OAU 9: Reinstatement Struggle Gathers Storm
OAU 9: Reinstatement Struggle Gathers Storm
A call for Solidarity Actions
By ERC Reporters
At the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile Ife, the struggle for the reinstatement of nine student activists, who were suspended by the University authorities because of their radical roles in students’ struggle against fee hike, is gathering storm. Four of the suspended student activists are members of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and the Education Rights Campaign (ERC)
Since the suspension was announced following the defeat of the struggle against hike in fees, students have continued to mount pressure on the Students’ Union leadership to call a Congress to discuss practical programmes to fight for immediate reinstatement of their suspended colleagues. The Students’ Union leadership has stubbornly avoided calling a Congress of students, because it fears the decisions of the Congress would put it in direct confrontation with the University management, which it is ingratiated to. With this obstacle of leadership, students are organizing independently under the Save OAU Campaign a broad united front formed to push forward the campaign for recall of the OAU 9. Alongside our own independent activities, the DSM and ERC are playing crucial roles in this united front.
Several programmes of action such as symposia, public meetings and circulation of leaflets and posters have been organized by the Save OAU Campaign as well as the DSM and ERC to advance the reinstatement struggle. This has appealed to mass of students, who have severally participated in these programmes showing their support and solidarity for the reinstatement cause. These practical steps have also contributed to the pressure on the leadership of the union, who cannot but express solidarity with the campaign. Recently the union leadership, taking a cue from the practical steps of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and Save OAU Campaign, produced posters expressing demands for immediate reinstatement of the OAU-9. Of course this has not erased the necessity of a Congress of students as an organized starting point for a struggle supported and carried through by mass of students themselves.
The consistent efforts of students, despite slight impediment caused by their own leadership, have not failed in achieving immediate success. On November 5, the Federal High Court sitting in Osogbo ordered that one of the suspended students, Sanyaolu Juwon, who has dragged the OAU management to court, should go back to class. It was obvious that this quick order was motivated by the solidarity of students themselves. On the two occasions that the case was heard in court, mass of students stormed the court, with placards bearing inscriptions for immediate reinstatement of the suspended activists. In fact media houses have televised the strong emotions of students and their just demands. The judge equally observed, while giving his order that “the case should be quickly resolved because students’ lives are put at risk for journeying the distance between Ile-Ife (the town which the university campus is situated) and Osogbo”. The judge finally advised that the case be settled out of court, while the applicant, Sanyaolu Juwon, should return to class.
Of course the order of the court is not totally satisfying, because it only tends to placate both parties instead of exposing the absurdity of the suspension and clearly condemning it. For the judge, in his words, it is only the best way to prevent what could be a long legal tussle and unnecessary wasting away of the life of the applicant. Nonetheless this court order is a step forward in the struggle for reinstatement of the nine students’ activists. And this was confirmed with the psychological effect the idea of court victory had on the mass of students immediately the news was broken on campus. In the halls of residence, students went into jubilation on hearing the news of victory in court.
The campus branch of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and the Education Rights Campaign (DSM) did not fail to immediately draw political conclusions from the court victory. In the series of public announcement and sensitization that followed the victory, we portrayed the court order as a step forward in the struggle for reinstatement and warned against complacency on the part of students. In a capitalist country, where the ruling elites and their agents have strong penchant for flaunting their own laws, the order of the court must not erase the potency of organized struggle. Indeed given its history of refusing to comply with court orders, more struggles may be needed to ensure the University authorities comply with this order.
Clearly, the victory has given a strong basis for agitation for immediate reinstatement of all the victimized students. The four ERC members among the suspended activists have also resolved to challenge the action of the management in court in addition to mass activities that ERC and Save OAU Campaign have commenced. All the letters written by the lawyers to the management demanding their immediate reinstatement has been disregarded.
This is where the question of clear-headed, democratic and fighting students’ union leadership comes in. As the court victory of one of the suspended activists marked a turning point in the struggle for reinstatement, the leadership of the union ought to have called a Congress to appraise this new development and resolve on practical actions to enforce the decision of the court as well as to build the campaign for the recall of the remaining 8 victimized activists. The attitude of the union leadership was an opportunistic attempt to try and arrogate the victory to itself, without recognizing the roles mass of students played, and without any inkling of what new initiatives it would take to push the struggle forward especially as 8 activists still remain suspended.
On our own part, the DSM and ERC, through symposia, leaflets and posters, will continue to call for a Congress of students as the next decisive step to escalate the campaign for reinstatement as well as to reclaim the Students’ Union and put it under the control of the mass of students.
As part of the efforts to build the campaign further, the DSM and ERC are calling for solidarity from students unions, trade unions, civil societies, human rights groups, pro-masses organizations, socialists and working class activists locally and internationally to help call on the OAU authorities to recall the OAU 9 and halt all repressive policies against student rights to independent unionism including their rights to protest anti-poor education policies.