O.A.U: In The Midst of Attacks on Students’ Democratic Rights, Education Rights Campaign (ERC) Holds
O.A.U: In The Midst of Attacks on Students’ Democratic Rights, Education Rights Campaign (ERC) Holds Successful June 12 Symposium
From the June 2011 Osun state Special edition of Socialist Democracy
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) branch, organized a symposium to mark the 18-year anniversary of June 12 masses’ struggle against military rule in Nigeria. The symposium also had as its aim the arming of students and activists with a programme of action to fight for the restoration of the banned Students’ Union and against other anti-democratic attacks of the University management.
Despite a public statement issued by the Dean of Affairs of the University some days before the programme warning students against attending the symposium, over 200 students attended and participated in the symposium â€“ the first of its kind since the Students’ Union was banned in February 2011. The symposium also enjoyed the support of the local branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Despite the threat, 22 students signed to join the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) while 24 copies of Socialist Democracy (SD) were sold.
The theme of the symposium was: 2011 Elections: Can Jonathan’s government improve the masses’ living standard? The sub-theme was: Building independent unionism as a radical platform to fight for free and functional educational system. Speakers at the Symposium included Alfred Adegoke (DSM Coordinator in Osun State), Dayo Fadugba (Former PRO of the Students’ Union and a DSM member), Tunde Dairo (Former PRO of the Students’ Union and a DSM member) and Hassan Taiwo Soweto (National Coordinator of ERC). Also the President of the banned Students’ Union and the clerk of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) were on seat.
According to Alfred Adegoke, despite 13 years of democracy in Nigeria, much of masses’ aspirations for a better society which drove them to the street in a 5-year long mass movement, protest and demonstrations to chase out the military have not being met. The standard of living remain low, education, health and other social services are in a state of collapse, unemployment and corruption among public officials have become a nightmare while inequality in income distribution between the bottom 40% and the top 10 percent of the Nigerian population is frightening. According to most official records, the poverty rate in Nigeria is now put at 70%. According to Alfred, the little social gains the masses can boast of today were won through strike actions and bitter struggles against the so-called democratic government.
This confirms the argument of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), which at the time of the anti-military struggle was then known by the name of its paper, Militant. The Militant (forerunner of the DSM) called on the masses to throw out the military not to hand over power to the civilian section of the ruling who are as corrupt as their military counterpart, but to take over political power and run society to serve the needs and aspirations of working and toiling people. To achieve this, we constantly called for the formation of a mass-based workers’ political party with socialist program of running society to take leadership of the struggle against the military which would form a new government committed to nationalizing the commanding heights of the economy under the democratic control and management of the working people.
However, the leadership of the main labour centres at that time collaborated with the ruling class while the leading layers of the pro-democracy movement were unable to appreciate the correctness of this kind of revolutionary strategy. For most, they embraced a sort of two-stage theory of revolution which in practice meant, let us chase out the military first and then think of how to change society later. This barren strategy only helped to demobilize the working people and derail the mass movement while handing political power to the civilian section of the ruling class whom has continued to implement the same perfidious neo-liberal and anti-poor economic policies as well as attacks on democratic rights which were the issues that made the working masses and youths to demand an end to military rule in the first place. The task of building a building a mass-based and democratic working people’s political party remains relevant even now for workers, students and youth fighting to end the unjust capitalist system and replace it with a society where the welfare of ordinary people will be the sole purpose of governance.
One other issue that the speakers seriously delved into was the myriad of attacks on the students in O.A.U which was recently crowned with the proscription order on the Students’ Union. Also, leaders of the union and activists are being victimized because they led students in protests against an increase in acceptance fee from N2, 000 to N20, 000 and a mandatory health insurance of N1, 600. However the union leaders have not been doing anything to mobilize to fight back against all these attacks. The University management has also seized the opportunity of the reluctance of the union leadership to fight back to consolidate on the attacks on ideological organizations by sealing of the secretariat of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM). Also a member of the ERC, Olawale Owolabi, also had his admission and matriculation processes suspended for participating in the protest.
The symposium however ended with an agreed program of action to sustain a campaign for the restoration of the Students’ Union and halt to the attacks on ideological organizations and student leaders. These include congress, a chatter of demands, leafleting, symposia and rallies as well as press campaign.