Four former student leaders of the University of Lagos: Omoyele Sowore, Malcolm Fabiyi, Seyi Gambo and Adeleke Otunuga, on Monday called on the authorities of the institution to restore the students body, which was suspended in April, or face the prospects of legal action.  

They also announced the formation of a support outfit to be called the Students and Youth Activist Support Initiative (SAYASI), aimed at the kind of support structures they enjoyed in their time to the current generation of student and youth activists.

In a statement, they said they were familiar with the excesses that often characterizes the conduct of university authorities when responding to crises, and student protests which expose their failings, and the horrors that can result when university authorities, sometimes in coordination with agencies of the state,terrorize students.

Recalling the events of last April at the university, they stressed that a peaceful protest is no basis for shutting down the only legitimate organ that students have for organizing, and noted how the universityadministration has sometimes used the excuse of alleged misbehavior by student leaders for banning their union. 

“The right of students to organize is sacrosanct,” they said. “Universities are not breeding grounds for docile and servile dogs. Legitimate organizing and vibrant engagement in socio-political issues within, and beyond the University campus should be expected, and even encouraged.”

The former student leaders pointed out that in the last 20 years alone, the University of Lagos Students’ Union has been shut down for a total of over 10 years. 

“Not even under the most despotic and tyrannical military governments in Nigeria was the right of students to organize and express themselves so callously undermined,” they said.  “Like other stakeholder groups on campus (Academic Staff, Non Academic Staff, etc.), students have an inalienable right to associate, and where needs be to protest peacefully.”

They called on the authorities of the institution to immediately reverse the rustication of all student leaders that have been victimized for their roles in organizing the peaceful April protest and rescind their union ban, failing which their lawyer will commence the legal action. 

On SAYASI, they said they recognized that without the tireless efforts that such heroes as Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana, Beko Ransome Kuti and other peopleexpended on their behalf, they might not have survived the harrowing experiences they went through at the hands of government agencies and university authorities.  

They underlined that virile students’ movements are essential to the development of any nation, and warned that they will not stand by and allow the rich tradition of Nigerian student activism to be killed off, and called on friends, comrades and other concerned Nigerians to join them in the effort.

 

Text of the statement:

Sowore, Fabiyi (Malcolm X) and Other Former Student Leaders Call for University of Lagos Authorities To Restore Union, Announce National Students & Youth Activist Support Initiative (SAYASI)

 •       We, the undersigned were involved in students’ union activities at the University of Lagos and we are familiar with the excesses that often characterizes the conduct of university authorities when responding to crises and protests that expose their failings. As student leaders at the University of Lagos over two decades ago, we experienced firsthand the horrors that can result when university authorities solely, or in coordination with agencies of the state terrorize students.

•       In April 2016, the authorities at the University of Lagos announced the suspension of the students’ union. In August, they also announced the rustication of a number of student leaders for an offence that they called “social misconduct.” The cardinal sin committed by the students was the staging of a peaceful protest to draw attention to infrastructural challenges at the Akoka Campus. In one particularly egregious case, a student leader was rusticated for four semesters for posting an article that was critical of the university authorities on social media. 

•       A peaceful protest is no basis for shutting down the only legitimate organ that students’ have for organizing. Over the years, the University administration has also used the excuse of alleged misbehavior by student leaders as an excuse for banning the students union. Alleged misbehavior by student leaders is also no basis for shutting down legitimate institutions. Like other organizations, entities like University of Lagos Students’ Union (ULSU) have procedures for sanctioning errant leaders. 

•       The right of students to organize is sacrosanct. Universities are not breeding grounds for docile and servile dogs. Legitimate organizing and vibrant engagement in socio-political issues within, and beyond the University campus should be expected, and even encouraged. 

•       In the last twenty years, the University of Lagos Students’ Union has been shut down for over ten years. Not even under the most despotic and tyrannical military governments in Nigeria was the right of students to organize and express themselves so callously undermined.  Like other stakeholder groups on campus (Academic Staff, Non Academic Staff, etc.), students have an inalienable right to associate, and where needs be to protest peacefully. 

•       We have watched with concern as the authorities at the University of Lagos and other tertiary institutions across Nigeria have banned, muzzled, harassed student leaders. It is now clear that the aim of University Authorities across Nigeria is the stifling of all forms of student and youth activism. 

•       We call on the authorities of the University of Lagos to immediately reverse the rustication of all student leaders that have been victimized for their roles in organizing the peaceful protest of April 2016, and rescind their banning of the students’ union. Should the authorities fail to reinstate the students immediately, we have instructed our lawyer, Mr. Jiti Ogunye to immediately commence legal proceedings on behalf of the affected students. 

•       We recognize that university administrators must reserve their right to sanction and discipline students. However, when the power to discipline becomes a weapon for intimidation and harassment, and a tool for silencing truth, legitimate protest and the rule of law are the only tools left for the oppressed. 

 

Our Apology to Nigerian Students and Youth

•       As individuals who experienced the rich traditions of the Nigerian students’ movement and were the beneficiaries of the fearless and principled commitment to societal advancement that it engenders, we have failed Nigerian students.

•       We are sorry that we have neglected to provide for the current generation of student and youth activists, the support structures that we took for granted in our time. We recognize that without the tireless efforts that heroes like GaniFawehinmi, Femi Falana, Beko Ransome Kuti and others expended on our behalf we might not have survived the harrowing experiences that we went through in the hands of government agencies and university authorities.  Virile students’ movements are essential to the development of any nation. We will not stand by and allow the rich tradition of Nigerian student activism to be killed off. 

•       We therefore immediately announce the creation of a new vanguard organization called the Students and Youth Activist Support Initiative (SAYASI). This movement will provide legal resources, leadership training and other forms of support to all genuine student activities across Nigeria. 

•       Every student or youth activist that has been victimized in any tertiary institution across Nigeria should immediately contact us using these details: [email protected]

•       We call on our friends, comrades and other concerned Nigerians to join with us in this effort. 

 

Aluta Continua! Victoria Acerta!!

 

Omoyele Sowore

ULSU President 

1992/94

 

Dr Malcolm Fabiyi

ULSU President 

1994/95

 

Dr Adeleke Otunuga

ULSU Social Secretary 

1994/95

 

Comrade Seyi Gambo

Sec. Gen Mass Communication Students’ Association 

University of Lagos 1994/95?

UNILAG Main Gate

You may also like

Read Next