OAU REINSTATEMENT STRUGGLE
OAU REINSTATEMENT STRUGGLE
Struggle wins concessions
Taiwo Hassan and Olatunde Dairo Recalled
Struggle must continue for the remaining 9 to be reinstated
In what might signify that the reinstatement struggle is nearing completion, the authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, in a public statement posted on campus on December 31st 2008 announced the recall of three of the 11 student activists under victimization. They are Hassan Taiwo Soweto (National Coordinator, ERC), Dairo Olatunde (former PRO, Students’ Union) who were both indefinitely suspended and Owoeye David Durotimi (Former Lord Chancellor, Students’ Union) who was not mobilized for Law school. They are all members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI, Nigeria).
While Hassan Taiwo and Dairo Olatunde have been directed to resume immediately, Owoeye David’s result is being processed by the University Senate to facilitate his mobilization to Law school. In announcing their reinstatement, the University Authorities claimed they have fulfilled its required guidelines for reinstatement and that all those who are not yet reinstated have not met these guidelines. These guidelines are “letter of apology/undertaking and withdrawal of cases instituted against the University from court (s)”. The duo Hassan Taiwo Soweto and Dairo Olatunde had written a letter of undertaking mid-last year in fulfillment of an agreement reached between their counsels and the University management in an out-of-court settlement brokered by the judge of the Magistrate Court 2 in Osogbo, the Osun state capital.
This concession was forced from the management on account of huge pressures placed on it by the Students’ Union, labour and civil society activists and efforts of counsels as well as the international campaigns led by Committee for a Workers International (CWI) for their reinstatement. The truth is that the University management had been belligerent all through while some of the victimized students had done almost anything to appeal to the management. For instance, some of the victimized activists had withdrawn from the court cases in order to satisfy the management. Some also wrote letters of apologies and brought their parents to plead with principal officers of the University. But since all this was not backed with any political action, the management felt strong enough and refused to reinstate them.
At a symposium organised by the Students’ Union for fresh students in early December last year, the Vice Chancellor had come there to declare, to the consternation of students gathered, that reinstatement was a closed case and that even if he could consider some of them, Akinola Saburi (the expelled former Union president) and one other would never obtain a certificate of the University. This haughty declaration was to have the effect of convincing layers of the Students’ Union leadership of the need for mass actions. Efforts of the Students’ Union afterwards to meet with the management to discuss reinstatement were also rebuffed. Yet on December 31st, a few days after the symposium, the management succumbed and recalled 3 of them. This development was due to the fear of the political mobilizations of the Students’ Union by the university management.
Immediately after the ‘riot act” declaration of the Vice Chancellor that reinstatement was a closed case, an “All Activists Meeting” comprising the entire leadership of the Students’ Union, political groups and activists held and resolved that a protest should take place on January 12, 2009 at the Magistrate Court 2 in Osogbo. It was the mobilization for the protest which compelled the University management to retreat on the issue by reinstating the three activists. While reinstating them, the management in an effort to convince the public that the issue could be resolved in another way other than protest, claimed in its public statement that all the rest have to do is to fulfill the guidelines for reinstatement.
These so-called guidelines for reinstatement (letter of apology/undertaking and withdrawal of case from court) were contrived from steps taken mid-last year by Hassan Taiwo Soweto and Dairo Olatunde on the basis of an out-of-court settlement brokered by the Magistrate Court. These steps include the duo writing letters of undertaking promising to be of good behaviour and to respect University rules of regulations while the University management is expected to withdraw the trumped-up criminal charges at the Magistrate Court. Previously these two activists had spent over four months in prison, until their release on bail on February 21, 2008, on trumped up charges including conspiracy to and attempted murder. However, up till today the University management, for one reason or the other, have not fulfilled its part of the bargain by withdrawing these charges.
Even at the Court sitting of Monday 12 January, 2009, the Magistrate was present and thus the case was adjourned to February 9, 2009. Even had the judge been on seat, it would have been impossible to withdraw the charges on that day being that the management had not officially informed the State Prosecutors of steps it has taken in resolving the crisis and its intention to withdraw the charges. About 32 students from OAU and two other higher institutions in Osun State came to the Court sitting to solidarise with the activists on trial. It is expected that the University management would do what is necessary between now and the next adjourned date to ensure the withdrawal of the charges.
However notwithstanding management apparent insincerity, these guidelines clearly illuminate the path to reinstatement. The position of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), which we advocated in a Congress held on Tuesday 13th January 2009, was that the remaining victimized activists should also fulfill the guidelines for reinstatement by writing the letters of undertaking and withdrawing cases from court. This position is anchored not on any perceived sincerity of the University management but on the need to avoid the blackmail of rigidity which a refusal to fulfill the guidelines would mean to sections of the mass of students. This is more so because key victimized activists have now been reinstated meaning that a mood could arise among students that reinstatement of the rest could be achieved without much ado. However, some sections of the left have rejected this argument. In fact, they are saying that reinstatement of Hassan Taiwo Soweto and Dairo Olatunde being conditional should not be accepted by the Union. Truly, according to letters sent to Hassan Taiwo Soweto and Dairo Olatunde, their reinstatement was based on some conditions which include:
“(1) You are bound to be of good behaviour (2) You are precluded from staying in the halls of Residence (3) You are to report with your parents or sponsor on resumption (4) You are to appear before Students Disciplinary Panel 1 which was investigating your alleged breach of the Code of Conduct for the University Community and your Matriculation Oath before the criminal allegations and your subsequent arraignment in court.”
But as the DSM has argued, while condemning these conditions, they are not enough reasons to reject the reinstatement. At best, the Student Disciplinary Panel being an investigative panel would be ceremonious although there is a justified concern that the panel could be wielded at a period of downturn in struggle. But those who advocate rejection of conditional reinstatement do not also appreciate the impetus which acceptance of partial concessions could give to the overall struggle. The non-compliance with the reinstatement directive as being advocated by same groups will plunge the struggle into a blind alley. Fortunately, our proposals carried the day and were included in the congress resolution which instructed all victimized activists to write letters of undertaking. Some, majorly members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), have complied.
The DSM and ERC have called on the leadership of students not rest on its oars until all the victimized student leaders are reinstated. There should be a continuation of activities to mount pressure on the university and prepare the mass of students for political struggle to drive home demand for reinstatement. Very soon the University Management will be faced with the choice of peacefully reinstating all the victimized activists including Kola Ibrahim (former Secretary DSM OAU Branch), Nurudeen Oyedeji (former Clerk Students’ Union), Akinola Saburi (former President Students’ Union) and Ogumah Andrew Segun (former Speaker Students’ Union) or risk the break out of mass protest and demonstrations. But this development is also dependent on application of correct tactics from the Union and left activists.
As we thank all CWI sections and comrades as well as all those who participated in the campaign locally, nationally and internationally, including the Students’ Union of Sussex University, Britain, against student victimization in OAU. We regret to announce the death of the father of one of the newly reinstated activists Dairo Olatunde. All our hearts go out to him and his family for this loss. We hope Comrade Dairo Olatunde joins us very soon to continue the struggle to change society for the better.