Urgent appeal: Free OAU students now!
Three Nigerian student activists from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife, are now in jail on made up charges, including “conspiracy to murder” and “attempted murder”.
Saburi Akande Akinola, the OAU Students Union President, has been held since 31 31 July. Taiwo Hassan Soweto, Secretary, Democratic Socialist Movement’s OAU Branch and Coordinator, Education Rights Campaign (ERC), and Olatunde Dairo, a DSM member and the OAU Students Union Public Relations Officer were arrested on October 11.
The murder charges relate to protests in November 2004, nearly three years ago, during which a OAU student, Rasheed Laketu, was killed by the police. As the alleged victim, the then university Vice Chancellor, has up to now made no accusations against these three, it is clear that these are politically motivated charges attempted at wrecking the OAU Students Union. Indeed, the university unjustly expelled 7 students, in early 2005, over the November 2004 protest.
This year, the OAU campus was closed and Taiwo Hassan Soweto and Olatunde Dairo arrested two days, after a student mass meeting, on 9 October, agreed a lecture boycott for October 17 and 18. This boycott was to press home demands for Saburi Akande Akinola’s release from imprisonment, defence of the Student Union from the university management and improved living and learning conditions on the campus. The State Security Service (SSS) arrested Saburi on July 31, 2007, near the Federal High Court in Osogbo, as he was on his way to the court to legally challenge his dismissal from OAU by the university’s authorities. The next day, Saburi was charged on 10 counts, including impersonation, destruction of property, disruption of examinations, taking part in a riot, unlawful assembly and the attempted murder of the OAU Vice Chancellor.
This latest closure of the campus, the arrest of student activists and, most recently, the suspension of 13 student activists, is an attempt by the management to intimidate the students and break their Union.
This particular crisis started in the University late last year, after students democratically elected a radical leadership, with Saburi as President and Olatunde Dairo as the PRO, defeating the sponsored candidates of the management. Students chose a leadership to ensure uncompromising defence of their rights and interests in quality university education. On the contrary, the management had wanted to impose a puppet leadership on the students to muzzle divergent views or opposition to their neo-liberal policies.
The charges against these activists are being brought by the Osun State Director of Public Prosecutions. However, like all the State governments in Nigeria, along with the Federal government, this administration only sits in office because it stole last April’s elections. The Osun state government has absolutely no legitimacy, at all.
The recently published Final Report of the European Union’s Election Observation Mission gives just a small indication of how the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of President Yar’Adua rigged the election in Osun and in the rest of the country.
EU election observers saw in Osun state, as in many others, that “throughout the election process, political sponsorship, recruitment and use of thugs, young unemployed, uneducated area boys sometimes addicted to drugs and often armed with traditional weapons or fire arms.” (Page 21),
Specifically in the Ife area, where OAU is based, EU observers saw: “Widespread fraud. For security reason no collation at ward level, PO directly proceeding to LGA collation centre. A big number of Presiding officers and other polling staff thumb printed ballot papers in favour of PDP, included these ballots in counting process and then filled out the result sheets.” (Pages 85/86).
On this basis, the PDP candidate, Brigadier General Oyinlola, was returned to office as Governor of Osun. After the elections, over 400 supporters of the main opposition candidate in Osun were arrested, now Oyinlola is extending his repression to student activists.
The DSM is demanding the immediate release of all these three OAU activists and asking for urgent protests and solidarity.
The DSM asks for protest letters be sent to:
- Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) at firstname.lastname@example.org
- OAU Vice-Chancellor – email@example.com & firstname.lastname@example.org
- Nigerian Federal Ministry of Education at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
International supporters are asked to contact their local Nigerian Embassy or High Commission
(This is especially important, as some of these Nigerian email addresses may not accept protests).
Copies of all protest letters sent should be also sent to:
- the DSM (CWI, Nigeria) at email@example.com
Clearly legal and other defence activities will cost money and the DSM asks for donations to be sent via its website
Please act urgently
More details are available in the following articles on the DSM’s website (all links open in a new window):
- OAU Ile Ife Crisis: DSM Members Arrested (12 October 2007)
- OAU Crisis – ATTACKS ON UNION GETS FIERCER: Akinola Saburi (President, Students’ Union) Arrested, Union Proscribed! (23 August 2007)
- OBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY CRISIS – After Banning of the Students Union, Authorities Set to Victimize Student Leaders (16 April 2007 DSM OAU branch statement)
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights in Nigeria CDWRN) has details of the post-election repression in Osun State in the following items on its website: