OAU Students' Union Reappraise Fees Struggle
FROM THE LEADERSHIP OF THE UNION
(As at Sunday, August 23, 2014)
WELCOME BACK: THE GREAT ARMY OF COURAGE!
With due civility and veneration, we salute the doggedness and tenacious standing of Great Ife students ever since the planting of the seed of struggle against increment in fee in OAU and their perseverance towards nurturing it into a grown tree which over time has been producing branches of victory. As we resume, it is important that we give proper reports of how far we have gone with the struggle. This is important for the sake of proper orientation, information, expected accountability, assessment and to beam a light on where we are heading towards. The leadership of the Union at its meeting on Saturday, August 23 made an holistic assessment of the struggle viz a viz;
THE PROSECUTION OF THE STRUGGLE:
The Union prosecuted the struggle following resolutions from the leadership, parliamentary sitting and congresses and this saw strategies like negotiation, appeals, lobbying, and the final resort which is protest being adopted. The execution of the strategies as backed by law and tradition is what has put us in the current status of the struggle. Towards the end of last session when the new regime of fees were approved by the University Senate, the union adopted the 3Cs of struggle by first opening up of negotiation with the University management on the Fresh Students regime of charges. The negotiation produced some reductions, the congress of students however was uncomfortable with the reductions and Great IFE students took to federal roads and Ife environs, protested to the Ooni’s palace, called for interventions from activists and well-meaning Nigerians yet the university management did not yield. This unyielding attitude of the management necessitated protests on the University campus. The protests led to the shut-down of the varsity upon allegations of violent protests by evidently peaceful students. The Union embarked on a very aggressive press campaign and mass sensitization which had been said to have no equal in the history of our union. During the period of the shutdown, the Union continued to pressurize the University management for a reversal of the fee, while we were open to negotiation as against the propagated belligerence of the Union by the management. This pressure was mounted on the management through third party interventions that we got. After the closure, the struggle became multi-faceted thus witnessing shifts in dimension: Issues of late registration and delay in mobilization of graduating finalists also surfaced during the 2-month closure. Having employed all these means it is necessary that we assess the effects of all our tactics through the obvious results in order to have an informed way forward.
GAINS OF THE STRUGGLE:
1. The first set of dialogue and negotiation on fresh students’ fee yielded a reduction of between #12,000 and #17,000 depending on faculties putting the fees at #61,400, #71,400 and #74, 400.
2. The dialogue served as a platform for the Union to propose better alternative ways through which the University can generate funds as well as aid students instead of the increase in yet burdening regime of charges . Thus, the following were proposed: work study programme, instalmental payment, and maximization of certain business opportunities in the University like the school farm, OAU bread and water
3. Union also secured first set of deduction in the returning undergraduates’ fee which was reduced after the first set of protests and mediation in some quarters by #5,000, #8,000 and #11000. It will be recalled that #24,000 #35,000 and #44,000 were approved by the Senate but same fees were slashed to #19,000 #30,000 and #33,000 respectively. Some days to resumption, the fees were further reduced by a sum of #3,000 from some faculties putting the fees at #19700 for HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES, #27,000 for EDM, SCIENCES AND TECH, and #30,000 for PHARMACY AND HEALTH SCIENCES. In summary, the Union secured a deduction of #5,000 #8,000 and #14,000 respectively from the returning students’ fees.
4. In the first year of this struggle, though total reversal is not yet achieved, reduction is achieved. For purpose of clarification, it should be noted that LASU SU which currently won a total reversal did not even win a reduction in their first year of the struggle which was far back in 2011. Instead, their management succeeded in banning their Union.
5. Late registration plan was stopped, instead, extension of normal registration till August 29th, 2014 is achieved.
6. The proposition of intalmental payment, work-study for the indigent and scholarship for the brilliant was approved by the Senate with a relief committee set up to effect it immediately
7. Assurances were given on prompt mobilization of graduating finalists by November, 2014 with efforts readily on-going.
8. For the first time in the recent history of OAU students’ unionism, the draconian order of closure was protested against students Union still sustained and our tactics attracted various legal backings for the Union despite the loss of one of our legal counsel, Barrister Bamidele Aturu during the shutdown.
THE ODDS AGAINST THE STRUGGLE:
The odds against the struggle were enourmous:
1. The Union fought from a disadvantaged position: the Union structures were already crippled as it was just coming from a longtime proscription, its finances were Zero, and mobility which is key to any movement was a challenge as management deliberately withdrew its bus, no available patrons or matrons to run to for advice or support, among others.
2. The struggle was too politicized by the activities of struggle-profiteers, opportunists, pretenders and ambitionists to the extent that the struggle was almost derailed
3. Support was more of advisory and mediating in nature than definitive. For instance in LASU, ASUU and SSANU went on strike and this made the management and the Government to feel the heat.
4. Psychological warfare by the management through cyber- discouraging and threatening messages just like in the period of late registration threat which made many students rush to pay. As a matter of fact, the payment by many greatly frustrated the struggle and dwindle our negotiating power.
5. The death of our lawyer, Barrister Bamidele Aturu was a serious setback as the management would have before now been challenged in court on some issues such as late registration, rustication, etc.
6. Disunity within the union especially in the area of which strategies to adopt in prosecuting the struggle: while the leadership believes in liberal approaches, opposition believes in Marxist and hardline approaches. And the insistence of the former not to follow the latter in several cases did lead to cheap blackmail from the latter, a move which negatively affected the struggle.
7. The apathy of some staff members was erroneously provoked at the climax of the struggle. This also affects us negatively.
ON THE BUS:
Some major developments erupted during the shutdown which are worthy of note. One of these is the receipt of a bus from senator Iyiola Omisore. It needs to be reiterated that he had promised to give the Union the bus since his intervention on the hike in fees and was made known at that time to the congress of students. Reactions have now trailed the receipt of the bus hinging on the person of the donor. The same donor we with joy invited into the campus to come and intervene on the issue of the fee! Great Ife! It is high time we rejected those who believe they can be playing on our intelligence to achieve their selfish political interest! Once again, the union should not be dragged into partisan politics.
ON RUSTICATION LETTER:
It is sardonic that our University management has reversed itself to the era of victimization based on spurious allegations against its students. Just some few days ago, students that make up the leadership of the Union and some other students, were served probationary rustication letters for misconduct during the protests against hike in fees, thereby putting their studentship hanging. As if this was not enough, the University went to suspend some of the other students that were served rustication letters alongside other students that were indicted and disqualified during the Union elections in April. They were suspended indefinitely pending police investigation on the allegation of the abduction of the then electoral chairman. The Union maintains a capital NO to victimization and therefore demand that they are reinstated immediately and the students on probation should have their studentship fully restored. It should be noted that the union has since the occurrence been consulting with those affected and also with its lawyers to secure the best way of handling the issue.
ON THE WAYFORWARD:
It must be on record that the Union leadership is not satisfied yet, but the meeting resolved that the decision to either continue or not continue with the struggle should not be unilaterally arrived at by the leadership but be based on popular opinion to avoid the criticisms that trailed the last set of protests as being products of congresses which were not duly representational of genuine students’ interests. Thus, in order to avoid same ordeal, it has been resolved that the matter be (1) referred to the parliament to have the opinions of the students through their duly and legitimately elected honourables or (2) to a meeting of heads of faculties, departments and other associations as these are leaders closer to students or (3) subject to a referendum to have a wider coverage of opinions. These options are being put forward to avoid the grouse of many that have in the past contended that their opinions were never sought let alone respected! This is a democratic Union championed by liberals and progressives and as such everyone would have a say.
Greatest IFE! The defense of the greatness of Great Ife which lies in our intellectual struggles and constructive agitations remains our utmost concern and this can only be achieved through unity... LA LUCHA SIGUE!
NB: In order to address the arrays of issues, rumours and several developments elicited in the course of the struggle, press conference holds on Monday, 24th, August.
Bamidele Oludare J.
Ibikunle Isaac M.