Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

OAU: Reign of victimization of students and staff activists

OAU: Reign of victimization of students and staff activists

The union must call a 1-day lecture boycott and mass protest

By H.T. Soweto

Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), one of the few campuses where the culture of resistance and radicalism still exist, may soon turn into a slave camp like University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) and University of Ibadan (U.I) if the Prof. Faborode-led University administration is not stopped in its stride to banish freedom of expression and association from the University.

Currently in OAU, four student union activists have been victimized. They include Akinola Saburi (Former Union President) who has been expelled since 2007, Ogumah Andrew Segun (Former speaker of the SRC) who has been on indefinite suspension since 2007 and Muyiwa Aderibigbe (a former member of the SRC) who has been expelled since 2005! A recent addition to this tragic list is Ayo Ademiluyi (Final Year Law student and Editor of ‘Eagle’ campus newspaper) whose results have not been processed just because the campus newspaper he edits published a story concerning the invitation of the Vice Chancellor Prof. Faborode by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the allegation of monumental fraud and illegal double deduction of workers’ pension allowance. However, the list may soon grow further if the Management goes on with its agenda, fully backed by the Governing Council, to victimize workers and their leaders who have been waging a running battle against the Management for the past few months for stoppage of illegal double deductions in their pension allowance.

The history of the current situation in OAU goes back to 2007. Arising from its attempt to take over the control of the Students’ Union in 2007, the University Management suspended and expelled about 13 student leaders and activists. In the wake of the series of protest that followed, the management also banned the Students’ Union and in connivance with Osun State government detained on trumped-up charges, the then President of the Students’ Union Akinola Saburi, the then PRO Dairo Olatunde and a student activist H.T Soweto in the custody of Ilesa prison for over five months. However, faced with mounting pressure from students, civil society groups and protest actions, organized by sections of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI)- the international socialist organization to which the DSM is affiliated- at Nigerian embassies in Europe and America for their release, the court was forced to grant them bail in 2008. Notwithstanding this victory, students insisted that they will only be satisfied if the Students’ Union is restored and all victimized activists reinstated. This was what formed the background to the restoration of the Students’ Union in 2008 and the reinstatement of majority of the victimized activists in 2009 except Akinola Saburi, Ogumah Andrew Segun and Muyiwa Aderibigbe. According to reports, Prof. Faborode has taken their cases personal and has often boasted that they will never be recalled.

This is despite the fact the immediate past Students’ Union executive wrote countless letters to the Management and Governing Council without any meaningful response. The victimized students have also, on their own, written and submitted letters of appeal to the Governing Council as part of the conditions for consideration of reinstatement without any response.

For us in the DSM, we believe that with consistent and vigorous struggle, anything is possible. The Prof. Faborode-led Management had made the same statement several times about all the victimized student leaders and yet, when faced with mounting pressure, was compelled to reinstate some of them. This shows the efficacy of struggle. In the real sense, what allowed the management to get away with its refusal to recall Akinola Saburi and other victimized leaders was the betrayal of the struggle by the immediate-past Students’ Union leadership which after the recall of majority of the victimized activists lost real interest in the struggle. We therefore call on students to immediately resume a steadfast campaign for the reinstatement of all victimized students activists. We must not abandon our leaders when they are victimized. Akinola Saburi and others were victimized because of their leading role in the struggle for better welfare conditions, independent unionism and adequate education funding. Great Ife students have demonstrated beyond doubt their willingness to fight for their reinstatement at every point in time. This was demonstrated in a 2-day lecture boycott organized by the Students’ Union in conjunction with the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) on June 16-17, 2009. Unfortunately, the immediate past union leadership acted as a stumbling block to the further development of this struggle.

The new students’ union leadership started well with a call for reinstatement of the student activists by the union president Paul Alaje in his inaugural speech. But beyond this, the union has not given further assurance that the struggle for reinstatement will be waged with a renewed commitment and vigour.

The DSM therefore calls on the Students’ Union leadership to immediately organize a one-day lecture boycott and mass protest. This should be backed up with an appeal to all the staff unions (ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT) for solidarity and support. Prior to the action, leaflets and posters must be produced and circulated to sensitize the public. Media campaign, symposia and rallies must also be organized to build support. This kind of action and programs if sustained over a long period of time, which the struggle may last, it could be possible to win the struggle for the reinstatement of all victimized student activists.

At the same time, the Students’ Union must solidarize with the University workers and their leaders whom the Management is planning to victimize for protesting against illegal double deductions in their pension allowance. Workers and students have a duty to unite in the struggle for independent unionism and education funding.