Authorities Interference Generates Crisis
A Call for Petitions
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls on the authorities of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife to respect the democratic rights of students to determine who lead them in the union elections. The attempt of the university management to prevent five (5) students, including Oluwole Engels a socialist student and member of the ERC, from participating in the elections is utterly condemnable.
They were disqualified by the electoral commission acting on the orders of the University management. The reason advanced by the management is that these five (5) students were indicted at one time or the other during the 3-year struggle for the restoration of the union. The Students Union was banned in 2011 after students protested against increase of acceptance fees from N2, 000 to N20, 000 and other anti-poor policies. The ERC played a leading role in the 3-year campaign to restore the union.
Their disqualification is aimed at making scapegoats of radical students, who played active roles in the struggle for the restoration of the student union. It is also aimed at ensuring emergence of a pliable student union leadership that will dance to the tunes of the management.
The management has directed the Student Electoral Commission, which is more or less a lapdog, to ensure that some students are prevented from contesting on the basis of an obnoxious indictment. This so-called ‘indictment’ is premised on the appearance of the students before the university Student’s Disciplinary Committee set up by the management to query students for their role in the struggle for the restoration of the banned student union.
The ERC, DSM and other radical and left groups on campus had earlier condemned this kangaroo disciplinary committee. Interestingly, the report or recommendations of the committee were never made public neither were the students allowed to defend themselves against the report of such committee. Therefore, dusting up a dirty indictment from nowhere is a deliberate effort at preventing the students from deciding who leads them.
We in the ERC welcome the heroic decision of the students who rose in their thousands to oppose any attempt at eroding away their democratic rights. The students instinctively realized that if management were allowed to select their leaders for them, a terrible precedent would have been set. On Saturday, 12th April, 2014, students organized mass protest to demand reversal of the obnoxious indictment. Since then, the management and its lapdog Electoral Commission have been in crisis. They have utilized every method, including arm-twisting, provocation and hide-and-seek to prevent student from building a vibrant and democratic union.
For instance, the Manifesto meetings, where the contestants are allowed to explain their programmes to students, have been postponed twice by the management and the electoral commission. Meanwhile, students have continued to defend their democratic rights.
While management, as a result of mass pressure from students, was compelled to restore the student union after three years of ban; the real aim of the management is to have a pliable students union that will be unable to challenge its anti-poor education policies. Left to the university management, handpicking student leaders would have been the best option, but the mass pressure from students was overwhelming. If the management is allowed to have its way, this will set a terrible precedent for not only the university, but also other institutions.
More than this, it will also serve as launch pad for other undemocratic and anti-student policies. While the ASUU struggle forced the government to commit some minimal intervention funds to universities, various university authorities, who opposed ASUU struggle, are strategizing to corner these funds for pecuniary interests. This explains the attempt at having pliable student unions that will raise no eyebrow to mismanagement of funds. This is glaring in OAU. For instance, while the university management spent hundreds of millions of naira on a swimming pool that average student hardly have access to, most student laboratories lack distilled water, while clean and potable water supply to hostels is elusive.
We therefore call on the university management to respect the democratic wish of the students. We also call on the public including student organizations, civil society groups, labour movement and individuals to prevail on the authorities of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), to hands off the students union, and stop its unwholesome interference in the affair of student union.
You can send your petitions to:
The Vice Chancellor, Professor ‘Tale Omole
Tel: 0803721150 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dean of Students’ Affairs, Dr. Lateefat Durosinmi
Please send a copy of your petition to the ERC through:
Tel: 07033697259 E-mail: email@example.com
Hassan Taiwo Soweto