By: Akinmoyeje Timileyin Precious
On Tuesday, 17 December 2019, the student body witnessed the official introduction of a new set of crew members to man the vessel of campus unionism in UI. A few years prior to that, in a hiatus imposed by the powers that be, the rudder of this same vessel had been left to the indecisive hands of circumstances. Due to the above, the assumption of office by these individuals was considered to be timely and needed, to drive and effect necessary changes in student representation. In tandem with the needs of the students, the leader of the crew – Akeju Oluwasegun – was lifted to the podium of power on the basis of a set of promises and expectations. Of course, the Union has experienced the unexpected; fate played its game yet again by extending the period of service of these individuals. Now that the end is clearly in sight, accountability demands an appraisal of their leadership. How well did Akeju Oluwasegun meet his own standards and the student body’s expectations of him?
On His Own Standards – Revisiting The Integration Project of Akeju Oluwasegun
“Political promises are like marriage vows, they are made at the beginning of the relationship between a candidate and the voters, but they are quickly forgotten”
In the scuffle to secure the loyalty of the student voters, Akeju highlighted some goals as the focal point of his student leadership. While this is quite natural, let us check out if these promises – like the theatrics of Nigerian politics – were his way of dancing to the tune of the election period. What exactly were the plans and how far did he go with executing them?
Akeju Oluwasegun’s integration plans for the student body were centered on achieving the following;
- Student security: He did promise to restructure and consequently revamp the student-manned security framework on the university campus – the marshal system. In his words, “I shall design a Central Defense Marshall which shall involve all Defense Marshalls across the halls, strategic partnerships with Man-O-War and the University Security Unit on training”. He also assured us of working towards putting up strong security posts at St. Anne’s and Tech Road.
- Skill acquisition and development: The President promised to work towards equipping the student populace with in-demand digital, vocational and entrepreneurship skills. As an extra tip, there were promises of highly subsidized access to courses on e-learning platforms.
- Trade fair programmes: The student body was promised trade fair events that will draw considerable attention from outside UI. There was an indication of a proposed student union website and the inclusion of e-commerce community that allows UI access to trade.
- Talent shows: The president promised a localised talent hunt modeled after global talent shows like America’s Got Talent. The game plan here was to leverage partnership, publicity, and the student population.
- Inclusiveness of special persons: The President promised to lay the foundations for teaching sign language and facilitate the representation of special persons in major events in the university.
- Policy Advisory Committee – According to the Akeju Oluwasegun, this set of students is charged with school policy criticism and policy negotiation with the school management. Also according to him, this system is not to replace the Students Representative Council.
- A Public Complaints Commission – The student body was promised a commission set up to receive complaints from students on issues concerning harassment, exploitation, victimisation and other general complaints.
- Including the Alexander Brown Hall – In the words of Akeju Oluwasegun, “I will make sure that the Jaja Annex of ABH resumes work. I will also see that the 300-level students do not come down to UI for some courses.
The Expectations of The Student Body
The time frame before his assumption of power was particularly grim for the UI student body. Expectedly, the student body was curious as to what sort of leader the school can produce after the unfortunate turn of events for Ojo Aderemi. The students needed an individual that will re-ignite the fire of unionism in all sense of diplomacy, aluta, and unity. Before this administration, the student body could only accept the decision of the administration – whether humane or inhumane – because of the lack of representation.
During those dark days, the student needed a Messiah – preferably proactive and vocal. They needed someone that could revive the courage again in defiance to the fear imposed by the powers that be. Despite the disparity of opinions as to the approach, the student body needed a leader that would keep the management on their toes. Of course, Akeju Oluwasegun assumed power under a whole lot of pressure to represent the UI students well, to mediate between them and the school management, and to maintain his studentship.
The Akeju Oluwasegun We Got
The advent of a new leader with plans was supposed to propel the continual representation of the interests of the student populace: less arbitration, more negotiations, and overall ease in scholarship. However, the turn-out of events since then has not been exactly what the students expected. Of course, there were instances of successful negotiations. However, the success rate of these negotiations – when it comes to aligning with the interest of the students – appears to be on the low side. At this point, a highlight of some major instances and the response of the student union presidency to the situation should drive home the point.
An arbitrary increment in technology fee, the response of the union, and the aftermath decision
The beginning of the session came with a decision unanimously made by the senate body of the university to increase the technology fee. According to the school management, the amount of money was purposed to take care of the arising need for a virtual structure and accompanying inconsistencies. Quite expectedly, the union – through our leaders – put up a front to demand the reversal of such a decision. Subsequent reports however showed the passive agreement of the student leaders to this decision after pleading from the school management. In an article, published on the Union of Campus Journalists (UCJ) on the 16th of May, it could be drawn out that the student leaders under Akeju had agreed to the increment already. What then was the purpose of the front they put up?
Akeju, the accommodation fee saga and the agama congress
At the time of transition to physical resumption, the school management called out for students wishing to use the hostels for the full fee irrespective of the time factor. As expected, the students vehemently refused. The president of the Union called for a congress of student leaders, the Deputy Dean of Students, and the representative of the Oyo State Governor. However, the congress as spearheaded by the president could only nod in acceptance of the sweet speech of the Deputy Dean of Students. Is a congress meant to put the interest of the whole student populace first, is diplomacy a one-sided attempt at persuasion? Should the Students’ Union president not have attempted to make the management see reasons too on behalf of the students? Did the student body present logical conditions to oppose the increment in the price? One would wonder what difference is there between 90% and 100%, the former being the eventual arrangement. Battle won or battle lost?
Akeju, the GES textbook scene and the success of the student body
During the troubling times of examination, the university’s Centre for General Studies attempted to make the purchase of the GES textbooks compulsory. The students kicked against this decision, citing the proximity of the announcement to the exams and the case of the virtual semester. Optimistically, let the claim be made that the Union successfully called the decision in favor of the students. However, we should not be quick to forget that the response students got from the Union was, “let those who have the receipt go with it. Those who do not have should go too. If they are hindered from entering the exam hall, let them call us.” Assuring enough? Definitely not so!
It is true that the Akeju Oluwasegun-led administration succeeded in enforcing the consensus of the students on some matters like the GES textbooks, an extension of student hall time during the pre-pandemic days, among others. However, like before, the student populace was powerless in the face of major decisions that touched their finances.
ALSO READ: UI Students’ Union: Toothless Bulldogs?
Away from the negotiations, it is worthy of note that the Students’ Union (or more specifically, the Office of the President), did not account for the amount of money it received from the Students Representative Council during the first two months of its leadership. The fourth estate never forgets. We need to know the performance metrics put in place to evaluate the use of these amounts of money. What are the accountability measures? Why was there not an official statement of transparency to quell suspicions in this regard?
The Pandemic Happened
It would only be fair to all the parties to put all the variables into consideration in the course of this appraisal. The coronavirus pandemic paralysed all the structures of the world for a bit. As expected, the University of Ibadan, and by extension, the student body was also left at the mercy of the pandemic infection. Owing to all of these, it would be logical to cut the student body some slack as to the execution of certain plans. This grace also tickles down to Akeju. It would only be fair if he is granted the benefit of the doubt of possible execution under a different circumstance. For instance, the execution of projects like the trade fair programmes, a physical talent show (note the word physical), and the central defense systems among others may not be feasible in those conditions.
Where Are These Feasible Promises, Mr. Akeju Oluwasegun?
As promised by the President of the Union before the assumption of powers, should we still expect the formation (or at least, the frameworks) of promising structures like the Public Complaints Commission and the Policy Advisory Committee? What about the promise of including Alexander Brown Hall in your administration? Did the Students’ Union make any plans in tandem with these promises? Do we still await the trade fair programmes? All of these questions are important things the president of the union should revisit.
On further introspection, where are the plans for harnessing talents in the university community? What efforts did the current administration make in line with these plans? What efforts did the Students’ Union make to support the students that ventured into external talent shows? Was the Students’ Union even aware of this? What did the Akeju Oluwasegun-led administration do to support the likes of Inioluwa in the Voice Nigeria?
It is popular knowledge that university politics is a microcosm of the state of the national polity. Each stratum of the rotten structure knows how to blame the bigger dog, despite perpetrating the same crimes against accountability. This is a call on the Presidency to redeem itself, and it is likewise a deterrent to the incoming leaders to always factor feasibility, accountability and representation in their plans. It is best to leave this be with these messages
Dear incoming student leaders, the student body never forgets, the fourth estate never forgets. Be careful of your promises, be conscious of accountability.