Nigeria: Final victory for student militant after 14 years!

In 1998 a number of students were arrested at the University of Ilorin for organising protests against hikes in student fees. They were held in prison for over a month and this website campaigned for their release at the time. One of the students involved in that struggle was Rasheedat Adeshina, a leader of the student union. The price she paid for daring to protest was that although she passed all her exams brilliantly, her degree certificate was never released by the authorities. It has taken 14 years, but finally she has won.

Victory came the way of Rasheedat Adeshina, a member of the Campaign for Workers and Youth Alternative (CWA), the Nigerian section of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) on Friday, June 6, 2014, when the Supreme Court, the highest court in Nigeria, ordered the Management of University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) to release her BSc certificate which they have been holding for the past 14 years. This judgment comes after ten years of legal battles through the High Court, Appeal Court and now finally the Supreme Court.

The then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Shuaib Abdulraheem Oba, assumed office in 1997. Immediately after the assumption of office, he employed the famous tactic of divide and rule to maintain himself in power and as a base from which to carry out one of the most reactionary offensives against students in the history of the University of Ilorin. (This was at the time when the military dictator Abacha was still in power.)

Prof. Shuaib Abdulraheem Oba is an Ilorin indigene; he therefore mobilized the lecturers and students who are also Ilorin indigenes against everybody else. He involved the Emir (the spiritual leader of Ilorin town), the State apparatus and influential Ilorin indigenes to carry out his grotesque attack on everything progressive in Unilorin.

He felt that Rasheedat being the then Assistant Secretary General (ASG) of the University of Ilorin Student Union should be an automatic candidate to join his camp, simply because Rasheedat also happened to be from Ilorin. He was deeply disappointed that Rasheedat not only declined to be a tool in his hands, but she became the leader of the powerful students’ opposition to Oba’s injustices and misrule.

This is the main reason why the University of Ilorin Administration under the leadership of Prof Oba vowed to use everything in their capacity to make sure that Rasheedat would forever regret she had antagonised her kinsmen and the constituted authority.

This whole struggle started in 1998, when the Management of UNILORIN led by the then Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Oba, increased the school fees. Rasheedat Adeshina, in her position as Assistant Secretary General of University of Ilorin Students’ Union, together with progressive students on the campus led a serious agitation against this hated fees hike.

The UNILORIN Administration mobilized the internal security of the university and also the police to crush the peaceful protest of the students and also ordered the arrest of the students. Many students were in fact arrested, including some students from other universities who had come to express solidarity with the UNILORIN students: the Students of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology who had come with their Student Union Bus, together with the student union president and other executive members, as well as the students of Obafemi Awolowo University Ife and they were all imprisoned at the Oke Kura Maximum Security Prison in Ilorin for more than three months.

Rasheedat Adeshina narrowly escaped being arrested, but was declared wanted by the police and had to go completely underground. After the release of the incarcerated students, Rasheedat was suspended from the University.

She then challenged this unjust suspension in the High Court in Ilorin and she won. But the University Authorities refused to abide by the court order, and she had to go back to court to get a committal before she could be allowed to sit for exams. Whenever she had an exam, she would go into the exam hall with the court order. Rasheedat’s final year examination in the year 2000 started and ended in this manner. Whenever anybody tried to stop her, she would take out the court order and asked the person to sign that he/she was disobeying the court order.

Interestingly enough, despite these tensions and difficulties, Rasheedat passed all her courses without a single carry-over. This brilliant performance won her Head Of Department (HOD) to her side completely. In spite of the threats of the school management, the HOD testified in court that Rasheedat was a brilliant student and had fully satisfied all the conditions to earn her the certificate. This was a major blow to the legal defence of the university administration and significantly contributed towards this final legal victory.

Rasheedat finished from the University of Ilorin in the year 2000 and the UNILORIN Administration refused to release her certificate to her. She went back to court in 2004 to challenge this injustice against her. She won at the High Court in 2005, but the UNILORIN Authority appealed the ruling. She also won in the Appeal Court in 2006 and the UNILORIN Management also appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court delivered the final judgment on the case on June 6, 2014 also in her favour and dismissed the appeal of the University.

Despite all the persecution, harassment and intimidation by the University Administration, Rasheedat refused to be cowed. There is nothing the university authority did not do to win her to their side but she remained committed.

The main significance of this victory is not so much about the directive to release Rasheedat’s result and to pay her for the damages, but that Rasheedat still remains solidly committed to the cause over a decade later, in spite of the trauma and ceaseless attacks, as a national executive member of the Joint Action Front and an executive member of the CWA, among the main organisations in the forefront of defending the interests of the oppressed strata.

Rasheedat has successfully kept her word and her promise to Oba back in 1999 during one of their encounters, that she would live and die fighting for the interests of the oppressed and would devote her entire life’s to work towards the overthrow of this unjust capitalist system and the establishment of a socialist world order, where the interests of the people will dominate over the interests of profit.

Just as it was fourteen years ago, when the struggle mainly was centred on school fees and the independence of Student Unions, the struggle today on all Nigerian campuses remains the same. This struggle will remain the same for as long as the rule of capital in the interest of profit remains with us. Prof. Shuaib Abdulraheem Oba and his like belong to the past, while we own the future.

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Note - Anyone interested in reading about what happened back in 1999 they can read the following articles:

Nigerian student activists arrested! - Letter from Nigeria (14 May 1999), The Tasks Before Unilorin Students (23 June 1999), After their release from prison the Nigerian students continue to be victimized step up the solidarity campaign! (June 29, 1999), Once again, Repression in Nigerian Universities - Appeal for Solidarity (2 May 2002)