By: Tobi Idowu
History and Now often raise, for edification, the shrilling fate of some persons who in a bid to display heroism to members of their community become the unfortunate bearer/carrier of the stigma that could have been collectively borne. The lot of Femi Farinloye Socrates of Zik Hall who in a rash rush to evince altruism to his fellow hall residents was to be booted out of the hall: he became the unfortunate victim to be used as a deterrent sample by the Hall management in order to establish its proprietary supremacy in the hall.
The fallout from the eviction saga continues to cast on the screen of reality the truism in the Yoruba popular saying: continue your caper; we are behind you (máa jó lọ, à ń wẹ̀yìn ẹ̄). The real import of that often obliquely veiled saying is in fact, continue to caper/dance, but if you fall… Socrates went into a mad rush of heroic dance, fell, and has been nursing his cut alone. Does he deserve this whipping boy badge?
Whatever the halo of protection that hall managements spread over them, the cafeterias more often than not provide a below par service. It is therefore, in every right, right for the real dwellers of the halls of residence in the premier university to demand premier feeding services. To question the students’ right to right perceived wrong in the service provided by the cafeteria is to emasculate them; is to enslave them in the halls, and that passes an unfortunate message: students are to be slavish and mechanical while on campus. Then how is ours a University education? History reminds sadly that Kunle Adepeju was sent out of the University community and of the world having joined in solidarity the demonstration against the poor service delivery of the cafeterias in 1971. It must be noted that this incident happened in the same Zik Hall. If students are gagged, how is ours a university education?
University education among other things is meant to infuse self-confidence and ability to decide for oneself having acquired the necessary mental tools to tread the thorny adulthood path. There is no other university in Nigeria than ‘our university’ of Ibadan to demonstrate enabling environment for its students to become conscious and independent citizens. There is however no better way to mock this sine qua non attributes of an ideal university than to lash any student who dares question the poor feeding service in the halls cafeterias.
For whatever the legal anchor or the official prerogative the hall warden relied on, the eviction of Socrates was an extreme thrashing. He could have been called to order by other means rather being thrown out of the hall on the eve of the commencement of examination. Eviction should have been the last resort. It was an unnecessary accentuation of power supremacy.
Meanwhile, in a spirited defence and justification of his act through his rejoinder to Zik press now famous editorial, the Hall warden clearly shows his keen aversion for the effrontery of the press organisation in questioning his decision. Heavy knocks here and there are thrown, and the editorial team will not have been blinded to them. However, it is interesting to see the revered warden reminding (and in the case of anyone who might not have known) that he was once an executive of the Hall, in fact, the chairman of the hall. A question will boggle any discerning mind: did he not lead a Congress, in spite of it not being recognized by the management? Is not appropriate to infer that the hall warden is merely leering at the hall populace ‘that I was once like you; therefore I know your ways, and I shall get you nipped if you dare me.’ That suspicion that often trails activists is therefore justified since in most cases these activists become pacifists and tools to curtail the efforts of other activists when they are absorbed into the system. Sad.
Yet, students’ leaders need to be circumspect in giving life to jointly taken decision. While the urge to do-something that those who voted you incentivize you, it will be unwise to drink that urge to tipsiness. While you are leaders of students, you are yet students under the shepherdship of the halls, of the faculties, and of the school. To carry out decision that contravenes that of the school will invite check-mating lash. And as it has been shown from Socrates case, no one is ready to share in an unfortunate lot. Not even his fellow executives. It was even said that a sissyish member of the executive (who is being rumoured to have ambition to contest for the SU presidency in the next election) wrote to the management of his non-alignment with other members in another heated issue in Hall.
The ramifications of the intended action must be taken into consideration when mulling over it, else one jump into taking them, and then realize those ramifications are marshy bogs that cannot be squelched easily. One would easily marvel, and yet be startled at the brashness of Femi Farinloye Socrates in shutting down the Zik Hall cafeteria while other executive members tactfully stayed back from the move. Even while the making sure that the qualities of food is satisfactory is in the ambit of his post as the health minister, unilaterally closing down the cafeteria is rash and improvident at best.
Yet, one must pity the head that wears the crown. Not to act in time of pressing need especially when there is a popular demand for expediency would have been termed incompetence. Often time the led push the leader into running unnecessary race. This was exactly what played out at the Baluba Kingdom, Nnamdi Azikwe Hall. Consequently, this should have been factored in when deciding the case by the Hall Warden.
In conclusion, the point that is being made here is that there are many better ways to kill a chicken than to strangulate it. The shutting of the Zik cafeteria saga could have been resolved by the Hall management in other ways. Who throws away the baby with the bathing water? Meanwhile the hall warden remains a father to all, and as such must be accorded his entitlements; yet while a father has the corrective lash at his call to inflict on wanton son(s), it should not be to send them out of his house.