There are many instances of mismanagement witnessed at Nigerian public universities, including embezzlement of the inadequate funds doled out by the capitalist state. This needs to be investigated and the culprits made to face the law
• Support OAU Students' Demand for Restoration of Their Union
The Education Rights Campaign welcomes athletes and Team supporters from all around Nigerian universities to this sports festival – NUGA 2014. We wish you a memorable sporting moment in Great Ife.
However, we believe that this event would have been more glamorous and educative if Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) students were to be present to showcase some of the university’s cultural and traditional qualities. Unfortunately students have been inconveniently forced out of residential halls under the flimsy excuse of accommodating NUGA athletes, while some students who had no travelling alternative – and who still reside in their residential halls – are daily intimidated by police brutality. We strongly believe that if the university revenues have been properly managed, without wasteful spending and misappropriation, then OAU could have sufficiently provided these athletes with alternative and more convenient accommodation – say a NUGA ‘village’. Unfortunately, it was the host students who were forced to travel again on the death traps called Nigerian roads. From information gathered, we have already lost about three students to this unwarranted journey – all because of a 10-day sporting event.
The problem with Nigerian education system shows its ugly face in all aspects of students or education workers’ life. This current NUGA is not an exception in this instance. As we write, various athletes and coaching crew are yet to be paid their bonuses or allowances, while some got poor preparatory time because of the unwillingness of individual university management to release funds appropriated for sporting activities. In this year’s NUGA, the interest of the host students and athletes may be to have good time and showcase respective talents, but the interest of the host university management and, other managements generally, is totally different and questionable.
For instance, in OAU allegations of contract inflation, contract splitting, hoarding and embezzlement of sport funds trail this year’s hosting of NUGA. This may not be far from the truth. OAU management’s conscious effort in putting the students’ union under protracted ban alone justifies the undemocratic, shady character of the OAU management. Second, facts have it that OAU management spent N500 million on a swimming pool project amidst allegations of contract inflation. Meanwhile, this white elephant swimming pool project was constructed against the pervading background of unclean and irregular water supply, inadequate hostel and lecture halls on the university campus. No doubt on account of its clandestine, undemocratic and doubtful character, the OAU management should be investigated for these allegations. We hereby call for an independent, public probe of the financial activities of the university during this NUGA period. This probe panel must consist of representatives of all university unions and working parents.
As athletes, coaching staff and Nigerian students are gathered at this edition of NUGA 2014, all these issues must be called to question and serious efforts must be started to forestall their repetition.
NUGA is a celebration of the abundant sporting talents and culture in our universities. These talents cannot thrive in an atmosphere where students’ right to independent unionism are being denied them as we have in OAU which is hosting this years' NUGA. We therefore call on all athletes, students from other universities and members of the public participating in this year's NUGA games to support the campaign of Great Ife students for the unbanning of their students’ union. This is necessary to ensure students’ participation in every university decision making process; including spending. Similarly, participating Nigerian students must return to their individual schools to demand for improved learning conditions through proper funding of education and its judicious utilisation.
We recognise that the struggle for proper funding of education must be linked with the failures of Nigerian capitalist government and thus a nationally organised movement of students too. Unfortunately, the character of the current NANS – pro-government and anti-students’ interest – cannot sufficiently give this looming struggle its needed leadership. However the struggle to reclaim NANS must start with individual student union, as this struggle too, must be directed towards improved conditions of learning at these levels.
The Education Rights Campaign is a platform to join if you want to be actively involved in this struggle to save Nigerian students and Nigerian public education from pervading absurdity and total collapse.
* Wole Olubanji is Secretary, Education Rights Campaign