ATTEMPTS TO COVER UP BRUTAL ATTACK ON ERC MEMBERS AND ACTIVISTS IN OAU BY THE POLICE AND MANAGEMENT
ATTEMPTS TO COVER UP BRUTAL ATTACK ON ERC MEMBERS AND ACTIVISTS IN OAU BY THE POLICE AND MANAGEMENT
ERC Demands Arrest and Prosecution of the Perpetrators * For an Independent and Democratic Commission of Inquiry
Since Sunday 30 November 2014 when Pro-Goodluck Jonathan Students’ Union leaders viciously attacked members of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and radical student activists for daring to protest against President Jonathan during his political campaign visit to the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) last Friday (28 November 2014), subterranean moves are being made by the University authorities and the Osun State Police command to cover up the violence and allow the perpetrators go scot free.
This is combined with lies and distortions to belittle the enormity of the violent attack and present the whole crisis as a mere “fight” among students whereas it is nothing but a premeditated assault carried out by a wing of the Students Union leadership under the patronage of the management. It is was meant to obliterate the radical section of the studentry who all along had been critical of the University’s undemocratic and anti-student policies and are also active in struggles against the anti-poor policies of government.
Instead of doing its work of protecting the lives and property of the citizenry, in this matter the police has decided to be partisan by protecting the assailants while doing nothing to dispense justice to the victims of an unprovoked assault.
For instance on Sunday night, Police “arrested” one Akuma Raphael (Dbusta) who macheted Adeniyi David on the head. However to our chagrin, barely 24 hours later he was released by the Police without conducting any investigation or visiting the hospital to see his victim who lay in critical condition with his head cut deeply by a machete and to obtain his statement. Meanwhile when questioned by reporters over the incident, the Osun State Police Public Relations Officer, Mrs. Sade Odoro nonchalantly replied “OAU students truly fought and they were taken to the Police station. The police counselled them and released them after a while”(Punch newspaper, 2nd December 2014).
Considering the above statement, we ask: is this professionalism being displayed by the police or base disregard for the rule of law and brazen partisanship? We demand that the police mention the number of students allegedly arrested and counselled. We know with full authority that only one student, Akuma Raphael (Dbusta) was arrested and later released. Since the police has acknowledged that “OAU students truly fought”, did the police reach out to the other party and obtain their statement before releasing the assailant in their custody? Did the police visit the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital, a stone throw away, to see the victims of the attack, particularly Adeniyi David, who was macheted by the assailant in their custody before releasing him? Did they even obtain a statement from Adeniyi David to verify the culpability or otherwise of the student in their custody or on what rational basis was the release of Akuma Raphael (Dbusta) contrived? We raise all these questions because the already battered image of the police is again on the line in this matter.
In the same vein, the University’s Public Relation Officer, Mr. Biodun Olanrewaju when interviewed acknowledged that the attack was connected to President Jonathan’s visit but then added in a dismissive tone “it is just a friendly fight. All that happened was that a group of felt they were not carried along” (Punch newspaper, 2nd December 2014). This rather ridiculous comment again reinforces our belief that those who carried out this dastardly attack did not act on their own volition but have the support and blessing of the management and government. Otherwise how can a vicious attack which saw the free usage of machetes, sticks and knives and left over 6 students injured with one in critical conditions at the hospital be described as “a friendly fight”? What sort of friends fight in this way? The University authorities are dragging the image and reputation of this noble institution in the mud and it is high time the Alumni and members of the public called it to order.
The ERC has posed all these questions because once again the history of how the authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University and the Police habitually encourages cult-like attacks on student activists and afterwards cover up the perpetrators such that they become emboldened to come back to unleash more deadly attacks is being repeated before our very eyes.
In March 1999, the Students Union led mass of students of the same University to apprehend a group of cultists allegedly of the black axe confraternity with dangerous arms including AK 47 with some round of ammunition and handed them over to the University security who in turn transferred them over to the police for investigation and prosecution. The Vice Chancellor of the University then was Professor Wale Omole. The cult members were wards of rich and powerful in society and later known as cohorts of some management staff. They were arraigned at the Magistrate Court in Ife. However the University authorities refused to produce witnesses in court and the Magistrate suspected to have been compromised did not only discharge and acquit them but also ordered destruction of the cache of weaponry found on them. The university had been closed down over a protest for reinstatement of politically victimized student activists when the matter came up in court. No attempt was made to reach out to student leaders by the management.
These same cult members started reappearing in the University when the school was re-opened in June 1999 and were allowed to go about their academic activities by the University authorities even while suspended student activists were barred from the campus. On 10 July 1999, these same elements with other members of the Black axe confraternity launched a deadly attack on the campus killing in cold blood five leaders of the Students Union including the Secretary General, late Yemi Iwilade Afrika who had led students to apprehend them in March.
The ERC is resolute and shall not waver until justice is not only done in this matter but seen to have been done. We accuse the Police of unprofessionalism, base partisanship and compromise in dispense of justice. The attack is not “just a friendly fight”, it is a premeditated assault on these who had the temerity to protest against President Jonathan. We demand the arrest and diligent prosecution of all the perpetrators of this deadly attack who have already been identified to the police and university authority.
The ERC also demands the setting up of an independent commission of inquiry democratically constituted by representatives of the Students Union, staff Unions, civil society organisations and human right groups, lawyers and other interested members of the public to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the violence, identify the perpetrators and their sponsors and to also make findings about the repeated cases of victimisation of students, anti-student policies and interference of University management in the affairs of the Students Union all of which constitutes the background to the current crisis. We also demand the reversal of the 300% fee hike, recall of nine (9) victimized activists and a halt to management’s habitual interference in the union.
We shall continue, despite attempts by the University authorities and police to cover the real reason for the attack, to show that this is a premeditated attack on the right to protest. Dissent is a fundamental right in every democracy. Working masses, students and youth of Nigeria did not submit this right even under the dark clouds of military absolutism, we do not intend to do this now.
The truth is that during the political event attended by President Jonathan, the President of the Students Union and some other pro-government members of the union leadership in alliance with the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) went to welcome him. This was in spite of his government anti-poor education policies which led to over 300% increment of fees this session and indefinite suspension of eight (8) student activists who played leading roles in the struggle against the fees.
However, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) in alliance with the radical wing of the Students Union leadership led by the Vice President and the Clerk decided to organise a protest to highlight the rejection of the regime’s anti-poor education policies as well as raise demands for reversal of the hiked fees, recall of victimised student leaders and proper funding of education. However the pro-Jonathan wing of the Students Union and their allies in NANS embittered by the success of the protest decided to launch a violent attack which left more than six (6) of our members sustaining varying degree of injury with one, Adeniyi David, sustaining deep machete cut on the head.
We were joined by students many of whom were highly enraged by the hardship the stoppage of movement of commercial buses into the campus as a result of the President’s presence for a sheer political event had caused them especially that they were in the middle of the first Semester examinations. Many students had to trek a long distance from the University gate to the campus. The markets, butteries and restaurants in the University were closed causing further hardship. The deafening noise of drummers, party members reverie and all that caused immeasurable discomfort to students preparing for their examinations in the reading rooms and lecture theatres nearby. It was this annoyance felt by majority of students at the disturbance of their academics in order to create space for what is nothing but a political event that contributed to the mood of anger which greeted President Jonathan and other anti-poor members of the ruling elite on his entourage.