Not Yet Uhuru until all Demands of Workers and Students are Met
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) welcomes the appointment by the ObafemiAwolowo University (OAU) Senate of an acting Vice Chancellor to pilot the affairs of the University until a substantive one is appointed. The acting VC is Prof. Anthony Elujoba.
We call on the acting Vice Chancellor to immediately set in motion the process for the reopening of the University. We wish to say that normalcy can only return to the University when the monumental injustice committed by the past administration is addressed and demands of workers and students met. These demands include probe of the Prof. Tale Omole administration, payment of all salaries and allowances owed to different categories of workers, lifting of ban placed on independent students’ unionism so that a new election can be conducted and the reinstatement of OlawaleOwolabi (Ogunruku).
Prof. Elujoba’s appointment is following on the heels of the workers’ protest that engulfed the University in opposition to an attempt by the University’s Governing Council to impose Prof. Ayobami Salami as the substantive Vice Chancellor after the expiration of the tenure of Prof. Tale Omole. The strikes and protests of the University workers under the aegis of SSANU and NASU was so powerful that the government was forced to terminate the appointment of Prof Ayobami Salami and dissolve the undemocratic and corrupt council.
This development has again shown the power and efficacy of mass struggle. Were it not for workers strike, persistent mass protest and occupation of the Senate building, not only would the entrenched interests in the University have successfully imposed Prof. Ayobami salami as the substantive Vice Chancellor in contravention of the lawful procedure, but by so doing they would also have obtained a guarantee that all the misdeeds, injustice and corruption of the administration under Prof. Tale Omole would be swept under the carpet. We therefore congratulate the Unions (NASU and SSANU) for their consistency and relentless effort towards the struggle.
However, we call on workers not to be lost in the euphoria of victory. The reality is that under this system that promotes underfunding and commercialization of public education, no Vice Chancellor can be trusted to take the side of workers and students.At the initial stage, Prof. Elujoba may try to create the impression that he is pro-worker and pro-student, the reality however is that the honeymoon will not last. When the chips are down, he will take the side of the government. The tenure of Prof. Rogers Makanjuola who for a period enjoyed immense popularity among workers and students due to the circumstances of his emergence as VC is a testimony to this. At the end of the day, Prof. Rogers Makanjuolanot only attacked students’ interests by increasing fees, he also attacked workers interests and victimized activists.
More importantly, the Unions must not forget that the struggle was not only premised upon the undemocratic appointment process of the then Ayobami Salami but likewise on the nonpayment of over 84 months of the earned allowance and the six month salariesof members of NASU and SSANU respectively. Also the struggle was based on demands for probe of the past administration. Obviously the Omole administration was marred with unimaginable embezzlement and gross financial misappropriation. Fallout of this among others was the deterioration in the welfare condition of the students hostel and lecture theaters continue to be congested and deplorable. Tale Omole’s administration was also full of implementation of anti-students policies ranging from increment in the school fee, suspension of students activists and “proscription of the students union” among others. It could also be recalled at a point that the out gone VC was invited over the embezzlement and the financial misappropriation of the University fundby theNigerian Senate some months ago, but such development was not followed by the Unions. This could be one of the reasons he scaled through.
However, the ERC calls on students to place before the Acting VC their demands for better welfare condition, renovation and the building of more hostels and lecture theatres, well equipped laboratories and more importantly for the conduct of the Students Union election to usher in a new democratic and responsible students’ leadership. Unequivocally, we once again state that the students should not rest on their oars but consistently fight for their collective demands.
Adabale Olamide Omole Ibukun