*PRESS RELEASE: SILENCE IN TIMES LIKE THIS IS DANGEROUS*
The breakneck speed at which a whirlwind of controversial events hit the University of Ibadan in recent days has not gone unnoticed by the outside world. The organisation of a non-violent protest, imposition of a standstill on undergraduate activities on the campus, the tone-deaf threat of indiscriminate gunfire against the students by the Commissioner of Police and the suspension of the Students Union have all combined to gravitate nationwide attention towards the premier institution.
Many have become champions in the art of the blame game, deliriously dishing out insults towards the figures accused of being constituent factors in the turn-out of events. Others have shown indifference. However, we as the Union of Campus Journalists have chosen to rise to the occasion as the consciousness of the campus society. We hereby condemn, with no reservations whatsoever, the decision of the school management to strip the students of their rights to association and expression.
Our aim is not to vilify the management, as we understand that they might have taken the step thinking it was the most pragmatic action. However, we would like to express our strong aversion towards this insensitive action which fails to take into consideration the full humanity of students with regards to their right to seek accountability for what they believe to be their entitlement.
Nonetheless, to forge ahead without showing a will to examine the situation from both sides defeats our sworn oath of objectivity. To this end, it has been argued that the supposed excesses of the leadership of the Students Union led the Senate of the University to take such extreme measures. The radical resurgence of the spirit of rebellion in the minds of the student-body, evidenced by the energy of the congress and the subsequent decision to obstruct passage on the Federal Government Road seemed to be the driving force behind the suspension of student activities.
The problems at hand can best be classified into inherited problems identity cards and victimization of students; invented problems (non)-usage of hotplates and its consequences; and now germane is the created problem of the suspension of the Students’ Union which but only increases the demands of conscious Uites.
The below par welfarism of students on campus in the case of ID card was the fulcrum of the closedown of the school for the undergraduates, bearing in mind the hashtag #No ID card, no exam. The failure of the management to produce ID cards for 3 full semesters and its most telling consequence of denying Uites of opportunities is alarming. However, as this might not affect all, it affects some and an injury to one, is as well to all. Students can not apply for scholarships, cannot register for bank accounts and to cap it all, students lack a sense of identity and proof of studentship beyond the walls of the citadel of learning. Those produced last year are often rejected as fake and unacceptable. Lastly on the agitation for better welfarism is the issue of hotplate raised by Mr Ojo Aderemi on his inauguration day, an impassioned, strongly-worded speech the VC has deemed insulting to his office. The agitation for hotplates is in view of the high price at which kerosene is being purchased (#220/L) and the economic recession engulfing the whole nation. According to then President Ojo Aderemi, the nation is in recession and prices are high but salaries are not increased but are rather withheld.
More so, the Inaugural Lecture delivered by the Students Union president, Ojo Aderemi has been a fire on the mountain for the school management. To quench the fire that is stronger than their innocence, the Vice Chancellor has deemed it fit to send everyone away till July 17. This is enough to remind us of the words in one of the Holy Books which states that our works shall be tried in the fire. Anyone who is afraid or reacts against the duty of the fire is definitely at fault. It seems the management has forgot the very basis for the existence of a union.
WHY WE NEED A UNION
J.B. Danquah served as the first president of the union during the creation of West African Students’ Union in London on August 7, 1925 by a group of 21 law students led by two people, Ladipo Sholanke and Herbert Bankole Bright. The management might have believed purpose to have been misplaced because no one may want to put it in mind, the history behind uniting students. For the aim of promoting political research and uniting West Africans overseas, these people decided to come together in one voice. The West African Students Union aroused nationalism among West Africans. The union proves itself to be a training ground for West African leaders and intellectuals.
It is the duty of the Students Union to provide a clean, comfortable and inviting environment where students, staff and community can relax and interact socially. As without being bamboozled, we know that the school management only seeks to place the institution as the first. But if the Students’ Union has been abolished, equivalently, students’ welfare has been bastardised. The relationship between the school management and the students is also paramount to this effect. In a city where the head and the citizens have a clash, the exit cannot be differentiated from the out-set and even the elder may be mistaken for one of the children asking for crumbs.
The most horrendous part which the school management may choose to employ mercenaries that can always lead from problem to problem is the issue of cultism. Even in the existence of the union, there have been issues of cultists’ invasion into the school. Some have turned the halls of residence to their ark where they can hide. Apparently, the security officers have not caught a thief rather only get invited by students to come and take someone involved in this act. It is very sad that there has not been an adequate training for these officers. The only people they can use their weapon against are the innocent, those that need security. The incidence of Boko Haram message to bomb University of Ibadan on September 23, 2016 explained how unsecured we are.
It is also easier for development to thrive through the union. Capital projects are made even more possible by the existence of the Union. Through the Union leaders, different business and nonprofit outfits approach the university community so as to install such crucial facilities as ATMs and relaxation lounges.
With all that said, we as a Union would like to proffer solutions to this truly nefarious situations. Below are our demands:
Reinstatement of the Students Union
Perhaps the management need be reminded again that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, protest marches and demonstrations which provides a means for public expression, a foundation of any democratic society. The right applies to protest marches and demonstrations
Taking action without identifying what factors contribute to the problem can result in misdirected efforts. When a problem arises, do you jump straight in and treat the symptoms, or consider the deeper problem that needs attention? If you only fix the symptoms, the problem remains unsolved and will need fixing over, and over again. But at a deeper insight at the cause of the problem, the underlying systems and processes can be fixed and the problem is gone for good.
Issuance of Identity Cards
Consequent upon the advocacy already expressed in excruciating detail earlier in this release, we hereby call upon the university management to speed up the production of identity cards. In every single ramification of the concept of moral rightness, the only acceptable time frame for that to be done is between this moment and the resumption date. To fail to do this will only further the narrative of the management as being indifferent to the agitations of the students and there would be no justification whatsoever this time.
Review of the Managements Stance on the Use of Hotplates
There is an unnegotiable necessity for the Management to rescind the position on the use of hotplates in kitchenettes. The survival of the students, who are important to the agency of the university community, is dependent upon this. The policy only aims to prove the popular belief that the basic needs of the students are not the concern of the average student. Apart from the permission of students usage of hotplates, the kitchenette sockets also need to be repaired. However mistaken this may be, to be adamant about this is to contribute to this constant dehumanization of the management by the general public.
We as a Union, tasked with the noble responsibility of championing the cause of freedom through the potency of our pen, hereby pledge to continue to advocate the emancipation of the oppressed, while operating with the antenna of clarity and objectivity. With that in mind, we call for all parties involved to work together to make the recommendations above become realities.
Elegbede Austine D.
General Secretary, UCJUI
Arowosafe Samuel O.