, to anti-military movement, to anti cultism, even to the Tiananmen Square protests in faraway China. I thought that if everyone was talking about not being too young to rule, or getting your voters card, you know, students should be there.
I reached out to the leaders then and the response was just not encouraging. And this was not only in UNILAG, it was the same across different institutions we approached – the same nonchalant attitude. And I’m like this is not how student leadership should be. At least, this is not what we read in history. That was when I became open to the possibility of being a student leader myself. Then I had some people who really encouraged me to go for it.
So apart from being the President of the Social Sciences Association, in what other did you participate in student unionism?
Unionism? Well, I did it and it was nothing special because I just felt it had to be done. In 2018, when I started INEC to campus movements, it was to get INEC officials to come down to get students in tertiary institutions registered. I do not want to delve into what happened. Anyway, INEC still went to some schools that year which helped the students in those school (including UNILAG). And I think in 2019, I helped in planning an #EndASUUStrike protests. I think it was planned by multiple school and there was march from UNILAG gate to the 3rd Mainland bridge. I wasn’t on the ground that day, because I had to travel for a competition. Even where I was having a competition I kept calling to check the progress.
We also joined in the #EndSARS movement when we moved from school gate to Alausa, Ikeja. Then we did a walk against rape. That was in June 2020, yes, while school was shut down. We walked around Yaba. At that point rape, reports of rape cases were alarming and some of our students suggested we do the walk to make a statement. As leaders, we listened and took it up.
Another one was with the Tricycle Association, Mushin to Unilag axis. In January or February, 2020 Prices just jumped up, from about 100 to 200 naira and the students were complaining. So my chairman, NUESA (Education) President, Wale, called me and said we should do something about it. The tricycle excos came around and we negotiated and reached an agreement. But before it got implemented, the Lagos state government announced a ban on motorcycles and tricycles at that time. We also started some discussions with campus shuttle before school was shutdown. That shutdown disrupted a lot of things for us.
How has the experience working with your excos in the faculty? Coupled with the fact that you all might not have been friends from start.
It was hard, to be honest. It was pretty hard. We spent the first few months fighting. That was because of some of the political systems in FSS which, of course, I’ve been very vocal against. And I will always be. Also, I came in to do things very differently plus I believed in moving fast and I also believed in doing things differently, to get certain specific results. However, my excos were not on the same page. They wanted us to simply improve on what had been done before. So, we had to reach a compromise. It took a couple of months to reach that compromise. We got to a late start and when we finally found our feet, we got hit by the lockdown. So, it was quite a difficult time. But I think we delivered amazing stuff. I still get accolades till date. Also, one of my excos becamemy successor and I get great feedback too.
I’m glad you were able to manage them. Now, what was your vision for the faculty and were you able to accomplish it?
My manifesto was a lot of political talk but I kept it short because I knew that unionism is more dynamic than statism. I wrote my manifesto in one night. In my manifesto, I promised academic, social, and financial welfare and human capital development. I promised the PA system for freshers, but I did not do that. I promised Wi-Fi. Well, we got the Wi-Fi in. I promised town hall sessions, we had one and we also actually had regular reports shared across. We had academic mentors, mock tests, and tutorials. We started building a database and also started the birthday wishes for SOSSAites on social media. Now that I’m looking at my manifesto, I actually fulfillled most of the promises.
You mentioned that you were not able to accomplish some goals. What were the reasons for that?
Okay, so I divided my goals as president into three. First were the regular stuff I’ll do as president, which is what politicians promise you. Of course, I was a politician at that point which is why my manifesto is what it is. The second thing is student leadership or unionism, which would cover my membership of the Council of faculty Presidents. And the third one was just me buying the ideas and movements of other students when they put them up. That was why I did not have a long manifesto. I didn’t want to spend too much time promising a lot that I’ll now have a little openness to hear what people have to say when we start. For instance, the walk against rape was not my idea. But if I’d been so much obsessed with all the plans I had, I wouldn’t be open to this. Or was it the Modern Manifesto event SOSSA did with NUESA and Makinde David’s brand. We used it to raise awareness against drug abuse, sexual harrassment and depression. It was not my idea, I didn’t have any plans at all. When Makinde brought up the plan, it made sense to us and I suggested it to NUESA President too.
All these were possible because I did not have a ton of plans on my own, and I was open to collaborations. That also brought a bond between FSS and Education in the past session.
For the CoFP, so you might have seen a lot of COFP updates in the past session. It’s not as if COFP did not exist before, the difference was that we went all out to represent our students. Using myself as an example, I had to cut down on having too many personal things I’ll be doing in SOSSA, so I can also have time to do things I think are of benefit to the general student body and of course benefit SOSSAites too. Now it’s not like we didn’t do anything in SOSSA, if I begin to list them, they’d be up to 25. The difference was that they were not all of my ideas. So it made it easier. Some were from Gen Sec, Sports sec, and so on. Nonetheless, I had to stretch myself to deliver well for both SOSSA and CoFP.
Did your administration encounter any obstacle or did you at any point in time regret being the president?
About regrets? Well, I’m usually prepared for the worst at any time.
Noneless, there were challenges. First, there was the issue of funding. Unfortunately, less than 50% of freshers paid their dues and that was because we started the collection of dues late. Also, less than 40% stylites paid. Throughout the entire session, we had only three sponsors, all of which were startups, and they contributed less than 5% of our revenue. This meant we could not do a major project we really wanted to do, that is, refurbishing the relaxation centre.
I also had personal challenges. I mean the cost on my academics, and my business. I mean, everybody has 24 hours, there’s no way you’d be a full-time leader, a full-time student, and a full-time businessman, and everything is working perfectly. There will always be trade-offs. The question is, how much trade-off are you comfortable with? I was comfortable with not having to do my business all the time. For academics, it’s even much more tricky. How do you measure your studying for B or C? Or what is the guarantee that your plan for 3As and 2Bs will work out? As a president, I may be called in for a meeting or to solve a particular problem by 8 am. It’s now left for me to choose whether I want to be a responsible president, or I want to be a “serious” student. No one is asking me for my schedule or my timetable.
But the biggest challenge was actually during the campaign period. That particular semester was also not friendly to my CGPA at all! That’s why I encourage people who have dreams for politics in school, you need to build up your CGPA from your first year. The reason why I could stomach many shocks was because of my solid foundation. I thank God o. If you check my results, you will see how I was able to finish well was not because of the end, but because the beginning was strong. So yea, I still finished with the first class.
You served as the secretary of the COFP, did you have any plans for the Council before your appointment?
I didn’t have any specific one. I was just open to Unionism. For me, the end goal was supposed to be that students in your faculties see our efficiency. In the first meeting, our goal was to see how we can get back Unilag’s student union that will do its work well. So that we, the Presidents, can go on with our work at the faculties. Because everybody in COFPs is already president and student. This made the work more stressful and less efficient. CoFP was covering up for the Students Union and that ought not to be.
Now that you’re done being a student leader, what should we expect of Udo?
Just know that one thing is certain: my path won’t take the regular path. I’ve never been regular.
I started building ‘Koinsandkash’ while I was in school. It is a crypto business that’s still new and to many people, risky. But because I saw a huge opportunity in it, I decided to give it a shot. I’d share this with everybody – my final year project was based on cryptocurrency. When I tell people, they ask “how did you do that?” See, if you want to get something done, you’d get it done. I made an economic and technological case for it in the project and my supervisor was impressed. Right now, many people are thinking of how they can get a Masters degree or a job, it’s normal. But, I’m thinking about something else. Some do things the normal way and some go the way that isn’t common. It’s all good, just be great at the good thing you do. But I’m going to try a different path. These are the reasons why innovations exist. You think of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Bill Gates of Microsoft, you think of Apple. Come to Nigeria and you think of Flutterwave. At one point people must decide to try something else.
What is your advice to other students?
There is a wrong approach to listening to good stories. When you hear someone share a success story, with all their blueprints, you will want to follow and be just like that person. I think that’s the wrong approach to listening to good stories. The story should inspire you to be the best version of yourself that you can think of.
Then when you want to plan towards that big goal, let it be step by step. You can’t be in year 1 and you’re already thinking of who you’ll be at your convocation. Be very realistic with yourself. And again, if you don’t hit your targets, you might feel bad. Start with who you want to be by the end of year one.
Another thing is not to have many goals. That way, you can be open to exciting ones that you would see as you go along. Yea, jump on a couple of exciting goals. I was the debating championship in the department in my year one. I did sports and won medals. I volunteered for committees in the department and for external NGOs. I didn’t have all these goals at the beginning but as opportunities came up, I took them.
The University of Lagos gives you opportunities despite all of the challenges you would have to fight against. I did my fair share of fighting, but the truth is that we are the best in Nigeria. It’s a pretty big opportunity for any Nigerian in Nigeria to be here. It’s just beyond the certificates. The University of Lagos is a great brand. There was a time people were adding it to their business names because of its strength. UNILAG this and that. Even the environment again, key opportunities to access to the island, to Yaba environs, to the tech community, to the finance community. The community is good and has prospects, just try to get the best out of it. Be the best version of yourself.
Do you have a vote of thanks?
I want to say a big thank you to everybody who made my time here at the University of Lagos a good opportunity. From lecturers that showed real interest in my success story, and my progress at different points in time. Professor Saibu, Dr Isaac Nwaogwugwu, and Dr Oladipo. They took a special interest in ensuring that I was on the right track.
I want to say a big thank you to everyone I worked alongside with – to the relentless SOSSA executives and CoFP members, really amazing people that taught me so much.
Thankful to everyone in the associations I belonged to and my church, thnakful to my family, friends and associates. I already did an extensive acknowledgement on my project research.
I thank God for giving me the needed strength and wisdom.
Thank you for this having me here. Thank you, everyone!