The Students’ Union: Of Consistent Inconsistencies

The new University of Ibadan Students’ Union came into office with a basket full of promises- like their predecessors. All of these were said to be geared towards making life better for all students of the institution.

It is also important to note that this particular set of student leaders have emerged at a time when the university and even the nation are undergoing some serious changes. The universities’ curriculum in some parts is experiencing a change; school fees have hit a rooftop high; and the government is still struggling to grapple with the changes it has made since assuming office.

Because of some of these changes, the SU executives have had a lot to do this session. For example, they were in constant communication with the university management when the issue of fees came up. Albeit the fees were eventually hiked, it was to somewhat a reasonable extent. However, they have yet to solve the problem of the newly introduced faculty fees.

Well, the issues with fees and the school management are by the side. The main crux of this matter concerns the union and its activities. This session, the Students’ Union have set out many plans, and most of them have already started being rolled out. Still, it is important to take a microscopic look at some of these activities, especially after some of the recent events. One big problem that has plagued this union is its poor planning. For most of the events that have held, there have been major mistakes.

Kudos to the union for organising a freshers’ welcome in the opening weeks of the semester, but the events were not totally tailored to meet the schedule of the target audience — the freshmen. While some activities were going on, most freshers were still in the classes. Of course, everyone’s primary purpose in the university is their academics, so it may be foolhardy to forsake that for social events.

Also, the Freshers’ pageantry contest started late and dragged way past 10PM, which is the official time for female hostels to lock their gates. Some of the ladies that attended the event had to wait for the SU excos to escort them to their halls of residence before they were allowed in.

SEALS Cup Miskick

This session, there seems to be a great level of zeal by the union to ensure that they carry out most of their campaign promises, mostly in the first semester, which is a good thing. While the sports secretary deserves some accolades for setting up the competition this semester, there have been some major issues with the competition, most of which are basic and could be avoided.

Most of the games in this year’s SEALS Cup have not kicked at the allotted time. Most games have kicked off at least 30 minutes later, and none of the erring teams have been punished.

Also, despite how brilliant the on-field activities have been well reported, some boardroom decisions have put the organisers in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. A case in point was the game between MBBS and Microbiology. Allegedly, the Microbiology representatives had already communicated to the organisers that they would be unavailable for the fixture, but the organisers allegedly failed to inform the MBBS team. And that was the major reason for the misunderstanding that occurred.

Well, that goof was eventually settled and MBBS eventually triumphed and moved on to the next round after beating Microbiology via a penalty shootout.

However, last Friday’s mistake was costly and put the competition into disrepute. In the quarterfinal fixtures MBBS Vs IPE and Philosophy Vs Chemistry, instead of the referees that were used in the group stage, the organisers opted to use new student referees. Unfortunately, that decision backfired.

In the first quarterfinal game between Chemistry and Philosophy, the first half was less than the usual 30 minutes, and it it caused some serious rancor before the problem was eventually settled. However, that was just a tip of what was coming, as the second game between MBBS and Industrial Production Engineering (IPE) had more fireworks.

The game had to be ended abruptly because of crowd violence as the IPE fans encroached into the pitch in protest of some of the calls by the referee. The official eventually got a slap from one of the spectators.

The decision to use student referees in the quarterfinal after using professionals in the earlier rounds has a big question mark all over it because the 32 participating teams paid 15,000 each, amounting to 480,000 and an expectation of optimal treatment through the competition. While referees may not always be completely right, a certain level of accuracy is expected.

However, the referees that took charge of the MBBS vs IPE game fell short by a mile.
The issue of welfare is even more shambolic. During the Freshers’ Cup that took place earlier in the semester, minimal attention was paid to the welfare of the participants. Little or no provision was made for first aid or water at the least. And now with the SEALS Cup, nothing has changed. Despite paying 15,000, there has been no provision for water, or first aid. A lot of players have sustained injuries, and there has hardly been any arrangement for them.

Instead, the players and their teams are left with the burden of moving themselves to the school’s healthcare facility. The absurdity in all if these is that the SEALS Cup is an SU competition, and this should mean that the welfare of the students involved in the games would be paramount.

A Spiritless Congress

The SU held a physical Congress for the first time in three years in what is a big plus for the current administration. The need for the congress stemmed from the current issues affecting students-school fees hike, introduction of new levies, and the general hike in cost of food and other commodities in the University environment. However, it seemed like the Congress was forced upon them. Ideally, the SU is supposed to champion the congress because it is the best avenue for all the students to air their thoughts and grievances, but it was not so.

The list of signatories for the congress was submitted in August, but the Host-led Union took until almost two months before announcing a congress. This was after a lot of pressure by individuals and Press articles trying to call the union to order.

Their excuse was that they needed to reach out to all the signatories to confirm that they were not fake.

Eventually, when the union decided to call the congress, they went about it in a lackadaisical manner. The publicity and awareness left a bitter taste in one’s mouth, and it seemed they were doing something they were forced to do.

It showed in the end, the minimum of 500 people that needed to be present was not reached, and they had to also stream the congress live to reach the minimum number of 500 attendees. Also, some of the conclusions were inconclusive, and it took the union days before the resolutions from the congress was sent out.

Their actions throughout the entire process gave off the impression that the UISU was perhaps not interested in listening to UI students and their issues, and that goes against everything that an SU should stand for.

Nonetheless, despite some of their early mistakes, it is safe to say that it is still early days. There may be a need to return to the drawing board, rejig some of their strategies, and liaise with the appropriate school staff to ensure that their plans are watertight. While the PRO has been decent, he still has more to do in terms of timely information dissemination.

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