Obafemi Awolowo University, generally called “Great Ife” is reputed as not only a tertiary institution with one of the best aesthetic architecture but a centre of learning and character per excellence. Its most unique trade mark however is that its students, academics and general staff are reputed to be leading lights in various trenches of the people to crusade for common good and better society.
The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL therefore finds it disconcerting to receive reports of attempts by the current administration of the school under Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede to transmute the citadel into an intellectual garrison where force is mightier than the brain and pen particularly with the recent unleashing of terror force on hapless students leaders. Five of the students’ leaders were arrested by the private, fascist armed guards of the institution and handed over to the Police, they were prosecuted on trumped-up charges and conspiratorially jailed by thwarting the bail conditions.
The attacks on the democratic rights of Ife students commenced with the Management’s illegal proscription of the democratic students’ union body because it led the students in mass protest against bad welfare conditions and sundry demands on the campus. Even under military jackboot dictatorship, students of the campus has a rich history of massive resistance against attempts to disrobe them of their inalienable, natural rights to freedom of association and free assembly, as a matter of fact, a notorious former Vice Chancellor, Prof. Wale Omole was disgraced out of office because of his crass anti-students, undemocratic leadership style.
The latest crisis on the campus was orchestrated by an order by the Management that all students should vacate the halls of residence as the session ends ostensibly to allow the Management the opportunity to renovate the halls. As seemingly sensible as this may be, it is extremely anti-intellectual and smacks of a regime with dictatorial whims and caprices. The culture is that higher institutions of learning run an all year intellectual activities even when the academic calendar has officially come to a close. Students and lecturers carry out researches, conduct scientific experiments, finishes up their dissertations etc during this break period. Thus, what is expected and has been the practice would discuss with the students on a practical action plans for renovation by phases, so that when some halls are being renovated, the students can make use of yet to be renovated ones. However, Prof. Ogunbodede went against this kernel of logic to make his magisterial proclamation for compulsory vacation of the halls of residence. Expectedly, the students resisted and instead of embracing intellectual dialogue, the authorities took to fascist steps of inviting Police force to flush out the students. In the process, some of the main leaders were arrested and five of them found themselves detained in jail.
Though as we go to press, reports are filtering in that three of the students leaders have been released from jail. We condemn in no un-mistaken terms the attempt by Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede to practice marshal rule in an intellectual environments as we demand for the release of all students detained on trumped up charges. In the same token, we call on agencies that are in charge supervising the affairs of university in the country to call OAU Management to order and immediately restore the democratic rights of Ife students to run their independent students union without meddlesome interference from Management. All men of conscience should be prepared to mobilise and support the persecuted students of institution to occupy the campus until sanity and full restoration of democratic traditions is achieved.
We are quick to point out when events occur twice in history, there is always a farcical tragic outcome. We note that the last term when the institutions fell under the scepter of anti-democratic forces during Vice-Chancellorship of Prof. Wale Omole, a students’ union leader, Yemi Iwilade, Afrika and four others were gruesomely murdered by sponsored armed fascist thugs allegedly at the instance of the then Vice Chancellor who was eventually disgraced out of office.
Media Coordinator, CACOL
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