Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



By Ilesanmi Samson Bunmi (ERC, UNILAG Branch

Ten years after, the University of Lagos Students’ Union (ULSU) has been restored. The union was banned in 2005 following students’ protests against University administration’s anti-poor policies. Between then and now, the University administration had kept up a false semblance of students’ democratic representation by setting up a committee of Faculty presidents to act as Students union representatives. The result was that students’ interests were generally under-represented.

The restoration did not come without struggle. For years, students and staff union activists as well as the UNILAG branch of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) clamoured for the union to be restored. In 2012, a massive protest of students broke out in response to attempts by the Federal government to change the name of the University. The protest, very rare in UNILAG since the ban of the union, lasted for days and caught national attention. Over the last one year, several minor protests have also held against extortion and poor welfare conditions. In a way, these protests signified that students were beginning to regain the idea of struggle. Particularly, the ERC played roles in ensuring that the demands for restoration of the union began to gain some prominence among students by linking students’ present condition with the urgent necessity for a fighting union.

In July 2014 the University management set up Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) to draft a constitution for the ULSU. Ordinarily the administration only wanted to restore the Students Representative Council (SRC) as a new model for students’ unionism but the ERC condemned it. The SRC model means there would be no executive and congress. We produced about two thousand leaflets and circulated these to students not to support the SRC model as it detaches the mass of students from having full and direct control of the union and the leadership.

In the month of August 2014, after the CDC had successfully submitted the constitution to the University administration and expectations were high among students as to when the union would be fully restored, the ERC did an open letter to the Vice Chancellor demanding the commencement of the election process by setting up electoral committee to conduct election into the various offices. This became necessary because similar exercises of drafting a new constitution for the Union were carried out in 2008 and nothing came out of them.

Finally on 26 March 2015 during the first Semester of the 2014/2015 academic session, the University administration allowed elections to hold. Interestingly, this was reportedly a concession to the demand for the election to hold immediately. According to the new union constitution, elections are to hold in the Second Semester. As a result, the University administration sees this election as a dress rehearsal and expects another election to hold in the next few months when the University resumes for the Second Semester.

Whether dress rehearsal or not, the ERC sees this election as another step forward in ensuring that ULSU is fully restored. It is with this spirit as well that the ERC accepts the entire constitutional process leading to the election despite the apparent undemocratic nature of the new union constitution upon which the election was conducted. One of these instances is the undemocratic idea now embedded in the new constitution that instead of mass of students voting to elect their union leaders, an electoral college (made up of delegates comprising just 10% of the students’ population) only has a voting right. As the ERC has argued elsewhere, this is the height of the emasculation of democratic rights and it’s a shame that a citadel of learning is responsible for the imposition of undemocratic practices reminiscent of military dictatorship. It is also ridiculous that whilst UNILAG students can vote for political office holders in the country, they cannot freely vote for the leaders of their own union as this right can only be exercised on their behalf by an electoral college.

At the end of the day, the chairman of the electoral committee announced the results and the winners of various positions in the union. Among them is the president Martins Abiodun who polled a total of 599 votes to defeat Hassan and Osin olusola with 330 and 305 votes respectively. About 1,235 delegates voted in the election out of an electoral college made up of about 2,800 delegates. Also a member of the ERC won a seat at the Student Representative Council (SRC). We hope to utilize this position to step up the campaign for a fighting and democratic ULSU.

Despite starting off on a weak basis, the fact that UNILAG students now have a platform around which they can organize to struggle for their rights will have impact on development on the campus in the coming period.