OAU AUTHORITIES SET UP VINDICTIVE INVESTIGATIVE PANEL TO VICTIMISE STUDENT ACTIVISTS WHO OPPOSE FEE
OAU AUTHORITIES SET UP VINDICTIVE INVESTIGATIVE PANEL TO VICTIMISE STUDENT ACTIVISTS WHO OPPOSE FEE HIKE
Urgent Call for Protest Letters and Support
Report by DSM and ERC members at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU).
The Prof. Tale Omole-led management of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) has set up two different ‘investigative’ panels to quiz student activists. These panels are coming at the heel of needless closure of the university due to the genuine protest of students against outrageous increment in fees. And the panels are one way or the other linked to the strategy of the university to crush the struggle of students. Learning from experience, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and Education Rights Campaign (ERC) have reason to believe that the outcome of the panel will be vindictive, and orchestrated to cow students into silence after they resume, with the examples of victimised activists. The DSM and ERC outright condemn the plan to victimize student activists and demand that the OAU management meets the demands of students for the reversal of hiked fees.
The two panels are to investigate “disruption of Press Confrontation of Students’ Union Elections” and “Student Protests of May/June” respectively. The two investigations are linked. The university management had been forced to restore the students’ union in April 2014 after over three years of proscription and came out with undemocratic guidelines that “students who are indicted should not be allowed to vote or be voted for in the election”. Student activists who had been on the frontline of struggle for the restoration of the union, and had been invited to similar panels of the university without eventual conviction, including members of the DSM and ERC, were prevented from participating in the students’ union elections. This development annoyed students as it clearly contravenes the constitution of their union, which abhors management interference in the students’ union elections. Management threatened members of the electoral commission; the election was conducted amid wide apathy. And, barely a month after the election, the university increased the school fees.
Four members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and Education Rights Campaign (ERC), namely Wole Olubanji (Engels), Adabale Olamide, Ibirogba Samuel and Ademoyegun Johnson, have been invited to these vindictive panels. This is in addition to several members of the Students Union leadership who were also invited. At their appearances before the two panels, several questions bordering on “why they challenged university authorities by resisting management’s directive of undemocratic disqualification in the concluded students’ union election and participating in protests of students against fee hike” were asked.
The DSM and ERC maintain that it is not criminal to resist an anti-poor, undemocratic policy. Under normal circumstances, a university community should not be hostile to dissenting opinions on matters of policies which affect every member of the university community. However in this case, the OAU management is an undemocratic management benefitting from the crude and exploitative policies of the capitalist government, for instance chronic underfunding and commercialization of education. It is therefore very hostile to critical questions raised on its manner of administration and policies. For instance, this university management constructed a N500 million swimming pool while the water supply and sanitary system of the university are in crude conditions. Some months after this misplacement of priority, the university management outrageously increased students’ fee across board. Fresh students who used to pay between N40, 000 and N50, 000 are now being charged a cut-throat amount between N81, 700 and N95, 700.
The ERC believes that the current effort of the university to set up investigation panel is designed to intimidate students into accepting the poisonous pills of fee hike being administered by the university authorities. The university community should greatly ponder on why students who were peaceful and “obedient” in January, February and March, took to the street in May and June.
Worse still, the management of Obafemi Awolowo University is not interested in meeting the demands of students. Instead, to ensure reopening of school, it will be contented if some students’ activists are victimised and shown as scape goats to other students. The DSM and ERC still holds its position that the increment on OAU campus is not justified as it will make poor parents bear the brunt of the failure of the capitalist government of Nigeria to fund education.
Hence, we call on labour, civil society and youth organizations and activists as well as the general public to condemn the plan of the OAU management to victimise student activists. We in the ERC call for a democratic public investigation, comprising of elected representatives of workers unions, students’ union and parents to investigate the fee hike and other anti-poor and undemocratic policies of the University management. We also enjoin public support for the ongoing struggle of Great Ife students.
You can help to call for a halt to the attempts to victimize the activists and demand immediate reversal of the hiked fees by calling, sending text messages and E-mails to the following addresses of principal officers of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) administration:
The Vice Chancellor,
You can send a copy of your message and petition to the: