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The Crackdown on Radical student Unionism in Nigeria : Where Are The Stakeholders? 

By Peniela Akintunjoye

They seem to have reached a grand consensus to stifle completely every form of radical student unionism out of the campuses. Of course, that makes stealing and maladministration seamless. Debo Adedayo, a final year student of Redeemers University was recently expelled from his University ‘for making a post on social media that portrayed certain officials of his university in bad light.’ You can imagine. Reminiscent of the infamous Decree 4 of the Buhari Military Junta. I don’t know why bad people are afraid of bad light.

Authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University recently suspended four undergraduate and unprecedentedly, four post graduate students, all at once, who dared to question the poor welfare conditions on campus. It was such a brazen illegality that Wikipedia took notice and on account of that rightly branded Professor Eyitayo Ogunbodede, the University’s Vice-chancellor as infamous and inept.

An irresponsible, intellectually lethargic and cowardly Vice-chancellor like Professor Eyitayo Ogunbodede and others like him who are afraid of any intelligent engagement would prefer to fight dirty to create a dormant follower-ship or even sycophants who will blindly sing their praise. They will like ideologically confused and corrupt Union Presidents like Oyekan Ibukunoluwa, the current President of Great Ife Union who lacks even the most elementary credentials of courage, integrity and charisma that such a position as his require and would betray critical interests of thousands of students just to like an ordinary dog lick the proverbial oil in the hands of the establishment. Like Esau. Like Judas Iscariot. Their God is their belly, their glory is in their shame, their end is destruction. (Philippians 3:19).

Don’t even talk about the Nigerian Law School. A sadistic institution who ordinary should supply in large quantity confident lawyers who would indelibly transform the legal and political landscape of Nigeria but rather by its draconian and accountability-jittery system has committed to annually mass-produce zombies who must ask no questions, question no policy, who will run at the sight of a butterfly. Shame!

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For daring to fearlessly, intellectually though respectfully engage the Director-General of the Nigerian Law School on three issues that affect law students across the country during his visit to Kano Law School in 2015, a visibly destabilized and angry Mr. Olanrewaju Onadeko nearly issued me a suspension. My lecturers came to later tell me I should thank my star. They all had to beg the almighty Director General or I was gone.

It’s a grand plan. Everywhere you go. The instruction is kill every critical mind in the tertiary institutions. Raise intellectual imbeciles instead who will ever be incapable to even realize they are being oppressed. Instill fear in them, stifle every courage to ask questions. Then the oppressive ruling elite will enjoy an everlasting kingdom that has no end.

The terrible thing is that these criminal tactics are succeeding. More and more students all over the campuses in Nigeria are afraid to air their views. Managements are brainwashing mass of naive students to reject genuine student leaders at the polls with the guise that doing this will guarantee a stable academic calendar. Though it is a fact that no student leader has the power to close down any school or rejoices to see the school shut, students ignorantly vote radical students out for this purpose and elect Lilliputians without realizing that what they get with Lilliputians is far more expensive- physical and academic harassment, low quality education, economic exploitation, cult activities- murder, rape etc.

Within six weeks of union proscription in Obafemi Awolowo University in 2011, cultists began to regroup on campus- we located their banners in their place of meeting inside the bush around the sport center, we started recording attempted rapes in isolated lecture halls, then some phones were successfully snatched with knife; then intimidation  and assaults by even hall portals. I mean just within six weeks. The reverse of all these vices is the benefit of a radical student union on our campuses.

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Again, a vibrant union exposes its participants to the finest of ideas, it refines their mind, it instills in them courage, teaches them how to aggregate divergent interests, exposes them to people management, mobilization of resources, public management and procurement, develops their advocacy skills, literarily makes them a new creation. I have seen how literal zombies have been transformed to enviable charismatic leaders within a short period of interacting with a vibrant union as the Great Ife Student Union back in our days. It suffices therefore to say, no nation that wishes to have a secured future will destroy such an institution

Beyond the four walls of the university, radical student union is an engine for driving radical systemic change for the country at large. With over 1.7 million vibrant minds, you can successfully overthrow an oppressive regime, resist oppressive policies, sponsor popular bills, advocate for useful reforms and practically influence the day to day running of the nation. The implications of the ‘Ali Must Go’ struggle of 1978 readily comes to mind in this direction.

These are the reasons radical student unionism must not be allowed to die in Nigeria. If it does, then a bright political future for Nigeria is buried.

Every stakeholder who has either been directly groomed by this institution or has benefitted from its efforts over the years must rise up in solidarity to preserve her golden heritage. We cannot continue to keep criminal silence, minding our own business, while our comrades who are still in school groan helplessly under the attack of the establishment. We must be like the looloo bird who flies forwards but keeps looking back.

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We need to rise now really and return each one of us to support the reemergence of vibrant student unionism in our different alma mata. They need our ideas, our connections, our time, our resources. Their is no pride in this. It’s a task for posterity. Five years from now, it may be completely too late to do anything. Already in Great ife, arguably the most vibrant and intellectual student union in Nigeria, when you shout ‘Of the greatest Ife’, you’ll hardly receive a response.

In the immediate, we need all the assistance we can get to fight the recent barbaric suspension of eight student activists in one fell swoop at the Obafemi Awolowo University. That’s my own alma mata. We need to use this current case to send a clear message across the length and breadth of Nigeria. We need legal assistance, media assistance, intellectual assistance, financial assistance.

It Time T0 Revamp Radical Student Unionism In Nigeria.

Barrister Peniela Akintunjoye