The University of Ibadan has suspended a student, Adekunle Adebajo, over a critical newspaper article published two years ago.
Mr Adebajo, a student journalist, wrote under the title “UI: The irony of fashionable rooftops and awful interiors”, in The Guardian of April 2016 about poor facilities at the university.
He drew attention to the deplorable state of the facilities at the Nigerian premier university.
Piqued by the article, the university, two days after the publication, asked Mr Adebajo to face a disciplinary committee.
In the following months, the student continued to face disciplinary charges which he defended before he was eventually told he had been rusticated for two semesters at the end of May.
But it was on Friday that the rustication of Mr Adebajo became public, with his colleagues within and outside UI accusing the university authorities of being anti-free speech and oppressive.
“It is true, I was rusticated by University of Ibadan for an article written in 2016,” said Mr Adebajo on Facebook. “The verdict was made three weeks ago.”
Mr Adebajo, now suspended, is a student of the Faculty of Law where he was rounding off his degree as a 500-level student.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the Vice Chancellor of the university, Idowu Olayinka, he described the suspension as an internal matter.
“It is an internal matter of the university,” he said.
“If he has been written to, there is a process of appeal. They cannot be fighting the battle alone on social media.
“The verdict or letter will surely have it that if he is not satisfied with the judgement of the panel, he should appeal. I will advise that he first explore the option of appeal before expressing displeasure on social media,” the professor said in a telephone interview.
The university’s action appears the latest in a series of moves by the management to stifle dissent.
The students union in the school is still banned and its leaders suspended for leading protests against what was considered poor administration by the management including non-provision of identity cards already paid for by students.
On Mr Adebajo’s suspension, student journalists under the aegis of Free Campus Press Movement have condemned the decision of the university management.
In a statement on Friday, they said, “Not only do we find this strange in the current dispensation of modern terms and in the post-colonial era, we also find it strange that the University failed to observe that this intellectual work did not in anyway abuse or defame any personality nor institution but rather aimed to improve the standard of the University.
“We are deeply disappointed that a university of prestige and calibre like the University of Ibadan will fail to observe that ethics of journalism requires objectivity, we feel the objectivity of Kunle Adebajo was seen as subjectivity by the university management which is appaling.”
They further emphasised the importance of freedom of the press and sought actions towards the reversal of the rustication of Mr Adebajo.
“In the current age where press freedom is being preached, we find it very disheartening that the University of Ibadan decided to be the premier varsity in suspending campus journalists. We will not fold our arms. we call on all well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the university management to rescind the suspension of Mr Adebajo.
“We are embarking on a massive media campaign and social media campaign. We plead with all media stakeholders to support this move, using #FreeKunleAdebajo on social media, and help end this not just for now but for future of journalism in Nigeria.”
On Friday, Mr. Adebayo posted details of his ordeals to his Facebook Page. Read it below.
NINETEEN PARAGRAPHS ON MY DISCIPLINARY CASE WITH THE UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN
‘Kúnlé Adébàjò [15-06-2018]
1. As with other things I have written, I write this in good faith. I write to educate, not to denigrate. I write to cast light, not out of spite. I write that things may get better, not because I derive pleasure in simply writing―whether or not it leads to an improved state of affairs.
2. I wish to sincerely thank everyone who has stood by me since the start of this saga. Everyone, from the members of the Union of Campus Journalists to students at large, from members of the university staff to the general community, from friends in need and indeed to my caring family—mom especially. Because of this case, many have not only sacrificed their time and resources, but have put their career on the line of risk. I thank everyone who has reached out since and before yesterday’s statement. My heart leaps with indescribable joy knowing that I am not alone.
3. Sometime in April 2016, while still in my third year, I noticed as I moved to the basement from Mellanby Hall’s C Block that bags of cement were being offloaded from a huge truck parked outside. I had thought the materials were for the hall’s renovation, especially toilets which have been a constant subject of debate and controversy. But upon enquiry, I realised I was wrong. Rather, they were to be deployed in tiling rooftops. Later that day, I was with Toheeb Arogundade, Speaker of the Students’ Representative Council and Ibrahim Oredola, President of the Union of Campus Journalists. And it was thought that this project was, if at all necessary, a misplacement of priorities. It was further agreed that something needed to be done―more specifically, something needed to be written.
4. I met with hall supervisors and porters. I spoke with building contractors. I interviewed men at the University Student Lodgings Bureau. I wrote and, yes, mailed my write-up to The Guardian’s Youth Speak Column which, it appears, is unfortunately now defunct [https://guardian.ng/features/ui-the-irony-of-fashionable-rooftops-and-awful-interiors]. I must have been naïve at the time because when a colleague suggested, the day it was published, that the management might react unpleasantly, I simply shrugged it off.
5. That prophesied reaction came two days after. I received a letter of query from the Mellanby Hall Warden, saying I had 48 hours to give reasons disciplinary action should not be taken against me, because I had “put the name of the school into disrepute”—contrary to my matriculation oath. I penned a five-page response, wherein I stated among other things: “I did not contemplate this aftermath or that the school would be disturbed by the article; all I had in mind is a situation wherein issues raised in the article will be well received by concerned persons for the benefit of all.” I also quoted from Chapter V of the Student Information Handbook, where it is stated that “the legitimate expression of differing opinions and concerns is an essential part of the academic community…”
6. Months after, I received a letter of allegation of gross misconduct, this time from the Student Affairs Department, written and signed by the university legal adviser. The letter also alleged, with a long list of references, that my article was rude, defamatory and insubordinate. In response, I wrote and submitted a four-page response, restating my convictions and replying each sub-allegation. I was, however, advised against this by a senior and experienced lecturer whom I revere. Acting upon his recommendation, I withdrew this response and wrote two others, neither as statements of defence nor statements of apology. Finally, again acting upon wise counsel and personal convictions, I wrote a fourth and final response, where I said I am “regretful that my words come off as rude and insubordinate”, that “I had no intent whatsoever to insult or act with impudence” and that “I never contemplated that the article could be construed as defamatory or that it had the potential of bringing the school into disrepute”.
7. Following this, there was another long bout of silence, this time up to a year, before I was again contacted. I was not even contacted. My mom was. She got a text from my faculty inviting me to a sitting of the disciplinary panel. When I later asked why I was not contacted directly, I was given the excuse that my phone number was not found in the faculty’s records. The faculty, I understand, eventually recommended to the university that I be reprimanded.
8. Earlier this year, when the “Book of Life”, which contains the long list of graduates and their grades, was released, my name was visibly omitted. Rather, it was written alongside names of people with academic shortfalls or who were alleged to have committed examination malpractice among similar offences.
9. On Thursday, May 24 2018, I finally faced the Central Student Disciplinary Committee. With my plea taken, I was told: “The Committee has advised the Vice Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor has approved that you are rusticated for two semesters”. I was also told typically that I could appeal to the Council within fourteen days [of receiving the verdict in writing].
10. Strangely, I am at peace with this decision. Not that I am thankful or I think it was a just outcome. Not at all. But, I doubt I will feel this peaceful and driven if it had turned out otherwise, because this would not have reflected the true state of things. If I shall have two years of my life with a damning disciplinary case hovering above me, then let it end on the same path as it started. I do not want to be the proverbial chicken whose feathers were plucked by a set of fingers and who still lingered because the same fingers offered it cereal.
11. However, I plan to appeal to the University Governing Council as soon as I receive the letter of verdict from the Student Affairs. This I do for three reasons. One, to fulfil all righteousness, explore all internal mechanisms for remedy and leave little for posterity to say I didn’t do my best to get a fair trial. Two, because I have hope that the council shall determine the case fairly, having regard to the trite laws of the land and universal principles of justice. Three, because if my going to the Nigerian Law School never happens or gets delayed, I deserve to make that decision myself and not have it forced upon me.
12. Furthermore, there are two things I do not need: sympathy and hype.
13. Sympathy, I do not need, because I am not the sad, miserable victim that some reckon I would be. I was not “thrown into despair, and emotional trauma while awaiting my fate” as suggested by an article which surfaced days ago. It is not how I was and it is not how I wish to be seen. I am thankful for all that has happened. I have come out not only stronger, but wiser. Whatever decisions I made, I made because I believed they could achieve desired results. Whatever outcomes may have come my way, unpleasant as they may seem, have ultimately broadened my worldview and sharpened my senses.
14. Hype, I do not crave, for many reasons. I strongly believe that if I ever become deserving of fame, it should be because of something I have done, not for something that is done to me. Though necessary at times, I do not want the cheap publicity that comes with being a victim of circumstances. If, one day, my name is mentioned in remote places, I wish not to be remembered first as the student who was rusticated by his university. This is personal. There are also professional reasons, which are better not revealed. Being a journalist myself, I could have run to the media for attention as soon as the decision was pronounced. Yet, I restrained myself.
15. So why do I bother to write this at all? I write to clear the air. I write because I prefer to tell my story and not to have it told on my behalf. I write to make known the facts, that posterity may learn a lesson or two.
16. I do not have anything specifically against the University of Ibadan, because the same chain of events could as well have happened anywhere else. But I remain committed to the good of this country and every one of my countrymen. I remain committed, particularly, to helping improve her education sector. I remain committed to a future where our children do not have to choose between literacy and liberty, and one where our fathers will realise that the methods of old are not the only―or even the best—there are.
17. Once again, I thank everyone who has reached out to assist, and those who have even gone ahead using those methods they believe in. I am indebted to you all. Perhaps this request is already belated, but I will be even more grateful if you can spare me the two aforementioned things: sympathy and hype. By so doing, you have let down neither the cause nor myself. No, you have not. No, you have not.
18. Thank you all for reading.
19. Whatever remains untold of this story, I promise, will be told another day.
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