Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria
Newspaper of the DSM
OAU RESUMPTION: AN END TO RECURRING DECIMAL OR CRISES?
We of the Democratic Socialist Movement, DSM, OAU branch welcome Great Ife students back from 3-month sojourn at home. We observe that we come back to meet a besieged campus owing to some repressive and high-handed measures put in place by the university authorities, particularly as regards the restricted access to halls of residence, a seeming conquered Students' Union Building, SUB, the extortion of so-called reparation fee, the summary expulsion of Peter Olowokandi, the PRO, Students' Union and the invitation of some student leaders and activists to a disciplinary panel.
From experience this prevailing mood of siege will be ephemeral. As against what the management and its acolytes are trying to ascribe to us, students are not naturally belligerent. Nobody takes delight in boycotting classes and opts for barricades. The unfavourable objective situations created by the actions and inactions of the government and the authorities breed the pre-condition for student agitations.
THE ASSAULT ON THE VICE-CHANCELLOR UNIVERSITY IS ALSO CULPABLE
With the current high-handed actions, it appears that the authorities have learnt little or no lesson from the crisis situation that led to the unfortunate incident of November 3. Instead of addressing the unresolved issues, they choose to vent crude anger on the students. As we have maintained in all our comments and publications, the reported physical assault on the vice-chancellor and some other officials of the university was unnecessary and condemnable. But the university will be missing the point if it chooses to close eyes on the objective conditions that threw up the protest in the first place. In our open memorandum to the fact finding panel issued on December 15, 2004, we stated: "the immediate cause of the crisis however was the accumulated anger of the students over the fledging issues, with the management having created an insoluble picture of the crisis, and the tensions/ apprehensions issuing thereof by its inability or refusal to point a way out of the obvious quagmire that the campus was then drifting. With a new semester examination approaching and results of the previous semester unreleased and no solution in sight and this compounded by deep seated anger of students against the university on how they were forced to cough up outrageous charges even without commensurate improvement in their studying and living conditions, it was certain that something unpleasant was bound to happen.".
We then advised that: "this incident which is unprecedented in the annals of student struggle in Great Ife should serve as a basis of sober reflection for the management and the vice-chancellor in particular on the style of the administration particularly as regards the characteristic rabid implementation of the anti-student, anti-worker policies of the government by the management." Warning earlier against likely high-handedness which the authorities have now opted for, we wrote: "the management will not do the university good if they try to bury or gloss over the issues that led to the assault and the subsequent brutal murder of a student but preoccupy themselves with how to make scapegoats out of some student activists and members of staff. These issues must be roundly addressed and way out found which in the immediate term entails the payment of the withheld workers' salaries, reinstatement of the suspended student leaders and an end to the culture of victimisation, and improvement in the studying and living conditions of students."
UNRESOLVED ISSUES AUTHORITIES MUST FIND SOLUTION
The authorities must not be deceived by the prevailing graveyard peace on the campus. OAU is not a necropolis, as we stated in the Nov/Dec. 2004 edition of our bi-monthly publication, the Socialist Democracy in an article entitled, "OAU Crisis- How Should Struggle Be Organised?", such circumstantial peace can hardly last. We wrote: "It is possible that the students, if they are forced to spend days or months at home, may not be immediately disposed to continue agitation for the outstanding demands, particularly the reinstatement, let alone resist the likely new assault. But such circumstantial political lull among the students cannot last forever. The unresolved pending issues, deplorable welfare conditions, inability of authorities to show anything for the illegal charges collected and the likely new attack to be unleashed on students, in a matter of time will activate students and force them out of their dormant state."
Therefore, to prevent another evil day, the lasting solution must be found to the yet to be resolved issues. The university must ensure the immediate payment of the two-month salaries of the academic staff and that of other staff unions withheld in the same circumstance. The payment of the lecturers' salaries will facilitate release of student examination results. The management should immediately initiate a positive discussion with ASUU and the other workers' unions in this direction. They must commit themselves to comprehensive improvement of the studying and general welfare conditions on the campus. And, instead of aggravating the crisis situation which the recent expulsion of the union PRO and the invitation of some other union activists to an obvious vindictive disciplinary panel portend, they should recall all the politically victimized student leaders and activists including those that only enjoy temporary studentship on the basis of court injunction.
INVITATION OF ARMED POLICEMEN AND KILLING OF RASHEED LAKETU
Undoubtedly, the darkest moment of the November 3 saga was the murder in cold blood of a part one student Rasheed Laketu. Unfortunately, the killing has been relegated to the background as if it is inconsequential. It suffices to reproduce our position on the killing as contained in our open memorandum. We stated: "Hiding under the need to rescue the vice-chancellor of the university from rampaging students, the management invited armed police who stormed the campus in a commando fashion, shooting sporadically as if in a warfare. At the end, a part one student, Rasheed Laketu, was heartlessly murdered by the trigger happy policemen. Rather than being an accident, the reprehensible act of inviting armed invasion of the campus is a stock in trade of the current university management. Very early in its life in 2000, the management invited mobile policemen apparently to crush the struggle of NASU members then on strike demanding payment of some outstanding allowances. During students peaceful protest against imposed fees in 2002/2003 and 2004/2005 sessions, the management also drafted in armed policemen to harass the students into submission. Indeed, but for the maturity and organisation of the student leadership during the anti-fee campaign early in the current session, something fatal could easily have occurred. This is to show that even if the protests of November 3 had not degenerated to the 'assault' on the VC, mobile policemen might still have been invited and students could still have been killed. Ipso facto, the death of the student hangs directly on the neck of the authorities and the Nigerian state. Both must make unreserved open apology and pay heavy compensation to the family of the murdered student.
The management must commit itself never again to invite policemen into the campus in response to unarmed student and staff agitations, protest/demonstrations. The university's security committee must be dissolved immediately and recomposed to include representatives of students and other segments of the university community. In cases where police invitation becomes inevitable, for instance if armed, sponsored storm troopers including cult gangs were to invade the campus and unleash terror on defenseless students, policemen so invited will be subject to the guidance of such committee and the mass of students."
LESSON OF THE LAST STRUGGLE
The massive support of students for the series of struggles the union had embarked upon before November 3 to drive home our genuine demands is commendable. However, we have to appreciate the fact that the wrong tactics adopted which culminated in the reported physical assault on the vice-chancellor derailed the movement and threw the popular struggle backward. Truly, the mass of students were objectively angry at the university management. Yes, the vice-chancellor is a rabid stickler to the anti-student, anti-worker policies of Obasanjo's government as it reflects in the increase in school fees on two consecutive sessions and the swift implementation of the obnoxious 'no work no pay' policy. But targeting any form of assault or violence at individual office holders is a counter-productive approach to a genuine struggle of students. It always creates huge diversion from the real issues, including appeals to base sentiment. It places a potent weapon in the hands of the management to vilify the students, their leadership and discredit their campaigns. It usually also creates opportunities for the authorities to aim at implementing obnoxious laws and take repressive measures against the student masses. These are what presently obtain in the university.
What is required to defeat any particular policy of the university is an organised and well-coordinated struggle that would have potential of tilting the balance of forces in favour of students to defeat any particular policy of the university and government. It is a futile exercise to aim struggle at individuals, even if it escapes being counter-productive in the immediate term. The defeat or otherwise of any policy does not foreclose its re-introduction even on a greater degree irrespective of the person of the vice-chancellor. The struggle must be ultimately aimed at root cause of the crisis in the education sector in general and OAU in particular, which is the pro-capitalist/pro-imperialist neo-liberal policies of privatisation and commercialisation of education.
These were the points we tried to make prior to and on November 3 when some short-sighted student activists and campus tigers out of political opportunism and poverty of correct tactics of popular struggles resorted instead to demagogy, grandstanding, mischief and unwarranted name calling of our members.
As we rightly put it in our open memorandum: "The anti-people, IMF/World Bank inspired neo- liberal policy of commercialization and privatisation of education of the government engenders the gross under-funding of education. It is based on the claims that the university is under-funded; that the Prof. Roger Makanjuola led management has been imposing one provocative and outrageous charge after the other on the students in the last two sessions. The legitimate resistance of students against this obnoxious policy each time it is introduced has continuously earned student leaders and activists suspension from the university and other forms of political victimisation. Similarly, the lecturers whose salaries are withheld are being victimized for going on strike to demand, inter alia, adequate funding of education."
In other words, the chief crisis of education sector is the crisis of under-funding, however compounded by characteristic misappropriation of even the little available resources by the administrators at all levels and stages in the sector and the absence of genuine democratic management. Every available fact shows that the country is fabulously rich to the extent of even being able to sustain free and functional education at all levels without tears. What accounts for the refusal of the government to commit adequate resources to education like every other social service is its total submission to the letters and spirits of the capitalist neo-liberal philosophy. Therefore, as experience has shown, whatever gain we are able to achieve in the struggle against any form and instance of attack on education can only be momentary in as much the foundation of the crisis, capitalist system is preserved. Thus, our struggle for improvement in education sector must always be linked to the overall struggle against capitalism and for a democratic socialist society with the public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy with democratic management and control of the resources and society by the working people.
Unconditional reinstatement of Peter Olowokandi, Taiwo Hassan and all other politically victimized student activists and end to the culture of victimisation.
The immediate payment of the two-month salaries of the academic staff and that of other staff unions withheld in the same circumstance.
The Immediate release of the withheld semester exam results.
Qualitative improvement in the living and studying conditions on the campus.
Apology and heavy compensation to the family of the slain student, Rasheed Laketu, by the University authorities and the Nigerian Police
Never again should policemen be invited into the campus in response to unarmed student and staff agitations, protest/demonstrations. No Police Post on campus!
The university's security committee must be dissolved immediately and re-composed to include representatives of students and other segments of the university community.
Democratic management of the resources and affairs of the institutions of higher learning with the inclusion of the elected representatives of students, teaching and non-teaching staffs in all decision making bodies from committees to the Governing Council.
Adequate commitment of the collectively owned wealth of the society to the funding of public education.
No to privatisation of student hostels.