The Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife Branch of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) welcomes Great Ife students back on campus after the yuletide and first semester break. We also wish you a “resultful” year 2015. Although a New Year, yet the character of this year – beyond high hopes and lofty wishes – is a clear handwriting on every wall. The looming economic catastrophe and phrase-mongering political contest, which cast their shadows over the country, would definitely have their impacts on youths and mass of students generally.
THE TIME-BOMB CALLED 2015
At a time when Nigerian politicians are exciting the polity – building up familiar euphoria towards the 2015 General Elections – the nation’s economy is in a big mess. The breakthrough in the exploration and production of shale oil in the United States and other factors has caused the price of crude oil to fall. Nigeria is hugely dependent on crude oil as almost the only and major source of revenue. The politicians in all major parties have squandered the excess revenue saved during the boom and left little or nothing for the rainy days.
The implication of this is that poor masses, working class parents and struggling youths, who did not benefit from the boom of oil, that would be made to suffer for its burst. Already, Nigerian capitalist theoreticians and political propagandists have started humming the inevitability of austerity measures – that is, a cut in the living conditions of Nigerian masses, which are miserable enough already. Ironically, it is innocent Nigerian masses that would suffer, in the name of sacrifice, for the looting spree of ruling elites, while politicians and capitalists, of course, would continue to live large. Students and youths would not be left out as irresponsible governments would continue to save up for usual looting at the expense of education and other sectors of the economy. More fee hikes, galloping rate of unemployment, retrenchment of workers, inflation, high cost of living and degraded standards are few of the expected consequences to follow this catastrophe.
Right now, the various sections of the ruling elites are least concerned with the ailing state of the economy. Little or no attention is given to it, because the elites, irrespective of political colouring or affiliation, are united in the maiming of Nigeria’s economy as they all subscribe to anti-poor neo-liberal capitalist policies. 2015 Elections is the priority. For us in the DSM, there is virtually no alternative for the masses among the contending ruling elites. While the masses are distracted from concretely comprehending failure of capitalism because of electioneering fantasy and promises, the various sections of the ruling elites are scheming to determine who holds the key to another 4 years of guaranteed looting of the national wealth, arbitrary use of the police and armed forces. From party policies to financing, no main stream political party in Nigeria represents the concrete interest of the Nigerian masses. Instead of getting carried away with the façade of capitalist politicking, Nigerian youths must join the call on the labour movement for the formation of a mass working people party. The DSM, while still campaigning for the mass party of the working people, has taken a bold step with the formation the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) to serve as a striking example of a working people political alternative in the absence of the mass party. The INEC has refused to register the party despite it fulfilling all legal requirements for registration because of the threat it poses to the anti-poor policies and programmes of the mainstream political parties. We are however currently in court where we have gone to challenge the undemocratic and illegal action of the INEC. The matter is coming for hearing on January 28 at Federal High Court Abuja
There is no gainsaying the fact that 2015, rather than being a period to satisfy the populist and propagandist scheming of anti-masses politicians, should be a period for students’ union leaders, activists, socialists and youths to mobilise Nigerian masses against capitalist-induced poverty and misery.
BEYOND FALSE ALARMS AND PROPAGANDAS: STATE OF THE STUDENTS’ UNION
The State of the Union is best described by the ridiculous and harsh conditions under which students wallow as forced on them systematically by the university administration and remains unopposed by the union as an organised entity. From basic welfare (Power supply, water supply and transport) to fee hike struggle, the union leadership has failed woefully in its responsibility to advance the democratic interest of her members. With all it had, the union leadership dodged calling a Congress of students since August 2014, despite heaving blames of May/June 2014 struggle on students. The unacceptable victimisation of students’ activists, following the struggle, was not discussed by the union body. In fact the union leadership proceeded to indict the suspended students
The implication was not farfetched – the leadership was isolated from the critical mass of students. While clamours of students for a Congress heightened last semester, it resorted to sponsoring terror and threat against students, especially activists and pro-students organisations including the DSM, ERC, Pacesetters, SYL and co.
For us in the DSM, the reactionary activities of the current union leadership, if not arrested by mass of students, are capable of destroying the rich values of Ife unionism. The leadership has promised a Congress in the coming weeks, and this is the best avenue for students to correct the anomalies in their union and completely reclaim it.
CONGRESS, REINSTATEMENT AND STRUGGLE AGAINST FEE HIKE
As much as the agents of the university attempt to distract mass of students from the reality of the fee hike struggle, we in the DSM will continue to expose the absurdity of the fee hike and call on students to review the last struggle while they prepare an organised resistance against the hike. Hundreds of brilliant minds, mostly fresh students, who should be in school, abandoned their admission last semester. The number of returning students who opted for leave of absence is significant, while those who paid on the installment basis are not certain they would pay up this time. All this shows that the fee hike is a nightmare, and we must all do something about it.
Confirming our arguments for rejection of the fee hike, the outrageous hike in fee has not reflected in whatsoever form on the learning and living conditions of students who paid it. Power and water supply did not only worsen, the reaction of the varsity to it became more arrogant and disdainful. This is of course what happens when major battles are neglected inconclusively – unimaginable, “minute” problems climb over them. There is no middle way to it, for students to get back their deserved respect from the university management, the fee hike struggle must be ferreted out and taken up again.
For a criminally calculative university management, the cost of dousing the fee hike struggle was enormous – the university stampeded laws and stabbed commonsense in the head. Aside closing the university to disorganise the struggle formation of students, it also re-opened the university by placing under suspension eight students’ activists – some of who played decisive roles in the fee hike struggle. The university claimed they were suspended because of a purported police investigation. Of course, with its arsenal of law professors and legal minds, the university simply turned a blind eye to the legal paradigm which prescribes that “an accused person should be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law”. This action is nothing more than an attempt at political victimisation, disguised as a vindictive punishment, which has the objective of distracting students from the fee hike struggle and disorganising their ranks.
To confirm our perception of this event, the university during the yuletide break went ahead to reinstate three students out of the eight, who were suspended for the same “offence”. Anchor, Mandela and Choco-Milo were reinstated, while Engels, Sammie, Ola, Johnson, Juwon are still under suspension, including Ogunruku who has been suspended on similar basis after the 2011 fee hike struggle. The motive of the university is to frustrate these students’ leaders and after all make defending the interest of students a criminal offence that no one would be interested to take up. We urge the mass of students to not sit on the fence on this issue, but rather understand that they must be actively involved in the reinstatement of the suspended students.
The proposed Congress by the leadership of the union must be seized to discuss practical actions for their reinstatement. Great Ife students must compel the leadership of the union to fund all ongoing legal cases. And the union must take up publicity campaign, through production of leaflets and posters, to argue the case of the suspended students among members of the university community. Aside this, students must resist attempts by agents and cronies of the university administration to make the issue of suspension a point of distraction for mass of students. The congress should discuss suspension as well as review fully the cause of the suspension – the 2014 struggle against fee hike.
For us, this period in the history of our country and campus is decisive, and youths must brace up to play roles that would save their future as well as the future of the country. Organising to discuss scientific solutions as opposed to hopeful or speculative solution to the problems of the country, education sector, and others, must be taken with similar interest which students take up academic activities. The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) is the organisation to join if you are interested in joining efforts for the transformation of Nigeria to a society that would add real value to the vast majority of people including youths and put an end to mass misery amid abundance.