By: Timilehin Precious Akinmoyeje
“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” — Rick Warren
A look into the political sphere at the University of Ibadan would reveal a recurring cycle; lofty plans, managerial interference, conflicts of interest, and failed promises. More often than not, student leaders – in all parts of the country – propose to do things and fail. However, in the case of UI, administrative failure (at the faculty level and at the level of the SU) could – either directly or indirectly – be traced to the same set of reasons. Due to this, is it not wise that the prospective leaders sit down, learn from history and do everything to avoid repeating mistakes?
There is the place for optimism, there is that of naiveté and then there is unavoidable reality. This article is an analysis of the root causes of administrative failure in the University. That is: dependent policymaking and the interference of the powers that be; a lack of orientation on administrative roles and role overlaps; and wrong ideas of what leadership entails. It is also a means of integrating aspiring student leaders with the realities surrounding our polity and decisionmaking. Finally, it is a call to reason, to preparation and to planning ahead.
NOTE: Administrative success in this case is a function of:
- How well student leaders can meet the expectations of the student populace and,
- What percentage of their campaign promises they are able to achieve.
ON DEPENDENT POLICYMAKING AND THE INTERFERENCE OF THE POWERS THAT BE
When it comes to power play in the University of Ibadan, we don’t need to go too deep down the history lane. Most students recognise this as a threat to political participation and the principles of independent student government. However, not many understand the depth of interference at play. Few examples are enough to knock this obvious truth into everyone’s consciousness. Here are some examples (to this effect) and their implications:
- The Sttudents’ Union Electoral Committee is not constituted of solely students. Not just that, it is headed by a stakeholder in the school management. The implications of that played out at the previous SU elections and also the one approaching. The choices of the students are limited by the constraints of the benchmark CGPA. Academic performances have found their way into being a criterion for judging leadership capabilities and delivery. Sure, no one is against the idea of supervision; in fact, it is very proactive to have a school stakeholder monitor the electoral committee. However, making decisions as weighty as that against student consensus is a foul against the very concept of independent electoral commission and governance.
- Furthermore, it is common knowledge that in a democratic government, the law is supposed to reign supreme. On that note, the activities of the Union are supposed to be subject to constitutional provisions. Technically, when major dictates of the constitution are flouted, it should trigger the legislature into action. The legislature is either supposed to keep the Students’ Union in check or review and amend the constitution, if the underlining situation is not excusable. That way, the integrity and the power of such constitution is kept sacrosanct. However, this is not the case in the UI Students’ Union. Some major parts of the Constitution, like the provisions for elections, the requirements and the time frame, no longer hold sway in the scheme of things. Why? The powers that be have spoken, and that is final.
- Still on the Constitution, the very essence of the SU Constitution mirrors a totally dependent polity. For instance, article 29 of the Constitution clearly spells out that any attempt to amend the Constitution requires the approval of the University Senate and the Dean of Students. Also, it was stated in the preliminary remarks that the students cannot carry out any form of demonstration without the approval of the Senate. So much for independent governing, right?
- Finally, recent examples like the #FreeMote and Ojo Aderemi saga and the relative passiveness of the Union when it comes to demanding for considerations are also obvious pointers to how well the authorities have tamed unionism on campus.
A LACK OF ORIENTATION ON ROLES AND ROLE OVERLAP
Many at times, while going through the proposed plans of different candidates at departments, faculties and the general union, there is a usual pattern of role overlap. This is due in part to the zero orientation of these prospective candidates on jurisdiction and roles. If an aspirant makes promises outside their proposed office’s constitutionally recognised jurisdiction, it is almost certain that there will be no delivery. On the same note, the provision of the constitution has created a lot of spaces for role overlap. One could almost argue for the irrelevance of certain official positions, since they don’t have any set aside function. A recent play out of this could be seen at the SU level.
When the general secretary was questioned about his promises to always make resolutions available, he specifically stated that it is outside his power to make that decision. He further clarified that publicity is outside his jurisdiction.
ON ZERO KNOWLEDGE OF THE ESSENCE OF LEADERSHIP
As far as everyone can tell, the political atmosphere of the University is a micro replica of that of the whole nation. In many instances, administrations fail from the greed of certain student stakeholders. Some get power drunk, some neglect the due process, forget the status quo, and divert funds and so on. These issues are found everywhere in our departments, faculties, halls, name it. Right from the outset, some see all the filtering process as just theatrics that they have to get involved in to taste power. Is that not the genesis of our nemesis in Nigeria?
DEAR PROSPECTIVE LEADERS, THINK BEFORE YOU SAY
“History is a big pool from which the wise draw wisdom”- Anonymous
It is a common thing to see candidates struggling to fix their reputation after an administration filled with unfulfilled promises. Many have made enemies of the fourth estate because of the constant demand for accountability. However, it doesn’t have to play out the same way again. If you are a prospective student leader, you should try as much as you can to answer these questions before pick up the form:
- Are these lofty ideas of mine, mine to carry out in the first place? Does my office allow me to act in this capacity? Do I understand the demands and restrictions of the positions I am vying for?
- How feasible are these plans after integration? Will they still be feasible (and relevant) when integrated with the plans of the other members of the executive body? Has UI SU ever pulled such financial weight?
- How experienced am I in diplomacy and leadership? If by chance, I am torn in-between the students and the authority, can I discuss my way through to the benefit of all? What stance does the school management take as regard these proposed projects? Am I ready to sacrifice time and energy?
If as a prospective leader, you doubt yourself in any of these areas, there are two ways to go about it. You could both work on yourself and steel your resolve, or, drop any attempts at representing the student populace.
As the electorate, voters could also try to gauge whoever they intend to vote for on these basis. At least, for the sake of the student populace, it is only right our sentiments are guided by the common good.
In the attempts at defending incompetence, many ask these questions: “do you think it is easy?” “Is he not a student?” “What about the school management?” “Do you not fear SDC?” All of these fears are undeniably substantial. However, instead of taking up the mantle and cowering later, why not come to terms with these realities and make the best out of them? As far as UI politics is concerned, we cannot continue to play to the gallery if we want to make progress. Aluta Continua!