OAU lifts ban on student union activities after four years

NEWS DIGEST – The management of the Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, has lifted the ban on Students Union activities after four years.

Recall that the management has in 2017 suspended the Students’ Union Government activities saying the decision was informed by the need to forestall total breakdown of law and order and curtail acts of union.

A statement by the University’s then Public Relations Officer,  Mr Abiodun Olarewaju, stated that incessant fighting and unruly behavior during their congresses and the recalcitrant attitudes of their leadership have made it inevitable for the University management to suspend their activities.

The claim was however discarded by Unionists who claimed that the management is afraid of a virile union and is bent on silencing the student’s voice. Before now, calls have been made from different angles calling on the management to lift the ban including from notable alumni of the school, such calls were however rejected until earlier this year when the Management, in response to National Association of Nigerian students (NANS) planned protest revealed that plans are underway to resuscitate the Student’s union.

An internal memorandum sighted by The News Digest has shown that the ban on the student Union has been lifted and has given the direction to Deans of each faculties to organize an election for student representatives in the school’s electoral and petition commission that will midwife the new student Union executive members. The activities which is expected to hold from 26th of April to 31st of May 2021.

Activists, Student leaders and societies reacts

Reacting to the development, Omole Ibukun, an activist said the union reinstatement is long overdue and the students needs to remain watchful of the management’s involvement in their union reinstatement process so that it does not affect the independence of their union.

Speaking to The NewsDigest, Mr Omole said  the management has in the reinstatement circular already mandated Dean of faculties to influence the process for the purpose of getting ‘mature student’s union government’. This can only mean that the management is not interested in a student’s union that is a pressure group.

“They are interested in a student’s union GOVERNMENT, a phrase alien to Great Ife Unionism. Also the appeal to ageism in the word ‘mature’ is a way of blackmailing any form of radicalism as immature. The management therefore does not want a radical union that will pressure them as a pressure group, yet the students need their pressure group. They are reinstating the union only to buckle to political pressure to make the school democratic. OAU students must therefore be very watchful of the Ogunbodede-led management team.”

In his opinion, Grateful Ifeanyi, an OAU graduate said the development is not worth celebrating but should be considered as a moment to reflect by the students.

According to him, “It is not a time to celebrate because there’s nothing to celebrate but a time to reflect, because celebrating this very thing is celebrating failure, celebrating the very thing that has kept the University backward in recent time.”

He stressed further that the Nigeria constitution has given student the right to have a union and the Nigeria constitution is supreme to all other constitutions or laws and the Constitution recognized the right of the students  to associate peacefully, so  Prof Ogunbodede’s led administration does not have the right to ban or unban the student’s union because the right to do so belongs to the student.

“If the Vice Chancellor is interested in taking part in union activities, he should pick up a jamb form and re-enroll as a student of OAU so he can take part in the union either through the parliament or the Congress, what Prof ogunbodede has done is worse than what Buhari is doing in the country, Buhari is having problem with ASUU and other pressure groups and yet, he did not ban them, now imagine someone at the helm of affairs in a citadel of learning banning the student Union because he doesn’t like them”, he concluded.

Also, the OAU chapter of the left wing rights group, Education Rights Campaign (ERC) in a statement made available to The News Digest has welcome the decision of the management to restore the student’s Union after four years of “wanton disregard for the fundamental right of student to associate and peaceful assembly”.

” For us, the decision is as a result of pressure from students, left organizations like the ERC and alumni, left to the university management the union would have remained banned. However, this development doesn’t mean the university management, as led by Prof. Ogunbodede, has fully backtracked on all it’s undemocratic and anti-student policies. No, it has not. This is why the ERC charge students and activists of OAU to be vigilant and more resolute in order to ensure that the university management does not use its left hand to take back what it has given with its right hand.”

“For  instance, in 2013 when Prof. Bamitale Omole took similar decision to restore the students’ Union, it was accompanied by introduction of alien and undemocratic rules which led to the indictment of known activists from participating in the election all in a bid to ensure that the new union was nothing but a toothless dog. The university management is always known to take steps like this to ensure it has control of whoever will be in charge of the union and tie the union to its apron string.”

“This is the time for students to begin a campaign for non-interferences of the university management in the process of birthing a union leadership. Also, there must be a campaign for an independent and vibrant union which can defend the interest of students and also give solidarity support to agitation of workers as a way of building a united fighting platform of students and workers.”