ERC MEMBERS IN OAU ATTACKED BY PRO-JONATHAN THUGS
ERC MEMBERS IN OAU ATTACKED BY PRO-JONATHAN THUGS
TWO HOSPITALISED, ONE IN CRITICAL CONDITION
With heavy heart, we wish to bring to the notice of Nigerians that members of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and radical student activists at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) are under vicious attack by a rightwing section of the Students Union leadership led by the President Ibikunle Isaac Motunrayo in brutal retribution for organizing a protest against President Jonathan when he visited the campus on Friday 28 November 2014.
As at yesterday night (Sunday 30 November 2014), some members of the ERC were hospitalized and discharged after their injuries were treated. However another student activist, Adeniyi David, is still lying in critical condition at the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Ile-Ife after sustaining deep machete wounds on his head.
The unprovoked attack started yesterday Sunday 30 November 2014 around 6pm. Members of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) had just concluded a meeting at the lower TV room of the Students Union Building (SUB) when a group of young men (Akhuma Dbusta, Israel Beji, Ayinla, Teddy, Oye etc) led by the Public Relation Officer of the Students Union Bamidele Oludare and Daniel Momodu (the immediate past Secretary General of the Yinka Gbadebo-led executive of the National Association of Nigerian Students) swooped on them. The accusation of these men was that the ERC had the audacity to organize a protest against President Jonathan.
We have no doubt where this attack emanated from. Some of the ringleaders of this attack like Daniel Momodu have strong links with the President Jonathan government especially through his Senior Assistant on Students and Youth, Jude Imagwe. Also some of them like the Union President Ibikunle Isaac Motunrayo and his PRO, Bamidele Oludare are known paid agents of the Prof. Tale Omole-led University management and recently helped to scuttle a students’ protest against fee hike.
Moreso, it is not an accident that all those who participated in the attack were those who cheered President Jonathan during his visit and also posed for a picture with him. We believe they have their democratic rights to support the President. However democracy also means that those who feel otherwise be allowed the freedom to exercise their right without assault. We challenge the presidency and the University management to come clean if they played no role in this vicious attack by arresting all those responsible and prosecuting them in a court of competent jurisdiction.
The ERC detests the use of cultists by University management and government to attack and cow student unionists. Unfortunately this is not the first time. The present attack have too chilling similarity with the bloody violence and conflict that preceded the July 10, 1999 cult attack on the same campus which led to the killing of five student leaders including the late former Secretary General of the union Yemi Iwilade Afrika. Interestingly, the Vice Chancellor Prof Wale Omole who employed cultists to kill radical student activists in the 1999 saga shares the same surname with the current Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Tale Omole.
To avoid a repeat of this unsavoury history and ensure that peace once again reigns in the University, the ERC demands the setting up of an independent commission of inquiry democratically constituted by representatives of the Students Union, staff Unions, civil society organisations and human right groups, lawyers and other interested members of the public to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the violence, identify the perpetrators and their sponsors and to also make findings about the repeated cases of victimisation of students, anti-student policies and interference of University management in the affairs of the Students Union all of which constitutes the background to the current crisis. If justice is swiftly done now to the perpetrators of this violence some of whom are still at large and planning to stage a revenge against the generality of students, then would it be possible to ensure that this crisis is nipped in the bud before it degenerates.
Some of those beaten up were comrades Oluwole Olubanji Engels (ERC National mobilization officer and member of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Olamide Adabale (secretary of the campus branch of the DSM and an ERC member), Ibirogba Samuel (member of the DSM and ERC), Adedayo Ayoade (ERC member), Omole Ibikun (ERC OAU branch secretary) and Sanyaolu Oluwajuwon (member of the Pacesetters Movement). They all sustained vicious wounds. Ibirogba Samuel was stabbed with knife and nails in the head, back and arm while Adeniyi David – a student activist and collaborator of the ERC – is lying critically injured after sustaining deep machete to his skull. According to reports, he was macheted by Raphael Akhuma (Dbusta) who parades himself around campus as NANS CSO (Chief Security Officer).
Adeniyi David’s injury is so severe that doctors at the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital have recommended an X-ray of his skull. There is currently apprehension among his friends and families about the possible repercussion on his mental health even after the injury heals. In the meantime, the ERC demands the OAU authorities take responsiblity for his treatment and hospital bills. We will continue to insist he gets the best possible medical treatment to ensure he does not have to live with a debilitating mental disability after the wond heals.
It is not a coincidence that almost all of these activists attacked are currently serving suspension from the University for leading student’s protests few months ago against a 300% hike in fees. While the Union leaders betrayed the struggle, those who fought courageously were suspended by the University. The immediate interpretation we can give to this attack is that having realized that legal means of victimization were no more effective in silencing these courageous activists and riled by their audacity to organize a successful protest against President Jonathan, the university management acting the script of the state wants to silent them through means of terror by using the pro-government wing of the Students union leadership.
Some of the young men who participated in the attack have now been identified by students to be cultists. In swift reaction to the attack, students of the University mobilized from their halls of residence yesterday night and started picking up some of the assailants. Reportedly, the President, Public relation Officer and other union officials involved in the unprovoked attacks have now fled the campus. A student congress held yesterday has invited all of the union officials responsible to appear before another congress this evening. There is palpable anger against the obvious attempt by the government to use cultists to get back at those who simply exercised their constitutionally-guaranteed democratic rights to freedom of speech and assembly to demonstrate their displeasure to a capitalist government whose pro-rich and anti-poor neo-liberal capitalist policies have priced university education out of the reach of ordinary Nigerians, increased income inequality and impoverished vast majority.
We condemn this attack and vow that the ERC shall not be cowed or silenced in its effort to mobilize Nigerian students and youth to resist anti-poor education policies. Instead this attack, though vicious, is a confirmation that our protest on Friday against President Jonathan struck the right chord. We are therefore motivated more than ever before to organize more protests against all thieving members of the capitalist ruling elite regardless of their political party and wherever we can find them.
We shall also in the coming period strive, in alliance with like minds in the student movement, civil society and labour movement, to build a powerful mass movement of students, youth and workers to resist the austerity measures that this pro-rich government is planning to unleash on public education and the downtrodden in order to save the rotten capitalist system from the crisis it has found itself as crude oil price crashes on the world market.
We call on the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), other staff unions, trade unions, civil society and human right groups to condemn this attack and demand that the government and the university management prosecute the perpetrators of this attack and allow students to run their union independently and democratically without interference.
We commend the OAU students, the Vice President and Clerk of the Students Union and all those who came out yesterday night in defense of our comrades and in defense of the cause of truth and struggle. By taking a bold stand against these pro-government thugs, you are setting an example that would be followed by all oppressed Nigerians when the hour of revolution comes. On our part in the ERC, we remain undaunted. We shall continue to monitor the situation and update the public regularly.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto
E-mail: [email protected]