The Suspension of the Students’ Union activities in the University of Ibadan by the University management had caused a lot of confusion among students. From lies to propaganda and a host of other things that had transpired within the last two months, a lot of questions have been left unanswered. With the team of Seyi Adedokun and Samuel Arowosafe, UCJUI sought to get some answers from a stakeholder; the suspended Students’ Union president, Ojo Aderemi.
UCJUI: What is your sincere view about the suspension of the union? What has it affected so far?
Ojo: The suspension of the Union is the most unfortunate thing that has happened to our higher institution of learning. It has led to the opening up of students to abuses from different quarters: the campus security outfit, food vendors, cab operators, bike men e.t.c. Students are now being harrassed by members of the Police force without any committed response from the appropriate quarters of the University itself.
I was informed on 25th of August that a student had been arrested by Policemen whose conduct was rather anything from honour. The victim was a member of the 7th assembly of the Students Representative Council. Several interventions and numerous phone calls were made to different quarters. All yielded nothing. Unfortunately he spent a night in the Police cell before he was eventually released.
Whereas, it takes only the intervention of students leaders to identify students and save them from such harassment and improper treatment off- campus.
There are several pathetic issues the Union would have easily mitigated. There was the issue of Special Anti-Robbery Squad members who picked up a departmental President over an issue during examinations. The alleged crime of the student was the purchase of a stolen phone. A letter was sent to the school that he has a case to answer and that an arrest was to be made. When the seller of the phone confirmed he sold the phone to him, he was released but asked to pay some amount in the usual way of bribery. His parents had to shoulder the payment. The school, according to him, did not ask for his name to be cleared. He had to go and demand for his clearance by himself.
On one occasion students angrily came to report to me that a member of the Security Unit had taunted them that they could do nothing and asked them to go call the Students’ Union. There has been a rise in social vices on campus. There was a robbery case in Awo Hall and the thief escaped pointing to the fact that the University Security Unit is practically incapable of the security of thousands of students. It is not just possible. Security was a major concern for us as Union leaders. The Union uses it’s security committee and defense ministers (and their committees) in each hall of residence. There was the issue of some individuals who were hypnotising students around campus. We set our security apparatus in motion and the occurrence disappeared. Theft was also reduced as students were properly made to understand the need to be security conscious. Thieves were caught and handed over to the security unit. The security of students off the campus too was equally important. A proper correspondence was to be established because students leave under grave security. There was the need for the university to always meet with landlord associations in areas around the University that are populated by students.
Several students have not been able to pay their school fees because they rely on the intervention of the Students Union to pay part of it through its humanitarian gestures. The students have turned to the Student Affairs Division to help them but could not get help. A student came back to report the response of the officers of the division to me. It was rather unwelcoming. Many programmes that are supposed to be beneficial to the political, social and intellectual life of students are being put on hold. The effect is unbearable and not without its consequences.
UCJUI: There has been a form of distrust in the student to the management. This was observed that students leaders are almost the cause of this habit apart from the jungle justice against students. What do you see to the management-student relationship and necessary steps to be taken to enhance positivity in this relationship?
OJO: Normally, a student leader should work with the management and not for the management. The management is vested with the responsibility of interacting with students and getting them involved in the decision making process of the University. The events in universities between 1999 and 2003 led to the enacting of the Nigerian Universities Act 2003 which mandates university administrations nationwide to allow students participate in all processes that have to do with students. In fact in 1979, before the Bayero University Act was promulgated, the Senate recommended student membership of the Senate. It all depends on the number of lessons we learn from unexpected events.
The Division of Student Affairs, by the tenet that established it, ought to be known for provision of good life for students on campus and not only for issuing queries to students. I am sure none of the student leaders ever created wrong impression about this division to students, rather, it is borne out of the experience individuals whose relationship with the division has never gone beyond queries. Right now as we speak, should any student get notified of a correspondence from Student Affairs Division, the default thought will be disciplinary action related. Let’s take a look at an instance where I got queried during examination weeks. I calmly treated it without troubling the students with the news. I choose not to give a wrong signal to students, though serving a student leader query to be answered within 48hours in an examination mode definitely betrayed the loco parentis principles.
Why were we queried? The recent students’ resistance, of course. The concerned quarters need to understand that student demonstrations is not an opposition to the persons but a simple resistance to policies that are not palatable. Students will not fail to demand. It is natural. And should the school administrators turn our various demands to us for solution in a proper way, we can together solve it.
On jungle justice as you asked, there was a Senate Committee that was supposed to investigate the issue and make recommendations on whether or not there should be issuing of queries but it seems the Student Affairs Division was impatient such that the committee system of the school was breached.
There may have been a brief crisis within the EC, but we are all learning on the job. We try our best to provide leadership to our constituency. I agree there might have been one or two mistakes, but we are 99 percent together.
Additionally, your meeting with the Vice Chancellor was reported to have been boycotted by you and you decided to attend an invitation in Lagos. For clarity sake, can you tell the public your reason for such action?
There was never any scheduled meeting with the Vice Chancellor. I always stressed that we were open to dialogue and a proposed meeting with the Vice Chancellor would have been embraced while leaving other things. My going to Lagos State University was not personal. I was invited by the National Executive Council of ASUU/the organisers of the memorial lecture in honour of Prof. Abubakar Momoh to give a lecture on a particular topic that has to do with the decaying students movement. I informed the Faculty Presidents and Hall Chairmen/Chairpersons and I showed the EC members a copy of the letter too.
A meeting with the Vice Chancellor was held eventually but it was not fixed for that day. No.
UCJUI: ASUU strike and it’s effect on students: what is your take on it?
OJO: The scope of ASUU strike must be properly understood. It is the government that is being irresponsible. The poor state of the university system, the deteriorating learning conditions of students on campuses nationwide and gross underfunding of the education sector should naturally push the labour Union into action all the time. The people in government seem naturally uninterested in the progress of the country. Via the impact of the austerity policy, you can understand the determination of the people in power to destroy the future, mindlessly although.
The ricochet is the continuous stoppage of students from completing their academics within the stipulated period. It is just a sorry case with us in this corrupt country. Had it been that things were right, we would have called the shot on federal government through street protests. I do hope the strike is resolved soon. But then we should not forget the source of the crisis is the government not ASUU.
UCJUI: Concerning the query letter, were you expcecpting it? After been given, what was your conclusion sir?
OJO: Well, it’s true I was served a query letter from the Student Affairs Division. At the right time, I will provide information, if need be, as regards this to students. The institution does not protect the individual, so the saying goes. All members of the Executive Committee and several members of the Students Representative Council were queried by the Student Affairs Division too. Panic is not necessary.
UCJUI: What steps have been taken to have the Union back?
OJO: Student leaders held several meetings both during exams and after. I, personally, was in about 20 meetings or more. During those meetings, different ideas crossed the desk. We have engaged the labour Unions concerning this. I believe it is time for this process and it will work. One of the labour unions was said to have addressed the issue of queries issued to student leaders. Many of the consulted individuals have also made a case for us before the management. The ASUU strike has affected the stream of things, but we are hopeful.
Senate has elected members to constitute the Welfare board. But as said by the books, the Students Union is expected to also send her representative which necessitates the reinstatement. You are aware that data capturing of for the production of ID cards is ongoing, and there is a green light on the issue of the suspended students.
Colleagues are encouraged to be watchful, vigilant and conscious of the necessity of the Union at this period. I’ll provide more information as events unfold.
God willing, the Union will be back soon.
The conversation is sure to continue. Stay tuned to ucjui.com