The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR), Osun State Chapter hereby calls on the authorities and Prof. ‘Tale Omole-led administration of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife to reinstate six student activists currently under politically motivated suspension.
Five of these student activists: Olubanji Oluwole, Adabale Olamide, Adewumagun Johnson and Sanyaolu Adejuwon were suspended n July 2014. The main reason for their victimization is their leading roles in the struggle for the restoration of the students’ union, which until a year ago, was suspended for three years; coupled with their campaign as members of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) against the recently hiked school fees. While, on the basis of their struggle, the students’ union has been restored, the student activists who led this agitation are being scapegoated by the university authorities. Moreover, over 1000 percent increment, which has led to Fresh students paying as much as more than N100, 000, has been effected. Yet the student activists are being victimized for opposing the increment.
The remaining student, Owolabi Olawale, has been under victimization as a fresh student since 2011 for his role in the campaign against increment in fees by the Prof. Michael Faborode administration.
This victimization and politically motivated suspension, which is one of several carried out by previous administration, is condemnable for a university that pride itself on academic excellence and progressive culture. A University is expected to be a centre of ideas where ideas are cross-fertilized and the best is produced. Therefore, opposing and dissent views should be welcome, and not silenced, if the university authorities have nothing to hide. Moreover, university authority that wants to truly develop sound minds should not be averse to protest and opposing views of students; otherwise university will be producing dummies, who will not be able to question anything. It is noteworthy to state that the founding of OAU itself was a product of protestation against colonial authorities, whose plans was to limit knowledge acquisition and intellectualism in Africa, by limiting access to university education. We want to believe that OAU authorities and Prof. Tale Omole-led administration is not sacrificing lives and careers of these young minds on the altar of ego and politics.
Moreover, the positions and agitations of the students, including the victimized students have been justified by events. For instance, the strength of the campaigns of the mass of students, led by these 6 activists, compelled the management to restore the students’ union. The management by this action admits its wrongness for proscribing student unionism in the first place. Also, while the Prof. Tale Omole-led university management has hiked school fees by close to 1000 percent, there has not been fundamental improvement in the living and studying conditions of students, while standards have continued to fall. The latest mass failure in the university, and continued dilapidation of facilities are signs that increment in fees is not the solution to problems facing ivory towers. On the contrary, it will limit access to university education for millions of young Nigerians, and consequently deny the country of needed intellectual and knowledge resources needed to develop the country. Indeed, only government’s massive investment in education, to expand facilities and build new schools can solve the problems of education underfunding and falling standards. Unfortunately, the Jonathan/PDP government, in spite of the enormous resources at the country’s disposal, has further underfunded university education and education in general. Rather, they have squandered the country’s wealth on ostentatious lifestyles of politicians and big businesses. These are the main contention of the student activists for which they were suspended.
The excuse of the university management that the students ‘assaulted’ one Habeeb Olawale, the chairman of the students’ electoral commission, as reason for the suspension of the student activists is ridiculous. The said ‘assaulted’ student produced no evidence of being assaulted. In fact, he successfully conducted the election, and even graduated from the university. On several occasions, including at the sittings of the Investigative Panel set up by the management over the issue, these victimized students have openly refuted the allegations and maintained their commitment to peaceful means of agitation and campaign. But the university management was hell-bent on victimizing the students, who it sees as its antagonists in the university.
Unable to produce evidence for the already planned suspension of the students, the university management became the unsolicited advocate of the so-called ‘assaulted’ student by reporting an internal issue in the university to the Police. The management then suspended the students under the guise that they were being investigated by the police, and can only continue their academics after obtaining a clearance from the police. However, the reality is that the aim is to keep the student activists away perpetually under the guise of police investigation. For instance, the victimized students have subsequently appeared before police ‘investigators’, even without any direct invitation by the police. The police have produced no shred of evidence or report against the students, yet the university is still keeping the students away from academic activities. This is taking administrative rascality to a new height.
We call on progressive students’ unions and organizations, labour unions, civil society organizations, parents and well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on Prof. ‘Tale Omole-led administration and authorities of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), to end this vicious victimization of student activists and attack on democratic rights of students. More than this, we call for immediate reversal of the obnoxious fee regime in the university, which has clearly not improved the living and studying conditions of students, and thus has become another swindle of students and parents. This victimization of student activists by successive administration in the university is becoming one too many. This must end.
* Kola Ibrahim is Coordinator, Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights, Osun State Chapter.
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