In the recent period there has been a conflict going on at the OAU University in Ife, Nigeria over the question of massive increases in student fees. This increase is part of a general attack on the part of the Obasanjo regime, which involves severe cuts in social spending. Many working class Nigerian families will face serious difficulties in getting their children a decent education as a result of these fees hikes. Below we provide a class-conscious account of the events that took place at OAU, sent to us by one of the participants of the struggle, a supporter of the Nigerian Marxist journal, the Workers’ Alternative. It is an attempt to answer the lies and distortions of the reactionary Nigerian bourgeois press, the OAU authorities and even some pseudo-left reports. Unfortunately, as is often the case, there are unscrupulous elements that pretend to be the friends of the students who are in reality working to defuse the movement and get the students to accept the fees increase.
“Those who are incapable of defending the conquests already won, cannot fight for new ones”
The courage and militancy of the students of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Nigeria, must be saluted by millions of working class fighters across the globe. The way the students have for the past 19 days sustained their protest against the latest anti-fees increment is exemplary.
The University resumed for the 2003/2004 academic session on Wednesday, August 2,5 2004 with a new regime of fees payable by the students. The new fees are about N3,200 to N10,700 higher than what was paid last session depending on the faculty a student belongs to.
The Students’ Union vowed to mobilize its members to resist the new increase considering the fact that this increment was coming months after a similar one last session. The students through their union claimed that nothing concrete could be shown by the university authorities as signs of improvement in the services received by the students after they were compelled to pay more fees last session. Student hostels still remain uninhabitable, water supply inadequate, library and laboratory ill equipped, workers’ morale low, security system ever porous, etc. Apart from the principled stance of the students of OAU over their inalienable rights to affordable public education, the conditions stated above were enough to convince them that the current increment in fees was obnoxious, extortionate and totally unjustifiable.
Approach and tactics of the struggle
As soon as the Students’ Union got wind of the decision of the authorities to increase fees payable for the new session, it began a mass campaign by informing its numerous members (over 25,000), the majority of whom had gone home for the sessional break, which started late April 2004. Press conferences, protest letters, appeal letters, petitions to statutory bodies, within and without the Ministry of Education, were written by the Union during the elongated break which was supposed to end late June, 2004. Elongation of the sessional break has become a norm in Ife since the instatement of the Roger Makanjuola-led university administration just over 5 years ago.
To this day, the university has lost two academic sessions. This is either intentionally used by the authorities as a weapon for weakening the fighting capacity of the students when the school resumes for a new session, or it is a product of industrial disputes between the University authorities/Federal Government on the one hand, and the University workers (academic and non- academic) on the other hand.
The student Union had anticipated this, and therefore supported the workers’ demands for payment of their salaries and leave allowances withheld by the University Administration, so that the school could be re-opened on time. Requests for meeting with the authorities were even made by the Union, which the former reluctantly granted.
The University administration in about 5 meetings actually admitted to the Union that it had not been able to convince the students of the reasons why in less than a year there should be two separate upward reviews of the fees payable by students. This was especially the case at a time when socio-economic attacks carried out by the pro-imperialist government of Nigeria headed by President Olusegun Obasanjo have weakened the purchasing power and hence the real income of an average working family.
The only argument which Prof. Roger Makanjuola, the Vice-Chancellor (VC), kept on presenting and repeating was that the University was grossly under-funded by the government and therefore needed money to augment the shortfall, i.e. it needs to “look inwardly to generate funds” (using the Nigerian ruling class parlance). It was after repeated efforts of the authorities to convince the Union of the need for an increment in fees had failed that the VC went on the air to announce the new regime of fees (the increment initially ranged form N5,700, to N20,700, which in itself was still lower than what the bureaucratically privileged Committee of Deans had recommended).
This happened some time in June 2004. That was when the character of the Union campaign also changed. The Union could see the writing on the wall – the VC was ready to go to any lengths to achieve his extortionate aims, even if that meant or demanded a breach of norms or fair play by advertising the new fees even when round-table discussions with the union had not been finally or totally exhausted. More press statements were issued, leaflets printed, banners foisted and anti-fees posters pasted within and without the campus.
By now, the class antagonisms had become sharper than they had been weeks before. It was during this period that a well articulated 5-page petition was sent to the Nigerian University Commission (NUC), the Office of the Federal Ministry of Education, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, cataloguing the administrative ineptitude, misappropriation of the little available funds, the vindictive nature, etc., of the Prof Roger-led administration. The petition contained very progressive demands including the immediate need to set up an investigative panel of enquiry to probe the VC and his administration.
After this, reports started coming in that the petition had weakened, to some extent, the VC and his cohorts who could foresee dangers of being exposed in the events of those statutory bodies responding positively to the calls from the Union. From its earlier position of not wanting to discuss again the fees issue with the Union, the Roger-led administration invited the Union leadership to meetings on welfare conditions and the need for “peace” as the schools were to resume a week later.
It is important to note here that this change of heart on the part of the administration did not come about thanks to class collaboration or the reconciling of class antagonisms, as some elements in the students’ movement and even within the Ife Students’ Union leadership (we shall discuss this later) would like us to believe. It is by sharpening the class differences to our advantage that we can get concessions from the oppressive ruling class even against its wishes.
The VC in subsequent meetings personally complained about the “rude” approach of the Union, viz pasting anti-fees posters bearing his name and pictures inside and outside the campus. Some elements within the Union leadership and the Ife students’ movement, including some so-called lefts, corroborated this by describing it as tactless, too personal and highly untimely.
The VC demanded an apology from the Union. The Union leadership said it was ready to tender this provided the VC could refute all allegations levelled against him both in the petition and the posters. This was a smart way of saying the Union would not apologise, since it was even clear to a layman that Prof. Roger, was not only an ego-tripping so-called “intellectual”, but also an accused who had internally declared himself guilty as charged. The petitions and posters contained monumental truth, but Prof. Roger would not waste his time and saliva in doing what the Union leadership (dominated by “exuberant youth”, using Roger’s parlance) demanded before it could apologize.
In one of those meetings, the VC told the Union his powers were limited in reviewing the fees back to the old rates as demanded. He said the fees had been recommended by the University Senate and later approved by the Governing Council, which is the highest decision-making organ of the University. The Council – as if by design – had been dissolved after it had approved the fees and was yet to be re-constituted. This meant that a review of the fees was not possible until another Council was reconstituted. In short, the VC was talking from a procedural and legalistic point of view, which has not helped matters and only serves the interests of the law makers (i.e. the ruling class, in this case, the VC and his administration). The experience of the last session, when the same tactic was used, proves this.
But for the Ife students and their Union, all laws – in the words of Marx – are more a reflection of social relations. When the social relations change, the old laws become invalid. The VC and his cronies – including the Dean, Division of Students’ Affair, a notorious Professor of Microbiology with a reputation for misappropriating funds that had been allocated for student’s welfare, heavy drinking, womanising, etc, and recently promoted to the post of Professor – later agreed under pressure to reduce departmental/faculty teaching charges by 50%.
The Roger Administration, in typical ruling class style, wanted to save its face by telling the Union and its members that the 50% charge to be paid by students was agreed to with the hope that when the Council is finally reconstituted, the Union’s original appeal for review to the old rate will be considered, and this will either be accepted or rejected). If rejected, the students will be made to pay the remaining 50% before they can be allowed to register for a second semester. No boss conceding under pressure likes to openly reveal his weakness because doing so may encourage the oppressed (or the ruled) to demand more concessions.
By now, it was clear to everybody that the Roger administration wanted a “peaceful”, middle-of-the-road solution to the impasse. The question that readily comes to mind is, why should a “strong, unchanging, dictatorial and legalistic VC”, as he has portrayed himself to the community members and the world at large, change, bend, discuss and concede in such a seemingly democratic, unprocedural and illegal manner to the demands of students for a downward review of the fees?
Another question is how should the students and their Union (including the leadership) view the 50% shift of the University administration? A victory or a loss? Accept or reject it? Continue the struggle or wind it up? The answers given to these questions by those (elements and tendencies) involved in the anti-fees struggle will demonstrate the correctness or otherwise of their ideas, and their theoretical/tactical understanding of struggles against cuts (privatisation, commercialisation, devaluation, labour casualisation, etc). It would also expose the weaknesses, treachery and opportunism of right-wing reactionaries and even the ultra-leftist and pseudo-Marxist elements.
Conditions responsible for Roger’s change of stance
Firstly, the amount first advertised (though described as modest and the lowest possible by Roger and his administration) was indeed immodest, exorbitant and out of reach of an average working family. The increment then ranged from N5,700 to N20,700 depending on the faculty a student belongs to. He knew – although he was not sincere enough to admit it – that a significant proportion of students would not be able to afford these fees. The real income of an average Nigerian worker, farmer, artisan and other army of unemployed youth and adults of working age, has been constantly falling due to unending inflationary trends which find their roots in the neo-liberal, imperialist-backed economic policies of Obasanjo-led government.
These policies include cuts in social spending, cuts in workers’ salaries (e.g. 7.5% contributory Pension Scheme), increases in pump prices of petroleum products (5 times in 13 months), downsizing of labour in the public sector, devaluation of the currency, cheap sell-off of the national heritage (NEPA, NITEL, NPA, Nigerian Airways, NICON, Nigerian Daily Times, 1004 Government Flats in VI, Lagos) to Obasanjo’s cronies in the name of privatisation, the deregulation of the oil sector together with other anti-working class, anti-poor, pro-rich policies. Roger had foreseen a militant, prolonged and mass resistance to the fees as they then were, by the majority of students who now see the imposition of new charges as an annual ritual at Ife.
Secondly, his arm-twisting tactic of prolonged closure of the institution was not going to work this time around. The students left late April with the hope of resuming in June, but the school finally agreed to open late August (just 2 months extension). This favours mass resistance compared to the last session when the campus was shut for eleven months due to prolonged industrial disputes between the Roger Administration and Federal Government on the one hand, and the workers’ unions (ASUU, NASU, SSANU) on the other hand. He knew that by August not many students would have been discouraged by the two-month extension of the sessional break, and that the fighting spirit of the majority of Ife students would still be alive and active.
Thirdly, the objective conditions of this period are different from those of the last session. The class conflicts, both within and outside OAU, Ife (i.e. nationally), are now sharper. More national strikes have been called with a militant and active participation of Ife students, workers and other oppressed Nigerians. More local strikes of workers’ unions have been successfully called and organised between June last year (when the school fully resumed for the last session) and now. More concessions have been granted by the Roger administration, acting under pressure from workers with class solidarity from the students throughout the last session. Innumerable protest marches, lecture boycotts, barricades and militant, mass rallies, symposia etc., with working class support, were effectively employed by the last Union leadership while the session lasted. All this, despite Roger’s “victory” on fees last session. All these had increased the class-consciousness of all the community members, and weakened his capacity to get away easily with anti-student/worker policies.
Another reason is the fact that he currently has problems (industrial disputes) with virtually all stakeholders and workers’ unions on campus. What the last Students’ Union leadership relentlessly worked and called for – unity of workers and burying the petty-bourgeois hatchet of the past intra-working class differences – finally came to pass. In a letter jointly signed by all workers’ unions (academic, ASUU, and non academic, NASU, SSANU, ASUTON) dated August 5, 2004 and sent to the Vice-Chancellor, the workers gave a month’s ultimatum to the VC to pay their leave allowances for 2004 withheld since May along with their emolument of August, pay the March and April 2002 salaries in line with the advice of the Federal High Court, and finally informed him that all unions would continue to educate and mobilize their rank and file towards taking collective action. All these were backed with an ultimatum which was to expire on August 31, 2004. Roger could not afford to combine the problems of these “exuberant and restive youth” with that of “uncooperative and ungrateful workers”. He needed to minimize his conflicts for tactical reasons. A retreat through a minimal concession to students could also help matters.
Another important factor is that it was not in his interest at that time to “rock the boat” with the unions by victimizing their leaders, banning unions and other reactionary methods – which he would have preferred to use, if it had been left to him alone.
There was the carrying over of the victimization (suspension from the university for an academic session as a fall-out of student protests against imposition of similar fees last session) of Olawoyin Akinkunmi, Fadugba Dayo, Hassan Abass, and Olugbemiga Adewale (President, PRO, Speaker, Chairman, Awolowo Executives, of the Students’ Union respectively). There was the constant exposure of the undemocratic and illegal manner with which this was carried out by the crude VC. The Roger administration was also disgraced via aggressive press campaigns, protest marches, international working class and youth solidarity received through www.marxist.com, a condemnation of the VC’s action by the local workers’ unions. The lies, hypocrisy and falsification of the reactionary Roger administration were exposed.
Closely linked with this are the economic implications of such a tactic. More policemen would be needed to maintain “peace” in the event of militant protests against it, meaning that more money would be needed. More funds would be needed to prosecute legal cases, which would inevitably be filed against the University Administration. Nothing less than N2.5 million has so far been spent in prosecuting Akinkunmi Olawoyin and three others Vs OAU. Wanting to win an indefensible case, Roger hired the services of the chambers of Akin Olujimi, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation.
All these among others were the factors responsible for the change in Roger’s stance. It is necessary to list the above points in order to correct the erroneous impressions and/or illusions which some right-wing opportunists and their left counterparts (the ultra-leftists) within the Ife students’ movement were spreading in their infantile, unprincipled and class collaborationist tactics. It further confirms our correct perspective that there is just a thin line between opportunism and ultra-leftism. While the former saw the change in Roger’s stance as a product of their “mature”, “patient”, “peaceful” and “non-confrontational” approach to fee hike opposition, the latter only moderated the former’s, and added its arrogant and “I-know-best” spices of dismissing all elements (both progressive and reactionary) in the Union leadership as weak, inactive, incapable and unmilitant. They said in their various releases that the Union and its leadership had not done anything at all, or had adopted the wrong tactics and approach if at all it did anything. They closed their eyes to press campaigns, releases, posters and various other progressive works the union carried out between the period the fees were first rumoured, through the period of the Committee of Dean’s resolution, through Roger’s advertisement of charges, and finally to Roger’s middle-of-the road, 50% concessions.
As genuine lefts and progressives, we must admit that both trends are dangerous, incorrect, ideologically bereft and fundamentally the same. They must be combatted and exposed so that new layers of activists will not fall for their seemingly appealing, but highly treacherous traps.
The second question is: how should a progressive Union and its members view the battle from that time (of concession) onwards? Accept the concession and wind up the movement? Reject the concession and insist that no discussion will take place until Roger goes back to the old rate? Accept the concession first and continue the battle via other means until we achieve total reversal to the old rates?
These are important questions, which put to test the ideological correctness and strengths, or invalidity and weaknesses of different elements and tendencies within both the leadership and the rank and file, activists included. In the words of Leon Trotsky, it is not the physical struggle in itself that matters but the application of correct tactics; and correct are those tactics which meet the conditions of time and place.
For the right-wing opportunists, they preferred the first option because they wanted an easy way out. If some of them within the leadership had known that there would be an increment in fees, they would not have contested ab initio. The ultra-leftists, left to themselves alone – not because they were sure of victory in such a venture but because they would be too proud and insincere to admit objective weaknesses and limitations – would prefer the second option. But as fate would have it, none of them, despite being in the majority both among the elected leaders, union activists and ideological tendencies, was able to have their way thanks to superior arguments, patient explanation and close monitoring by the genuine left and their fear of being exposed when the students (i.e. members of the union) resumed.
Finally, the Union settled for the correct option, i.e. the third one (accept the concession and continue the battle) with a proviso that the Union would not commit itself to any written agreement with the VC, as doing so would incapacitate the Union in fighting for total reversal which is the principled and ultimate objective of the struggle.
All this happened during the 4-month break, specifically some weeks up to the August 25, 2004 resumption for the 2003/2004 session. Events that developed later are of significance to all genuine activists who meet different elements (the left, anarchists, centrists, reformists, ultra-leftists, reactionaries, etc) and are forced to work with them in student and labour movement organisations (students’ unions, workers’ unions, campaign groups, broad-alliance groups, ‘broad-left’ groups etc.).
We must understand the need to arm ourselves with correct ideas and tactics on when to ally, with whom to ally, when to withdraw from such groups and broad-based fronts, etc. “Unity at all costs” is not always a correct approach. Sometimes it is necessary to apply the principle: “march separately but strike together”. All this is necessary, so that the mass will be able to differentiate between genuine left activists on the one hand and the various treacherous opportunists, arrogant ultra-leftists, infantile radicals, right-wing reactionaries, anarchists, illusion-bound reformists (both of the left and right variety) on the other hand. Almost all these elements are present in the Nigerian students’ movement in general and within the Ife Students’ Union in particular. They have also played both a passive and an active role during the latest school fees battle.
The genuine left was small but played the most progressive, remarkable and positive roles compared to the massive but reactionary, treacherous and counter productive roles, suggestions and attempts of other elements. Each time they reared their ugly head, the real left defeated them not by logic of force but by force of logic. The genuine left tendency that they had declared insignificant, small and politically dead was now the most significant and politically alive. This, they accepted in good faith and later were forced to accept against their wishes. In short, the rejected stone had now become the corner stone.
The role of the Union leadership
As a mass-based organization, the Ife Students’ Union is open to participation by different elements – extreme right, moderate right, centrists, left reformists, genuine left, ultra-left, anarchists, etc, all existing individually, collectively, and even in the form of organization. But the militant tradition, and the age-long presence and positive gains of left union leaderships have made the union and its elective positions a very hot seat for reactionaries, state agents and their likes.
Contrary to the widespread opportunism prevailing within the national student grouping, the National Association of Nigerian students (NANS) and other local students’ unions on Nigerian campuses, it has not always been easy for reactionary leaderships to go unpunished in Ife. It normally carries the maximum punishment of impeachment.
In the last fifteen years, i.e. 1989-2004, there have been ten complete parliamentary years (as Ife students call each regime of leadership). The only reactionary president of the Student’s Union who completed his tenure – under a very unpalatable condition for him – was Victor Akinjo, currently an adviser to President Obasanjo on student/youth affairs. This is a fictitious, unheard of, and practically irrelevant portfolio, specifically created for him. It is his own share of the national loot for playing his own role as a students’ leader who did not give the “constituted authority” much or any problem while in office.
Three others, Tunde Fagbohungbe, A. U. Carl and Yinka Sotade were popularly impeached by the Ife students’ Congress. Others who completed their tenure were from one left organization or another. The Ife students have a significant level of confidence in entrusting their union offices to the left. But within this so-called left, existed different tendencies ranging from Trotskyists, “Kautskyites”, Stalinists, Anarcho-communists, Guerillaists, Pan-Africanists and the rest, all claiming to be Marxist-oriented.
These tendencies are organized, and also seek students’ acceptance of their individual organizational programmes. For the period mentioned above (1989-2004), no union election was held in Ife without at least one of these tendencies presenting candidates for the union leadership. The methods of achieving their aims have varied from one organization to another depending on the theoretical understanding of its members, and on how near or far away each is from the correct ideas of Marxism. They sometimes work together in periods of struggles against fee increase, the neo-fascists (or violent campus cultism), bad welfare conditions, academic victimization, and other progressive struggles of the oppressed people of Nigeria.
It is not the focus of this article to develop a critique of each tendency and/or its ideological correctness (which we shall do later as events unfold in Ife), but merely to show how the presence of these left groups has served as a check on the right-wing opportunists, who seek elective posts to further their selfish interests.
The current union leadership has its own fair share of the usual ideological divisions. It has within it several tendencies: the conscious reactionaries, even state agents, the “honest reactionaries” (those confused elements who fall for the policies of the government and the university authorities), the centrists and the left (with its usual divisions). Though the ascendancy of the present student leaders to office was dictated by different objective conditions (which this article may not necessarily need to explain here), the approach of individual members of the leadership (executive, legislative and judicial) during all the Union’s activities and struggles since its inception in mid-March, 2004, has been dictated by their particular ideological affiliation.
From the struggle for a one-week extension of the last rain (second) semester examination, to the July 10th 1999 cult killing remembrance, to the almost 4 month long anti-fees battle, each student leader has revealed his or her tendencies – reactionary, reformist, centrist, progressive, ultra-leftist etc. The above background, though long but explanatory, is necessary so as to understand the roles played by individuals both in the current struggle (i.e. anti-fees struggle) and other struggles in the coming period; and to prevent being invested with the lies and incorrect reports of unscrupulous elements, including the ultra-leftists. As stated earlier, if some of them in the union leadership – especially the right-wing reactionaries – had foreseen the “crisis of leadership”, especially the anti-fees battle, they (the elected student leaders) would have saved their face by not vying for union posts at all.
The above explanation is also important because it serves to expose the theoretical limitations of the ultra-left tendencies in Ife who, because of their woeful performance in the last Union election, resorted to opportunistic, reactionary and un-Marxist methods of criticism of the then newly inaugurated leadership. In their usual impatient manner, they dismissed every member of the Union leadership (including the progressive ones) and told the students not to expect anything progressive or positive from all the newly elected student leaders. What anarchy – a product of half-baked Marxism, absence of foresight over astonishment, overemphasis of practical struggles at the expense of a theoretical build up.
Through their well-circulated releases during the break, they destructively, not constructively, criticized the union and every action it took, be it progressive or otherwise. Their analysis of the state of the nation or of the neo-liberal economy of Nigeria may have been fine, but whenever they got to the state of the (Student) Union, they used more sectarian terms to describe all the elements within the leadership. This left an average student reader more confused about whom to gravitate towards – either his severely battered Union or the ruling class (Nigerian government/Roger administration). They created more confusion than the ruling class itself.
During the last June NLC-led, anti-fuel hike national strike, the same un-Marxist methods were used. They “condemned” the NLC leadership, the NANS leadership, and the students’ union leadership in a sectarian manner. The method should be one of supporting every positive forward of these leaders but pointing out the drawbacks as each mistake is made. This method leaves their readers with no option than “sit and look”. Funnily enough, however, they participated in the minimal but highly commendable one-day strike (boycott of academic activity) organised by these “reactionary, state-backed, unmilitant” union leaders. There is a wide gap between what they write or preach and what we see them do. What a monumental hypocrisy.
The signing of the agreement with the Roger administration and its implications for the anti-fees struggle
Some elements in the leadership were later revealed to have appended their signatures to an agreement with the University authorities (Division of Students’ Affairs) on the 50% reduction of fees. These elements later claimed to have done this in good faith without any ulterior motive of ending the anti-fees struggle. They said this after different tendencies, ideological, religious and otherwise, including the few students available on campus during the break, had accused them of agreeing to a 50% reduction, meaning or inferring that Roger had succeeded in increasing the fees by 50%, signalling the end of the struggle.
It is important to note here that the real intentions of the student leaders can be understood only by looking at the (ideological) category they fall into within the Ife students’ union. This would have been reflected in the roles they played in the previous struggles and activities of this 5-month old leadership. Their actions – consciously or not – would incapacitate the Union in furthering its struggle for total reversal of the fees hike. This can be explained by their lack of preparedness or fear of leading the students in such a struggle. Or it was their lack of conviction from the very word go in the principled position of “no to any amount of increase” during the year maintained by Ife Students’ Union. The other possibility is simply that they may have made an honest mistake.
Either way, their act is bad tactics, counter-productive and imposes limitation on our capacity to fight back. Further actions of these elements and events that unfolded later revealed what their intentions were. Their intentions fitted more into the first possibility than the second.
However, it must be emphasised that such counter-productive acts only limited our scope. They did not ultimately amount to a defeat or to the immediate need to wind up the struggle prematurely, or to accept Roger’s 50% increase as a fait accompli. To accept such logic would only make us slightly different from (if not completely similar to) the “Roger-minded legalists”, those who believe in the ultimate and unchallengeable powers of laws, regulations and statutes, without taking cognisance of the objective and social conditions which make a particular phenomenon legal in a given place or time and where the same act will be declared illegal in another time or place. Everything depends on the balance of forces.
The reason for this clarification can be found in the reactionary excuses of some layers of students who, even without the signed agreement, would not have participated in the Union’s struggle. They are being helped and encouraged by some advanced layers (union activists of the “left”) who also see the agreement, as the real reason why we would not and later did not win the battle. They (the pseudo-left) find excuses as an easy way out of their inability to correctly explain events to the students who besiege them with questions since they are seen, or looked up to, as more informed, more conscious and more advanced than ordinary union members.
By August 15, the Roger administration went on the air to announce resumption and the revised increased fees (50% of the earlier one advertised). It portrayed itself as a listening and co-operative authority, which had even gone out of its way to “violate” procedure by slashing the fees behind the Council’s back in order to make peace. It however subtly warned that the University administration would deal with anybody who attempted to disrupt the smooth and peaceful resumption for 2003/2004 sessions on August 25th 2004 with the arrival of fresh undergraduates while returning undergraduates would resume 12 days later, September 6 2004.
From the foregoing, the university administration used both appeals to the emotions of students and of their sponsors (parents and guardians). Why did it not use extremely offensive statements of threats and intimidation as it did in the last session? It dared not because the balance of force this time around is not completely in its favour, neither was Roger absolutely sure of victory. Victory could swing either way: either to the students by forcing him to go back to the old rates, or to him by coercing them to pay the extortionate 50% increase.
Between this moment (of announcement of resumption) and the date of resumption (August 25th) the Union re-doubled its efforts of mobilisation by telling all its members not to pay the fees to the banks as demanded by Roger. This was the same tactic he used last session to weaken the union’s capacity to picket payment centres within the campus as it had always done before then. He used the technological advantages of inter-branch banking networks (real-time, on-line banking) in which a student can pay the fees from any part of the country he or she is staying in, using the advertised OAU Miscellaneous Fee Account Number. This would get the majority of the students, or even their sponsors, to pay from home before they even get back to campus. This method worked wonders last session when a significant proportion of the students had paid from home before resumption, thereby weakening their morale and readiness to participate actively in the union’s protests against fees once they got back to campus.
The current Union leadership saw this, learnt from it, and increased its press campaigns calling for patience and restraints on the part of its teeming members spread across the country. It called for a resumption of all categories of students, returning students inclusive, on August 25th contrary to Roger’s segmented resumption. The reason for this was to make the struggle a mass-based one and to prevent the fresh students, who are more vulnerable and prone to accept Roger’s lies and distortions, from being compelled to pay the extortionate charges.
The Union, especially its publicity bureau, must be commended here for a job well done. Considering the objective limitations imposed by biased state-owned and privately-owned media houses who prefer to feature reports, news, lies and propaganda which favour their owners (the ruling class), to reports and news on progressive workers’, students’ and oppressed peoples’ struggles for a better living. With the exception of few progressive news correspondents who are individually sympathetic to the cause of the Union, all the ruling class-controlled news media agencies (both private and public) reported little or nothing about the mass and popular anti-fees struggle of the Ife students especially during the heated period (August 26th-September 13th), the 18 days that shook Ife. This was the period immediately after the resumption, when all the plans (meetings with university authorities, press campaigns, etc) of the Union were translated to concrete struggle.