Student politics in the University of Ibadan

The Paradigm Shift: Student Politics in the University of Ibadan during a Virtual Semester

Akinmoyeje Timileyin Precious

Change — as they say — is constant. It is a dynamic and fluid phenomenon. At times, it could be a gentle river, slowly altering the look of things. At other times, it could be a violent wave; causing abrupt paradigm shifts (even in very conservative settings). In the case of student politics in the University of Ibadan, its effect is like a sea wave; sudden and somewhat abrupt. In paragraphs to come, I will cross-examine what student politics used to look like, and the look it should have, zero thanks to the newest Sheriff in town — remote learning.

Students Politics in the University of Ibadan before the Pandemic

Student politics in the University of Ibadan was usually a series of dramatic events: adrenaline rushes, clashes of egos (punctuated sometimes with intellectual discourses), and the emergence of a newly elected set of executive. Little wonder it is called the greatest gbogbo.  The reinstatement of the Students’ Union body of the University in September 2019 gave us the full feel of that ambience of political frenzy. In case we have forgotten, here is what that excitement would have looked like, had we resumed to campus for this semester:

  • A period of fraternisation and unusually warm familiarity with strangers (especially persons with the intention of running for a post). This time would be when all rooms in all the halls of accommodation —irrespective of who the occupants are — get visitors with warm smiles and witty words, or otherwise.
  • The period of frenzy. This would usually be a time of active campaigns, solidarity marches, and public citation of propaganda. A time where blood runs high through tensioned and upbeat veins.
  • Then, there would be underground rumours; people on the different sides of a political divide trying as much as possible to discredit the other side (as it is in politics).
  • There would the period of manifestos. The period where to-be leaders reel out rehearsed and almost predictable documented promises to the student populace.
  • The time of the Press. This is arguably the most revered time in the process. It would usually be in a setting of campus journalists, with the sole aim of scrutinising the potential student leaders in the school.
  • Finally, the election would come, each time with different shades of drama, reactions and reservations.

Student Politics in the University of Ibadan Halls of Residence

Most halls of residence in the University of Ibadan operate a unicameral style of democracy: the executive body and the house of floor representatives. As expected, there are different executive posts to meet the demand of students that stay in the halls of residence. For instance, the halls has

  • Health Commissioner to cater for sanitation and general cleanliness of the respective halls of residence.
  • Social and Buttery Commissioner to cater for social events and hall parties.
  • The Public Relations Officer for communications and maintenance of the hall’s image in the public.
  • The Finance Commissioner, who is in charge of the accounts, the books and anything that has to do with the hall’s monetary affairs.
  • The Administrative Head of the hall executives.
  • The second-in-command to the Administrative Head, most times in charge of executive meetings.
  • The hall House Secretary in charge of hall maintenance.

This pattern is similar to almost all halls of residence across the University of Ibadan (though they may have different names).

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It is expected that the state of politics in the hall may not carry its usual pomp and pageantry due to the distance barrier.  There is the tendency that apathy will increase due to the virtual circumstances. It is also possible that there is decreased competition for political posts due to the ‘extra effort’ virtual administration may require.

However, the focus here is the evolution of our style of hall administration. How smoothly the hall politics would thrive depends on how easily we adapt to this paradigm shift.  To be able to properly evaluate that, these questions need urgent attention: how will the halls get funding when students won’t resume on campus? What would be the role of some erstwhile elected hall officials with the absence of the students in halls? What are some parts of the administrative budget that need to be revised? How does the executive council plan to be accountable to the students? What plans does the executive council have with regards to change in learning circumstances, especially when social gatherings are gradually becoming a myth? Is this end of the end of vibrant hall politics in the University of Ibadan?

While some of the questions may not have answers, they are like a reality check for us, to understand where we stand in the state of political affairs in the halls of residence.

Students Politics during a Virtual Semester: The Way Forward

With that, let’s get to the bigger picture — the Students’ Union government. For the school administration to successfully operate (considering the rights of the student body), the Students’ Union should be able to make a complete transition to virtual operation without breaking much of a sweat. Here are a few suggestions:

  • A re-aligning of the administration’s budgetary focus. The Students’ Union government should start by first recognising the limits as to preforming, because the budget was written with physical circumstances in mind. That being said, there should be a re-alignment of the focus of the budget with each section of the executive body. This should be done with accountability in mind. That is, it should be visible to the whole student body. For example, the amount of money meant to be directed at physical social events may be directed towards virtual ones and student welfare.
  • Furthermore, more like the above point, each section of the executive body should be transparent to the students with new goals (different from what we have in the manifestos) geared towards carrying students through the virtual semester.

The student body would have new needs, new challenges and new conditions to deal with. To be able to fully sync with those things, the Students’ Representative Council has to be up and doing in getting those needs to the executive body.

In conclusion, ease of adaptation is a criterion that is required for the continued existence of a living thing. If the student political body does not undergo the necessary changes, there may be a wane in interest, increased apathy and consequently death of political activities. That, dear students, is not what we want to happen. For that not to happen, we have to make sure all arms are in action to ensure a smooth operation in this virtual environment.

Aluta continua!

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