The case of OAU-Ife
In spite of being lauded as an example of democracy, Nigeria continues to be a country where repressive measures are very commonly applied. This is particularly the case in the student field. Students are regularly expelled or suspended from university whenever they get involved in leading student struggles. We can report that in two universities, Unilorin (University of Ilorin) and OAU (Obafemi Awolowo University) in Ile-Ife, there are ongoing struggles against the university authorities.
On what is happening at Unilorin we will publish an article next week. But the most recent case of student victimisation is the one at Ife. On May 27, the authorities there suspended five student union leaders for a session. These measures have been taken against the students because they have been leading a struggle against increases in university fees.
The proposed increases were massive. For the older students it involved a hike from N590 to N4500 and for the freshers from N1500 to N9500. This would be a major blow to most families trying to get their sons and daughters through university. (See also an article from the Nigerian Marxist journal, the Workers' Alternative on this question, written before these recent suspensions).
In response to the widespread strikes of the university staff the campus at Ife had actually been closed down since May of last year! In fact the university authorities are still trying to break the strike of the lecturers and non-academic staff.
While this was going on the university authorities had introduced heavy increases in fees. They thought they could get away with the increases because the students were off campus, as the university was closed.
The five students that have been suspended are Akinwumi Olawoyin (President of the students' union), Isiaka Adegbile, Ekundayo Fadugba (Public relations officer of the students' union), Hassan Abass (Speaker of the students' union parliament), and Olugbenga Adewale.
This has all happened now because at the beginning of this week the campus reopened. As the university reopened the Student union intensified its activities to oppose the fees increase.
The authorities' clampdown came after the student union organised picketing on the campus on Monday. This was part of a campaign on the part of the student union. The union has decided to continue the picketing until Monday, June 2, when the rest of the students should be back on the campus. Then they plan to hold a union congress later in the week so that the students can chart the way forward.
The vice-chancellor has been threatening to close down the campus again and to bring in the mobile police and he is ready to have the student union leaders on his list arrested.
All kinds of accusations have been thrown at the students, trying to dirty their name, but the fact remains that they are being victimised because the have been giving the mass of students a lead in the fight to stop the massive hikes in the fees.
We are appealing to our readers to send protest messages to the Vice Chancellor of OAU, both in the name of labour movement and student organisations and personally, demanding that no increase in fees be implemented and that no acts of victimisation should be applied to protesting students. In particular the measures against the students listed above should be withdrawn.
Send protest letters and e-mails to:
Prof ROA Makanjuola,
Obafemi Awolowo University,
The President of Nigeria,
at: President.firstname.lastname@example.org demanding that he intervene to bring an end to the repressive measures being applied at the OAU.
Send copies in BCC to the email address of the Editorial Board of the Workers' Alternative, email@example.com so that the students on the ground can be informed of the campaign.
May 30, 2003.