Koye Ladele delves into the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife spirit of comradeship gravely affected by the suspension of the students’ union towards forging a way ahead for its hitherto vibrant identity.
“We struggle, we grow weary, we grow tired. We are exhausted, we are distressed, we despair. We give up, we fall down, we let go. We cry, we are empty, we grow calm. And then we are ready. We wait quietly.”- Michael Leunig
The silence in the air has reached a point where one wonders where he finds himself either in some school where they have accepted to live forever quiet or in a school that has a legacy of speaking, of acting and of doing. This silence is aided by threats, by suspensions, by sudden portal closures. But this silence will not last. I have been to the mountaintop.
The suspension of the Students’ Union for the attendant crisis that preceded it is not only condemnable but also unnecessary. One wonders why such an action was taken and finds that like all democracies, there are tumultuous periods. It is the case that a democracy always remedies itself.
It was the case in America when a civil war had to entrench the continued existence of the state. It was the case in France and it has been the case everywhere a democracy operates that at some point, things may go out of hand. But a democracy always remedies itself. The Union was already about to see a light of hope when Oyekan Ibukun was impeached by the students and their parliament.
The past of tumult which this man who occupied the office of the President but never held it brought with him had reached its end. I believed following the impeachment that a ray of hope would break through the dark clouds of gloom. However, it was what the management wanted. The responded immediately with proscribing the Union and forcing shut the Union building.
Students were disappointed under the last administration. The hopes they had coming out of a previous suspension of the Union was dashed when they saw the gluttonous waste which the last administration embarked upon with Union dues. After getting a total of 6.7 million and not using it for anything visible except a bus that had vanished without trace.
This article does not aim at discussing Oyekan Ibukun who is a disaster of history like Hitler, like Stalin, like Benito Mussolini. He is past and we must forge on!
The Union is not in the building. It is not in the structures. The Union is that thing in the minds of all Great Ife Students that makes them stand against oppression. That makes them challenge bus drivers. That makes them stand against oppression of any sort. The Union is a spirit within us. It is not a structure. It is deeper.
Where is Great Ife?
The issue has come up and again that the management intends to use this absence of a Union for policies that are anti-student. They want to evacuate hostels and enforce 4 per room. They want to block all illegal entrances into these hostels and anyone without an ID card would be denied entry. Of course, generations of Union leaderships have asked for a reduction in the total number of room occupants. However, it is not a reduction without alternatives.
Already, the rate of rents in Ife town has shot up. Landlords and Hostel owners aware of the policy have introduced higher rents and rates. A room in some parts of Ife which used to go for 80,000 naira now goes for as high as 120,000 naira.
When this evacuation occurs. We need to examine what will follow. First, there would be an unprecedented rate of security challenges. It is trite that the increase in population would mean an increase in the crime rate. What is the plan to keep students safe from rapists, robbers, ritualists and other such? The Ife Police Command is under equipped to manage the current challenges and adding the burden of more students to the population in town further stresses this.
Secondly, we need to examine the fact that Health challenges and emergencies will be left unattended to. In Ife, there are very few hospitals and most of them are not even situated in the student areas of town. A medical emergency in Asherifa would require a 30 minute drive to OAUTH. The distance barred. We must consider the fact that there are no ambulances for these emergencies when they occur. Thus, death or some serious complication would be the outcome of such health emergencies especially when they occur at night.
Thirdly, we have written examinations in the most terrible of conditions. Light has been unavailable for examinations that hold between 4-7pm and the disgraceful sight of torchlights being shone on scripts by students who are writing examinations is an eyesore. In another development, for three days, there was no drop of water from the tanks and the pipes. The report was that one of the old pipes broke and had to be mended. Until recently, the water problem was much more severe. The management again ensured that students wrote exams without an Health Centre and a Library that was half-functioning between 8am to 2pm. The NASU agitation nothwithstanding, it is incorrect for any school to operate an academic calendar and even examinations without an Health Centre. The school cannot continue to play ping pong with the life of people.
Fourth, the present regime does not consider the fact that there are about 10,000 students who would be affected by the accommodation policy. A lot of then would be unable to pay for accommodation in town. A lot of them are from poor homes. What are the alternatives the management is proferring? It must be stated that some students nurse the illusion that they would be given bedspaces because everyone has been told to apply. However, I want most of them to know that they would be greatly shocked as the bedspaces would go to only those connected.
The most annoying part of all this is the silence. Am I in the school that fought for the dualisation of Ife-Ibadan expressway? Am I in the school that sent shivers down the spine of successive military governments? Am I in the school that championed the Ali Must Go campaign? Am I in the school that engaged Nuhu Ribadu and told him if he does not probe Obasanjo as EFCC Chairman his anti corruption campaign is a lie? Am I in the school that chased Jonathan when he sought reelection and got the entire nation talking? Am I still in the school where students have died channeling the agitations? Am I in the school where George Iwilade stood and fell for the anti-cultism campaign? Am I in the school that produced Femi Falana, Ebunolu Adegboruwa, Rotimi Akeredolu and a long line of activists? Am I in the school that has taken the front line role in student agitations?
Where is Great Ife?
I understand perfectly the betrayals of successive Union leaderships. I understand the pain of lost struggles. I understand we have learnt to keep quiet to save ourselves. But I am saying it cannot continue! I am saying at a point in time, every generation out of relative obscurity discovers its mission. The defining event of our generation has started.
If that bedspace policy works out. It will be a shame on this generation!
We must be aware it is not done out of love but a need for profit. I am certain the 4 legal occupants of a room would pay double or tripple of what they ought.
Where is Great Ife?
Mr KOYE-LADELE Mofehintoluwa is a Former Parliamentarian at the Great Ife Students’ Union Representative Council, 2016/17 Parliamentary Session