Nigeria: Students groan under the suppression of Liberty at the University of Ibadan ~ Ajibola Adigun
Nigeria has recently gone to war in Mali, but Nigeria is currently under siege and, like Asa sings, no one seems to be on the run. Perhaps it is because it is in the most inauspicious places that wars are first won and lost. Recent happenings at the University of Ibadan have gone unnoticed by the generality of Nigerians because of the collusion of the University authority with some mainstream media in Nigeria. The University of Ibadan, under the leadership of Professor Isaac Adewole will brook no dissent from the students for policies they perceive as unfair to them, so the university has resorted to the first tactics of all authoritarians, voice-gagging, threats and intimidation of dissenters, and for good measure, brown envelopes for reporters to tell only their side of the story. The university is for the nurturing of minds, but, alas, the administrators of the university would rather keep their bodies strong and make the students lose their minds. Thank God for Sahara Reporters!
The banning of cooking in halls of residence in the University of Ibadan may seem trivial to more pressing issues of national importance, as the Vice-Chancellor said on the University Radio, students are not in the University to eat. Hammering on the rights of students to cook in the kitchenettes provided by the school authorities will be missing the point and will be doing a disservice to the more important issues of the violation of fundamental human rights.
For those who have missed the advertorials in reports of newspapers like the Tribune, the Public Relations stunts of a Parent Consultative Forum, and several interviews the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Isaac Adewole, and his henchman, Professor A. Alada have given, these are their arguments: that the present administration cannot continue the legacy of the University of Ibadan as a residential university because the cost of maintaining the halls of residence cost the University a huge sum needed for some other places.
So students, after rejecting the offer of paying 60,000 naira per bed space, the prohibitive economic costs of staying in the halls, were told not to cook in the new kitchenettes provided except for ‘light cooking’ and to patronize the new Cafeteria system which would be given to facility managers commissioned by the University. The students are now essentially commissioned to eat where they’d rather not patronize.
Every wise man and fool knows that new policies are often met with resistance. So the Vice-Chancellor, taking a cue from President Goodluck Jonathan as during the January 2012 Uprising has suppressed dissent voices. Students are being issued letters alleging them of gross misconduct, some have been asked to report to the police and are being threatened with detention, and some are on the surveillance of the State Security Service. One of the student leaders has been silenced by the school authorities that there is a fear that he may be in the custody of the University since he has not been seen in public since the Vice-Chancellor openly asked him to keep mute and not speak on the matter at the Town hall meeting held on the first day of resumption.
It seems that the Vice-Chancellor, in a bid to fulfill the vision of the university as a world class institution for academic excellence is sacrificing its mission as a dynamic custodian of society’s salutary values. If not for anything, the University of Ibadan should not only tolerate, but also welcome dissenting voices because it is a university! Pray, if the suppression of constitutional liberties can be tolerated in a university because of the unequal power relations between the administrators and students, then anarchy looms for this country in the horizon.
Already, the students who feel oppressed are resorting to self-help because it seems to them that they cannot find justice since the Vice-Chancellor has made his pronouncements ‘non-negotiable’. So the students are starting to consider the pulling of the ears of the Vice-Chancellor for attention. They have invited the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) with its unconventional tactics, and some terrorist organizations have started reaching out to some of the students. As an alumnus of the University who keeps in touch with the student groups, I recently received a forwarded mail from some terrorist organization claiming to want to fight the injustice in the University. Last year, the University was shut down because of threats from the Boko Haram sect without any incident, the intransigence of the university now may just be the needed incentive for them to act.
A stitch in time may just save the University.
Ajibola Adigun is a member of the African Liberty Students’ Organization