Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

UI: Agitation For Restoration Of Independent Unionism Gain Momentum

UI: Agitation For Restoration Of Independent Unionism Gain Momentum

(By H.T. Soweto, National Coordinator, ERC)

About 7 years ago, the Prof. Falase-led Authorities of the University of Ibadan (U.I) banned the Student Union of the University after ceaseless challenge of the mass of students to the authorities’ control of their affairs. In the process, members of the then Union executive led by its president Akeem Lawal (Aluta) and Secretary General Wale Eleto (a member of the DSM) were suspended while radical student organizations were proscribed.

Others suspended during the struggle to reclaim the union include Stephen Alayande, Ali Ayodeji Honour, Ola Adeosun and Anthony Oni

In order to crush radicalism entirely, the authorities deployed cult groups ‘alliance of all colours’ to disrupt student congresses, attack the leaders and resist any attempt by the mass of students to sustain the struggle. Since then, succeeding generations of students on that campus have had to bear different anti-poor education policies and worsening welfare conditions with equanimity as there is no union to defend them. The Student Union Transition Committee (SUTC) set up by the management and made-up of elements faithful to it could not provide a leadership around which the mass of students could mobilise to defend themselves.

In the wake of the ban of unionism in the University (admittedly one of the most radical student unions then in the SouthWest), Vice Chancellors and heads of tertiary institutions nationwide greeted it as a good development while attempting to implement same on their campus. Even though some of these attempts failed due to students’ resistance, University of Ibadan has continued to be a standard desired by every anti-student university authorities wanting to clamp down on unions.

However, on 14 October 2008, students of the University re-enacted the tradition of struggle they were historically known for by mobilising for lecture boycott and mass action against authorities’ announcement of 50% increment in tuition and other fees. According to the new regime of fees, undergraduate students are now to pay N15, 000 for accommodation as against the initial N10, 000 paid last session. Postgraduate students are now to pay N35, 000 for a single room at the “Obafemi Awolowo single man room” of the university as against N30, 000 previously paid. The two-man room occupant in the same hall will now pay N25, 000 as against the N20, 000 paid before. Equally, returning and fresh students are to pay N3, 000, with medical fee increasing from N500 to N1, 000, Identity Card from N365 to N650, examination fee from N1, 000 to N1, 500, development levy from N2, 000 to N3, 000 and N1, 000 as health insurance fee, among others (Daily Trust newspaper).

The struggle tagged ‘Protest Till Something Happens (PUSH)’ was overwhelmingly successful. The gates leading to the University were barricaded and academic and administrative activities paralysed by over 6000 protesting students. One of the most prominent demands of students was that independent unionism must be restored. Alarmed at this unexpected development, the University authorities immediately announced a paltry reduction of the fees.

But the demand for the restoration of unionism has not yet been met. The University management has explained it away that it could not be met because the issue is in court.

Truly, both the authorities and the victimised student leaders have been in court for the past 7 years in respect of the ban of the union and suspension of the activists. However, if the management is truly sincere about restoring the Union, we in the DSM and ERC do not see a special obstacle posed by the cases in court. In that instance, the cases could be withdrawn if it is agreed that the authorities would immediately allow democratic union elections to hold so that students could elect their leaders as against the current practice of imposing authorities-apologists as student representatives.

But the reality is that the authorities still cherish the relative freedom it has enjoyed for over seven years now in imposing anti-student policies arbitrarily with the assurance that there is no union to mobilize students for a fight back. It will therefore do anything including employing terror and victimizations just to sustain the current status quo.

What is therefore necessary is for student activists and radical student organizations in and outside the University of Ibadan (U.I) to unite for joint work and program of actions to build a campaign for the restoration of the Union. The Joint Campus Committees (JCC) Oyo State and radical unions from other campuses should be involved. The program of action should include appeals to the management, lobbying of University senate, governing councils and alumni, distribution of leaflets and posters to explain the issues to the mass of students as well as symposia, press campaign and rallies. All these must be aimed at calling for ‘days of action’ of protest and demonstrations around the demand for restoration of the Union and welfare issues.

Suffice to stress that the U.I case further exposes the bankruptcy of the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and the NANS Zone D. They should not be expected to play any progressive role in struggles generally and in the struggle for the restoration of Unionism in U.I in particular. This raises the need for genuine student activists and radical student organizations to build an alternative democratic, mass-based and fighting student association which could lead Nigerian students in struggles against government neo-liberal policies on education.

We of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) promise to do our part in the struggle to restore an independent, democratic and mass-based union in the University of Ibadan (U.I). We therefore enjoin all those who wish to participate in the struggle against attack on unionism and for provision of free and quality education to join the DSM and the ERC today.