OBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY CRISIS
DSM OAU branch statement
OBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY CRISIS
After Banning of the Students Union, Authorities Set to Victimize Student Leaders
Appeal For Solidarity Protest Letters
Authorities at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile Ife have issued query letters to three (3) Union leaders for leading students’ protests against attempts by the University Management to impose examinations on the students without giving them a statutory lecture free week to prepare adequately for the examinations. The three Union leaders queried are Dairo Olatunde-Barry Blacky (the Public Relations Officer of the Students Union), Owoeye Durotimi-Figo (the Lord Chancellor, Judicial Council, Students Union) and Hassan Taiwo-Soweto (Secretary, Democratic Socialist Movement, OAU branch). All are members of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), OAU branch and leading activists of the Students Union. This latest query brings the number of DSM members undergoing or about to undergo victimization as a result of political activism to five (5). These include Abdulazeez Ibrahim-HighBee (whose result has been seized since last year for organizing, as Chairman of Electoral Commission, an independent Students Union election against Authorities interference) and Muyiwa Aderibigbe-Liptino (member of Students Union parliament) who has been expelled since 2004 for participating in a student protest on November 3rd, 2004.
The reason for this vicious clampdown is the demand for a week postponement of the harmattan (2nd Semester) examination so as to allow students to prepare adequately for the examination. The standard practice in the University (and enshrined in the statute of higher institutions) is that all academic activities including lectures, tests or practical are meant to have been concluded a full week before the commencement of examinations so that students can revise their course works. But regrettably, lectures and tests were held up till the first day of the examination, which was Monday 26th February 2007. Equally, around the time examination was supposed to start, about 139 students just came back from the Nigerian University Games (NUGA) held at Maiduguri, Borno state, where they had gone to represent the University in different sports. This combined with the poor studying and living conditions not conducive for examinations and the fact that despite paying N300 each to the Authorities at the beginning of the Semester for Identity Cards all adding up to over N7.5million, no student has valid Identity Cards which are required in the examination to guard against malpractice shows that the examination could not start as fixed.
The leadership of the OAU Students’ Union called two congress meetings of students and two letters were written to the Management asking for a shift in the examination on the basis of the reasons stated above. Despite the genuineness of this demand, the Authorities refused. Explaining the reason for this, the Vice Chancellor of the University Prof. M.O Faborode (who being a member of the ruling anti-poor and pro-capitalist Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was recently imposed by President Olusegun Obasanjo on the University) claimed in The Guardian of Thursday, March 8, 2007 that “their was a Senate meeting of the school where the agitation of the students leaders were looked into but the conclusion was that the undertone of the current crisis was not about examination but plan by Akinola led executive to demand for the recall of their expelled colleagues” (our emphasis). Having made this conclusion, the Authorities directed that examination must hold by Monday 26th February 2007 but on that day were confronted by a massive boycott of thousands of students thus showing how wrong the Senate was in underplaying students’ demand for a shift in the examination. About 500 Mobile Policemen drafted onto the campus to force students to write the examinations met stiff resistance at the barricades set up by the students to check the advance of the police. Despite the violence unleashed (with teargas and live bullets) on the protesters who refused to write examinations under duress, the resistance could not be broken thus making the Authorities to shamefully withdraw the Mobile Policemen on Tuesday. The Senate again met on Wednesday 28th February 2007 and in apparent despair declared the campus indefinitely closed. The Management gave all students till 6 pm to vacate the hostels in a special Release issued by 3pm of the same day, yet thousands of students who could not make the trip to their distant homes in the night stayed behind in defiance and when another contingent of Mobile policeman was drafted in around 8pm to eject them, they bravely chased the police out while barricades were again erected to prevent possible attacks in the night.
These defeats of the mobile policemen greatly confirm the immense power of the organised and conscious mass of students. Against the background of the ideological collapse of the leadership of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and the emergence of reactionaries in the leadership of several local students unions whose lack of fighting ideas and spirits has made millions of Nigerian students to lose faith in their own power, this bravery displayed by OAU students in three days of fierce battle at the barricades is bound not to be lost on the University management and the Obasanjo anti-poor government whose neo-liberal IMF/World Bank-inspired attacks on education is the cause of the current crisis. With the bottom-low budgetary allocation to education (currently below 8%) under the Obasanjo capitalist government despite huge resources from crude oil sales ($190million per day), education has been priced out of the reach of the common man. With government flagrant abandon of its social responsibility, the succeeding neo-liberal economic policies of commercialization and privatization has only worsened the already unbearable situation thus constituting a time bomb ticking furiously to detonate at any time.
Aware of this mortal danger and frightened by the anger and discontent its ruinous anti-poor policies have unleashed among students and the effects of a collapsing neo-colonial economy on the working masses, the Obasanjo government had been consciously breaking the backbone of progressive students unionism in order to eradicate possible oppositions to its policies on education. However, no matter how much they have tried, the OAU Students Union, resting on a massive politically conscious studentry and established ideological organisations including the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI, Nigeria), has always been shaking off all these open and concealed infiltrations. Not surprising therefore, whenever the opportunity presents itself, the University Management with the support of the repressive apparatus of the state waste no time in attacking the Union. While these attacks, frequent of late, has been restricted to victimizing selected radical Union leaders and activists, this is the first time in about 8 years (that is since the vicious regime of Prof. Wale Omole who was Vice Chancellor of the University during the equally despotic Abacha military junta was thrown out) that the Union has been declared banned.
But the reasons for this are obvious. The banning of the Union was dictated by two events viz the left bloc’s massive majority in the Union leadership due to the yearnings of the studentry for a fighting Union shown in their votes during the Students Union elections and the increasing radical influence the OAU Students Union is having on national issues. The University management had sponsored some candidates in the Students’ Union elections in order to maintain its hold on the Union, but to their dismay, a combined bloc of the left polled a majority in the election with radical leaders emerging. The president of the Students Union named Akinola Saburi (Malcolm X) is a member of Pacesetters movement (an ex-Stalinist organization). Having lost massively in the election, the Authorities started a smear campaign that the President, Akinola Saburi, is not a student because of his unresolved reinstatement after he was expelled for participating in the student protest against introduction of fees on November 3rd 2004. However, Akinola Saburi had gone to court to challenge the expulsion and was granted an injunction reinstating him temporarily until the substantive suit is heard. Since then, Akinola Saburi had been attending lectures and participating in other academic activities on the orders of the Federal High Court without harassment. But when he won the Students Union elections, the Management fearing his radicalism and his popularity declared that he was not a student on the basis of spurious claims while the Chairman of the Electoral Commission of the Students Union Abdulazeez Ibrahim (member, DSM, OAU branch) had his final year result seized and up till today has not been allowed to graduate since because he bravely refused to submit the independence of the Students Union to the Authorities by screening out Akinola Saburi from the elections. Also, Akinola Saburi’s office as President of the Students’ Union was not recognized but in defiance the mass of students embraced the Students Union and answered its call to the barricades an example of which was a successful 2-day lecture boycott to protest for better welfare conditions. However, the University Management was only biding its time to apply the sledgehammer.
The other event that dictated the banning of the Union was the radical influence the OAU students Union was having on national issues. This was a product of the broad ideological outlook of the left bloc in the leadership of the Students Union. When the Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mr. Nuhu Ribadu came to the campus to address a lecture organized by Justice Chamber, a student society in Law Faculty, it was an opportunity for OAU students to register their opinion about the selective anti-corruption war of the Commission and the hatchet man job Mr. Nuhu Ribadu is doing for Obasanjo. The program was picketed by the Students Union and Mr. Nuhu Ribadu encountered the first protest against his actions as a henchman of the ruling party. Overwhelmed, he made the now famous statement out of desperation in response to volley of questions from students asking him to prove the sincerity of the anti-corruption war by probing Obasanjo who is also a corrupt public officer “those who say I should probe Mr. President are unfair to meâ€¦. I cannot probe Obasanjo”. This was widely reported in the media and caused the Obasanjo government a lot of embarrassment. Not surprising, few weeks after, the National Assembly kick started a review of the Act establishing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in order to make it independent of the Presidency. Expectedly, the government wished to revenge and the disagreement over examinations provided the opportunity to clampdown of the Union whose radicalism is getting intolerable as well as Union leaders seen to be leading the students.
Looking at the short and long-term implications of the banning of OAU Students Union, it is clear that a danger threatens the student movement if the attack succeeds. As the haven of the most radical ideological organisations and most conscious studentry, the state will waste no time after banning the Union to rout the ideological organisations. That is why three (3) members of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) have been queried aside two (2) others who have already been victimized. On Nigerian campuses where there is lack of democracy, query letters are often times followed by expulsions and rustications. Since the university has been closed down, the Authorities are planning to victimize them exploiting the absence of students from campus.
To avert this, the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI, Nigeria) has launched an international solidarity appeal. We urge all CWI sections, ISR, students bodies, workers organizations, individuals, etc to send letter of protest to the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) at [email protected], the Vice-Chancellor â€“ [email protected] & [email protected] and the Federal Ministry of Education at [email protected] and [email protected] Note copies of all protest letters sent should be made available to the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI, Nigeria) at [email protected].
OUR DEMANDS ARE: –
(1) Immediate opening of the campus and granting of a lecture free week so that students can write examinations.
(2) No to reparation. The management must pay full damages to the shop owners whose shops were burnt in the sport market during a raid by Mobile Police on the order of the Vice Chancellor and immediate rebuilding of the market.
(3) Removal of the Vice Chancellor Prof. M.O Faborode and dissolution of his team for undemocratic conduct during the crisis. For the setting up of a democratic panel of enquiry comprising representatives of students and staff Unions and members of the public to probe the crisis and chart a ay forward for the University.
(4) No to victimization of any students over the student protest while we also demand an Immediate and unconditional reinstatement of the President of the Students union Akinola Saburi (Malcolm X) who has been expelled since, Abdulazeez Ibrahim (Highbee) whose results have been seized and Muyiwa Aderibigbe (Liptino) who has also been expelled since 2004.
(5) Immediate provision of valid I.D cards for students especially since students have paid for I.D card since the beginning of the semester.
(6) Immediate overhaul of the welfare condition of students and staffs.
(7) Democratization of the decision-making organs of the University to involve representative of students and staff Unions
(8) Massive funding of education by at least 26% of the budget to provide money for free, qualitative and democratic education for the poor.