Press Statement

It is unfortunate that activities of the prominent O.A.U students? union have been illegally suspended for the past 19 months by the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the institution, Prof. M.O Faborode. The suspension came so as to put clamp-down on the agitations and constitutional annoyance of students as against the astronomic increment in school charges, especially acceptance fee that was outrageously increased from N2, 000 to N20, 000. Professor Tale Omole (VC, OAU) like his predecessor has made no genuine effort to restore the Students? Union on inception. Based on the recent clamoring of students to revive the age-long tradition of radical and vibrant Students? Union in Ife, the University Administration is increasingly being compelled to begin processes for the union restoration. OAU administration instead of starting an open and democratic approach to union restoration has adopted mystifying approaches to the issue. It recently announced its intention to ensure that provisions of the sacrosanct constitution of the union are replaced with its ?opined suggested ideals?, and that 3.5 CGPA and 3.0 CGPA would form eligibility for contesting the Central Executive Council (CEC) and the Students Representative Council (SRC) positions respectively. We reject this undemocratic approach because of its damaging tendencies to true Students? Unionism where the vast majority of students are cut off from the process.

Firstly, we in the ERC reject in clear terms the decision of the University Administration to place academic requisites as conditions to contesting union positions. We believe that good leadership quality is not a product of certified academic prowess. If so, the avalanche of problems confronting the Nigerian State would have been surmounted with the Jonathan administration which is majorly composed of Professors and PhD holders. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Former Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji just resigned with little or no achievement to show for his stay. Students? Unionism is no different to this analogy where academic prowess may be an added advantage if properly channeled by the mentally equipped leader contrary to an academically bright but unintelligible students? leader. The example of prominent individuals who graduated with lower university grades but are exemplary in the contemporary Nigerian society strengthens our earlier made point on true leadership and certified grades. If CGPA requirement cannot be used as a criterion for appointing principal officers of the University, then there is no point in making such a requirement for Students? Union elections. Hence OAU administration to imposing union leadership based on this vulgar perspective of leadership would bring no positive effect on preserving the radical and vibrant philosophy of the OAU students? union. It would only give room for the management to academically victimize brilliant students with radical tendencies in order to prevent them from attaining union leadership. And of course OAU administration has standing antecedents of academic victimization. No doubt, the university administration has taken these steps in a bid to restore a pliant union.

In furtherance to the rejection of academic requisites to union elections, we also reject in totality the proposed idea of the university administration to impose a new constitution on students. This is done with the aim of suiting its set ideals for Students? Unionism. The dubious attitude of the administration in selecting a handful few and unrecognized students to project and rubber stamp its constitutional drafting processes without democratic involvement of the entire OAU studentry is a harbinger of disaster. The ERC believes that drafting a new constitution for any section of the society must demand the democratic agreement of members of such society and not the agreement of an illegitimate body bought over by a particular body to ?serve the purpose of all and sundry?. The administration has done contrary to this! Also we believe that the drafting of a new students? union constitution as against the provisions for amendment of the constitution contained in the existing sacrosanct constitution is against the logic of legality. It should also be asked, if the management is designing constitution and modalities for the union, whose purpose it would serve. Is it the purpose of advancing students interest or of embracing the constant anti-students? policies of the university administration?

It is agreed-to that most past struggles of Ife union have been directed against the oppressive nature and anti-students? policies of the OAU administration. It would hence be dangerous
for conscious and progressive layers of the Nigerian society to sit back and watch the OAU management crush one of the few existing radically inclined and anti-oppression students? union in Nigeria through its egoistical permutation to abhor constructive criticisms. OAU administration?s quest to crush unions is no news; of course the administration recently bought the National Executive Council (NEC) of SSANU to suspend its OAU branch over the latter organising congresses on issues of poor conditions of service. This is a major reason why activists, progressives and NANS must immediately put machinery in place to avoid recent history in re-making.

In conclusion, the ERC believes that students have a right to be organised into a students association and hence demand that the university should come through the open door on the issues of union restoration. We call on students, activists, NANS and other pro-student organisations to condemn the administrations attempt to crush independent unionism in OAU. We demand that a general gathering of students be convened to decide modalities for union elections.

Demands

Immediate and unconditional restoration of OAU Students? Union

Immediate elections to be conducted based on the provisions of the Union?s constitution. For an immediate congress of students to determine the mode of conducting the elections and electing electoral officers

Democratization of the decision-making organs of the university to include elected representatives of staff, students and other stakeholders in the university

Immediate and unconditional reinstatement of Wale Owolabi (Ogunruku). He is not a criminal.

Increase in the budgetary allocation for education to at least 26% as recommended by UNESCO

Public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy and its placement under the democratic control and management of the working people

Signed

Olubanji Oluwole (Com. Engels)

Secretary

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