We Demand His Arrest for Alleged Sponsoring of The Murder of 5 Union Leaders of OAU on July 10, 1999
The ERC strongly condemns the Osun and Oyo States governments for appointing an alleged murderer, Professor Wale Omole as the Pro-Chancellor and Governing Council Chairman of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH). This appointment is an insult to the memory of the five Union leaders murdered in cold blood on July 10, 1999 by cultists widely believed to have been sponsored by Prof Wale Omole while he was the Vice Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU). We call on the two state governments to reverse themselves on this ignoble and embarrassing appointment.
We do not for a moment believe the duo of Governor Aregbesola and Ajimobi are ignorant of Prof Wale Omole's brutal, despotic and bloodied antecedent as a university administrator. However assuming they have forgotten, we would endeavour to rejig their memory.
For 8 years he was the Vice Chancellor of OAU, Prof Wale Omole terrorised students and staff of the University. Not only was he ever-ready to impose any unpopular anti-poor education policies of the military regimes, his own brutal tenure became a sad testament of the militarization of an ivory tower. Wale Omole acting the script of the military regimes saw independent unionism, especially the buoyant, ideological-driven and radical unionism of OAU, as an impediment to pro-market education policies and from early on in his tenure strove to clip the wings of radical students and staff unions.
The OAU students union which was very active in the mass struggle to end military rule naturally became a target for clampdown. This was a period when Abacha's gun men were ravaging the pro-democracy camp killing activists and clamping many, including journalists, into prison without trial. Prof Wale Omole became more than a willing tool, more accurately a maniacal enthusiast, for the Abacha military regime in its bid to snuff life out of the students wing of the pro-democracy struggle. He banned the OAU students union several times during his tenure. Tens of student activists and union leaders were summarily expelled. In 1995, Prof Wale Omole expelled the then President of the Students Union, Anthony Fasayo and many other leaders and activists of the union. For the next seven years, OAU students continued to fight for their reinstatement thereby suffering more victimisation in the process.
In 1999, a radical Union leadership emerged under the leadership of Akinyemi Iwilade (a.ka. Afrika) who was the secretary general and Lanre Adeleke (a.k.a Legacy) who was the president. Under their tenure, the struggle against the anti-poor education policies of Wale Omole's administration and for recall of victimised activists received a new boost. Students protests, boycotts and demonstrations against the management and the military regime became the order of the day. Many anti-poor policies of the University administration including an attempt to increase fees were defeated. Faced with a determined Union leadership ready to fight it to a standstill, Wale Omole's University administration drew a line in the sand. As suspension and expulsion no more frightened students, Prof Wale Omole placed his hope on cult groups which was then becoming a menace in the University due to the brutal attacks on independent unionism and their encouragement by the management.
On March 7 1999, the Students' Union led by Secretary General of the Union Akinyemi Iwilade (Afrika) apprehended some cultists belonging to Black Axe confraternity with arms including guns with several rounds of ammunition. They were interrogated by students and then handed over to university management who transferred them to the police. Just as it is now, Universities then claimed to have official zero-tolerance for cultism which includes expulsion of any known cultist. But lo and behold, these cultists apprehended by students were freed by a corrupt magistrate who later became a lecturer in the university for want of evidence even though he ordered the destruction the evidence presented which inclueded the Black Axe regalia and other cult paraphernalia and the transfer of their guns to the police armory. No doubt this was done in connivance with the police and university management. While the case was on the university management refused to produce witness while students had been sent home as a result of struggle for reinstatement of victimized student activities. By the time the University re-opened, these cultists returned to campus and were seen walking free on campus and even sat for examination! All protests by the Union to Prof Wale Omole was ignored. As far as he was concerned, gun-wielding cultists were more tolerable on campus than student activists.
Four months after, on July 10, the same Black Axe confraternity whose members were apprehended in March struck murdering in cold blood the Secretary General of the Union Akinyemi Iwilade (Afrika) who led students to apprehend them and four other students. Curiously they freely gained entry into the University, killed their victims and freely exited without any hindrance! Many other union activists including the union president who were to be killed escaped only by whiskers. No student or member of the University community who witnessed the gruesome murder can ever forget nor forgive Professor Wale Omole. Statements of members of the University management as well as members of the University security unit to the police showed that the University gate was practically thrown wide open for the cultists. However in the days that followed July 10, OAU students mobilised from Ife to Ibadan, Lagos etc and succeeded in arresting a few of the cult members. In their statements, they acknowledged Prof Wale Omole as their sponsor.
Today all the arrested cultists have been discharged and acquitted by Nigeria's corrupt judicial system. Prof Wale Omole himself although chased out of campus by students did not stand trial for a day. Every year since 1999, OAU students commemorate the July 10 killings crying repeatedly for justice. For this reason, the decision of the Oyo and Osun State Government to edify an alleged murderer like Prof Wale Omole by appointing him pro-chancellor of a University is not just an insult to students, it is equally a disservice to the parents and families of the deceased who still feel pained and wronged by the State and its corrupt judicial system.
It is all the more disheartening that the leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Bola Tinubu who was also appointed Chancellor of LAUTECH has no qualms in sitting with a known persecutor of Pro-democracy activists like Prof Wale Omole in the University administration. Where then, we ask, is Bola Tinubu's democratic credentials and his alleged claim of being a pro-democracy fighter during the dark days of military despotism?
We are sure that there are a lot of credible individuals who could be appointed as the pro-chancellor of LAUTECH. Prof Wale Omole is certainly not fit for such office nor any credible public office at all. There is nothing students and staff of LAUTECH can benefit from his appointment as Pro-Chancellor except a continuation of his anti-poor education policies and brutalities for which he was driven from OAU in 1999. Rather he should be placed on trial to answer for his roles in the July 10 murder.
We call on LAUTECH and OAU students to protest this appointment. We call on the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) to publicly reject the appointment and organise protests and demonstrations to compel the Oyo and Osun state governments to reverse the appointment.
Most importantly, this whole scenario again justifies ERC's persistent call for the democratisation of Universities which should include giving students and staff of every tertiary institutions the right to decide through a democratic vote appointments into any official position of their schools. Without this, one can only imagine what kind of ignoble characters would be smuggled into the administration of our tertiary institutions and educational system in the future.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto