By Kazeem Olalekan Israel
Truth be told, the absence of a coordinated Students’ Union body on our campus poses a very serious threat to everyone of us as students. Ipso facto, the students’ union has always been the body through which the students collectively and in unison speak against societal ills. These range from the insincerity of the government in acting according to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) to cater for the security and welfare of the people which include investing in education to the high-handedness of the University management while trying to cover-up for the inefficiency and ineptitude of the government; the Union, historically through its Security Committee which was constituted aftermath the July 10 cultists’ attack addresses security matters as it affects its members, the students.
However, it is rather unfortunate that the University management has not deemed it fit after series of engagements to reinstate students’ union activities on our campus. It is very instructive to note that the University’s Vice-Chancellor is violating the biblical injunction which states that “do unto others what you want them to do unto you.” The continued suspension of students’ union activities on our campus is an undue violation of our rights to assemble which is a godly and humanly recognised right and it need not be put to test that the Vice-Chancellor himself would not be happy in a scenario whereby his rights would be trampled upon.
Franklin Roosevelt, a former President of the United States declared in one of his State of the Union address that “there are four basic freedom which are; the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear.” Unfortunately, these rights are not being respected in the university and this reflects the abnormality the Nigerian society is bastardized with. It is not out of place to write that the University, rather than being the incubator of knowledge now incubates dogmatism and fear which is a reflection of what is obtainable in the larger society. No thanks to the hypocrites and traitors amongst us who passively and actively accepts evil.
It must be stated that this article is not really directed at the University management but rather at the students for us to see a reason to join in the cause for the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of students’ union activities. Nonetheless, the Vice-Chancellor must be reminded that the freedom to assemble and to speak against that which is perceived to be unjust and evil is the right of everyone. These rights and many others are not commodities to be given to us by the management nor the government nor by any document. As a matter of fact, the Constitution merely codifies these rights which are ‘inalienable and undeniable.’ Therefore, an attempt by the management to continuously deny us of our right which is clearly stated in the Nigerian Constitution as well as regional and international charters and documents must be aggressively resisted by everyone.
It was Martin Melona that stated prior World War 2 that “they came for the socialist, I kept mute because I was not a socialist, they came for the trade unionists, I didn’t talk because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then, they came for the Jews, I said nothing because I wasn’t a Jew and when they came for me, there wasn’t anyone left to speak for me.” It is no gainsaying that some persons (not even in the past decades now) for the cause of fighting for the recognition and enforcement of our rights as students on campus have been battered, imprisoned and suspended, while some have had their electronic portals blocked for 6 solid months thereby subjecting them to serious psychological trauma, yet, the students sees them as never-do-well and unserious lots which is actually erroneous. We must not at any time pretend as if all is well while our rights is being trampled upon without acting. Truth is, many a student may pretend as if all is well but an undeniable fact is that we are in an unusual period in our national life whereby asking questions and vehemently opposing evil is being criminalised. We must not continue at this pace, hence, an end would be put to dissent as was witnessed in the ugly days of the military which was condemned and resisted by those we see as heroes today.
Is it not written in the scriptures that “forsake not the assembly of the brethren”? Who then are the brethren? The brethren comprise a movement of people bonded by one purpose which drives their collective interests. It thus becomes the duty of all to protect these collective interests and promote it against personal and factional interests towards the achievement of the goals of the assembly of brethren. The brethren speak in one voice and march in a mass; this is the fear of the macho that instigates disarray, crying aloud ” to thy tents, oh! Israel”.
Brethren, in 1997 during the one million man march which was staged against Gen. Sani Abacha prior to the coup from heaven. Despite the presence of heavy security operatives (Operation Sweep) at the Venue of the protest, Nigerians were not deterred as they trooped out in their large numbers to participate in the protest. It is worthy of note that Chief Gani Fawehinmi who just underwent a surgery as at that period was also at the venue of the protest to join other protesters.
The point is that we must speak out strongly and agitate against injustice and evil whenever and wherever we see it as is being witnessed today on the shores of our campus. That is why we were educated in the first place and that is what being a believer or a man or woman of faith is all about; dissenting, protesting and standing up against that which is unjust and evil because, in an unjust society, silence is a crime, rebellion to tyrants and tyrannical tendencies is obedience to God.
It is significant for me to commend the radical stance of the Dean and Sub-Dean of the Division of Students’ Affairs for rejecting the rickety bus bought by the embattled President of the Students’ Union, Oyekan Ibukun which is now in a very poor state. This singular action of theirs no doubt shows that they are really hell-bent in ensuring that Dr. IBK is made to account for all his deeds during his tenure as the President of the Union which in the real sense would help in the fight for discipline amongst Union leaders and also help enforce accountability.
In all, this article is not meant to discredit the giant strides of the university management in ensuring that the University meets international standard majorly focusing on ‘a stable academic calendar.’ But it cannot be gainsaid that the University cannot meet international standards with a mere stabilised calendar while neglecting the consistent failure of the government to fund education. Despite the fact that some other countries of the world are paying serious attention to their educational sectors with many of them meeting the 26% UNESCO standards. Sadly, ours is a country that is yet to get it right. The VC must as a matter of importance put an end to the undue submission, conformity, timidity and a weak, debilitating and telling silence in the face of tyranny, persecution, incompetence and injustice which has become the order of the day on our shores and recognise and respect students’ rights as this is the only recipe to create a conducive learning environment.
However, this paper remains incomplete if our newbies are not welcomed to the Garden of Aluta, the Mecca of Political Consciousness, the Medina of Intellectualism and the Jerusalem of Scientific Aluta where all celestial bodies join the foot soldiers in the triumphant march to Uhuru. Here, our mass is conjugated to ensure that victory is achieved. We are not afraid of oppression because we shall always repress it, we are only agitated against division as we coast our quest to victory. Your society demands that you commit your strength and focus in making the world a better place. As students, coordinate yourselves and SHUN cultism.
“Those, who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Theodore Roosevelt.
Kazeem Olalekan Israel (GANI) is a 400L student of the Department of Political Science, Obafemi Awolowo University.