#FreeCampusPress campaign gathers momentum as UI suspends campus journalist over newspaper article

Kunle Adebajo

A social media campaign tagged #FreeCampusPress has gathered momentum following the suspension of a campus journalist by the University of Ibadan (UI) management.

Fisayo Adekunle Adebajo, a law finalist, got suspended for two semesters over a newspaper article he wrote in 2016.

In the article, which Mr Adebajo got published in the Guardian Newspaper, he wrote about the deplorable condition of hostel facilities while also accusing the university’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Idowu Olayinka of putting the interest of staff above that of students in different ways.

It reads in part thus, “We find the Vice – Chancellor prioritising staff above students when we all know the staff exist for the students. We find him neglecting the student union leadership for several weeks after assumption of office despite attempts to get his attention, until moments of crisis.

“We find the utter disregard for students and workers in the membership of crucial bodies on campus whose establishment is geared towards the welfare of the de facto ‘outcasts’. We find all these irregularities amongst others, and we find also that they must end if we must start.”

An anonymous source privy to the decision of university’s disciplinary panel told EduCeleb.com that the panel had initially decided to pardon the 500 level law student before a lecturer in his faculty suggested otherwise.

This latest decision may have left ‘Kunle Adebajo traumatised as his results is unlikely being processed ahead of the next convocation ceremony in November with this development.

Idowu Olayinka, UI Vice Chancellor

The ‘troubling’ article

The article being used against Adebajo is titled “UI: The irony of fashionable rooftops and awful interiors“. In it, he alleged that the university authorities had a misplacement of priorities in the maintenance of hostel facilities at the time.

The multiple award-winning campus journalist was making reference to the supply of tiles to renovate one of the school’s hostel cafeteria. He noted that rather than paying attention to the deplorable state of the hostel buildings in which students lodge, efforts were wasted on the Kenneth Mellanby Cafeteria rather.

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In his words, “the contract is nothing but the resultant child of oligarchic sodomy and elitist masturbation”, based on the information he gathered through the University Student Lodgings Bureau (USLB).

His satirical and investigative piece described the state of the hostel thus, “it can be noticed that some old structures within the halls are already developing stretch marks and are undergoing unbridled ecdysias. Consequently, they say all they want is for these buildings not to crumble under our feet…”

Beyond the Mellanby Hall, he also drew public attention to the despicable state of toilets at Sultan Bello Hall, another hall of residence in the UI. That was “another arguable case of putting the cart before the horse”, as he put it.

His article also touched on the lack of sockets, light bulbs, and doors in “several rooms” in the halls of residence. The piece also revealed a shortage of personnel at the USLB to handle the multiple issues of maintenance on the campus and called for decisive action from the management to correct the anomalies.

The USLB had revealed to him that “…for as many as 12 halls of residence; there are only three carpenters , three electricians and three plumbers employed by the university – an apparent imbalance!

“No wonder students have to wait ceaselessly before simple faults in appliances can be fixed. No wonder engaging in self – help and hiring an expert are way wiser options than relying on the management.”

He added that “the school should also learn to set its priorities straight . To secure the prosperity of the present people and posterity, it is only sensible that priorities must never be confused with necessities, and necessities never with frivolities. We must ask ourselves – is tiling of roofs the solution to our problems?”

Kunle Adebajo

Stakeholders, #FreeCampusPress campaigners condemn management

The controversial suspension of Adebajo has attracted condemnation from various stakeholders, especially fellow campus journalists who started the #FreeCampusPress campaign on the social media.

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Under the Free Campus Press Movement, the online campaigners indicated their commitment to ensuring the unconditional reinstatement of Adebajo as a student at the UI.

“We would not fold our arms. We call on all well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the University management to rescind the suspension of Mr Adebajo,” the movement’s statement read in part.

The convener of the campaign, Kabir Adejumo described Mr Adebajo as a “brilliant chap that has won laurels and promoted his school” who was being victimised “because he dared to be a journalist.”

He emphasised that campus journalists should never be targets of victimisation as the case of Adebajo was best described as an “unfair suspension.”

“Campus journalists are meant to hold universities’ authorities responsible and accountable to students and not to be victims of oppression and victimisation,” he stated.

Mr Adejumo who studies at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife said the Free Campus Press Movement was one dedicated to ensuring “that Press Freedom is guaranteed on our campuses.”

He noted that campus journalists were always doing their jobs objectively on campuses and “any attempt to clamp down on the Press will be tantamount to oppressing the masses.”

A campus journalist at Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA), Ikulajolu Adesola termed the decision of the UI management “barbaric”.

In his words, “All mechanisms need be put in place to condemn that barbaric and callous decision as a matter of exigency. Justice need be done.”

Also speaking with EduCeleb.com on the situation, the Director of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Hassan Soweto described the situation as “one victimisation too many.”

Making reference to constitutional provisions for the freedom of expression, Mr Soweto demanded that the university authorities retract their decision against Adebajo’s studentship.

“The right to freedom of expression is inalienable and we at the ERC condemn any attempt to deny students their rights to freely express themselves.

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“University of Ibadan is not a zoo neither is it a military garrison. We demand the immediate recall of Kunle Adebajo,” he said.

UI management reacts

The UI management officials initially declined comments when EduCeleb.com sought clarification on the suspension of the law major.

The spokesperson of the UI, Mr Tunji Oladejo who admitted being aware of the matter said that he had not been authorised to speak about it.

Meanwhile, after a few calls and text messages to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Olayinka dissociated himself from Adebajo’s travails.

He thereafter opted to directing this reporter to Mr Oladejo for the university’s official position which the latter already said was not available.

In an eventual answer to a question fielded to him, the Geology professor said thus, “Was it me that suspended him? I don’t even know the gentleman.”

He later texted to clarify that the affected student could have used available means to appeal the decision of the Disciplinary Committee.

“There are laid down procedures for lodging an appeal against decisions of the Students’ Disciplinary Committee. It might be helpful if such avenues have been explored. We had a similar experience two years ago. But then, experience teaches man that man does not learn from experience,” he wrote.

This lends credence to what a senior official who pleaded anonymity had also hinted that the decision of the management could be appealed by Adebajo within two weeks after the disciplinary Committee communicated its decision.

At the time of filing in this report, EduCeleb.com gathered that Adebajo had not received the official communication from the Students’ Affairs Division of the university which was meant to inform him over three weeks after the disciplinary Committee told him of his suspension. That is despite the omission of his name from among colleagues being processed for graduation this year.