Peaceful protest billed for January 12
In furtherance of the struggle for the recall of 10 victimized student activists at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, the Students’ Union organized a symposium on Thursday 11 December 2008. The symposium held at the Afrika-Amphitheatre was part of the orientation program for fresh students. The theme of the symposium was Global Economic Crisis, Education and Unionism. Six of the ten victimised activists are members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), CWI Nigeria.
About 300 students (both fresh and older) attended the symposium. Reflecting the deep interest in ‘ideas of change’ which the global financial crisis has caused among huge layers of youth, many copies of ‘Socialist Democracy’ November/December edition was sold. In addition about 2,000 copies of a joint DSM/ERC (Education Rights Campaign) leaflet on reinstatement were distributed at the event and around the campus.
Among the speakers at the symposium were Dr. Dipo Fashina (former President of Academic Staff Union of Universities and chairman of Joint Action Forum), Biodun Aremu (convener UAD and Secretary of the Labour and Civil Society Coalition), the Vice Chancellor of the University Prof. M.O Faborode and some of the victimised students (Hassan Taiwo Soweto, Dairo Olatunde, Ibraheem Kolawole and Chukwunyere Oyinyechi).
Although uninvited, the Vice Chancellor attended the symposium in order to scare students from supporting the reinstatement struggle. This became important as the frantic effort of the management to prevent the victimised students from entering the campus to address the symposium was rebuffed by the Union. Despite the efforts of the VC, the reinstatement struggle received a further boost and renewed dedication on the parts of the Union, activists and mass of students to struggle. Also, the struggle also received the support of two eminent labour and civil society activists, Dr. Dipo Fashina and Biodun Aremu.
While delivering his speech, Biodun Aremu had openly called on the Vice Chancellor to reinstate the victimised students. This according to him was in conformity with a similar demand by Prof. Omotoye Olorode (ASUU activist and radical intellectual) on November 15, 2008. However, in his response, the Vice Chancellor said reinstatement is a ‘non-issue and that the case is closed’. But Dr. Dipo Fashina who spoke after him had a different view. He maintained that as far as he is concerned, no case is closed and called on students to strive to open the case. This was received with loud ovation from students.
The open support from the two labour and civil society activists has reassured the students, activists and the union that the struggle for reinstatement of the victimised leaders is justified. Hence at an ‘All Activists Meeting’ on Saturday December 13, the activists and the entire leadership of the Union decided to push the struggle forward by fixing a protest rally to Magistrate Court 2, Osogbo on January 12, 2009 in solidarity with the duo of Hassan Taiwo Soweto and Dairo Olatunde (who are also DSM members) who will on this day appear before the court for trial on trumped up allegations which include conspiracy to and attempted murder. Already these two victimised students spent over four months in prison until their release on bail on February 21, 2008.
The university management and the Ministry of Justice (prosecutor) have continued to renege on their promise to withdraw the criminal charges against them even after they wrote an undertaking letter (promising to be of good behaviour) seven months ago according to an agreement struck between their lawyers and the University Authorities. The non-withdrawal of the criminal charges constitutes a stumbling block to their recall to school. As the student activists have fulfilled their part of the bargain which was overseen by the Magistrate Court by writing the letter of undertaking, there is the need to compel the University authorities to withdraw the criminal charges so that negotiation on the terms of recall can commence.
A congress has been called for January 8 when the school will have been re-opened after the end-of-the-year holiday. The congress would give the Union an opportunity to mobilise students to massively participate in the January 12 protest. Also media campaign and lobbying of the University senate, Governing Council, Alumni and staff unions are to commence in earnest.
However, solidarity action is needed to compel the University authorities and the government to withdraw the criminal charges and reinstate all the politically victimised student leaders. We therefore call for protest letters and solidarity actions from trade unions, student unions and pro-masses organisations in Nigeria and abroad.
Protest letters should be sent to
- the OAU Vice-Chancellor
- firstname.lastname@example.org and
- the OAU Registrar
- the Federal Ministry of Education
Copies of all protest letters sent should be made available to
- the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI, Nigeria)
Education Rights Campaign (ERC)