The Senate meeting that held on Friday, August 30, 2019 became the single decisive factor in ensuring a turnaround in the management of the affairs of students of University of Ibadan. Just to refresh memories, two years earlier, specifically on May 30, 2017, the Vice Chancellor had single-handedly declared the proscription of the erstwhile student Union, led by the very radical ‘beardless boy’, Ojo Aderemi. That declaration, later to be ratified by the Senate, became the last stamp on a deed of silence that the students of this great citadel of learning would be coerced into executing. It was not a deed reflective of their intentions, the supposed ‘contract’, though was made to appear as of utmost benefit to them, was nothing but sharp poison forced down their throats. It caused them to stagger…and go into dead silence.
Thus, silence became the language of the once vocal. The Congress that once spearheaded a citywide protest despite threats of bloodshed hailing on her members by the very one who should be their grand protector, the then former Oyo State Commissioner of Police, now keeps mute when matters of great concern float around unattended to. Recurrence of robbery incidents in different hostels attest to the perceived inefficiency of the University’s Security Unit. Abefele would always go fele – soft, even when dealing with hardened criminals. They were swift to resign to fate even when they had never tried, and their signature is their perpetual lateness at crime scenes. But, what would poor students do? To speak against anyone in the management or any of the University’s units is ‘bringing the university into disrepute’, UI’s equivalent for the crime of terrorism under Nigerian law, and a subtle way of telling you to get ready to park your belongings for a ride back home, because whatever happens in that secret place called SDC can never be in your favour.
Not only were property and lives endangered with impunity – you should know by now that the thieves that robbed and injured students in Abdulsalam Abubakar and Awo halls were never caught – personal comfort of students was also put into jeopardy. Like a light in a bolt came a policy of the management proscribing commercial motor bikes from operating within the university community and introducing in their stead, snaillike-moving tricycles. Despite the groans and moans of students on the inconvenience this poses, our ‘Senators’ in their fantastic cars could produce just two rationales for this drastic decision, and those two rationales are as useless as the great clock on the Ivory Tower – first reason is that it is impolite for ladies to ride on bikes and second reason is that it has been employed in other institutions of learning. We know well that even a ‘rookie’ Jaw War speaker that attempts to build a speech around these arguments will gain nothing but booing and will give to the audience nothing but a confirmation of his dunderheadedness. Not to talk of …. Well, that is not our focus for today.
State of Affairs: The Need for a Strong Union
Open-heartedness to the state of affairs of the university students will reveal that a lot of things have gone amiss. Two and a half years is too long a time to live without strong leadership, especially amidst the several tantrums played on students by the administration. The flock of sheep that is the generality of University of Ibadan students have been forsaken so long without its shepherd. Majority of the students in the Ivory Tower, particularly those who had no knowledge of the series of events that led to the earlier proscription of the Union now live as babies of the management, taking in hook, line and sinker whatever policy, rational or not, which they feed them with.
A wise man once said, that an unexamined life is not worth living. To live is to grow and to grow is to learn, but without openness of heart to criticisms and willingness to change for the better, the better condition one dreams of remains nothing but an illusion. Despite being a septuagenarian, University of Ibadan still wobbles as it attempts to establish its reputation as the first and the best university in Nigeria. First and best as it is, its curriculum is still outdated, power supply epileptic and international presence is nothing to write home about. Yet, many students know about these anomalies but silence is the only language they understand, the language they are trained to communicate in.
To say that one is full of age and not know what right things to do may not be entirely out of line. Too much work to do may just direct one’s focus to few important things, while one continues to neglect some others which will later have dire consequences. As students, learners in an intellectual community, possibilities abound that our minds might avert to certain things of which the management is totally oblivious, and these things we open our minds to may hold the solutions to some of the problems confronting the university. It is thus important that the management stops being insistent on their own opinions alone and start giving respect or cognizance to the opinions of the students they are to manage.
It is at this juncture that the need for a strong Union that will see to the mobilization of students becomes imperative. A people that had been left vulnerable for so long need to be brought together first off. The values, rights and principles that abound unionism which had been trampled upon these past thirty months need to be recapped and evangelized. Now is the time to build a much stronger polity. Unless it is made intentional to build such a strong polity, the incoming Students ‘Union will be a shadow of its former self, always ready to kowtow before the management and thereby failing in defending the constitution and the interests of their electorate. Unless we build a strong polity, and yes, one stronger than we had before the earlier proscription, the incoming Students ‘Union will only exist for one academic year without any impact – there would be no difference between when we had no Union and when we do. Its existence will be like that of a snake that crawls upon the rock without making any impact.
The Guide: On Building a Stronger Union
How then do we build a strong Union?
The foundation of a strong democracy is a politically active electorate. How far the student Union will go depends on the political attitudes that pervade the university community. Meanwhile, from careful study of the attitudes of the University of Ibadan students, it is apparent that the current attitude is one of apathy. The long months of silence has quenched the passion of a large portion of the electorate. On the reverse, it seems the political aspirants are boiling with too much passion. This is the first time in many years when there will be so many turnouts of political aspirants. As it is popularly said, everyone wants to be President. Same seems to be the case with the current political milieu that is the University of Ibadan, with as many as four aspirants vying for the singular position of President. What will be their fate eventually; whether the most qualified pulls most of the votes will depend on the quality of the turnout at the forthcoming elections. E-voting or not, unless majority of the voters show their faces, there is high probability that the results will not be reflective of the will of the majority.
What the strength of an aspirant’s leadership will be if elected will henceforth be tested by how greatly he or she can command the masses, how convincingly he or she can move them into quitting on their apathy, how he can conjure reminiscences of the series of events that led to the initial proscription of the Union and tap from it strength rather than weakness. Who will be courageous to lead the Union then must be ready to lead it now. [Aside: You were laden with the burden of leadership that minute you declared your intention openly].