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Socialist Democracy May 2006


Socialist Democracy

May 2006



(By H.T. Soweto, Coordinator, ERC, OAU, Ile-Ife chapter)

On February 14 and 15, 2006, students of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife embarked on a two-day lecture boycott with protests and rallies to press home the demand for the immediate reinstatement of 13 politically victimized student leaders. This, politically, was held to coincide with the meeting of the Governing Council of the university.

The movement was able to force the Council to grant the reinstatement of Taiwo Hassan however with the conditionality of writing an apology letter and showing remorse. The council also agreed to consider the reinstatement of the remaining student leaders if they withdraw their cases from court and write an appeal to the Council.

Notwithstanding this conditional concession, the university authorities still appeared strong. But on a much deeper look, the last struggle, which was a continuation of the searing political heat that has been generated by successive protests of students since 2004, was a success. This is because, it was able to compel the authorities that had earlier stubbornly maintained "No to Reinstatement" stance to shift their official position. For the authorities to agree to unconditional reinstatement, it would have required a consistent and conscious movement of students under a fighting, sacrificing and uncompromising leadership which would have no dirty agreement with the management.

But today, Great Ife Students Union lacks such committed leadership. Like its immediate forebear, the current union executive is stinkingly reactionary. In fact, the last boycott and protest was held against its wish. In order not to betray its "peace and no more struggle" allegiance to the management, the union executive had wanted only feeble and insincere approach of dialoguing for reinstatement without political participation of the mass of students. It dreads student mass action as much as the authorities. It was forced to grudgingly endorse the action by the overwhelming pressure mounted by students at congresses, parliamentary sittings and agitations around campus. This was why it did not come out with posters, leaflets and other necessary mobilization materials for reinstatement until after the lecture boycott. It was left organizations like Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and Education Rights Campaign (ERC) that produced and distributed enlightenment materials for the struggle. The union executive, in fact, played negligible role in the protests while the mass of students, following the advanced layers made up of left-leaning activists and political organizations determined the scope and direction of the struggle.

Notwithstanding the limited concession, if it is not defended, the authorities will not hesitate to squash it once they become emboldened. They have already shown such tendency. For more than two months after the struggle, they have refused to reinstate Taiwo Hassan on the pretext that his letter of appeal to the Council is not remorseful. It also took two months before they agreed to meet with Students Union lawyers on the remaining 12 student activists as demanded by the students' Congress.

Thus, it behoves the mass of students and pro-student political organisations to begin strategizing on the next stage of the struggle in order to consolidate the victory. Just as Leon Trotsky said, "A people that cannot defend conquest already won cannot fight for new ones", it is imperative for us to see this struggle through, otherwise, the authorities may be emboldened to heighten attack not only on student leaders and activists but also the already despicable living and studying conditions on the campus.

For the students union executive, the recent history of Great Ife union has shown that once the mass of students are tired of their deception, opportunism and pro-authorities character, it will be chased out of office. There is, however, an important lesson for students to learn. Yes, we may be able to remove reactionary leadership in the long run. But before then, it has always messed up or drawn back our daily struggle for improvement in welfare conditions and democratic rights. Thus, we should always ensure we vote individuals who could uphold and defend our collective interests.

STOP PRESS: As we go to press, an unconfirmed report says that some of the victimised student leaders have been recalled.


Socialist Democracy May 2006