STOP THE ATTACK ON OAU STUDENTS
Democratic Socialist Movement, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Chapter
STOP THE ATTACK ON OAU STUDENTS
The crisis in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife which has led to the closure of the school, banning of the students’ union, invasion of the campus by mobile policemen and possible victimisation of activists calls for a sober reflection. We of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) condemn in absolute terms the resort to high-handedness and unnecessary use of brute force by the management of Obafemi Awolowo University.
The students through their union had sought a weeklong extension of the calendar to accommodate a mandatory examination free week which is used by students to not only prepare but also to revise accumulated notes. This has been the normal tradition in the university and in fact in all Nigerian universities. Even in pre-tertiary schools, students are given a mid-term break and revision week to prepare for tests and examinations. To add insult upon injury, the students had complained heavily about the ineffectiveness of the lecture-free week as stated in the calendar because many tests and lectures were held during this period.
The management in response, rather than using a mature approach of dialogue to resolve the issue, brought in mobile policemen to quench a peaceful protest of students in a democratic setting! We wish to state categorically that unlike what the management wants the general public to believe is that the protest was the handiwork of a few cliques led by Akinola Saburi, the protest was massively participated in by majority of students including the female students. In fact, all the decisions on the boycott of examination were made by students at their congresses of Tuesday, 20th and Saturday, 24th February, 2007 in the Amphi-theatre and Awo Hall CafÃ© respectively. Also, all letters of request for extension to the management were made available in the students’ notice boards as a means to carry students along.
To further expose the hypocrisy of the management, while it refused to grant a week devoid of routine academic activities it however, closed down the school indefinitely. One then wonders what the interest of the Prof. Faborode-led management really is: if one week could not be granted because students need to end the semester to time, what then is the rationale behind indefinite closure?
The management had spent millions of naira on procurement of mobile police on campus while many students had their lives dislocated as a result of the unprepared-for closure. This is aside scores of students who were wounded by the mobile policemen and the resultant stampede during the peaceful protest of students. To make matters worse, a students’ market (Akintola/Sport Market) was razed down either deliberately or otherwise by the security operatives (mobile policemen and university security outfit called CRACKERS). In fact, the vice chancellor had earlier been reported saying that he did not want any students’ market on campus. This stance is reminiscent of the actions of the highly despised and disgraced Prof. Wale Omole era which attacked students from all fronts.
We also wish to state that any attempt by the OAU management to proscribe the students’ union and victimise union leaders shall further aggravate the crisis. In history, victimization of few for the action of the collective has never resolved any issue. For instance, virtually every administration in the university in the last two decades has politically victimised student leaders, but such has never served as the expected deterrent or enthroned lasting peace on the campus. Students are not naturally belligerent; the perennial crises have always been the creation of actions or inactions of successive school authorities and governments. Rather than unleash attack on the students and their union, we call on the management, the governing council and also the federal government to meet the demands of students and address the primary causes of the crisis.
We have learnt that the management wants to introduce reparations from students over the crisis. This we reject in absolute terms, as it tends to extort money from students who have already undergone punishment over peaceful actions. To us, the Prof. Micheal Faborode-led management is the main culprit in the whole scenario for being unnecessarily high-handed and insensitive. Therefore, rather than extort money from students in order to subsidise the financial mismanagement of the Vice Chancellor, we demand that the vice chancellor be removed as a first step towards restoring the dignity of the university. We reject the kangaroo investigative panel of the management since one cannot be a judge in his/her case, particularly where he/she is obviously a culprit. Rather, we demand an independent panel of enquiry that must include elected representatives of students, teaching and non-teaching staffs as well as the representatives of the human rights community to look into the role of individuals and groups in the crisis and make far-reaching recommendations.
We place the whole blame of the crisis on the anti-poor, neo-liberal Obasanjo federal government which promotes authoritarian, undemocratic running of our ivory towers in addition to the chronic under funding of the education sector which has given undue leeway to university administrators to impose various provocative charges and misappropriate the available resources.
We demand adequate funding of education up to the level that could guarantee provision of free, quality and functional education. In order to allow proper management available resources and minimize avoidable crisis like the one that has led to the indefinite closure of OAU Ile-Ife, we demand democratization of the decision-making bodies in higher institutions of learning to include elected representatives of students, teaching and non-teaching staffs.
We call for the solidarity of the staff unions on the campus, labour and pro-masses organizations and the human rights community to the struggle of OAU Ile-Ife students and echo with them the following demands:
- Immediate and unconditional re-opening of the university.
- Provision of school ID cards, matriculation number for the fresh students, water and electricity and others that ensure an environment conducive for examinations
- Withdrawal of armed police on the campus and end to culture of militarisation in the university.
- Independent investigation into the whole crisis including the fire outbreak that razed a market on the campus. Compensation for the victims of the fire incident.
- No to proscription of the students’ union
- Reinstatement of politically victimized student activists (Akinola Saburi, Abdul Azees Ibrahim and Muyiwa Aderibigbe) and no to further victimization and the arrest of students’ union leaders.
- Adequate funding of education up to the level that could guarantee provision of free, quality and functional education
- Democratization of the decision-making bodies in higher institutions of learning to include elected representatives of students, teaching and non-teaching staffs