John ‘Dare Okafor
Photo Credit: Edugist
The UI Students’ Union, which was proscribed by the then Vice-chancellor, Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka, was reinstated during the 2018/2019 academic session by the same Vice-Chancellor. On the 17th of December 2019, a new set of Union executives was inaugurated after an election which seemed like a gradual reawakening of the political consciousness in the university community. The service time of this present administration, led by Olusegun Akeju, was supposed to be the shortest, as the initial plan was that they would serve for just six months and then a new set of executives would be sworn in.
As Covid-19 and ASUU strike would have it, six months have turned to a year and four months, with the Akeju-led tenure expected to spend two years in office. Regardless of the setbacks, administrative actions were still being seen carried out by the Union. Notably during the pandemic-cum-ASUU-strike period, the UI Students’ Union were able to procure palliatives for stranded UItes through the office of the Special Adviser to Oyo State governor, orgainse 25 days’ campaign against rape, create a Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee, protest against the death of Richard Gbadebo, and partner with Jobberman on soft skills training for UItes.
The Union indeed did this much. Nonetheless, it is necessary to note that one of the primary functions of the Union is to stand as representatives for students during decision-making processes in the school, especially for student-related decisions. This then leads to the lingering question of how effectively the UI Students’ Union has represented UItes. What has been the success rate of their representation so far?
Amidst the euphoria at the news of the Students’ Union being reinstated, there were speculations as to the Union returning as a toothless bulldog or acting as a puppet in a scripted drama by the management. Those speculations are no longer abstracts; they have gradually manifested into reality, as prophesied by unordained political prophets. The UI Students’ Union has now been reduced to a body that only releases statements to show their displeasure against issues affecting students without any record of success following their actions. Reliability on the Union in the world of UItes is now a foreign language, as the Union has disappointed in situations where they promised a problem will be solved.
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The recent case is the Union’s failure in successfully having a dialogue with the University management on the reduction of increased fees. It was quite evident that after the emergency meeting which was held on the 18th of January 2020, the Union would push no further on that stance, as the acting VC, Prof Ekanola, pleaded with students to accept these new levies. This singular event dampened the hopes of the average UIte in the Union actively representing their interests, as agitations have been reduced to graphic designs and hashtags.
Towards the beginning of this virtual semester, at the emergency meeting of 18th of January with student leaders on campus, the UI Students’ Union president, Olusegun Akeju, said that the Union was working to subsidise data costs for students, as they were already in talks with Globacom Nigeria, to provide 1GB of data for as low as 300 naira. This week will make it the ninth week of this virtual semester; the Union is yet to keep to her words. They have yet to release any statement in that regards, even as the cost of data hangs heavy on the neck of UItes.
It’s quite understandable that the proscription of the Union in 2017 may be the reason why the present administration have been cautiously treading on water in their dealings with the school management, hence, the careful choice of strategies. Should we continue to do the same thing the same way, while expecting a different result? Or, are we not expecting a different result? Is it that we have a limited number of strategies in our arsenal? In his book titled The Art of War, Sun Tzu stated that, “strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” It is imperative that the Union come to the consciousness of a need for a change, both in terms of strategy and tactics, apart from dialogue. With a reconsideration of strategies and a weighing of options, we can be assured of a more effective Union that will relay our grievances to the management appropriately and in a solution-driving manner, even as actions are taken to follow them up.