UI’SU And The Scramble For A Stronger Union

The incumbent University of Ibadan Students’ Union administration emerged at an acute time in the recent history of the Students’ Union. It arrived at a time when the President Ahmed Tinubu-led administration introduced a fuel subsidy removal, pioneered a students loan scheme initiative, and declared that the Government can no longer finance education. Unlike its predecessor, the student leadership was commissioned when issues of utmost concern to students were at the forefront of conversations.

The Samuel Samson Tobiloba-led administration of the Student Union has been focused on several emerging issues, none having a recent precedent, and all cutting across aspects of students’ life in the University.

The mantra of the current administration — ‘for a stronger union’, which centres on promises to address students welfare and strengthen a weakened union — is yet to manifest.

The cabinet is undoubtedly still trying to find its feet amidst grating concerns aired by the student populace.

On Intervarsity Solidarity

The remote scramble for a ‘stronger union’ began with silence from the Students’ Union in the face of an increment in tuition fees. The premier Union – despite being the first to be founded in Nigeria, and traceably the progenitor of the existing national, umbrella body called the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) – has notably lost touch with its ideological role of guiding the organization or inspiring it to defend public education and the general welfare of students in the country at large.

The current Union’s sullen stillness, which hasn’t distinguished it from the outgone Adewole Adeyinka’s administration, which had no public record of pioneering contributions or sharing achievement with the ideological national students’ movement, is appalling, much as it is believed that the Union has a national role to contribute, as it did in the past.

Severe moments such as this are the best for showing solidarity in the face of issues. It is possible that the UI’SU administration may disagree that it hasn’t been as still as it has appeared, given that self-conscious individuals would naturally disassociate themselves from the infamy with which NANS is associated.

Despite its shortcomings, however, the search for a stronger union will yield no results without the camaraderie of comrades-in-arms. It is through this that the movement can create a collective stance against anti-people policies, particularly those that affect student welfare.

Price Hikes and Muted Reactions

Also important are the price hikes that students have had to struggle with. First, there was an increment in intra-campus transportation rates to all destinations, including to short distances like Queen Elizabeth II Hall, Bookshop, Kunle Adepeju Memorial SUB, Tedder Hall seeing the rate hiked to a rounded and lopsided sum of one hundred naira.

This hike in fare, birthed by the current economic realities, has impacted the purchasing power of students. It has occasioned increases in the price of staples, wares and other basic supplies that are bought within the premises of the University. Here too, union’s presence has barely been felt. Today, both license and liberty have been unwittingly given to food dealers to determine and arbitrate their own operations.

That the current leadership of the University of Ibadan Students’ Union has ditched standardizing prices of must-have commodities, or presumably has removed out of consideration the need to normalize overbearing price tags is uneventful.

That the House Secretary, who is statutorily responsible for the general welfare of the Union has unacknowledged, and hasn’t remitted commitment in this direction is brooding and subpar, especially for a Students’ Union which in days gone by has had students represent the entire union on the Catering Services Management Board – a University Committee which considers primarily all matters relating to the feeding of students, in the same degree that it can regulate and supervise the operations of food dealers in the University.

The thin reflection of the union’s attempts to impact fees is another contentious matter. The bearing, stance or intellectual posture of the Students’ Union on these affiliated concerns – judging on the basis of all that exist as ’public relation’ on fee increment between the students union leaders and the body of the students’ community – has frankly turned defective in outcome.

An average UIte today has no firm belief in the reliability of the cluster of student leaders heading our Union, especially in light of these increments.

It can only be better imagined than agreed with, to think the Students’ Union did all it exhaustively could do on the issue of living arrangement of students on or off campus. Seeing as four weeks has passed since accommodation procedures began in the new session, the Union seems to have ignored its mandate to try its possible best to facilitate its seamlessness.

Also, the Union has turned a blind eye to providing her members with an environment that will assist each student in his or her education pursuit, even through securing off-campus accommodation quite near to the University campus, since the demand for hall accommodation currently far exceeds the number of available bed spaces.

This peculiar role although not a new initiative can be administered by the Lodgings Office to particularly help in securing safe apartments outside the University, protecting students from both the menace of unscrupulous individuals and house agents.

That each hall of residence sparsely has modest conveniences, such as physically attractive toilets, functioning showers, made-available beds and user-friendly kitchenettes should be a business of concern for the Union’s proactive intervention. Rather than protecting the rights of students to these facilities, following a 50% and 100% surge depending on if fresh or stale students are, which is needlessly discriminatory, students leaders at the Kunle Adepeju Memorial Building must begin to realize what the acceptable living conditions of the Union should be towards enhancing students’ social interest and rights to these facilities worth.

Also, the justification for utility fee which students largely do not grasp its exact purpose is another critical concern. Considering that a technology fee already exists, it was well in order for the Union to clarify the new charges. We are only left with the assumption that the fee will be used to cater to electricity, waste disposal, water and other overheads.

To worsen issues, an additional sum of #10,000 was added to the technology fee for fresh students. What the rationale for this is, we do not know, as the school’s new intakes are left to ask why they pay a different sum compared to returning students. One then wonders about the exact role of the Union in all these.

The Exigency of a Students’ Union General Meeting

The need for a formal meeting between the elected representatives of the students’ union and its class of members to ultimately discuss important matters or make uniform decisions is cardinal. A congress is the apex decision making organ of the University of Ibadan Students’ Union.

The most appropriate, rightful, harmless and democratic avenue for students to discuss, evaluate, reorientate, recommend, as well as make uniform decision(s) about their individual and collective welfare. This needed general meeting is the rarest avenue for students to discuss their concerns as students to the listening ears of the UI’SU leadership.

The infrequency of organizing congress, otherwise called the general meeting of the students’ union as provided in Article XIII of the UISU constitution, needs to be understood as the mainspring for the tight spot which students and their welfare have been subjected to.

A congress, which is the most appropriate, straight road to settle the Union’s common stance and to democratically resolve contentions regarding ultimate issues of concerns within the students’ community, is lacking but most certainly needed. Hopefully, the Samson Tobiloba administration can acquaint with what the students expect through this.

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