The national leadership of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) is concerned about the unfortunate turn of events at the Lagos State University (LASU) over the conduct of the students’ union elections. The actions of the LASU management via the Division of Student Affairs during and particularly after the February 27, 2019 elections can only be interpreted as brazen encroachment on the independence of the Students Union.
We are particularly surprised by a letter of invitation to a “Swearing-in Ceremony of the newly Elected Lagos State University Students Union Executives and its Functionaries” emanating from the DSA. This letter not only usurps the role of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), it is equally insensitive and provocative considering that key presidential candidates who felt aggrieved at the conduct of the February 27 elections are still at the election petition tribunal to try to prove their case for conduct of supplementary elections. Also, this invitation is in violation of an order of the election petition committee which directed the LASUSU-IEC to maintain status quo on all activities pending the determination of the substantive suit.
Ordinarily, Students Union elections are meant to be the sole business/responsibility of only matriculated students who are union members. However, if the management must play any role at all, we would have expected that such a role would be to ensure unity and cohesion and not to sow division and enmity. Unfortunately, the role the management has played so far is to sow division, cause enmity and fan the embers of disunity in the ranks of LASUSU. This situation is unacceptable and we therefore unreservedly pitch out tent with the LASUites who are currently challenging the outcome of the February 27 elections at the election petition committee. We urge the management to allow this legal challenge to take its course and to respect and obey the outcome.
One of the presidential candidates is Comrade Nurudeen Alowonle (a.k.a. Omomeewa) who is a leading member of the ERC and the Lagos State Coordinator of the organization. He polled about 553 votes just coming a little behind the declared candidate, Ola Delz who polled 612. However as at the time these votes were collated, a number of faculties were unable to vote because of a glitch in the electronic voting system. It is instructive to note that out of over 15, 000 eligible voters, only 2,131 students were able to vote. This glitch which was reported to the appropriate authorities compelled the IEC to agree to conclude the elections the next day in order to allow these other voters to exercise their franchise. But this was not to be. The IEC dilly-dallied for weeks until March 13 when it announced winners in an election it previously declared “inconclusive” and “in progress”. All of these show that pressure must have been mounted on the IEC by powerful forces in the management. For instance, at a meeting with aggrieved presidential candidates to discuss the supplementary elections, the IEC alleged lack of cooperation from the Division of Student Affairs in terms of finance and logistics to organize the supplementary elections.
As things stand now, the decision to go on to inaugurate the Students Union executive can only be interpreted as an insensitive and provocative step by the management to force its way through. This is condemnable and shows that the management has more than a passing interest in the affairs of the union. Their conduct so far shows they clearly have a preferred candidate that has to be desperately installed in violation of democratic standards . Obviously, the candidate is not Omomeewa, the first runner up. This is not surprising given the role of Omomeewa in struggle both within and outside LASU. The LASU management clearly does not want a radical at the head of LASUSU who could fight energetically for the interests of students against the anti-poor and anti—students policies including increment of charges and fees, the undemocratic dressing code, poor studying and living conditions and the nefarious activities of the campus marshals.
However, if the electoral petition committee is bold, courageous and true to its responsibility, its judgment has the power to reverse any illegality. However this will not be enough. Students must also be prepared to struggle with public meetings, mobilizations and peaceful mass protests to ensure the petition committee’s judgment is obeyed. This situation offers an opportunity to begin to reclaim the independence of LASUSU. We call on all students to be steadfast and committed to ensure that this encroachment of the union’s independence is resisted.
We also call on Staff Unions not to be indifferent. As the saying goes “ when the grim reaper cuts down members of one’s age group, the unambiguous message is for the survivors to prepare for their own time”. An injury to one is an injury to all. We challenge ASUU-LASU, SSANU-LASU, NASU-LASU AND NAAT-LASU to all rise up and condemn the actions of the management. By this public statement, we notify all staff unions as well as pro-labour organizations and trade unions of the undemocratic actions of the LASU management and call for their solidarity and intervention.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Wole Olubanji
National coordinator National Mobilization Officer