“Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden. Freedom is lost”- Ronald Reagan
While the proclamation of suspension of the Union came at a time when it appeared popular even among students based on the news in the media bringing the entire institution to disrepute ranging from the 2.5 or 2.9 million naira bus to the budget scandal, to the bottle episode, to importation of elements to attack students on campus by the Students’ Union President and his eventual impeachment. The mood in some circles has swung from being passive about the Union to becoming totally antagonistic. For some students, it became “they should even suspend this Union”.
I was not an onlooker in the recent events. I was a member of the Students Representative Council. I am not an hearsay actor. I saw most of these things or was physically involved myself. I love to pride myself as a plain person. The events of the past few weeks stemed from firstly a leadership that understood little, it moved on to being a personality tussle and eventually, the Union was separated by the lovers of money and such inducements who we term in parliament as “risky honourables” on one end and on the other end people who wanted a radical union.
The bitter truth we must close our eyes and spit is that on all ends, the politics became more than the activism. I would I must affirm also that the leadership never understood the followership. In a previous article, I referred to them as having come to steal, kill and destroy. The best example of this being that shortly after the Union was declared suspended. Some students moved down to the SUB and defended it from being forced shut. Other students who constituted the leadership of the Union ran to the bank and withdrew Union money in a fell swoop. The actions of those different sections defined their priority. For some, priority was money. For others, it was defending the continued existence of the building.
The reason why the mood following the declaration of proscription did not favour the existence of a Union is simple. While there was a union, it never stood for the interest of its members. During the entirety of the Oyekan Ibukun administration, it always had an excuse to avoid a function. When someone was shot dead in an hostel environment, the administration wasted a chance to address insecurity in town and the overzealousness of vigilantes by proclaiming that the deceased was not a student. Shortly afterwards, the issue of mass failure in certain courses came up and not as much as a whisper was heard from the Union leadership. For the entirety of the administration, there was no vision or focus. Only a desire to play politics. The purchase of a bus with so much Union money exemplifies this. The bus again required 500,000 naira in budgets from the impeached President. Again, the administration attempted to build a relaxation center and even released pictures of a plan for an hostel.
I have always argued that the Union dues are too much and for this reason dull the reasoning of the leadership from what should be done and what should not be done. The construction plans were isolationist. Virtually no student on OAU campus considers a relaxation center reasonable. I spoke then that a congress should be called where people will make submissions on what they want done with the money and eventually, a reasonable ground will be reached through arguments and counter-arguments.
While one does not need to dwell much on the past, we must all look at where we are and the dangers of where we stand. The absence of a Union means a silence. I have learnt from life that continued silence is either from danger or impending doom.
The absence of a Union indicates that gradually, the form and crux of the campus will continue to deteriorate. Students would have no voice and platform to speak on both local and national issues. It would mean a continual degradation that may let in the reign of cultism. The Union was never the problem. It was the leadership. We must reiterate this continually. That the Union itself as a platform was not the problem. The problem was the leadership! The Union for the last and ongoing parliamentary year did not really serve the purpose of a Union.
It is my warning that this silence is not acquiescence. After the darkness, there would be a glorious dawn. For those who think they can stamp out Unionism, it is merely a matter of time. For those who rejoice at the fall of a Union and intend to plant their banners, it is also a matter of time. The truth is that two can happen. Students will become radical of an uncoordinated accord or that the events which may happen in future will receive unprecedented responses. This silence is not acquiesence!
I also want to state clearly here that students will refuse any arrangement or concession that will see to the rescind of impeachment. In most quarters, the belief is that the suspension of the Union was to save the face of Oyekan Ibukun who sponsored violence on campus and that the suspension of these people was because they were his outright contenders and that they took a stand against his dance of shame and misguided leadership. While it may remain a conspiracy theory, the truthfulness or otherwise cannot be outrightly dismissed. #ReinstateOAU8! #Reinstate our Union!!!
Parliamentarian, Great Ife Students Union Representative Council