One year on, 10 victimised student activists are yet to get justice

4 12 2008

Last year the Socialist Society campaigned against the unjust imprisionment of a number of Nigerian students studying in Lagos who were arrested or threatened with arrest for fighting for the independence of their students’ union. One year on 10 of the students have not been able to return to university.

Struggle for their re-instatement must commence now!

Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) (CWI in Nigeria)

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) welcome all students back to campus after the holiday. Now that we have resumed, bad welfare conditions, poor condition of accommodation, inadequate and overcrowded lecture theatres and education commercialization policies of the government continue to confront us. This therefore places the responsibility on us to resume the struggle for a free and quality education. To start with, we commend students for their steadfastness which compelled the University Management to restore the student Union last semester. However, we cannot yet shout hurrah, because about 10 student activists who fought valiantly for the independence of our union remain victimised. We must fight for their full and unconditional re-instatement.

You can help the campaign by sending protest letters to the Vice-Chancellor – mfaborode@yahoo.co.uk and mfaborod@oauife.edu.ng; the Registrar – registrar@oauife.edu.ng; the Federal Ministry of Education at enquiries@fme.gov.ng and te@fme.ng. Copies of all protest letters sent should be made available to the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI, Nigeria) at dsmcentre@yahoo.com.

Brief History

On October 15 2007, 10 student activists were suspended by the Authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) for being in the leadership of the struggles of students to defend their rights to quality education, improved welfare conditions and an independent union. Harassed, vilified and hounded, over a year on, they are yet to be recalled back to school. Three (3) of them, Akinola Saburi (former Union president), Dairo Olatunde (former Union PRO) and Hassan Taiwo Soweto (National Coordinator, Education Rights Campaign) were arrested and detained on trumped-up charges for several months in the Ilesa prison. However, they were not criminals but young activists resisting the University Authorities’ efforts to take over the Student Union. In the climax of Authorities’ clampdown, the union was also banned for several months and was only recently restored through an election called by the Authorities after prolonged and unrelenting students’ agitation.

Endless victimisation

Those under indefinite suspension include Orgumah Andrew Segun, Dairo Olatunde, Hassan Taiwo Soweto, Frank Ogaga, Oyedeji Nurudeen, Ibraheem Kolawole and Adeniyi Adenekan Akanni, while Akinola Saburi was expelled. In its bid to uproot radicalism from the University, the Authorities also victimised Chukwunyere Onyinyechi (Ghandi) and Owoeye David (Figo) both of whom are Law graduates but have been denied admission to Law School.

Steps taken so far

The victimized students challenged their suspension at the Federal High Court and their unjust incarceration at the Magistrate Court. Unfortunately, the judiciary, true to type, became heavily compromised by the inordinate agenda of the University Authorities to victimize them. For instance, in the case challenging the suspension at the Federal High Court Osogbo, the court dismissed the suit in a judgement delivered on 16 October 2008, citing that suspension was not a disciplinary action but an administrative measure. To all right thinking people, this judgement can be best described as a judicial approval of victimization of student activists who challenged the government and University Authorities’ neo-liberal education policies.

In another instance, at Magistrate Court 2 Osogbo where two of the victimized student activists (Tunde Dairo and Hassan Taiwo) are standing trial on trumped up charges, the court had advised lawyers for both parties to seek an out-of-court settlement. The University Authorities had promised in the open court to withdraw the charges if the students wrote a letter of undertaking. Even though the accused had fulfilled their own part of this bargain several months ago, the Authorities have since been avoiding withdrawing the charges. Instead of coming down hard on the authorities for this insincerity, the court has continued to adjourn the case without concern for the immense loss of the accused students who are bearing both the burden of being falsely accused and loss of their place at university. The next adjourned date now is January 12, 2008.

The union must take up the challenge

The case of the unresolved victimization of the OAU 10 is a blow to President Yar ‘Adua’s false claim of rule of law. While big time looters walk freely, young students agitating against official corruption and mis-governance are being detained and suspended from school. Even when any of these big time looters are tried in court, it always ends with a pat on the back as the case of former Governor Alameseigha of Bayelsa State reveals. However, this confirms what we have always said which is that not the judiciary but political struggle for a revolutionary change of society is the true hope of the common man. OAU students must therefore prepare to embark on a protracted struggle to secure the unconditional reinstatement of the victimized activists.

We urge the recently elected leadership of the Student Union to take up the challenge of leading a campaign for their recall. Of course, the fact that the new union executive is not decidedly radical and pro-struggle in outlook would limit its ability to wage a consistent and uncompromising struggle. Nonetheless, if the mass of students are prepared to fight and shows this readiness clearly and unquestionably, the union leadership will have no choice but to lead the struggle.

The management can be defeated

At the swearing-in ceremony of the new union leadership, the Vice Chancellor of the University had announced that though some victimized student activists will be reinstated, Akinola Saburi and Orgumah Andrew will never get a certificate from the University. To us in the DSM and ERC, this is not new. We recall that a former Vice Chancellor Prof. Wale Omole once expelled Anthony Fashayo (Ex-union president) and some other student activists in 1995 and vowed that they would never be recalled. Despite appeals from respected public figures on behalf of the students, the Vice Chancellor stuck to his guns. Eventually, Prof. Wale Omole was disgraced and driven out of the University few months before the end of his tenure, while Anthony and Co. were reinstated through the pressure of mass actions. This shows that whatever the mindset of the Vice Chancellor on this issue, the will of the mass of students and public will prevail, especially when this will is expressed through the language of political struggle.

We therefore urge the Union Executive and parliament to produce a coherent program of action on the struggle for re-instatement. This program of action must include appeal letters to the Authorities, Senate, Governing Council and Alumni while the solidarity of staff unions must be courted. Efforts should be made to hold meetings with different sections of the University Authorities and details of these meetings reported to the parliament and/or congress. Also, leaflets, posters, symposia and rallies must be organised to mobilise the mass of students for the struggle. Congresses must be called occasionally to review the progress of the struggle. With a consistent approach buoyed by press campaigns, parents and the public can be won over to put pressure on the Authorities to recall the victimised students.

We urge the mass of students not to abandon the victimised activists, as an injustice to one is an injustice to all. We recognise that there has been rapid academic calendar for a while now. While this is commendable it also must be stressed that it is a product of the struggles of students over time. Hence, this should not make us indifferent when Authorities trample on our democratic rights and victimise our leaders. Whenever union activists are victimised for defending our interests, the democratic rights of all students come under threat. Thus, the best way we can guarantee an undisturbed academic calendar as well as quality education and improved welfare conditions is to defend our victimised leaders. ‘Every generation out of relative obscurity discovers its mission; either to fulfil or betray it’ (Frantz Fanon). Once again we welcome all students back to campus. While we commend our fresh students for surmounting the hurdles of admissions, we urge them to join the struggle, attend all parliamentary sittings and congresses as well as other political activities.

Our demands:

  • Immediate and unconditional reinstatement of all the victimised activists
  • All criminal charges against them must be dropped now
  • Respect for all democratic rights and the right of students and staff to independent trade unionism
  • Improved welfare conditions
  • 26% funding for education from the national budget, as a step towards provision of free and quality education at all levels
  • A national living wage for all workers
  • Public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, under the democratic control and management of working people
  • A mass based working people’s party with a fighting program to intervene in the daily struggles of the masses and link these struggles with the need for the working masses to take over the reins of society from the capitalist looters in order to form a working people’s government with socialist a program.
  • A socialist Nigeria and a Socialist federation of Africa and the world.
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