Wednesday 16 September 2015

ERC Condemns Scandalous Budget of the OAU Students’ Union

Budget is not only outrageous but also a betrayal of the very principle of radicalism for which Great Ife is Renowned
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns the outrageous budget of N26 million recently presented by the Obafemi Awolowo University Students Union for the running of its affairs. According to an item in the budget, the Students Union executives and legislators plan to expend a total of N1.8 million on phone calls between August 2015 and January 2016!
Especially since a report was published on the subject matter by the Punch newspaper, this budget has generated debate both within the campus and outside especially on social media. The questions many people are asking are: when did OAU Students’ Union known historically for its radical principles become a union of careerists? When ordinary students’ leaders are not embarrassed to apportion an outrageous sum of N1.8 million for phone calls, then what is to be expected of them if these elements become leaders of the country in future? How do you reconcile with a N26 million naira budget of a student union in a society where voices are being raised against the corruption and profligacy of elected political office holders?
The ERC joins all well-meaning Nigerians and OAU students in particular to condemn this budget as extortionate and scandalous. Nothing can justify it. This outrageous budget  is nothing but a ploy by careerist student leaders to turn themselves to the alternative exploiters in the university community and monetize the Students’ Union. We therefore demand a congress of students to deliberate on the finances of this Union and that nothing should be spent from the treasury of the Union until this scandal is resolved. In addition, the ERC considers the budget a betrayal of the radical principles for which the Great Ife students Union is renowned. The Great Ife Students’ Union was built with enormous sacrifices in sweat and blood by successive generations of students. We call on all students to reject this budget and strive to take control of their union from careerists and opportunists who want to profit from it. The ERC campaigns for unions to be run democratically in such a way that members have a say in the affairs of their union. The scandalous budget of the OAU Students Union shows why students must reclaim their unions.  
On Sunday (13/09/2015), the parliament sat for the budget sitting and rejected the proposed budget for the inability of the Union leaders and the Budgetary and Finance committee to provide a comprehensive audit report of the funds already spent, the extreme informality (as most of the proposals were neither letter-headed nor signed) and despicable figures of the presented proposal. There is however the possibility that some members of the parliament may seize the recess of the parliament to water-down the effect of this scandal on campus, and subsequently ratify the outrageous items in the budget through the backyard – a similar approach was seized by the previous union leadership.
We condemn the inability to provide a comprehensive report as lack of accountability on the part the Union leaders and the depravity of the amount proposed as a deliberate attempt to squander funds generated from the pockets of hardworking parents. We also regard this attempt to raise the life style  of the leader beyond the students, as an attempt to make the students’ leaders insensitive to the welfare conditions of the average students as they continue to live in luxury. Welfare conditions like poor hostel facilities (broken bunk beds, poor toilet facilities, poor power and water supply), congestion in halls of residence and lecture halls, and poor teaching conditions leading to mass failure. These prevail in the face of an increment in school fees which has generated lot of funds that the university management cannot account for.
Premised on these, it is safe to aver that the recent inability of the leadership of the Union to proactively reject the 2014 school fees increment, which was an outrageous exploitation meted out on promising students by the management of the university, is because the union leaders cannot fight an exploitative tendency which they are also guilty of. The union has almost lost its place as a vibrant union, as a result of elected student leaders who turn out to be excessively treacherous, greedy, ambitious and opportunistic.
We believe Great Ife students have the consciousness to fight that fee hike and only need a leadership to tap into that consciousness and keep raising it. This can be inferred from the numbers of students that participated in the NO-TO-FEE-HIKE-cum-PAY-OSUN-WORKERS protest which was staged on Monday (the numbers showed readiness and commitment even during period of examination and after much delay on the day of the rally). The body language of the present union executives which is not different from that of the last administration on the topic is abysmal and these union leaders are the only hindrance in the campaign against the unjust exploitative fee hike. We demand that the Union should take more proactive and consistent actions such as symposiums, rallies, protests and press confrontations on the FEE-HIKE STRUGGLE.
In recent times, it has been solicited by some quarters that the union should be more than the opposition force or the pressure group on the management of the university. The notion that the union, instead of always calling for protests over anti-student policies, should start serving as the ‘alternative-university-management’ by providing for the uncountable gargantuan failures of the university management and the federal government is wrong. We consider this idea misleading. This alternative-to-management attitude that has motivated the current OAU Students’ Unions to start capital projects like building infrastructures and scholarship schemes for a few students from the dues paid by all students including those from poor background  is what we consider as their way of BRIBING students to forgive their inability to tackle pro-students problems and distract them from achieving the goals of a Students’ Union (promoting and defending the rights and interests of students. While such token reforms like helping to pay the fees of indigent students can be applauded in the immediate as “sensible” unionism, the reality however is that such efforts cannot fundamentally resolve the crisis of education underfunding, fee hike and commercialization that is forcing students to drop out. Only a mass struggle through strikes, lecture boycotts and protests can defeat fee hike and other anti-poor education policies. In addition, ultimately, only the replacement of the inequitable capitalist system with a democratic socialist system can allow Nigeria’s enormous human and natural resources to be rationally and judiciously managed and deployed to fund public education and other social services.
We in the ERC reject any attempt from anyone to drag GREAT IFE Students’ Union into the dirty power tussle going on between the two major pro-rich and anti-poor political parties in Nigeria: The PDP and the APC. We are not oblivious of the interest of these political parties to be in control of our union to use it as a tool for their “pig-fight” but we wish to reinforce the fact that our union is a platform for students to fight for their genuine interests against the oppressions of the university management and the government. Our union will never be subjected to anybody’s interests but the interests of the students that constitute it.

Ibukun  Omole                                                     Olamide Adabale
SECRETARY                                                       COORDINATOR

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