THE CONFLUENCE: MAY 29 IN HISTORIES

-By: Toyinbo Olumide

CONFLUENCE101- INTRODUCING THE HISTORIES:

May 29 has its own great attachment to the history of Nigeria and the University of Ibadan’s history (UISU in this case). The clash of significant happenings on that day- May 29, in two different but subset arenas leads to what I call confluence in histories. However, when one led to ceremonial feelings, the other led to melancholic feelings on what was lost and still lost. The meeting point in the history is significant in the course of this week as another May 29 is here. A year added to the democratic reign of our lovely country and a year anniversary of student-unionless status of our dear varsity. Then, we ask, which of which is really worth it, the Nigeria’s democratic reign filled with undemocratic acts? Or the varsity’s student-unionless status? Should we say none? None has really worth it to a great extent. This calls for the re-institutionalisation of Nigeria’s democracy and the institutionalisation of the Students’ Union body by the University management.

NIGERIA’S MAY 29- THE ACT AND THE AFTERMATH:

May 29 in Nigeria ushered in the democratic system of governance which has been longstanding in the country. The day is marked annually to commemorate the happening of the day.  With the death of General Sanni Abacha on the 8th day of June, 1998, there was massive agitation for a return to civil rule. General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s Provisional Ruling Council, PRC, had the idea of what Nigerians and even the international communities wanted and was willing to give it to them. They reached a consensus of the mind to release governmental powers to popular choice as soon as possible, just in a year’s time after their ascension to power. According to the Vanguard newspaper, it was claimed after investigations that the idea behind the hand-over date is that ‘the Abubakar’s PRC did not want to stay in power beyond a year’.

However, there were various oppositions especially from the Yoruba speaking South West geo-political zone as regarding the date, various civil society groups also opposed it. They wanted the actualisation of the June 12, 1993 presidential election mandate but at the long run, they did not get it. However, some states in the country especially South-Western states still celebrate June 12 as their own Democracy Day, the Federal Government of Nigeria continues to declare May 29, the hand-over date to civil rule, since 1999 as Democracy day. On that day, the newly elected Olusegun Obasanjo took the office as the President of Nigeria ending the numerous years of military rule that began in 1966 and had been interrupted only by a brief period of democracy between 1979 and 1983.

The end of military rule in the country brought about a new era of civil rule. Regular free and fair elections are expected to be conducted, however, there has been sad tales of how not-free our elections are and how unfair it can be ever since then. Under-aged voting, ballot-snatching, vandalism, god-fatherism and a host of undemocratic elements characterise out democratic nation. Free Press, an end to arbitrary arrests and torture, end to human rights violations were expected to reign supreme in our dear nation but reverse is the case at present as the country still faces a lot of issues bordering around the violation of human rights by the people and even by the instruments of the state.

We can go on and on about the defects in our democracy- is it the embezzlement that characterise our terrain or the overall outlook of bribery and corruption which also manifested in the military era? We now have militants without uniform in our midst, some are even actually in uniform and you know them. It is not too off-point to question the source of our joy in celebrating the Democracy Day in this recent clime. Does the yearly celebrations of our democracy on May 29 really worth it? I leave you to be the judge, it may and it may not…

UI(SU)’S MAY 29- THE ACT AND THE AFTERMATH:

The day- May 29 has a historic attachment to the University of Ibadan Students’ Union. The erstwhile President of the suspended Students’ Union of the University, Mr Ojo Aderemi found his way gallantly to the corridor of students’ power through popular support. Majority of Uites mounted so much confidence on him that he got 2605 votes out of the 5227 votes despite a lot of toxic allegations against him- his aluta-ic or his revolutionary spirit, so to speak,  his ‘beardless status’ through his acclaimed immature look and his level(200 level, as he was then) which was the major. Getting more than 50% of the votes points to the fact that people are ready for anything that comes out of his actions as well as inactions. The inauguration day wrote the genesis of the happenings of the later days. Ojo Aderemi made his stand known that he was not there to ‘sit, look and avoid necessaries’ like his predecessor that which he later not only talked but worked. However, the management too are ready for anything coming. Barely few days into the administration, congress fell on congress and resolutions were not toyed with. The resolution of the seemingly last congress of UISU (last, till no one knows when) resulted to some deal of historic happenings which broke the camel’s back. The students resolved at the congress that if ID cards are not provided, there won’t be any examination. This led to the hit: #NoIDCardNoExam, however, sadly, examinations were written without ID card at the long run. Not only was it decided to boycott exams if ID cards were not provided but it was also resolved that the generality of the University of Ibadan students would protest on May 29 to let the world know about the state of things in the Premier University, coincidentally clashing with an historic day in the country.

Coming to the knowledge of the resolutions, the school management called the President of the Union, Ojo Aderemi and the Speaker of the Students’ Representative Council, Ibrahim Asiwaju to a meeting at the Senate Chambers in the eve of May 28, 2017 which was a Sunday. This was probably done to avert the looming demonstrations by students. As relayed by Ojo Aderemi to students who waited outside the Senate Chambers expectantly that day, he claimed that it was resolved during the meeting with the Vice Chancellor that a member of the Senate will come to address Uites the next morning which would be May 29, the day of the scheduled protest. Unfortunately, on the D-Day, no one came around to address the student as allegedly promised. The absence of no one to address the students raised the morale of students to protest. Students felt cheated. It should be known that a day to the protest, the Oyo state Commissioner of Police threatened students that ‘if there is any protest, blood will flow’. This would not still kill the spirit of aggrieved student as masses of student marched to the gate with their hands above their heads to signify its peaceful features. The Police actually appeared in their numbers with arms, though, maintaining distance and giving due caution to the students through the President. This calmed a lot of nerves and the ‘aluta-ic’ spirit gradually dried in many. Just then, in the course of the protest, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Idowu Olayinka, repeated the #FreeMote feat, by announcing that all undergraduate activities had been suspended till 17th July and students are to vacate the Halls of Residence. He made this order through his favourite channel for such, the University’s radio station, Diamond FM. This marked the end of the protest and saw students moving out of the University with their luggage. The Students’ Union Executive Council and the Students’ Representative Council were subsequently suspended. This was made to happen just because of the act of May 29. May 29’s incidence marked the beginning of the struggle for the reinstatement of the union which still runs till date. Here we are either celebrating or mourning a year anniversary of the incidence that led to the suspension of the Union that only bound us together. Whether its coming-back will be abrupt like its suspension or sudden like the second coming or will be intentional like a marriage with adequate consent, no one knows at present. Hopefully, it will be soon, just like the VC has been promising, just maybe…

CONFLUENCE411- CONCLUDING THE NIGERIA’S CASE…:

Juxtaposing the incidences of May 29 in different realms, there is need to say, one thing led to the other. The giant of Africa is now living in past glory, yet still the giant of Africa indeed. As Yoruba people will say, ‘oloju kan nii joba laarin awon afoju’, loosely interpreted as ‘one-eyed man rules in the midst of the blind. It is time for Nigeria to wake up from her slumber and step up the game. The populace should not dose. Nigeria is determined by those who run her. Choosing wisely is the key. Youth should also wake up as they are the leaders of today, their active and positive participation is necessary for the actualisation of the nation’s giant dream. Their negative participation is enough, the youths should kick against any aim to use them as a political tool. Enough is enough.

At this point in time- less than a year to the big deal, the scene is getting critical and politicians as usual are getting strategic as they have always been. Some are playing and will still play with the intelligence of the citizenry by dashing out material things to the unrepentant members of the public who will always be sold out after the chicken feeds they get. Those ones seem to always fail to realise that what they get during electioneering periods won’t last for the four years they will stay in office. The mistake or good-take made by the majority stands with the nation in the next four years to come and those four years are long enough not to be used as trial. It is not until you contest for President of this nation that you can make it better. A vote from you is a mere step to making it better. Get your PVC today and vote when the time comes or shut up for the next four years to come in a better or worse condition.

CONFLUENCE411- CONCLUDING THE UI(SU) CASE…:

Just an appeal to the management to reinstate the Students’ Union, its essence can’t be overemphasised. The issue has been flogged already. Though, as much as we have people in support of the reinstatement of the Union, so we have people that have lost interest in its reinstatement. However, as the case maybe, its essence, the fun of its existence and its relevance have been missed. The Students’ Union is the voice of the students, without it, it is not wrong to say we have no common voice. It is widely known that common voice communicates and defeats better than a loose voice. Getting the Union back is getting our voice back. Another bullet point to note is that the Students’ Union building houses just more than the Students’ Union Secretariat and the Students’ Representative Council’s structures, it houses the headquarter of UI’s chapter of various organisations which has so far been of great significance to the University community. The unavailability of the building has affected a lot of things that matter in the operation of those organisations.

It is conclusively noteworthy to state that if the common voice is secured ‘soon’, there is need to be more strategic in various dealings to come. Lessons must have been learned, maybe and maybe not! Time will tell, the ‘soon’ may be at hand…

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