In 2018, during our struggle against evictions of this manner, the popular and hypocritical propaganda of the university was that we were against renovation exercise to be carried out by them as we chose to remain in the hostels. Renovations could be done systematically with students' understanding, only when there is a cordial discussion with them. That would never happen because respecting the opinions of students has never been in their modus operandi. Again, that tells how ridiculous the incivility of our citadel of learning is, because without being overemphasised, these students constitute the major stakeholders of the institution, and the reason for the acclaimed renovation, they should be duly represented and carried along, not chased like goats.
We understand that tolerating students' dissents or civil engagements and democratic discussion have always been a problem as this would contradict and unravel the real conspiracy and interests behind the evictions of students and of the many other anti-student policies. This was more of the reasons why the university went physical on us; brutalized many male students and assaulted the female students too. Like the character of ruling elite, tyranny has gone down and deep into the university system (the supposedly remaining hope for civility); student activists were arrested, arraigned and incarcerated in prisons for the least reasons – questioning tyranny and mismanagement in a university.
One would have thought that today, Moremi Hall of Obafemi Awolowo University would be an El Dorado going by the chants of renovation for which they barbarically chased out students. One would expect that Awolowo hall would by now be a coveted villa for many, remembering how the occupants were beaten out with arms by the university workers and hired thugs under the orders of the Prof Eyitope Ogunbodede, Vice Chancellorship, in that year. In my last visits to the campus, barely a month ago, the hostels have not only remained in their eyesore states since 2018 of our struggle, but the 'renopainted' ones have equally withered and gone worse than they were in terms of infrastructural decay.
As mentioned during one of our press interviews in the peak of these struggles, the significant renovation has since been the cutting of trees, exposing the halls to direct solar intensification in a bid to unveil the beauty of the newly painted walls while conceding the rottenness that lie within.
To be truthful, of the eight halls of residence on the campus, few blocks in Angola hall experienced rehabilitation credited to the Alumni Association while ETF hall is to an extent being renovated by the NEEDS Assessment Fund. We can be rest assured that the duo exercises were born in response to the struggles and campaigns embarked upon by students before now. However, like the one who waits for the cock to grow teeth, we are still waiting for the tangible renovation to be done by the university administration since two years.
On the second round of eviction
The latest gist is the recently announced policy on accommodation that all ‘stalites’ (returning students) would no longer have rights to bed spaces on campus, and that only the fresh intakes will have access to bed spaces.
Apparently, this does not reduce or expand the hostel capacities on ground, it rather does some of the following; sets returning students against their fresh colleagues, exposes many students to the rising criminality in town cum psychological and physical stress of everyday hustle and joggle to and fro campus, denial of academic activities when there is financial limitation to get to campus, grievous extortion of students by landlords, among whom are the officials of the university, etc.
The challenges are still the same, but in evolving forms. We are still asking, why have the blocks of hostels in Parakin locked up till date, despite being built for students from public funds, while students suffer accommodation?
Why are students’ rights to unionism and freedom of expression being gagged in a university in 21st century?
Why has the government been quiet over the deplorable state of living and learning conditions for children of workers, as well as the pitiable teaching conditions of the staff in these universities resulting from gross underfunding of education?
Fundamentally, apart from this accommodation policy not being a totally new dimension of eviction but an attempt to strengthen the callous accommodation policy on ground by expunging the conscious layer of students from campus and disconnecting them from their fresh colleagues, we expect that this can also be another opportunity for a united action of the students and well-meaning Nigerians to reverse the policy once and for all.
Remember, the fear of students’ consciousness is the beginning of wisdom for university administrations.
Gbenga Oloniniran-Von writes from North-Western Nigeria where democracy and freedom are neither better, and where the exploitation of the masses by the rulers is tied to traditional and religious sentiments