My recent flirtation with the students’ union as well as the parliament makes my opinion on this brouhaha noteworthy, I dare say. Had intentions of narrating my side of the story – what I heard, saw and felt – but I realized it was a boring piece, so let’s get to the crux of the matter.
I stand in full support of the union in this trying times, not because of my personal affiliation with the president (though I admit I wouldn’t have uttered a word had someone else been in charge), not because I enjoy this unwarranted ‘break’. I’m backing the union for posterity’s sake. The struggle is not about us alone, it’s about our future.
It’s ridiculous and outrageous to have a section of the students blame the students’ union executives and the honorable parliamentarians for the recent problems facing the institution. What is their point? Are they saying we should all have kept quiet at a NINE HUNDRED PERCENT (900%) INCREASE? Should they have folded their arms and watch the management impose an insurance scheme on all Great Ife students. Then why did we vote them in? We could as well assume that no union existed and bear the brunt of whatever exploitation the management brought to the fore.
At this juncture, I must make one thing clear. I do not belong to the school of thought that believes that the sole job of the Students’ Union is to oppose the university management on every issue. No. On the contrary, I believe and wish for a harmonious working relationship between both parties. But on the issue at hand, the union had no option.
I recall, with nostalgia, the manifesto night last session. The whole university hinged their hope and support on one man and this was reflected by a landslide victory in the polls the following day. I believe the students did not vote for a stooge. They did not vote for someone who would be an O-Yes man to the management. Infact, in my opinion, that particular short-coming by the previous executive was responsible for the defeat encountered by one of the presidential candidates, as he happened to be a member of the then outgoing executive.
I have digressed.
The executive (most especially the president) had an overwhelming support from the student populace and could not afford to fail at his first hurdle. I remember at his acceptance speech at the swearing-in. he had pleaded with the VC not to increase the fees, as this will make him one of the few VCs who never did so. The president besieged the VC that the rumour making the rounds about a purported increment should remain a rumour. We later came to realize those pleas fell on deaf ears.
With the management refusing to come to a round-table discussion with members of the executive as well as other acts of mischief which included the new mode of fees payment and the delay in stalites resumption, it was obvious the management was not ready to play ball.
For Christ’s sake, when did insurance become compulsory? What on earth happened to our health centre that made us need health insurance? And if truly we need this health insurance, how much enlightenment have we been given? Who is the insurance company? Where is the insurance card? Those of us whose parents are civil servants are already beneficiaries of the NHIS, why should we need another? These are questions bothering on the insurance scheme.
I read a comment by the registrar as regards the acceptance fee increment. His argument was that the fee was increased to meet the realities of modern day cost of education (paraphrased). True as that may sound, it is absurd and belligerent to jerk the price of any commodity from two thousand to twenty thousand naira. On hearing about it for the first time, I laughed it off saying the management just put it so high so that when the union comes for negotiation, they would reduce it. To my utmost dismay, the management has bewildered all by refusing to bend.
Now, who says the union shouldn’t have fought. Yes, some people had the campaign slogan,” vote for F.Jay, vote for closure of school”. It’s not about closure of school or not, it’s about fighting what you believe in. Jackson Brown Jr. said, “Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do”. It was only logical that the students staged a protest – a very peaceful one – to press home their claims. Forget all the media politicking claiming violence and destruction. It was even exasperated to the point where people were made to believe that ladies had been raped live(s) had been lost. That’s all falsehood. A very peaceful and like every other lecture boycott.
However, this is where I think the union got it wrong. On the second day of the lecture boycott, the union should have summoned all students to a congress. This was the method employed by the Devaino-led as well as Prof-led administrations. The management might have been forced to come out and address the students. Since this path was not toed, I feel the management was in a state of quandary as to the next move of the union. More disturbing was the fact that the Matriculation ceremony was the following day. Had the congress taken place, the management would have known of the decision of the student’s to ensure that matriculation still went on.
The dilemma was reflected in the letter released on Wednesday 23rd February 2011. Taking a close look at that letter, you would realize that it had been written the day before, as the VC said (paraphrased), “…all students are thus required to proceed on a compulsory break tomorrow 23rd February 2011…”. Even though the letter was released on that very Wednesday morning.
It would be stating the obvious to say that the union acted in the best interest of all students – present and future. Not staging an opposition at all would have been termed cowardice by this same people castigating the union for sending us home. Let’s tell ourselves the honest truth, the union fought for a worthy cause. Every move they made was justified. Besides, they had not exceeded the mandatory 72hours. Infact they had not completed 48 hours when that go-home letter was typed.
The union should be hailed for the courage and tenacity they should not bear the brunt for the misdemeanour of the university management.
Stubbornly persist and you would find that the limits of your stubbornness exceeds go well beyond the stubbornness of your limit……………………………………………..ROBERT BRAULT
Aluta Continua, Victoria Ascerta