UNILORIN 49: Victory at last
UNILORIN 49: Victory at last
By Lanre Akinola
The struggle for the reinstatement of the 49 sacked lecturers of the University of Ilorin came to a joyful end in December 2009, when the Supreme Court ordered the immediate reinstatement of the remaining 44 sacked lecturers and payment of their salaries and allowances right from the date of their sack. The court also ordered that the three lecturers who died during the protracted litigation should be considered to have passed on while in active service and their salaries and benefits till the time they died should be paid to their respective families. The same court had in June 2009 ordered the reinstatement of the 5 out of 49 sacked lecturers and payment of their salary and benefits.
The judgements of the Supreme Court in favour of the sacked lecturers confirmed that the lecturers were unjustly sacked and therefore justified series of political struggles including strikes and public protests embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other civil organizations to demand their reinstatement.
The lecturers were sacked in 2001 by the repressive administration of Professor S.O. AbdulRaheem, who was the Vice-chancellor of the University at that time, for their participation in the nationwide strike called by the ASUU for adequate funding of education, university autonomy and better welfare condition for lecturers. Their sack was sustained by the current Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ishaq Olarenwaju Oloyede with the tacit support of the federal government led by General Olusegun Obasanjo and his successor, Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua.
The tyrannical regimes of Prof. S.O. AbdulRaheem not only witnessed the victimization of the sacked lecturers but also that of the student activists who dared to say no to anti students policies of the UNILORIN authorities and Federal Government. Among the students’ cases is that of Tosin Akinrogunde, a medical student (now medical doctor) who had to legally challenge the UNILORIN authorities up to the Supreme Court before his academic certificate was released to him after five years of graduation. Also, Lanre Akinola and Rasheedat Adesina still have their cases for the release of their academic certificates pending before the Supreme Court, eleven and nine years respectively, after they have successfully completed their courses of study. The ‘offence’ of the duo was their effrontery to participate in students’ unionism and for playing a leading role in the struggle against the despotic administration of Prof. S.O. AbdulRaheem and for better welfare conditions on campus.
The eventual victory of the sacked lecturers is a lesson to all the oppressed people not to succumb to the whims and caprices of the oppressors but to always fight for thier rights and not die in silence. Though the struggle for their recall was a tortuous one including the deaths of three of the lecturers as a result of physiological trauma and hardship occasioned by their sack, their ultimate victory is an indication that the struggle against the unjust economic and political system in Nigeria can be won if the perseverance and determination demonstrated by the sacked lecturers to get the justice done is imbibed by the poor and oppressed people.
The most unfortunate aspect of the case is that those who perpetrated the injustice against the sacked lecturers and student activists were not punished but instead they were rewarded with political appointments by the Federal Government. For instance, Prof. S.O. AbdulRaheem, the the former high-handed Vice-Chancellor of the University, was rewarded with the chairmanship of the Federal Character Commission (FCC).
In a sane society, such a man does not only owe the public an apology but should also be put behind bars for causing the affected lecturers so much hardship including the deaths of three of them. For the years the lecturers’ cases lasted, millions of naira from public coffer was spent on legal fees and propaganda by the UNILORIN authorities to justify the unwarranted sack. Also incalculable man hours were lost to the numerous ASUU strikes over the issue of the sacked lecturers while the University also lost some of its best brains to the Universities outside the country, which further deepened the brain drain in the Nigerian universities.
The persistent attacks on the radical layers within the University has done a great damage to the culture of resistance in the University with staff and students cowed and intimidated by not only the university management, but by State Security Service (SSS) and Police in the face of bad policies and infringement on their rights by the successive Vice-chancellors of the University. A recent case is the dismissal of Muhammed Bashman Adesina, a 400 level law student, because he dared to contest for the office of the president of the Students’ Union. The panel set-up to try him justified his dismissal on the basis of a ridiculous allegation, amongst others, that while studying law in UNILORIN, he was also running a program in at the Federal Polytechnic Offa. Elsewhere, this ridiculous victimization could have elicited massive protest among students but in the atmosphere of siege in UNILORIN, silence in the face of oppression has become a means of self-preservation. Today, Bashman is battling at the law court to regain his studentship. Therefore, the task before the recalled lecturers, the National Secretariat of ASUU, NANS and radical student bodies and individuals within and outside the University of Ilorin is to start the process of rebuilding the resistance culture and fighting spirit that has eluded the University for a long period of time and turned the campus into a military barrack.
It should be however noted that the culture of repression in the University of Ilorin, just like in most other universities, is devised to force on workers and students the neo-liberal attacks on education. This has meant that the struggle against impunity and absurdity perpetrated at the University will have to be linked with struggle of the working people for a change in the political and socio-economic system in the country. While some concession could be won under the capitalist system, the final panacea to the crisis within the University and the country as a whole is to overthrow the system that institutionalises anti-poor, neo-liberal policies of cuts in social spending on education, health care, etc, and perpetually keeps the working people and poor masses under unbearable socio-economic and political conditions. This iniquitous capitalist system should be replaced with socialist order where the socio-economic needs and democratic rights of the working people and poor masses are guaranteed and the commanding heights of the economy are public owned and put under democratic control and management of the working masses in order to ensure the use of the resources of the society for the benefit of all.
NEW WAVE OF FEE HIKES IN TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS
- For A One-day Nationwide Warning Lecture Boycott And Mass Protest
- This Struggle Must Be Actively Supported By Trade Unions And Parents
By H.T Soweto
In public institutions of higher learning in Nigeria, there is a rising wave of astronomical fee increments. This phenomenon of education commercialization is being implemented with gusto at both federal and state-owned institutions irrespective of the political party forming the government.
At the University of Ado-Ekiti (UNAD), the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) – led government of Ekiti State headed by Governor Segun Oni has increased fees to between N90, 000 and N120, 000! Also, the Alao Akala Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) Government in Oyo State recently increased fees in the State-owned Polytechnic of Ibadan from N25, 000 and N30, 000 to N60, 000 and N80, 000 for OND and HND programme respectively. In Lagos State College of Health Technology (LASCOHET), Governor Babatunde Fashola of the Action Congress (AC) has increased fees to N30, 000, which is beyond what ordinary poor students can afford. Also at the Ambrose Alli University (AAU) Ekpoma, fees were increased by the Adams Oshiomhole Action Congress (AC) government to between N60, 000 to N100, 000. It took massive protests of students before the fees were reduced to between N40, 000 to N50, 000 an amount still much beyond the means of ordinary poor working people and peasants of Edo state. Also recently, an attempt to increase fees at the University of Nigeria (UNN) elicited massive protest from students.
As expected, it is the children of poor working and lower middle class parents that are hardest hit by this increment. This is because millions of working class and lower middle class families have been reduced to living from hand to mouth as a result of high cost of food, fuel, transport, shelter and other basic needs. The last time minimum wage was increased in Nigeria was 2000! Since then, Nigeria’s economy has further nose-dived thus jerking up into the roof cost of basic goods necessary for daily survival. As a result, over 80% are living in abject poverty. In this situation, an extra kobo increment in school fees is bound to throw out of school millions of students who are too poor to afford it.
The DSM call on all Nigerian students, education workers and working class parents to rise up in unison to fight the increment. We call on the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) to call Senate meetings of the association to debate these attacks on education and to declare a one-day nationwide warning lecture boycott and mass protest. Days of action should also be organised simultaneously in different zones of NANS as a build-up to a national action. Prior to the day of action, posters and leaflets must be produced in thousands and circulated on all campuses to explain the issues to students. Rallies, media campaign, protest and other forms of political actions must be organized to mobilize Nigerian students for the one-day lecture boycott. At the same time, the staff unions, trade unions and working class parents must actively support this struggle by organizing mass actions to defeat the fees.
Any entertainment of illusion that the increment will not get to all schools is suicidal. This wave of fees increment is bound to spread to all institutions of higher learning thus worsening the already intolerable conditions of Nigerian students. The increment is not accidental. The reason why government is commercializing education by increasing fees in schools is the same reason for privatization of public enterprises, deregulation of the oil sector and fuel price hike. The entire aim is to divest from the State all responsibility for public welfare while handing over vital social services to capitalist businessmen, banks and corrupt politicians to run for profit. This is in line with the exploitative capitalist philosophy of ‘free market’ embraced by the PDP government at the federal level and the government of PDP, AC, APGA, PPA and ANPP at the state level as the best way to run society. What this means is that access to education, health, roads, shelter, food and in short life itself must be based on ability to pay for them in the market and not a right which every member of society must have.
Therefore without taking away the levers of economic production from the control of the capitalist ruling class and chasing away their crooked representatives from government, it will be impossible to resolve any of the socio-economic problems confronting students and youths in Nigeria today or win the struggle against fees increment. A democratic socialist revolution is the only way to permanently defeat these neo-liberal attacks on education. Therefore, while fighting against fee increment, our struggle can only be permanently victorious if we as Nigerian students join workers to build the Labour Party (LP) as a mass-based political party with socialist ideas to take over political power from the capitalist ruling class and form a government of workers and poor masses. With this kind of government embracing socialist plan of economy and society by bringing the commanding heights of the economy under public ownership, it will be possible to mobilize society’s resources to provide free, functional and democratically-managed public education.