JULY 10, 1999 CULT KILLINGS IN OAU: AS WE REMEMBER AFRIKA AND 4 OTHERS!
ORGANISE AND FIGHT AGAINST CULTISM AND ANTI-STUDENTS POLICIES BY BUILDING AN INDEPENDENT, DEMOCRATIC, AND MASS BASED STUDENTS UNION
JOIN THE EDUCATION RIGHTS CAMPAIGN!
Education Rights Campaign (ERC), OAU Branch
Today makes it 22 years after the bloody cult attack which took the lives of five students of this institution. The slain students included a 21-year-old 400-Level law student and the then Secretary-General of the Students Union, George Iwilade, popularly referred to as Afrika. Others killed were Eviano Ekelemu, 400-Level Medicine; Yemi Ajiteru, an extra year student; Babatunde Oke, 100-Level Philosophy, and Efe Ekede a student of Psychology. The gunmen who were members of the AYE cult group, also known as the Neo-Black Movement, came in the early hours of July 10, 1999 to unleash terror on the university community.
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condoles with students and the OAU community over this sad loss, whose wound is still fresh as justice is yet to be served despite efforts by the Union to ensure it.
NOT AN ORDINARY CULT ATTACK
The July 10 cult attack on the OAU campus was aimed at radical unionism; it was not a surprise that the target of the attack was radical union leaders. For example, the president of the union then, Lanre Legacy, only escaped narrowly because he had heard the sound of gunshots before the cultists got to his room.
At that time, the Great Ife students’ Union had launched a series of serious struggles over school fees hike, independent student unionism, reinstatement of victimized student activists and other anti-student policies of the University management led by Prof. Wale Omole as well as successful mass resistance against campus CULTISM. The July 10 attack was therefore an agenda to behead and bury the students union which had become a stumbling block to the authorities’ anti-poor and anti-student policies by killing its most radical leaders in order to serve as an example and brutal warning to the mass of students never to challenge the authorities.
As it would turn out by virtue of the law of unintended consequences, the July 10 cult attack became a defining moment in the fight of Great Ife students against cultism. As a response to the attack, a resounding NO was made against cultism and OAU pronounced zero tolerance to CULTISM. Some of the perpetrators of the killing were arrested by an enraged studentry with some arrested as far as Edo state, Ibadan and Lagos State as mass of students mobilized to take their destinies in their hands without waiting for the police or government to act. In addition, the Prof. Wale Omole authorities which allegedly sponsored the cult attacks was swept out of the campus by a tidal wave of movement.
The July 10 killing became a national issue which forced the Obasanjo government to sack the Vice Chancellor and set up a Judicial Panel of Inquiry.
Now 22 years after, current generation of students must recognize that they owe a lot to the sacrifices of the past generation including those like Afrika who gave their lives in the struggle to defend students’ interests. The relative level of safety obtainable on Campus after July 10, 1999 was a product of the collective effort of students in ensuring that cult-like activities do not prevail again on campus.
ONLY AN INDEPENDENT, DEMOCRATIC AND MASS-BASED STUDENTS UNION CAN COMBAT EMERGING CULT THREAT
Now 22 years after, things have changed and OAU students are again facing the menace of campus cultism. In 2017 when the Ogunbodede led administration tyrannically proscribed the Students Union, one of the points the Education Rights Campaign made against such undemocratic action was that it would strengthen the resurgence of cultism on the campus because students have no platform to collectively fight for their security and safety. Today our warning has become a reality. There are reports of different cult-like activities, especially physical assault and intimidation, on campus.
The recent statement issued by the Neo-black Movement is a testament to the level of degeneration created by the long period of union proscription. We, therefore, place the blame for this security threat at the doorstep of the Ogunbodede administration.
As we remember the heroic deeds and sacrifice of Afrika and other students who were killed by cultists, we must understand that the way to a safe campus is through vibrant unionism. Indeed, to fight the emerging cult threat requires a vibrant, independent and mass based students union. This is why the mass of students must show serious interest in the current effort to restore the union after a long period of proscription particularly to ensure that only genuine and radical elements who can defend students interests are elected to lead the Union.
George Iwilade Afrika was a vibrant unionist who fought against anti-students policies; we believe that the best way to remember him and other heroes is to continue the struggle against cultism, poor welfare condition, and other anti-student policies.
Welfare conditions of students have continued to deteriorate, despite the over 300% increase in school fees imposed by the ‘Tale Omole led university management in 2014. For instance, students were left without a water supply for days just a few days into a new semester. We in the ERC have always urged students to fight against poor welfare conditions as well as fighting for proper funding of the education sector and democratic running of the institutions by students and workers through their unions.
Many students are faced with accommodation crises; presently more students are staying off-campus than those staying on campus. The implication of this is that half of the students’ population is exposed to insecurity and the daily difficulties of commuting to campus. The reason for this is the forceful eviction of students from hostels by the Ogunbodede administration. Instead of exposing students to danger by sending them off-campus, we have consistently argued that more hostels should be built on campus to correspond with the number of students. Sadly, the Management turned a deaf ear to this agitation while living facilities have not had any major improvement so far. In the meantime, we demand reduction of transport fare by the commercial “towngboro” buses to an amount affordable by poor students. We also demand provision of University buses to convey students at cheap cost to and from campus especially at rush hour periods in the morning and afternoon when the numbers of commuters usually overwhelm the commercial buses does creating long queues which have made some students miss lectures, tests and even examinations.
The reinstatement of the union is a product of the agitation of students to have their union back. We demand an immediate democratic election now, such an election must be credible and devoid of the interference of the university management. Therefore, the Education Rights Campaign demands that the Castro-led electoral commission call a congress of students to democratically discuss the students union election so that the mass of students can have a say and input as to what modalities would guide the conduct of the election itself. It is only logical that you don’t shave a man’s head behind him. Students own their union and must be carried along. It is on this note that we urge students to be prepared to challenge any onerous and undemocratic modalities for elections like high CGPA etc. unilaterally handed down by the school authorities or the electoral commission without their democratic input. We insist that the provision of the OAU Students Union constitution should guide the conduct of the elections.
JOIN THE ERC!
Are you concerned about the emerging threat of campus cultism and want to know how to fight it? Are you interested in the restoration of the students union and wants to know how an active and responsible union can be built? If you are any of the above, ERC is an organization to join. The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) is a platform formed by the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) to fight against attacks on both public education and democratic rights of students and education workers. We campaign for adequate funding of public education and democratic management of schools including elected representatives of students and education workers. We call on students who are interested in fighting for quality education, decent living and learning environment, a better education sector and a better society which is only achieved based on the struggle for Socialist change to join the ERC now!