Nigeria: An appeal to defend Ile-Ife OAU Students

The Nigerian authorities are attempting to crush all independent student union representation. At the OAU campus the students are valiantly defending their right to organise but have been met with a brutal response. Please add your name to the protest.

Since February 28, the authorities of the OAU in Ife have kept the campus shut down in their desperate bid to repress legitimate protests of the students. The police were brought in on February 26, to force students to write the semester exams! This is in spite of the fact that the students were demanding the legal one-week lecture free period to prepare for the exams. It was actually this crude behaviour that further radicalized the students.

The mobile police (the notorious "kill-&-go") were then used to eject all the students in the most violent manner. Not only were innocent students heavily brutalized, but all members of the university community witnessed numerous examples of brutality. Nobody was spared by the assaults of the mobile police: lecturers, workers, traders, and even those who reside on the main campus have many horrifying tales to tell.

The police brutalized many people, but worst of all was the fire that resulted from their murderous actions at one of the main campus shopping centres. This occurred on March 3, five days after the students had been ejected. The authorities ordered another raid on the campus and anybody seen on campus was brutalized.

The police attacked the shopping complex and everybody there was beaten black and blue. Unfortunately, probably as the result of the chaos provoked by the authorities, many electric devices were not properly switched off. The fire was reported to have started late at night when power was restored to the campus which by then had become a ghost town. However, what cannot be ruled out is the possibility that the authorities planned the arson in order to later blame it on the students!

It was a major tragedy for those who had their belongings destroyed. There were numerous tales of woe, numerous sad stories. The life earnings and incomes of many people were destroyed in one sweep and there is no hope of compensation from those responsible for the fire.

What is most tragic about this crime is the attempt by the Faborode-led management to frame the students' union leadership and radical activists for a crime it committed itself. Prof. Faborode's management has ordered the arrest of the president of the students' union, Akinlola Saburi, and other student activists. In addition to planning to arrest and lock up student leaders, the authorities declared the students' union banned and is issuing secret query letters to student union officials and activists with the view of expelling many.

Several paid adverts have been published in several newspapers in Nigeria by the management trying to cover up their own crimes. These are quite disgraceful statements coming from a university management. It just confirms how far the rot has gone in the Nigerian university system.

They tried to put all the blame on one man - the president of the student union, Saburi. This is so because he has refused to sell out and become a puppet of the State. That is why the students trust and support him.

Faborode has refused either to state the real reason why he marched in killers to close the campus and or to acknowledge what the students are really demanding. The students were demanding for the necessary one-week lecture free week in order to prepare for the exams. This is a right and the university authorities knew that lectures and tests were still going on during the lecture free week. They could have stopped this or could have added an extra week in order for the students to prepare well for the exam. The blame is totally at the doorstep of the management; they are responsible for everything.

Sinister Plot

Behind the heartlessness of the Faborode management are its intensions to punish the students for the protests of the students against Obasanjo's "anti-corruption" Czar, Nuhu Ribadu, which occurred on February 22, the students' protest against the Presidential Visitation Panel sitting on January 30 and the numerous other protests against the terrible conditions on campus.

These facts were well stated in the wasteful paid adverts the management issued out. But the protest against the EFCC boss was the straw that broke the camel's back, as the students boldly challenged the so-called anti-corruption boss and openly pointed out the numerous flaws in the so-called anticorruption war. This did not go down well with the state, as this would be the first time a mass of people had openly challenged the EFCC boss and even booed him. They thought they could confuse the students but everything backfired and the media reported it both in electronic and printed form.

They wanted their pound of flesh from the students. This accounts for why the authorities used maximum force from the first day of the students' protest and brought in the police to force the students to write the exams and when this failed they closed down the campus. They intend to keep the campus closed for as long as possible, expel more student leaders and activists and impose more draconian measures not only on students but also on the workers and lecturers at the university.

Solidarity Needed

Right now, the lecturers of ASUU are on strike nationally and the other workers' unions are bound to declare strike action as time goes on. There is rot everywhere on the campuses, thanks to the corrupt reforms imposed by the IMF/World Bank and hopelessly implemented by Obasanjo. Anti-intellectual and extremely corrupt elements have taken over the management of the campuses. The conditions on the campuses are now worse than they have ever been and are getting worse.

Unfortunately, the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, has completely degenerated and most of the unit unions that make up NANS are also either quite weak or completely dead. Many student unions have either been dissolved by the State or have had state-nominated leaders imposed on them.

However, the situation in Ife is quite different. The students have defended their union's independence in spite of the numerous attacks launched on it by the state over the years.

Many union leaders and activists have been expelled over the years but the authorities have always been forced to reinstate them due to the movement of the students. July 10, 1999 cannot be forgotten, a dark day when the university authorities under Prof. Wale Omole sponsored a deadly cult attack on the students which led to the untimely death of five students including the then secretary general of the student union.

This current attack on the students and their union must be seen in the light of the numerous attacks of the past and is a major step towards destroying the most militant and independent student union in Nigeria. In addition, it is part of the programme of smashing the resistance of the students in order to intensify the so-called reform programme, which is geared towards making education a privilege.

Great Ife students have won numerous battles in the recent period. The fact that they could maintain an independent union headed by radical activists confirms this. They have consistently exposed the weakness and rottenness of the establishment. This fact was even betrayed by the Faborode-led management who tried to give the impression that crisis on campus is the handwork of a few super-humans.

Now the OAU students need the solidarity of all in order to triumph in these turbulent times. The authorities want to use a long period of closure to tire out the students. They want to dismantle the student union, expel and arrest activists and union leaders, all towards imposing their anti-people policies.

This must be resisted by all. We therefore call on all activists in Nigeria and internationally to demand:

The immediate reopening of the OAU Ife
Support the student union in the resistance to the State's attempt to destroy it;
Hands off the student union and no to victimisation
For a workers' investigation into the crisis at OAU,
And send the Model Letter provided below.


OAU in crisis

By Comrade Ola, a Supporter of the CWA in Ife

A chronology of the events that culminated in an avertable closure of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) campus by Prof. Faborode and his companions in crime

‘The motor force of progress is truth and not lies"

- V.I Lenin

It would not only be a crime against humanity but also an act of betrayal of posterity for one to still conceive that "silence is golden" at this decisive moment in the history of the Great Ife student movement. Hence, one is compelled to give an in-depth analysis of the ‘chain of events' that happened before the said closure ensued.

Great Ife students voted massively for a radical element (Mr. Akinola Saburi) as the president of the union and rejected the imposition of a puppet of the authorities. Then, having been disgraced by the result of the election, in spite of their campaign of calumny and propaganda against the elected president, the university Authority came up with a face-saving release that the union would not be recognized. This actually marked the beginning of the unending crisis.

A couple of weeks after the election, Mr. Akinola Saburi (the president) and a former president and committed activist Mr. Adeniyi Adenekan (Dr. 3AS) were expelled from the university with unjustifiable reasons. After intense pressure from within and without, especially when the truth could no longer be hidden, the university Authority conditionally reinstated Dr. 3As only and stated some unconstitutional conditions to recognize the union. Consequently, Great Ife students rejected all these positions from the university Authority and decided to defend the independence of the union.

That apart, problems of on-line registration, perennial accommodation and transportation hardships re-surfaced. The union leadership wrote several letters to the university management to resolve all the problems but all fell on ‘deaf ears'. A lot of students were denied the opportunity of registering for the session due to the problem of e-portals. In addition, some fresh and final students who should get bed spaces statutorily were denied as a result of manoeuvring of Students' Affairs Office and hall wardens. While ‘self-allocating' the bed spaces to the students, the union leadership discovered that several bed spaces were reserved for Deans, H.O.Ds etc. In fact, a whole room was reserved for the vice-chancellor in Moremi hall (a female hostel) -a disgusting revelation.

After several unyielding appeals to university management, Great Ife students embarked on a legitimate lecture - boycott on 6th and 7th February, to press home their demands - extension of on-line registration, democratic allocation of bed spaces, and reinstatement of unjustly victimized union leaders. Due to the intensity of the boycott, the University Authority admitted to committing all these ‘sins' and made some unfulfilled promises. As if all these attacks were not enough, the university Authority came up with a hastily prepared timetable and maintained that the Harmattan semester examination must start on 28th February. Unfortunately, Prof. Faborode failed to stop lectures, tests, practicals on or before February 17, to allow for the legitimate lecture free-week before the examination. To be candid, several lectures were held while some tests were conducted during that purported lecture free-week.

Having observed the breach of University constitution by the VC and his cohorts, the union leadership wrote letters to the authority notifying it of the demand of the entire studentry for a genuine lecture free-week. Like a biblical pharaoh who was destined to be destroyed via strong-headedness, Prof. Faborode maintained that the examination would hold as scheduled despite the several appeals within and even from his wife. On February 26, the mass of Great Ife students trooped out to defend their position, not knowing that mobile policemen had been invited for the supervision of the examination. The examinations were disrupted while the only one written in foreign language department was written in a teargas-soaked classroom. On the second day, February 27, students ensured that no examination was held. Also, the mobile policemen were given a tough fight of their life. It was gathered that about N250,000 was being paid to the mobile police per day. All effort made to arrest the President of the Union proved abortive to the extent that he narrowly escaped a gunshot from a ‘crack team' - a crude security outfit of the university. On the third day, February 28, it dawned on the Prof. Faborode, and his partners in unjust persecution, that they had a battle on their hands. Thus, they resorted to shutting down the university indefinitely as a face-saving mechanism. No casualties was recorded except some injured mobile policemen. In conclusion, it is pertinent to let everybody know that OAU students are ready to pay any price, bear any burden, support any friend, oppose any foe to achieve the survival and sustenance of our legitimate liberty and historical heritage. Also, Prof. Faborode and his cohorts should be reminded that repression cannot kill genuine thought, it merely drives it underground only to re-surface with unquiet vigour.

Aluta continua Victoria Ascerta!


Model Letter

Please send letters/emails via the following addresses

Postal Address:
Vice-Chancellor , Prof. Faborode
Obafemi Awolowo University,
Ile-Ife,

Osun State,

Nigeria

Telephone/Fax Vice-Chancellor's Office: 00 234 36 232401

E-mail via: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To the Vice-Chancellor

To the Vice Chancellor

OAU Ile-Ife,

Osun State, Nigeria

REOPEN OAU IFE NOW AND HANDS OFF THE STUDENT UNION

We have been reliably informed that:

You ordered the closure of the university and ordered mobile police officers to brutally eject students from the campus since February 28. This led to the police indiscriminately attacking not just innocent students but many other members of the university community.

That you ordered the mobile police to invade the campus on February 26 to force students to write exams in spite of the students' legitimate request for the normal lecture free week.

That in the process of forcefully ejecting students and other members of the university from the campus, on March 3, a fire broke out in the main shopping centre on the campus leading to the destruction of goods worth millions of naira. Rather than accept the responsibility for the fire and pay compensation, the university administration wants to frame the student union officials and activists for the incident.

That you declared the student union banned, in spite of the fact that it is an association of the students, and what you are doing is a major attempt to violate the rights to association of the mass of students and that you have started a process of victimizing student union activists who you consider as a threat.

We consider all these as uncivilized to say the least and we call on you to reopen the campus and stop the process of victimizing student union activists.

Yours,

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