Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

Students Boycott Lectures To Demand Restoration of Banned Students’ Union


Students Boycott Lectures To Demand Restoration of Banned Students’ Union

By DSM reporters in Ile-Ife

OAU student boycott, photo DSM

OAU student boycott, photo DSM

On Wednesday 5 December 2012, students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) boycotted lectures to demand restoration of banned Students’ Union. As early as 8am and for about 6 hours, over 1,000 students marched round the campus to picket lecture theatres and implement the boycott. This was the first boycott since their Union was banned almost two years ago. Over 10 members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) participated. Our members are also playing leadership roles in the struggle committee set up by a student congress on Sunday with a mandate to coordinate the boycott.

At the end of the boycott in the afternoon, some leaders of the struggle committee went to Osogbo – the Osun state capital – to submit a statement of demands of the struggle to the press.

Placards at the scene of the pickets demanded immediate restoration of the Union and opposed management’s undemocratic attempts to review the union constitution and impose stringent conditions for contest. At most of the departments and faculties, they met little or no resistance as lecturers and students supported the boycott.

The Union was banned nearly two years ago by the immediate past administration of Prof Michael Faborode after a peaceful students protest against fee hike. Since then, students have been regaled with one promise or the other by the new Vice Chancellor, Prof. Tale Omole, who for a while bought for himself students’ confidence when upon assumption of office he promised to restore the union within one academic session. But with the current academic session ending in less than two months from now, many students have already started questioning the sincerity of the new administration.

Students Boycott Lectures To Demand Restoration of Banned Students

Students Boycott Lectures To Demand Restoration of Banned Students’ Union – photo DSM

However it took a series of events last weekend for a movement disillusioned in the management and boldly demanding and prepared to fight for the restoration of the union to develop.

The first of these events was the protest on Friday 30th November 2012 against cut in electricity supply on the campus. By the success of this protest, a significant section of students became convinced of the potency of mass struggle in defeating anti-poor policies of school management.

The second event was the symposium of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) – a campaigning platform formed by the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) – which attracted hundreds of students and provided a basis for serious discussions on the need to struggle for the restoration of the Union.

By the end of the symposium when some of the invited speakers were attacked at the University gate by security men, a movement had already developed not only protesting the attack on the speakers but also demanding the immediate restoration of the Union.

From then on, the position of the University management which consisted of eternally postponing the restoration of the union became untenable as they too began to feel the pressure to appease students and rein back the growing movement. Indeed frightened by the boycott, the management conceded to a meeting with the students’ leaders as early as 9 am in the morning. They conveyed this to the leaders of the protest through some former union leaders. Unfortunately, a combination of mistakes from activists, perhaps fuelled by their lack of trust in the role of these former union leaders, made this meeting impossible. As a result, by about 9:30am, the University management cancelled the meeting when no one showed up and all efforts later on to make them reconvene proved abortive. The DSM feels attending a meeting of this kind was crucial and could have enhanced the confidence of students more. Furthermore by not attending, the movement gave the management the opportunity to seize the initiative – something they had lost since Saturday.

In defiance of the boycott and probably smarting from the protest leaders’ refusal to attend the meeting, the University management went to have a meeting with the “transition committee” composed of 15 students’ representatives which they had set up a while ago, but which has enjoyed no mass acceptance from the broad layers of students. Then, in a statement made later on December 5 by the Division of Students’ Affairs, it was announced that the management has mandated this committee to oversee the drawing up of timetable for new Union elections. While no date is specified in the statement, information from the grapevine suggests management is thinking of next semester for the elections.

While this may not be acceptable to many students who desire the restoration of their Union this session, yet even this shows the potency of mass struggle and the success of the boycott. Without the boycott, this concession would have been impossible. What should now be uppermost in the hearts and minds of the activists is how to build the movement forward to challenge the management and force them to restore an independent and fully democratic union. The DSM will be playing a role in the inevitable discussions among activists and the left on the success and limitation of today’s actions and what the next steps should be.