Sunday 30 November 2014


OAU ERC reporters,

President Goodluck Jonathan’s appearance in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, on 28th November, 2014, was met with protest of students expressing their dissatisfaction with the anti-poor capitalist programmes and policies of the Nigerian ruling elites.

The President had come to meet with traditional rulers in the South-West, who were to later endorse him for re-election in the 2015 general elections. The meeting as well as the participation of Goodluck Jonathan was kept as a closed secret, probably to prevent the reaction of students to the anti-poor character of the Jonathan’s administration.

Nevertheless, radical organizations like the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Pacesetters Movement and Socialist Youth League (SYL) mobilized mass of students to Oduduwa Hall, the venue of this meeting. Despite the fact that students are currently writing their semester’s examination and the impromptu character of this mobilization, over two thousand of students heeded the call for a massive protest action to ‘welcome’ Goodluck Jonathan.

The campus of the university, especially the ‘Road One’ major link road, was stacked with legions of heavily armed operatives of the Nigerian Army, Air Force and Police Force. This caused students who are writing examination a lot of hardships as commercial buses were not allowed entrance too. This only further heightened the anger of students.

Against the background of this heavy military presence, students defied the gun totting security operatives and went on with their organized demonstration. The banner of the Education Rights’ Campaign (ERC) with a bold inscription of “NO TO FEE HIKE” was at the front of the protest. Placards were raised by students with several sharp inscriptions bearing their demands for appropriate funding of education sector, reversal of hiked fees in OAU as well as the reinstatement of the nine suspended student activists in the institution. Some of the inscriptions on the raised placards read thus: “STOP STEALING PETRO-DOLLARS, START FUNDING EDUCATION”; “PDP=LOOTERS, APC: FRAUDSTERS, LP: SCAMMERS; FOR A PEOPLE’S GOVERNMENT NOW!”; WE CONDEMN JOS KILLINGS, STUDENTS ARE NOT CHICKENS”; “JONATHAN, DON’T SELL EDUCATION AS YOU SOLD ELECTRICITY”; “IMPLEMENT ASUU 09/13 AGREEMENTS, NOT IMF/WORLD BANK POLICIES”; “REINSTATE OAU-9, THEY ARE NOT CRIMINALS”.

Instead of applause, President Jonathan as well as the Obas were received with chants of ‘Ole’ - the Yoruba word for ‘thieves!’. This chant filled the air as a Governor, several traditional rulers and serving ministers drove to the venue of the meeting. It was obvious that students were dispassionate in expressing their dissatisfaction and did not treat anyone as a sacred cow. 

The high point of the demonstration was when students reacted to some individuals, who had been contracted to display banners expressing support for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and politicians aspiring for offices in the 2015 general elections. Chants of “NO CAMPAIGN!” rented the air, as students angrily told them to drop their banners and posters. The mass of students were able to exercise their authority and prevented these individuals from tainting the character of the demonstration as they seized several banners and posters. This clearly shows the mood of the protesters to the pro-capitalist political parties in the country.

At several points, security operatives and agents of the embattled politicians attempted to distract the crowds. Some suggested that the protesters should disperse and that the President of OAU Students’ Union would discuss with Jonathan. Students swiftly rejected this on the basis that the Students’ Union President did not deem it fit to mobilize them out in the first instance. Attempt by the union president to divide the crowd was futile as the mass of students booed him from every direction.

Some student activists also took time to address the protesters. Oduntan Ahmed, the Clerk of the Students’ Union parliament told the students that the demonstration treats PDP as well as APC alike, because they are all the same in their neo-liberal attacks against the people. H.T. Soweto, the National Coordinator of Education Rights Campaign (ERC), who was present at the demonstration, praised the action of students and encouraged students to give the capitalist ruling elites the cold welcome they deserve. 

At the end of the meeting when the President, politicians and traditional rulers made to leave, the protest peaked. For about 30 minutes, students barricaded the roads linking the venue of the meeting to the major roads. All were stuck in the barricade. The President was eventually smuggled out, angry crowds raced after him to the Sport Complex of the University, where he was to board a chopper.  

 Against the background of a pro-establishment students’ union leadership, students of Obafemi Awolowo University were able to maintain the age-long tradition of their students’ union which does not celebrate anti-poor politicians, irrespective of their status or party affiliations. The roles of left organization such as DSM, ERC Pacesetters, SYL cannot be overestimated in the sustenance of this value, as has been demonstrated by the Friday’s action organized by the groups. 

One point has been stressed in the Friday’s demonstration and it is that students and youths are seething with anger at the various attacks from the Nigerian ruling elites, and will take any platform to ventilate that. Now there is a need to build on this anger a movement that can begin to mobilize for a fight for an end to attacks on public education, reversal of fees, improved funding etc. This becomes urgent given the austerity measures in the offing as a result of decline in Nigeria's earnings from crude oil sale. The ERC is calling for a one-day nationwide lecture boycott of students to send a signal that austerity will be resisted.

Sunday 16 November 2014

ASUU Holds National Education Summit


By Ogundele Michael
ERC National Secretary

Between Monday October, 27th and Friday, 31st October, 2014 workers unions in Nigeria's Public Universities which comprise the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-academic Staff Union (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) organised and fully funded a week-long national education summit with wide participation by other unions in the education sector, labour movement and civil society organisations like Joint Action Front (JAF); Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and students across Nigerian universities. The summit held at Top Rank Galaxy Hotels, Abuja.

The summit which had no fewer than 700 participants for each day provided an opportunity to discuss, deliberate and suggest solutions to crises bedeviling Nigeria's public education sector. This was done by sizeable numbers of academics, non-academics/ technologists and leaders of civil society organisations during various paper presentations that suggested how to reverse the backward nature of Nigeria's public education sector.
Civil Society Session of the Summit
Tuesday 28th, October, 2014 (the second day of the summit) was a special session given to civil society organisations for their presentation. This was the session where the ERC, a campaign platform of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), made its own paper presentation by its national coordinator, Comrade H.T Soweto.

Soweto, in his presentation, commended the effort of the universities' workers unions particularly the ASUU for showing good examples to the wider labour movement in the country through their age-long struggles against attacks on the Nigeria's university system. He called for a drastic cut in the excessive pay and emolument of all political office holders such that money freed from these excesses can be added to the funds needed to rejuvenate the collapsed public education sector. He also pointed out that ASUU, other workers' union in education sector and the wider trade and labour union movement in the country must practically begin to mobilise the country's populace for a radical change in the education sector and in the formation of a working class political alternative.

There was also a special students session on the fifth day of the summit. This was independently anchored by student representatives present at the summit. At this session, students strongly frowned at the rate of collapse of the Nigeria public education sector, from primary to tertiary institutions, and thereby resolved that government at all levels must adequately fund the public education sector to at least 26% of the annual budgetary allocation to education with capital allocation taking nothing less than 60% of this. The students' representatives' also supported the declaration of free education at all levels while proposing that government must adopt as a state policy for all political office holders to enroll their children in public schools in the country.
HT Soweto ERC National Coordinator
Other recommendations include: democratisation of the decision making organs of the university system to include ASUU, NASU, NAAT, SSANU representatives and two student representatives each at both undergraduate and postgraduate level; cancellation of all fees including the total rejection of the fraudulent acceptance fees imposed on Nigeria students in tertiary institutions. There was also a proposal for the formation of a "federation of radical students' union" which will involve all radical students' unions across campuses.

Shortly after the students’ session, there was a press conference in which the communiqué of the summit was read by the Chairman of the organising committee Dr Dipo Fashina.

According to the communiqué, the summit ended with a declaration of a state of emergency in the Nigeria education sector. This was captured in the communiqué that partly read that the Nigerian education sector must be re-conceptualised in a manner that would make it capable of performing its transformative functions for individuals, groups and nation at large. "Indeed, the social, economic, political, ethical, scientific and technological transformation of Nigeria must be driven by a revolution in the education sector.

The summit agreed that the most fundamental problem bedeviling the education sector in Nigeria is that it is located within a philosophical and political economic system which emphasises personal self- enrichment and individual aggrandizement instead of emphasizing knowledge acquisition geared toward public good and national development. The ASUU and the 3 other workers' unions seriously emphasised that the current philosophy on education does not address the realities, identities, values, customs and aspirations of the Nigerian people.

In the same manner, it was therefore agreed that the resolutions of the summit will produce a charter on liberating education that will reflect the aspirations, culture, values and realities of the Nigerian people within the context of a dynamic world. Going further, the summit emphasized that the charter will be based on a philosophy of education geared towards public good, national development, and equity in place of the existing policy which promotes self- enrichment and personal aggrandisement. The summit, in the same spirit of all participating workers' unions, grossly rejected the on-going systematic privatisation of education.
A cross section of participants
An important highlight of the summit was the discussion among participants that if a few unions in the public university system could convene a national education summit fully funded by themselves and independent of government, there is no reason why the labour movement cannot convene an independent political summit that can bring together genuine representatives of the working class, youths and oppressed masses to discuss how to fight to rid the country of the capitalist-induced crisis of poverty amidst plenty.

By and large, the summit in a way has shown the latent power of the labour movement, albeit just its section in the University system, in Nigeria. One can only imagine how the struggle to liberate society can be hastened if the entire labour movement were to take a cue from the efforts of the University unions.

As the ERC argued and the summit agreed, the proposals for a liberating education cannot simply be submitted to a capitalist government for implementation, they must be turned into a charter to mobilise for struggles. The first step in this direction is for the four unions to call a strike and joint nationwide mass protests in the New Year as part of a comprehensive action plan to step up the campaign to save public education. A consistent struggle against education attacks if linked to a plan to build an alternative working class political party that can fight to end capitalism and put in its place a democratic socialist system is the only way to guarantee that public education is properly funded.

Friday 14 November 2014

ERC OAU Public Symposium Highlights Growing Consciousness among Students

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Branch held a public symposium on Friday, 7th November 2014 to discuss issues ranging from anti-students’ attacks to the moribund state of the students’ movement. The speakers – Prof. Josiah Ajiboye (Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)-University of Ibadan Chapter), Kola Ibrahim (Secretary, Democratic Socialist Movement, Osun-State), Dr. Kehinde Ajila (Former Executive member, ASUU-OAU) and Olawale Owolabi (Student activist, who has been under suspension order for his roles in students’ struggle of February 2011) – took their turn to lead discussions on these issues. The programme started around 3.30 p.m.
Opening the floor, Olawale Owolabi highlighted the degeneration of the Great-Ife Students’ Union and proffered the need for students to reclaim and put their union under their democratic control. “In as much as students have fought gallantly for the restoration of the union in the past three years, then your struggle must not end there,” he pointed out. It is necessary for students to also clamor for, and defend the independence and vibrancy of their union.  His speech clearly described the state of the Students’ Union in OAU, where the leadership of the Students’ Union, having compromised during the struggle of students against fee hike in May/June, is resisting the pressure of students for a congress – which it fears might bring about its waterloo.

Subsequently, Prof. Josiah Ajiboye took to the podium to inspire students on the need to organize and struggle, instead of being deceived and cowed by pro-establishment management. He appreciated the efforts of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) in the LASU struggle, and admonished OAU students to follow the LASU example. For him, managements and governments can be forced to improve quality of education based on the intensity of struggle. This, according to him, has been proved by the victories of the ASUU 2013 strike and the LASU 2014 struggle. He condemned the actions of the OAU management on the suspension of eight student activists, and informed the gathering that the case of the suspended students would be taken up at the level of ASUU.

Prof Joshua Ajiboye, ASUU UI
During this period, the symposium observed a minute silence in the memory of the late Prof. Festus Iyayi, who died during the ASUU 2013 struggle.

While rounding off, the ASUU leader argued that the plethora of political parties in the country currently are “the same fingers of a leprous hand”, and can never offer the people significant change. The activities of politicians misruling Nigeria, for him, have further deepened the gap between the poor and the rich, presenting society as a class of few rich and majority poor. He said, the way forward from this mess is that “we unite to fight, instead of staying divided to beg.”While taking her turn to speak, Dr Kehinde Ajila also praised student effort and expressed her profound satisfaction with the improved consciousness of the students. Of course, she took into account the bold resistance of students during their struggle against fee hike. She however encouraged students to reclaim the dimming glory of their union.

Kola Ibrahim, while speaking expressed disgust on the general conditions of students, and charged students to get organized and demand improvement. In his view, the attacks on students, as well as the suspension of eight student activists, demand that students should gather and discuss their general conditions. Flowing from Ajiboye’s condemnation of Nigerian political system, Kola Ibrahim posited that only a socialist transformation can bring Nigeria out of this current absurdity.

He linked the crisis in the education sector, vis-à-vis growing commercialization of education and attack on students’ rights with the backward neo-liberal, neo-colonial capitalist arrangement in the country. He mentioned the fact that the working people need a new political party of their own and should stop voting their enemies to power. While underscoring the sameness of the main bourgeois parties, he stated that the DSM has initiated a new party of the working and oppressed people, the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) to provide the political pillar for those seeking genuine change. He charged the students to build left-wing organizations on campus as a counterweight to degeneracy in student movement.

A former student activist, Olorunwa Goddey also made solidarity speech, highlighting the rich progressive history of OAU student unionism and charging students to reclaim their union as a fighting platform. Other victimized students activists also made inspiring solidarity speeches, which were well received by students.

There were also contributions from students after these thought-provoking speeches. In all, over one hundred and fifty (150) students participated in this symposium. Seven hundred Naira worth of DSM and ERC publications were sold at the symposium.

At the time of writing this report, it was obvious that the symposium had left its mark on the consciousness of students. On Monday, 9th November, 2014, residents of the Awolowo Hall converged to elect their hall executives in defiance of the university management.

Adedayo Ayoade

Librarian, DSM-OAU

Thursday 13 November 2014

UNILAG ERC Symposium: Akokites Call for Restoration of Banned Students' Union

By Ishola Afeez

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC), University of Lagos (UNILAG) chapter, held a public symposium on the 4th of November, 2014, at Faculty of Arts of the university, with the theme “Proscription of independent student unionism in UNILAG, So long, too long and the topic “Degeneration of students movement in Nigeria and the implications and challenges to the Education system”.

The symposium had in attendance Dr Dele Ashiru, a lecturer and a former president, Student Union UNILAG, Abiodun Aremu, Secretary Joint Action Front (JAF), H.T Soweto, the National Coordinator of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Mr Siraj a member of the Students Union Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) set up by the management, and some other student activists. Close to 50 students were in attendance. For a campus which had experienced little or no political activity since the ban of the Students Union about 10 years ago, this is an inspiring turnout.

The symposium commenced with the reawakening of students consciousness, with the chanting of solidarity songs. Abiodun Aremu highlighted  the purpose of education in the society, and the urgent need for students to have their union back so as to be able to ask questions, defend their rights and if need be challenge authorities when these rights are infringed. Thereafter, he pointed out that it is irresponsible of any university system to deny students of unionism. 

Abiodun Aremu, JAF Secretary
 Dr Dele Ashiru in his own speech, outlined the necessary qualities a student union must possess to be relevant in the society. He stated that students must be knowledge-driven and engage in critical skepticism, i.e. doubt everything. He noted that knowledge-driven activism produced the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Charter of Demands on education. According to him, opportunism must be removed, stating that characters parading themselves as activists meanwhile they are opportunists need to be removed from the system. Quest for material benefits in the name of student activism or leadership must also be eschewed. He recalled a situation where a representative of one of the halls at a meeting asked about how much their sitting allowance would be.

He enjoined students to all work assiduously to make sure that the union when it is restored is a well equipped one. He pointed that the union should be free of tribal or religious differences. He also made it clearly known that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) would stand with the students in ensuring that the Students Union is brought back soonest.

Dr. Dele Ashiru, ASUU UNILAG
HT Soweto also spoke, imploring students to be determined at getting back the Student Union. He however pointed out that students should not just want any union, but one which is independent, mass-based and democratic. He pointed out that the rule or idea inserted into the new union constitution disenfranchising thousands of students from directly electing their representatives is more or less like returning UNILAG to the period of military autocracy. He stated that the idea of the Electoral College should not be a basis for election into union offices. Only mass participatory election can ensure the union is one that is accountable to students. He also explained that the higher institution is a place where rudiments of leadership is instilled in students who are future leaders so the illegitimate ban on the Students Union should be lifted soon and students should be allow to run their affairs their own way.

He also enjoined students to see themselves as capable of mobilizing to right these wrongs by saying no to Electoral College and to ensure that this current transition is fully achieved. In all, he pointed that students should make it a point of duty to attend in their mass the constitutional review taking place on Friday November 7 so as to push their demands for the immediate setting up of an electoral commission and release of election timetable.

HT Soweto, ERC National Coordinator
The representative of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), Mr Siraj, quickly explained to students on how the CDC was composed, the activities they embarked on before and during the constitution drafting and on the Electoral College, how it came about, the composition and the idea behind it. He explained that though he himself does not support it, nevertheless students should accept it for the sake of ensuring the union is restored after which students can on their own remove it from the constitution. 

In conclusion, Dr Dele Ashiru commended the ERC, UNILAG chapter, suggesting that more symposium of this nature be organised so as to resuscitate students’ consciousness on campus and to help in ensuring that students stand for what is right, and also speed up the return of a student oriented, UNILAG Students Union (ULSU). At the end of the inspiring discussion, about 21 students signed up to join the ERC.