“When there is peace in the country, the chief does not carry a shield. “ – African proverb
With all honesty, I had like to discuss a very sensitive issue, but I would not like to raise the dusty issue with my heavy tread on it. However, there are some significant lessons I would like us to take note, particularly, as students of “the first and the best school”, which is also probably the best in sounding a warning and seemingly threatening note to student on the fear of Student Disciplinary Committee (SDC) is the beginning of wisdom. Like I have resolved, after several considerations, on not desiring any stain on my pure linen, but to keep the dust on the ground where it belongs; indeed, it is no doubt I strongly acknowledge the resounding warning note of the school management.
Before I dwell on the subject of this piece, permit me to walk you down the memory lane to see how the beginning was and how much we have regarded with levity the strife-full stories we were told of our fore fathers, who treaded this same land and were unjustly dealt with, possibly, more than we are being treated today.
The University of Ibadan, as we have always known her to be a model for other Nigerian varsities, pioneered Student Unionism with Kunle Adepeju, who lost his life to a worthy cause but an unjust atmosphere, as the pioneer president. There are painful memories that still remind us of how numerous Nigerian students’ lives were lost during agitations to uphold the one voice aimed to project, promote, and defend the welfare of tertiary students. It still sticks like a glue on our memory the precious lives offered for the sustenance of sanity of Nigerian academic communities in order to engender students welfare.
Nevertheless, today, just as the University of Ibadan, some other Nigerian universities have proscribed the united voice (student union) that took us hitherto, though not without lugging us along with strike actions and irregular academic calendar. Here we are still suffering from the unjust inattention given to the welfare of Nigerian tertiary students. We still suffer from consistent insecurity, among other unattended problems that terribly affect the students’ welfare. I still find it hard to fathom the recent armed robbery case at the University of Ibadan Obafemi Awolowo Hall of Residence, which still remains a traumatic experience for the residents of the female Hall. Because this is the University of Ibadan we know, and not the standard she professes, within me, I could not but ask how secure are students of the institution, even though they are harboured within the perimeter of a model tertiary institution?
Most parents prefer their ward to reside in hostels and quarters on campus, not because it is absolutely conducive for living, but to keep them from the cold hands of insecurity. But, to the astonishment of the wards and their parents, the University of Ibadan cannot even be spared from the hungry wolves, which lurk around the school premises to devour the safety of students on campus like “a mere case of stolen gadgets and injured victims; after all, they were not raped.” May I draw the attention of Nigerians to the fact that, the recent incident at Awo Hall is not first in many years, but a regular occurrence and an annual tradition consistent with the Hall for about four years as cried out by the residents.
The recent Awo Hall incident is among the few cases in the University of Ibadan that sounds the jingle of insecurity near and far. There are many other unheard incidences, which have become a norm and an unscented fart in the victims’ vests. About two weeks ago, a couple of thieves were apprehended in Kenneth Mellanby Hall of Residence, University of Ibadan. This apprehension was not by the unavailable security measures of the University in the Hall, but by the Hall residents, students who have, compulsorily, in place of their primary duty of either reading or sleeping soundly in their rooms, taken it upon themselves to stand on watch in the night. In fact, permit to say it was a fortunate night, because many nights have gone with phones, laptops and tablets of students recurrently.
To top the insecure state of halls of residence all, the key that opens a supposed door lock can open many other rooms’ locks with the same key pattern. Though it sounds ridiculous, but not to students of University of Ibadan, who has heard or once lived, about four years ago till date, in one of the rooms with this bad locks. It is quite funny that when those kind of locks spoil, they are replaced with the same kind.
Also, according to some reports, anywhere but some palace is hardly safe on University of Ibadan campus. Even, quarters are as porous as Halls of Residence in the University of Ibadan as “some quarters at Parry road were also robbed” on last week Friday night, following the armed robbery incidence at Awo Hall. Furthermore, about three weeks ago in some quarters, there were also two robbery cases, one in Amina way, the other in a boys’ quarters around St Anne’s. These and others, unknown, are the cases of insecurity in Hall of Residence and quarters that the University community have been handling with great care but little effort.
In spite of this vulnerable and unfair atmosphere of insecurity, which is poisonous to students welfare, our voice is almost all gone with the proscription of Student Union since 2017, when students last cried out their distress. Nonetheless, for posterity sake, let us make the most of the painful past and pick from its wildness the significance of not looking where we fell but where we slipped. It is no fallacy that “it is for human to err.” Thus, let us, both students and the management, overlook our failure, but not without giving due concern to the causes of it for the sake of rethinking our stance to permit peace and comfort to reign.
Hence, with the event that led to the suspension of Student Union in the University of Ibadan, many lessons have become so glaring to learn from the Nigerian education system and the country herself that I would like to point out a few of them to us here. It is so unfortunate that we are always at the receiving end of ours and that of the school management’s actions and inactions. It is quite disheartening that the undoings of the Nigeria education system has forcefully drag our unwilling horses to drink from the rivers of silence for too long. All this while, agitation has alighted us in a fruitless land of nowhere; whereas, diligence is all that is required to be due for a fruitful labor that makes “the labor of our heroes past to never be in vain.”
First, we all need to be enlightened on the fact that daring to beat a system that controls us is like a miser, who saves for those who will bury him. In other word, in Nigeria, it is rare and possibly impossible to beat a system that controls us, yet, some of us still hope we will one day control this unruly system without beating it first. Do we still wonder how undoings persist in the Nigeria system? Then, may I make bold to say that we have played too long into the manipulative, unfavourable and unruly hands of the system, whose expectations we have, unfortunately, being living up to. This is the first fact, a basic lesson Nigerian student leaders that desire to engender change in their community should reckon.
Remember you can only beat a system under your auspice, which you can control and tell what decision would count for you. Indeed, this explains the wisdom in Kunle Adebajo’s word, when he stated in an interview on TELL! that one of the reasons he does not live for expectations, even though many think he lived up to them, is “the fear of expectation.” According to him, “I do not want to reach a stage where people will force me to the pen and I have to wield it not as one wields a sword but as one carries a cross.”
It is no doubt that all because we have failed not to live up to the management expectation as Student Union, we are presently carrying the cross of proscription of the Union. According to the third of the forty-eight laws of power, “keep people off-balance by guiding them far enough down the wrong path, envelope them in enough smoke, and by the time they realize your intentions, it will be too late.” Student leaders, wise up and step up your game in fighting back for our united voice.
Even though, our collective voice, which was heard about two years ago has been silenced and relegated to, possibly, an unheard voice; maintaining our sanity, amidst all odds as a model varsity students, makes us stand out. Hence, the diplomacy culture of our student leaders and the management will keep the sanity of our Union. Diplomacy, which births and promotes dialogue between both parties of a conflict, is symbolic of seeing each tree in a forest having its place when viewed from the interior, unlike when viewed as a densed forest from the exterior. That is, the closer we look, the more we see; the farther we look, the less we see. Dialogue brings conflicting sides more nearer to see amicability than they could from a far. Thus, dialogue is a tool to enhance understanding between conflicting sides. It is important we note that if both sides of a conflict are submissive to dialogue, it helps to fairly manage and resolve divergent views on an issue.
In conclusion, although, it might sound untrue and funny to say conflict engenders peace, but it is apparently true if known causes of conflict are avoided. To further the welfare and Union of Students in Nigerian tertiary institution, diplomatic culture and dialogue should be embraced by the students and the school management. Be reminded of the African proverb that says: “In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges while the foolish build dam.” Build relevance for sustenance! To whom it may concern, henceforth, let us displace our misplaced priorities to set ourselves on the right course; students welfare is priority.
Kehinde Amusan is a campus journalist of the University of Ibadan. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org