Victory At Last!
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) welcomes the release of the withheld certificates of the duo of Lanre Akinola, a member of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), and Rasheedat Adesina by the authorities of the University of Ilorin after 16 years of prolonged legal and political battle for justice. Their degree certificates were withheld as far back as 1999 and 2001 as punishment for their involvement in students’ unionism and struggle to end military rule at University of Ilorin (UNILORIN).
Rasheedat Adeshina is a former Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) of the UNILORIN Students’ Union while Lanre Akinola is a former member of the Students Representative Council (SRC) of the UNILORIN Students’ Union. Their predicaments with the University administration under the leadership of the then Vice-chancellor, Professor Shuaib Oba AbdulRaheem, started in June 1998 following a students’ protest against poor welfare conditions on campus on June 5 and their participation in anti-Abacha rally staged on campus on June 4. The rally was organized by Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON) under the leadership of Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi.
The released certificates indicated falsely that Lanre Akinola and Rasheedat Adesina graduatein 2015 instead of 1999 and 2001 respectively, nevertheless, it is a victory for students’ activism, the poor and oppressed people of the society. It is also a confirmation that there is a limit to institutional enmity and lawlessness.
This victory came after the judgment of the Supreme Court in 2014 upheld the judgment of Appeal Court which had earlier ordered the release of the certificates and awarded damages against the University. Though, the certificates were released and damages paid after 16 years of both political and legal battles, justice was not denied. The sad commentary, however, is that the oppressors in most cases do not use their personal money to pursue these vindictive cases against their victims but rather taxpayer’s money.
In this particular case, for 16 years, the UNILORIN authorities wasted millions of naira that could have been better utilized to pursue what was clearly a vindictive agenda to punish the duo for daring to oppose the anti-poor policies of the University and the Abacha government. When the Supreme Court finally ruled in 2014, the University had to cough out large amount of money in damages and compensation. It is our contention in the ERC that such willful wastage of tax payers’ money should not go unpunished. We therefore demand that all principal officers of the University of Ilorin including the leadership of the Governing Council, whether past or present, who had anything to do with this criminal wastage of public resources be disciplined accordingly. This is essential to set a precedent for other university administrators to follow.
However, the release of the withheld certificates has put an end to the erroneous belief of the administrators of academic institutions that they cannot be compelled to release academic results and degrees. It gives hope to all victims of repressive, dictatorial and vindictive administrations in every sector of the society that it is possible to defeat the oppressors. It also underscore the fact that the battle for justice may be long, victory is certain if we remain resolute and committed.
The ERC commends comrades Segun Sango and Alfred Adegoke, members of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), who represented the duo in the first case at the Federal High Court, Ilorin, where the planned expulsion of the duo from the University was stopped before it could be carried out. The court declared illegal and unconstitutional the planned expulsion and further ordered that their studentship should not be tampered with in any negative way. The University administration reluctantly complied with the court order and allowed them to complete their studies but withheld their certificates.
We equally commend Mr. Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, Managing Partner of Citipoint Chambers, who represented duo in the second case from the Federal High Court, Ilorin to Supreme Court on pro bono basis seeking the release of the withheld certificates. He travelled on several occasions from Lagos to Ilorin and Abuja on our death trap roads and unsafe air. We also commend other partners of Citipoint Chambers; Mr. Niyi Adewumi and Mr. Tesleem Adewuyi and all staff of Citipoint Chambers for their contributions and support.
The case of Lanre Akinola and Rasheedat Adeshina underscore the need for internal democracy in the University system. In this regard, the ERC calls for the democratization of all decision making bodies in the University with elected representatives of staffs (teaching and non-teaching) and students in all committees up to the Council. If there had been such measures the misappropriation of resources that accounted for poor welfare conditions that triggered the protest upon which Lanre Akinola and Rasheedat Adesina were victimized would have been prevented. Besides, it would not have been likely that a committee with elected representatives of academic staff and students would have sanctioned non-release of their certificates after completing the studies. The bigger culprit however is the iniquitous capitalist system, which inherently creates material, conditions for exploitation and oppression. This is why we must intensify our struggles to confront the evils of capitalism such as anti-poor policies, and ultimately for a socialist change.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Michael Ogundele
National Coordinator (07033697259) National Secretary