Manifesto Vs Reality (ii): Appraising Welfare, Management and Press Freedom in the Mascot-led Students’ Union

By: Lord Whistledown

The prequel appraised and established verdicts on the state of security and Healthcare under the Mascot-led student Union executive council. This part takes the evaluation a bit further. It will discuss the other half of the manifesto; it will also extend the appraisal to address contingent projects and matters that concern student engagement in the last two semesters. 

On Support and Inclusivity: Mascot’s encompassing web of Student Welfarism

Inclusivity is a pivotal talking point in the 21st-century political landscape, and Mascot’s manifesto was not short of promises in this regard. In his Manifesto, Mascot promised to support special students in the University community and include students from Alexander Brown Hall in administration and execution. Although the exact manner of support was not made clear in either case, conversations with stakeholders in both contexts reveal that the President may have – to a certain extent – delivered on inclusion. For instance, Bolu, the president of the Special Needs Students Association, told Indy Press in an interview that he and the Students’ Union President have been working together on the official registration of the Special Needs Club at the University of Ibadan. According to him, the President of the Union has done a lot of work by negotiating for the official acknowledgment of the club, through meetings and negotiations with the Student Affairs Commission. According to him, the only thing delaying the resuscitation of the club is the financial obligation the club is expected to make. 

“The Union has been trying, and what we are working on should be a success very soon. Inasmuch as the Union is taking care of the welfare of everyone on Campus, it spans through the special needs people too. However, I believe there is a need to be more intentional. Work is still ongoing and it has not been completed” Bolu explained further. 

Speaking on inclusion for special needs people, Mascot also alluded to the consistent meetings towards the resuscitation of the special needs club. “Their Union has not been in existence for years now, and the only thing delaying the registration of the club is #10,000. I got to know this through my consultations and I have been working on it through meetings with the Students Affairs Commission. I even personally paid the tuition fee of two special needs students last year” Mascot elaborated. 

Mascot also extended his plans for inclusivity to the Alexander Brown Hall, and students in the Faculty of Clinical Sciences and Dentistry. Originally, the nature and requirements of their programs alienates them from the student body. This alienation is considerably intensified by the distance between the University Teaching Hospital and the main campus of the University.  Mascot – recognizing this as an important issue – promised to “deliberately include the Alexander Brown Hall”. Speaking on inclusion and the Students Union, the Chairperson of Alexander Brown Hall, Salami David, testified to how accessible and helpful the Student Union has been during this session.  “We have been able to get a few maintenance things done, for instance, through the office of the Student Union. The feeling of being involved has been more compared to other tenures; whenever there are any issues, the union has been available. Things can get a lot better though, but I believe there has been a lot of improvements ‘ David expatiate. 

On a different note, a subsection of Mascot’s appeals to the primary purpose of convergence on the University campus – academics. For one, he promised to introduce project writing, research, and data analysis training to students, especially those in their Final year. The President acknowledged the execution of this plan to the press and further explained that such had been held more than once. In a conversation with Indy Press, Omoyemi, from the Faculty of Basic medical sciences, confirmed that he saw the flier for research writing training, and he knows a few friends that attended. Tade, another student in the Faculty of Arts, corroborated these claims. She explained that she participated in a virtual project writing training, just to learn about the referencing style peculiar to the University of Ibadan. 

Finally, Mascot support plans reserved a special corner for Indigent Students of the University. In his Manifesto, he promised to kickstart and create a trust fund that caters to indigent students in the University. His comments on the Trust fund suggested that it currently sponsors the student work-study scheme. “Apart from us doing the bursary, some students are being taken care of. That is the trust fund we now use for work and study.” He explained. He attributed the inability of the Union to maximize the trust fund to the absence of proper documentation – especially in the previous administration – and bureaucracy.  

Mascot’s Transportation Plans

As at the time Mascot assumed office, the University was just acclimatizing to the new transport policy that proscribed motorcycles and replaced them with tricycles. To a considerable extent, the vehicles – which were less than 100 at the time – could not cater to the transport demand at the University. To improve the transport situation, the Students Union president promised to Call for an increase in the available number of Tricycles. 

Speaking to Indy Press about this, the president alluded to his involvement in the University transport committee as part of the trigger for the significant increase in the number of tricycles on campus. He estimated the current number to be about 140 in total. He also stated that due to the Union’s involvement, there have been efforts at making transport accessible to students in the extremities of the University Campus. “Another park is being placed at the Junction between Idia, Awo and Tech duly sponsored by people I would not like to disclose” He concluded.

Contingent Capital Projects Executed by the Union Under Mascot

Regardless of the depth of an office holder’s homework prior to assuming office, their manifestos may sometimes not cut it enough to cover all important projects. Oversights are bound to always happen, and Mascot – despite how comprehensive his manifesto was – was not an exception. However, the Indy Press organization has been able to identify some contingency projects courtesy of partnerships between the Students’ Union, the School Management, and organizations willing to contribute to the University,  as part of their corporate social responsibility.

Under Mascot’s administration, the auxiliary bridge – the one in a pew serenaded by trees – connecting the Faculty of Agriculture to the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Public Health has been renovated. Also, after many years, the Students’ Union building now has a water supply. In the same vein, the partnership between the Student Union, Coca-cola, SWEEP, Recycledge, and the Junior Chamber International also produced the Green Campus project, evidenced by the green receptacles distributed around Halls and Faculties on Campus, and the Green tricycles on frequent clean campus patrols. 

Other contingent capital projects include the proposed tricycle park at the T junction that intersects the Queen Idia Hall, the Faculty of Technology, and the Road to the Awo Stadium. Finally, there is the Tecno Sit-out project at the Student Union Building, almost opposite the Volleyball courts, just at the center of the school. 

Speaking on Contingent projects, Mascot explained that the partnership with Coca-cola and other organizations was part of his effort at curbing transport inadequacies and ensuring sustainability at the same time. “I promised that I was going to buy more tricycles in this administration. The House approved it already but there was no money in the Union’s account. When the money was released, the prices for the tricycles had increased. Maruwa was already around 1.5 million naira. So we presented a proposal that is a win-win partnership. We did not request for money, but we requested for capital projects worthy of note” He elaborated. 

Conduct, Communication, and Press Freedom Under the Mascot Administration

Public perception and conduct are arguably as important as effectiveness in public administration. Given this premise, It is important to point to the almost palpable absence of effective communication – either through the office of the Public Relations Officer or the Fourth Estate. It is plausible to make a case for the President regarding the ineffectiveness of the Union’s publicity mechanism. The office is (literally)outside his alley and in no way among his constitutional duties. 

However, one would expect that a collaboration with the Fourth Estate will make up for the absent public presence of the Union, but more often than not, the reverse has been the case. For one, regardless of the width of information student journalists may be exposed to, there is only so much they can gather without direct input from those at the helm of affairs. This is especially true for delicate situations; the best option available, given the lack of information from an authority, is to draw conclusions from these questions and interviews. That – considering due process – is why journalists ask questions and conduct interviews.

Not only have there been radio silence from most of the members of the executive body –upon interview requests –about projects, promises, and even less pertinent subjects of discussion, there have been frequent cases of harassment, cyber-bullying, and threats targeted at student journalists when they attempt to make reports. For instance, aside from the Interview with Mascot, most members of the executive body have refused to grant interviews, citing business or unwillingness as excuses. 

More often than not, political officeholders – including the President and some members of the executive council – have thrown subliminals and threats at the Fourth Estate, due to unsubstantiated perceptions of enmity.  The general attitude towards interviews, the public conduct against Journalists, and the instances of online harassment all suggest a bone of contention against Press freedom.

When Indy Press asked the president about the perceived bone of contention, his response was that “the press does not ask questions ‘. On the broader issue of subliminals, cyber harassment, and unresponsive cabinet members, he alluded to individual personal differences, social predispositions, and the conduct of pressmen as the basis for these actions.

And in Conclusion 

Speaking on the legacy of his administration, Mascot emphasized sustainability and feasibility as major things he wants the Students to remember. He also explained his administration intends to leave the legacy of an economic union and a union beneficial to all members. 

In truth, the reality does not seem too far from his. Barring very few gray areas, Mascot’s presidency – inferring from his Manifesto, the interviews, and the evidence of execution – has been effective. His Manifesto is not only comprehensive, but he has also demonstrated a certain meticulousness for execution and a concern for sustainability. 

However, the bane of a democratic society is clamping down on Press freedom, an absence of communication, and media illiteracy. The administration has demonstrated a major shortcoming in communication, publicity, crisis management and press freedom, especially in the past few months. Obvious instances include the controversial letter written to the Oyo State government earlier in the session; the financial scandal that involved the Public Relations Officer, and finally, the partisan declaration by the president during the heat of the campaign towards the 2023 Presidential election. 

For subsequent administrations, it is important for continuity and the health of the Union, that the leader’s plans are as comprehensive, and that they are as experienced and meticulous. It is, however, also pertinent that such leaders take lessons from this administration and devise a better, more encouraging strategy for communications, media engagements, and crisis management. Aluta Continua!!!

Leave a Comment