UNILAG ERC SYMPOSIUM:
UNILAG ERC SYMPOSIUM:
Akokites Call for Restoration of Banned Students’ Union
By Ishola Afeez, ERC UNILAG
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC), University of Lagos (UNILAG) chapter, held a public symposium on November 4, 2014, at Faculty of Arts of the university, with the theme “Proscription of independent students unionism in UNILAG, So long, too long and the topic “Degeneration of students movement in Nigeria and the implications and challenges to the Education system”.
The symposium had in attendance Dr Dele Ashiru, a lecturer and a former UNILAG Students’ Union President, Abiodun Aremu, Secretary Joint Action Front (JAF), H.T Soweto, the National Coordinator of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Mr Siraj a member of the Students Union Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) set up by the management, and some other student activists. Close to 50 students were in attendance. For a campus which had experienced little or no political activity since the ban of the Students Union about 10 years ago, this is an inspiring turnout.
Abiodun Aremu highlighted the purpose of education in the society, and the urgent need for students to have their union back so as to be able to ask questions, defend their rights and if need be challenge authorities when these rights are infringed. Thereafter, he pointed out that it is irresponsible of any university system to deny students of unionism.
Dr Dele Ashiru in his own speech, outlined the necessary qualities a student union must possess to be relevant in the society. He stated that students must be knowledge-driven and engage in critical skepticism, i.e. doubt everything. He noted that knowledge-driven activism produced the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Charter of Demands on education. According to him, some characters parading themselves as activists are opportunists. Quest for material benefits in the name of student activism or leadership must also be eschewed. He recalled a situation where a representative of one of the halls at a meeting asked about how much their sitting allowance would be.
He enjoined students to all work assiduously to make sure that the union when it is restored is well equipped to defend their interests . He pointed that the union should be free of tribal or religious differences. He also made it clearly known that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) would stand with the students in ensuring that the Students Union is brought back soonest.
HT Soweto implored students to be determined at getting back the Students’ Union. He however pointed out that students should not just want any union, but one which is independent, mass-based and democratic. He pointed out that the provision inserted into the new union constitution disenfranchising thousands of students from directly electing their representatives is more or less like returning UNILAG to the period of military autocracy. He stated that the idea of the Electoral College should not be a basis for election into union offices. Only mass participatory election can ensure the union is one that is accountable to students. He also enjoined students to see themselves as capable of mobilizing to right these wrongs by saying no to Electoral College and to ensure that this current transition is fully achieved.