By Eko John Nicholas
The students of Ogun state College of Health Technology, Ilese, took to the streets of Ijebu Ode to protest lack of power supply in the institution and the surrounding communities, where majority of the students reside, and the worsening conditions of learning in the institution. The protest took place on 20th April, 2016.
The Students’ Union leadership which was initially vacillating was forced into action by pressures from the mass of the students. This was aided by the intervention of the Education Rights Campaign, whose member paid a visit to the institution, the previous day. The ERC member had met with the president of the union, and impressed on him the needs for mass actions against the hardship faced by students of the institution due to lack of power supply and worsening conditions of learning in the school.
At a congress organized by the union leadership prior to the protest match, to seek approval for the action, overwhelming numbers of students supported the protest and urged that the students proceed on protest match without further ado to Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) office at ijebu ode. This notwithstanding, the leadership still seeks clearance from the school authorities. The management as expected declined to approve the action. Insisting that lack of power supply was general and not peculiar to the institution. It prevailed on the union to shelve the planned protest, saying its execution would embarrass the governor, who would not take kindly to it.
The chief security officer was instructed to shut the gate and prevent the students from leaving the institution. This provoked massive agitations amongst students, who insisted they were adults in higher institution of learning, and would not succumb to be treated as school pupils. The management fearing threats to law and orders in the institution occasioned by rising passions and tempers, backed down, and the gate was thrown open.
The protest match saw the students and a member of ERC trekking about two kilometer to the Ijebu Ode office of Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC), located at Fidipote, along Folagbade road in the heart of Ijebu Ode township. Instructively, before the arrival of the students, numbering about 300, the staffs had deserted the premises, and armed police men and civil defense corps had manned the gate and adjoining streets to prevent access to the office.
The mass agitations of the students, who insisted they should be given reason(s) for lack of power supply to their institution yielded result. The business manager for Ijebu Ode zone came out to address the students. He mouthed the usual refrain: that it was a national problem, that IBEDC was just the distribution component in the long chain of electricity supply, and that it only distributes what is assigned to it by the generating and transmitting companies, therefore couldn’t give what it doesn’t possess.
When a member of ERC pointed out that there were communities in ijebu ode that enjoy almost uninterrupted power supply, and demanded that the Business Manager gave a definite time for the restoration of power to the institution, he demurred, but said power would be restored within 24hrs. He appealed to the students to be peaceful and patient while they work to restore power.
The students proceeded to the Nigerian Television Authority, ijebu ode. At NTA, rather than give video coverage and interview the students, the NTA invited police men to disperse the students, who insisted on video coverage. The DPO Igbeba police station came with two police vans, and addressed the students. He said he was not aware of the protest, saying the students ought to have notified the police before embarking on protest. That he would have given police protection to the students. When the students pointed out that such protection was superfluous and that the protest has been peaceful, he appealed that he should allow to hold consultations with the staffs of the NTA. After waiting for about 45 minutes without words from the NTA, the students left the TV station and returned the school.
This action is commendable and inspiring, although poorly planned. There is need for more of such actions, against the worsening conditions of learning in Ogun state tertiary institutions. Therefore, there is need to reach out to other schools for joint action by ogun state students. To this effect, a day lecture boycotts to protest the harsh living and learning conditions in the state in particular and Nigeria in general would serve as a warning signal to the APC-led government in the state and the federal government. The ERC is prepared to be active in collaborating and organizing with the students as they begin their journey towards struggle in the coming periods. 3 copies of SD were sold on the campus a day before the protest, and 3 contacts, who showed interest to join the ERC, were made during the protest.