DSM Students' Wing Holds National Meeting on 17th April, 2015
By Ayoade Adedayo
The Students' Wing of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) recently held its National Meeting on 17th April, 2015 as part of the National Committee Meeting of the DSM that held between 18th and 19th April, 2015. The meeting, held at the National Secretariat of the DSM, started with a lead off given by Oluwole Olubanji (Engels) on Buhari's victory: A new dawn for the education sector?
Oluwole Engels explained that the presidential election that was held on the 28th of March 2015 which led to the emergence of Buhari was based on the support garnered from the broad layers of the working people including the politically active youth. He also stressed the fact that there were layers of youth and working people which were apathetic to the elections as they were alienated by the character of the elections which presented no clear choice for the working people.
He further clarified that the true change we desire in the education sector will come from neither PDP nor APC, but only a break from the rotten capitalist system can fundamentally fulfill the desire of the mass of Nigerian students. This is given the fact that the rot in system does not only reflect in the education sector but encompasses all the major sectors of the economy.
He maintained that although the APC has been in "opposition" for a while under different nomenclature - AC, AD, ACN and now APC- it has launched severe attacks on students like the PDP and it is keen on taking quality education out of the reach of the poor masses. This is reflected in the APC-controlled states such as Lagos, Ogun, Osun etc., where astronomical fee increments were introduced. This is a confirmation of the true character of the APC towards education. In fact, on a visit to Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife some months back, Babatunde Fashola, the Lagos State APC governor, responded to students who raised the question of free education saying that; "even ignorance is expensive, education cannot be free". In other words, he means that fee hikes and other anti-poor neo-liberal policies are the only methods that they are capable of putting in place to sustain provision of education. This does not mean that as conscious ruling class elements that they are ignorant of the fact that education is a major sector or are not aware that it must be adequately taken care of in a developing country like Nigeria. However any desire by these elements to really do something comes up against the barrier of what is possible at a time of capitalist crisis.
Oluwole further argued that socialists must warn student activists against having illusions in the emergence of Buhari as the genuine alternative to the moribund education sector. Notwithstanding, Buhari who ruled during the country as a military dictator between the 1983 and 1985 led attacks on the living conditions of students including the scrapping of the cafeteria system.
He stressed that dwindling oil revenue will eventually lead to some cuts in government expenditure, introduction of taxes and possible increase in tuition in the education sector which will affect the working masses. He also raised the need not to foreclose the possibility of the APC, in their traditionally populist character to embark on cosmetic programs, especially when faced with rising popular anger and struggles. This has been demonstrated in the some of the cosmetic social programs like the distribution of one egg per day in primary education to on the basis of ameliorate malnutrition by the APC-led Osun State government or the importation of opon-imo (computer tablets) for secondary school students meanwhile without paying salaries to their teachers or equipping the laboratories.
The DSM will work to mobilise students against attacks on education and for improvements. While serious struggle can win reforms Oluwole explained that our role in the coming period is to link these battles with the challenge of overthrowing capitalism. He added that the new period we are entering requires strengthening ourselves with the correct slogans and perspectives in surmounting the daunting challenges ahead.
At the end of the lead-off, there were comments and contributions, in which they concurred on the historical collapse of the student movement and the need for socialist activists under the banner of the ERC to draw programmatic lines of action and draw lines between responding to spontaneous actions and intervening in raising consciousness of the mass of students prior to events.
At the second session on organisation, Lateef Adams, the Deputy National Coordinator of the ERC, gave the Secretariat Report, where he highlighted the activities that the ERC had undertaken. He reported the campaign that has been built around the attacks on the ERC activists who are under victimization in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and recently at The Polytechnic, Ibadan. He reported that the case of Sumbo Badmus, the DSM Coordinator in Ibadan Poly, requires urgent solidarity actions from all the branches as he was handed a two semester suspension on the basis of the statement issued by the branch calling for improved academic and welfare condition on the campus.
Michael Ogundele, the National Secretary of the ERC in his lead-off on Tasks Ahead highlighted the need to deepen the activities of branches in the coming period in intervening in the new period of illusions that the Buhari's victory has heralded. He noted that an ERC National Symposium for June 16, 2015 is being planned alongside other programmes to mobilise education workers, students and youth for the need to build mass fightback against imminent neo-liberal and austerity attacks on education
Reports from branches were taken after which comments on the state of branches followed. The major discussion that bore out is the uphill challenge of registering branches of the ERC or the DSM and the unending wave of attacks by managements across the campuses. The meeting ended on the note of stepping up the fight against attacks on democratic rights, public education and linking it to the struggle for the building of a mass genuine political alternative in the coming period.