Nigeria: An appeal to defend Ile-Ife OAU Students

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By Ayo Ayodeji    
Friday, 11 May 2007

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.