By: Abdulrahman Adebayo
Favour*, 20, lives at Agbowo, the student-dominated community adjacent to the University of Ibadan. It was a Monday morning and her first lecture for the day starts in five minutes – technically, this also means she is five minutes away from missing that morning’s lecture because it’s one of those classes you can’t walk into once the lecturer starts teaching.
As she checked her wrist to reconfirm how many minutes she had left, she raised her second hand to slightly shield her head from the scorching effect of the sun. She was running out of time, the sun was not smiling, yet the long queue at the park that morning was barely moving.
“What annoyed me most was that I left home early and I got to the park around 9:40 (am),” she said as she recalled that morning’s experience to this reporter. Favour finally found her way to the first space on the queue almost 20 minutes later. But by the time she got to her faculty, it was already too late and she had to skip that morning’s class.
Favour’s story is not an isolated case; rather it represents a portal into the lived experience of thousands of UI students who stay off-campus but have to struggle with the long queues at the park in the early hours of the weekdays, creating an extra and avoidable hurdle.
But they are not alone as those that live on campus also have their fair share of experience. One of those in this bracket is Tayo*, a resident of Obafemi Awolowo hall who likened the hurdle to find a cab or tricycle from her hall of residence to her Faculty to “an endless pursuit.”
But things could have been different for students like Favour who stay off campus and others like Tayo who reside in the various Hall of residence if the House Secretary of the University of Ibadan Students’ Union, Mathew Jesugbemi, had effectively fulfilled the promise he made to students in his manifesto.
While running for office in 2021, Jesugbemi acknowledged that “the limited number of vehicles transporting students on campus has contributed to the ill welfare (sic) of students on campus.” So to solve this, he promised to work towards “…provision of more tricycles and cabs on campus.”
Perhaps more precisely, he promised to work with the school management to address the unique context of the transport crisis faced by students who reside at Obafemi Awolowo, Queen Idia, and Abubakar Abdulsalam halls through the “creation of a mini car park at Awo/Idia/Abdulsalam axis for easy transportation of our students residing there.”
Several months after his election in 2021, the problems he acknowledged persist.
“It’s unacceptable,” Tayo said when this reporter shared a copy of the House Secretary’s manifesto with her. “What this shows is that these guys know the problem and how to solve it but they just refuse to be effective once they win their elections.”
Echoing Tayo’s frustration, Favour noted that what she found distressing is that students generally have found a way to accept this extra stress as a norm. “It’s like everyone just feels the wahala is a normal thing. That’s why people barely talk about it even though they bear the brunt just like me.”
When contacted, the House Secretary explained that his office has made deliberate efforts to make things better. “We have to go back to memory lane. First off, the issue of transportation is not directly under the Students Union. There’s a committee in charge of that and we have student representatives there and I am also among them,” the House Secretary explained to this reporter on a Friday evening.
He noted that his office has “pushed for an increase in the numbers of cabs and Kekes on campus. Last December, we were able to reduce the number of people (drivers) they send out to ensure it’s not as much as it used to be and then they take more people in, and among our students, they were able to retain some.” However, he acknowledged that things could be better.
To achieve this, he explained that his office is working on multiple initiatives. The first is to get Students’ Union tricycles which would ease the burden of transportation on campus. “Aside from this, we have also fought to make sure our students are not extorted and transporters don’t dictate where they want to go because it’s part of the reasons why you will see people in the queue. Our committee is working effortlessly with the transport committee of the SRC.”
“We are using this opportunity to call on students with better ideas to come forward. When we met the ICT chairman, he said it’s sometimes because of change. He was proposing that if our students can come up with a plan like any technical idea that can ease the burden of change,” he added.
Speaking on the new park he promised, Jesugbemi explained that his administration has also taken valid steps. “The University has a layout and when we were contesting some of us didn’t know this because there are rules, bureaucracies, and processes you have to follow. Of course, when we got into office, we reached out to the appropriate quarters and I can say a park has now been approved and what we are looking for now is sponsors,” he said.
This reporter also independently confirmed from the office of the Dean of Students Affairs, Prof. Abiona Adekeye, that just as the House Secretary claimed, a new park has been approved to ease transportation at the Awo hall axis.
Meanwhile, aside from his promise to improve transportation, in his manifesto, the House Secretary also acknowledged that “the state of the Student Union buses is nothing to write home about.”
This problem is evident to all students of the institutions and explains why the Union, including its representatives for external competitions, have to settle for inconvenient public buses to transport them when necessary.
To address this, Jesugbemi promised to “ensure the repair and proper maintenance of the vehicles.” He also promised to work towards getting a new bus for the union through ‘sponsorship’. However, at the time of filing this report, this promise appears to exist on paper as neither the old bus is motorable nor is a new one parked anywhere near the Kunle Adepeju building.
But the House Secretary explained that his office is not resting on its oars to fulfill this promise. “When we started this administration, the old bus was taken to a mechanic workshop for assessment and when the man ran a thorough check, they discovered that the engine was spoilt and we still have not received funds from the school. The advice is that we get a new engine which will cost over a million naira.
“However, while we are still waiting for the school to give us that, we have stepped out and reached out to the governor and he has promised us a new bus. It has not been delivered due to the election and all. He is giving buses to all tertiary institutions in the state and UI is included and before the end of our administration, we would get the new bus.”
Editor’s Note: Some names in this story have been changed to protect the identities of our sources.