UI Vice-Chancellor speaks on suspension of Students’ Union

University of Ibadan (UI)
University of Ibadan (UI) [Photo: sirkenayo.com]

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Idowu Olayinka, has reacted to various agitations for the reinstatement of the students’ union structure in the university.

In 2017, the authorities of the University of Ibadan accused the Ojo Aderemi-led union of disrupting academic activities by mobilising students for a massive protest against the non-issuance of Identity (ID) Cards.

The union leaders were suspended and the activities of the union proscribed afterwards.

This week, the former SU President, Ojo Aderemi, was suspended for four semesters, two year after the protest, a development countered by students and alumni bodies of the institution.

Mr.Olayinka, within the space of two years, has proscribed the students’ union, suspended the union executive and rusticated a student journalist, Kunle Adebajo, (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/272604-top-nigerian-university-suspends-student-over-newspaper-article.html%3famp_markup over a critical article on the poor welfare state of the school.

Although the Vice-Chancellor has refused to speak on the recent rustication after several telephone calls put across by PREMIUM TIMES, he released a statement on Saturday, stating the reasons why the union has not been reinstated, despite calls from different quarters.

The university’s spokesperson, Tunde Oladejo, also declined comments when PREMIUM TIMES contacted him.

Meanwhile, Mr Olayinka failed to address the suspension of Ojo Aderemi in the statement posted on his social media page.

Read full text of the statement below:

On restoring Student Unionism at the University of Ibadan

I received a WhatsApp message overnight from a student of the University of Ibadan asking for restoration of the Students’ Union. My lengthy response to him is given below.

I have no personal problem about restoring your Union. I am being honest with you here. The problem I have is the disruptive nature of your Union and this has a very long history.

I was an undergraduate at the University of Ibadan for four sessions, 1977 till 1981. To that extent one has the privilege to give some sort of eye-witness account.

During the 1977/1978 session, Tayo Ilupeju (now of blessed memory) was so popular among the entire student body that he was elected unopposed as President of the Students’ Union at the University of Ibadan.

That was the era of the (in) famous ‘Ali must go’ nationwide protest by students. Colonel Dr Ahmadu Ali (an Ibadan Alumnus) was then the Federal Commissioner (Minister) of Education.

The protest then was centred around the attempt by the Federal Military Government under General Olusegun Obasanjo as Head of State to remove our meal subsidy. Invariably, all members of the Students’ Union Executive led by Tayo Ilupeju were rusticated.

The same scenario repeated itself during the 1978/79 Session, whereby all members of the Student Union Executive were rusticated. I cannot now remember the name of the then President of our Students’ Union.

It may be pointed out that the two Presidents of the University of Ibadan Student Union Executive for 1977/78 and 1978/79, respectively, did not return to the institution after serving out their one year rustication. Hence they never earned an Ibadan degree. So unfortunate indeed.

I remember that the vast majority of the student body lost interest in student unionism and we decided to boycott elections into the Students’ Union during the next Session, 1979/1980. Less than 5% of the eligible students turned out to vote eventually and they were elected albeit highly unpopular. We referred to those Executive Members of the Union for that session pejoratively as the ”Puppet Executive” on account of lacking legitimacy.

Then after this short break, majority of the students again took active part in the election of the Students’ Union for the 1980/81 Session by which time I was in my final year. All members of the Executive led by my brother and kinsman, Femi Falana, of the Department of Political Science, as President, were eventually rusticated by the University.

Femi Falana in his own case, served out his one year rustication and returned to the University of Ibadan during the 1982/83 session to continue his academic pursuits. He contested again for the position of President of the Students’ Union and he was re-elected massively. He thus has the distinction of being perhaps till date the only person to have emerged twice as President of the UI Students’ Union.

In essence, out of the four Sessions that I spent here as an undergraduate, leaders of the respective Executives were rusticated on three different occasions. This is not a good record to celebrate.

‘Experience teaches man that man does not learn from experience’.

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”

― John Dewey

As you well know, there was no elected Students Union at the University of Ibadan from 2000 to 2011. I do not know whether the students who passed through the University of Ibadan during that period are in any way inferior to those came here before and after them during the era of active student unionism. I stand to be corrected on this.

Leadership training is not limited to disrupting the peace of the Campus at the slightest excuse.

Degrees of the University of Ibadan are awarded on the basis of character (the more important criterion) and learning. It is unacceptable for a student to refer to members of the University Senate as pot-bellied old men. It is the Senate as the highest body in the University for All Academic Matters that award degrees. You do not attempt to desecrate that body under any guise. The Vice-Chancellor is merely a symbol of the Senate by virtue of his being the Chairman and Ex-officio member. Unfortunately, many of our students are not aware of this.

For a 100 level student of Geology to claim that ‘Olayinka is a disgrace to our noble profession’ is, in my humble opinion, simply holiganism taken too far. That same Olayinka was in 100 level nearly 40 years earlier and later became the Head of that same Department on two different occasions. You begin to wonder what profession a chap who had just entered the University that same session belongs.

In saner climes a student will not claim that his Vice-Chancellor is a liar and pillory that same Vice-Chancellor on the social media. These can still be searched on google.com. There should be a limit to unguided rascality.

We had the ‘Free Mote’ campaign in 2016 which led to the closure of the University for about seven weeks. Mote is the nickname of a then 400 Level student of Petroleum Engineering who was supposed to be on industrial attachment in Port Harcourt. He left his station to come to Ibadan to lead a student demonstration on account of his political ambition to contest the position of Administrator-General (Chairman) of Independence Hall, one of our 12 Halls of Residence.

He appeared before the Jointly Committed Offences Disciplinary Panel and eventually rusticated for one Semester. In the letter to him conveying decision of the Student Disciplinary Committee it was clearly stated that he had a right of appeal to the Council of the University. Rather than explore the option of appeal, he invited ‘students’ from all manners of tertiary institutions in Oyo State to invade the Campus in order for the Management to rescind its decision. After two consecutive days of disrupting peace on the Campus and no let up, the University was closed. It is important to note that the Students’ Union then was not disbanded.

The following year 2017 there was yet another student unrest masterminded by the 200 level student who emerged as President of the Students’ Union. This time around, the battle cry was ‘No identity card, No examination’. In spite of all the entreaties to him not to lead his colleagues to protest outside the Campus he went ahead with his plans even on a public holiday. People who are familiar with the geography of Ibadan know that right opposite the University main gate is the high density Agbowo. The possibility of the protest being hijacked by hoodlums was real. That was what led to the immediate closure of the University and the suspension of Union activities since May 29, 2017.

It may be pointed out that Semester examinations were to commence on Tuesday 30 May 2017. In retrospect a good number of the students were not yet ready to write their examinations although the time table had been publicised many weeks earlier.

The reality is that students still came back after the university had been closed down for six weeks to write their examinations, even when those identity cards were still not ready.

We have been having relative peace with student activism ever since the suspension of Union activities at the end of May 2017. Ironically, efforts are on to improve the welfare of students. Many of the Halls of Residence now wear a new look, although this is still work in progress.

You cannot be doing something the same way all the time and expect a different result. I have a responsibility to ensure a stable academic calendar. By doing this, I am indirectly saving the vast majority of our students, who want to complete their degree programmes in good time and move on with other challenges of life, from the hands of those who are committed to demarketing the University by their actions that lead to incessant closure of our great citadel of learning.

I do hope you can relate with my position as your servant leader. Cheers and God bless you richly.

Idowu Olayinka

Vice-Chancellor

University of Ibadan

13 April 2019

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