OAU JULY 10 1999: WE REMEMBER AFRIKA AND 4 OTHERS!
JOIN THE ERC TO BUILD AN INDEPENDENT, DEMOCRATIC, AND MASS BASED STUDENTS UNION TO FIGHT CULTISM AND ANTI-STUDENT POLICIES
Today makes it 24 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 targets of the attack were 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 as well as cult activities 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 and campus gangsters.
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. Sadly, they were set free by the corrupt judiciary. In addition, the Prof. Wale Omole authorities which allegedly sponsored the cult attacks were 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 24 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.
FOR AN INDEPENDENT, AND MASS-BASED STUDENTS UNION
Now 24 years after, things have changed and OAU students are again facing the menace of campus cultism. In the past when despotic university 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. 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, independent and mass-based Students unionism. Indeed, to fight the emerging cult threat requires a vibrant, independent and mass based students 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. As things stand today, the welfare conditions of students have continued to deteriorate, despite various increases in school fees imposed by the university management over the years. 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 at least half of the students’ population is exposed to insecurity and the daily difficulties of commuting to campus.
This situation is not restricted to OAU, it is a general menace plaguing public tertiary institutions due to the prevailing anti-poor and pro-capitalist policies of education underfunding and commercialization. Now the Tinubu administration has introduced students’ loan as a solution to high cost of education. We in the ERC consider this as a ruse to introduce tuition and raise the cost of public tertiary education beyond the means of students from the poor and working class backgrounds. As we have variously argued, Nigeria’s wealth if democratically managed and judiciously utilized should be adequate not only to fund public education adequately but also to provide free and functional education at all levels. The only obstacle to this is corruption and capitalism and that is why, as members of the ERC, we link our struggle for better funding of public education with campaigning for a Socialist alternative to the capitalist status quo which has created misery for the mass majority while only a tiny fraction are swimming in an ocean of wealth.
JOIN THE ERC!
Are you interested in fighting to against fee hike and other anti-poor education policies? Join the ERC today. 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!