By: Utibe Emmanuel
On Saturday, 17th of December 2023, right when most of the other students were hurriedly making their way home for Christmas, the University of Ibadan Students’ representative council held a meeting on student welfarism, having heard the cries of students that the union had not yet done satisfactorily enough for seeing to students’ welfare. In that meeting, many deliberations were made even as the meeting had in attendance student leaders from different echelons of the UI student community and then the resolutions were made and passed as reported by Indy Press.
It is now Saturday, 14th of January 2024, nearly a month after, and in most places, the things that necessitated the meeting remain status quo. About two weeks into the Semester already and we are yet to see any moves by the union toward releasing a price list as the House Secretary promised would happen, the transport issue still largely remains the same, and, worst of all, ridiculous charges on transfers are still collected by vendors from students when they make any transactions. In light of this, no notice has been printed and pasted on shops and almost no local task force is coming to save the situation in most halls. It begs the question, “Where are the local task forces?”
The Background Story
Immediately they assumed office, the current officials of the UI’SU were faced with several challenges. As time went on, the most important among them emerged to be the issue of possible school fee increases and then later it was the introduction of some additional fees when the school management failed in its bid to get an increased school fee approved at the Ministry of Education.
While all this was going on, it seemed that the serial meetings that the union officials were holding diverted their attention from things that constituted basic student welfarism. This was to the extent that, transporters charge exorbitant fees from students under the cloak of the incessant increases in fuel price. Vendors were not excluded from this cashout as prices were arbitrarily raised on commodities under the guise of “No be us, na so the country be. For market everything don dey cost now.” To the eyes of the observant, by the time the union could wake up to all these things, rice vendors, with neither prior discussion with the union nor notice to the students, had decided that a scoop of rice would now cost N200.
The union tried to fight back on this and after the standoff with the vendors, a nice compromise was reached. All seemed settled until a vendor based in Lord Tedder Hall decided yet again to increase food prices. Furthermore, it was more agitating as the said vendor was reported to impose a draconian charge of N50 on cashless transactions. This also brought to light how much students had so far been made to endure.
Where are the Others?
So far, a ready question that comes to mind is what were other student leaders with elective mandates doing? Were the Council of Hall Chairpersons and the Council of Faculty Presidents sleeping through all of these?
It would be dishonest and wicked if we said the Council of Hall Chairpersons and the Council of Faculty Presidents were having a good nap through all of these as they too were making their efforts to tackle the situation. As shown in their respective report given at the last SU congress and also at the said UI’SRC meeting, they too had been making efforts to address several of these issues most especially those that hit closer to home like the issues of commodities pricing and also charges on transfers. Even so, the meeting by the UI’SRC organized to discuss students’ welfarism was partly due to the strong letter written by SRC members and the threat of self-help by members of the constituency said SRC members were affiliated with.
After the meeting was held, the Union decided to, among other things, decentralize the enforcement approach towards these issues, and approval was given for the creation of local taskforces in all halls and faculties to ensure compliance of vendors with approved practices, yet the issues remain.
Whither Task Force?
This right here is the issue currently, “where is the task force?”, the noble idea so lauded at the SRC meeting to be the best cure for flaccid enforcement since Viagra. This remains the question to be asked.
In the meeting that led to their creation, it was noted that so far there has been a lack of synergy between the Union and the hall and faculty leaders. Part of the resolution of the said meeting was that there should be synergy between relevant leaders at all levels, with actions taken by the House Secretary to ensure that it happened. These included interactions with Buttery Ministers in the halls.
The meeting was held at the end of the first semester and now about a month later, two weeks into the second semester, the task forces for many halls and faculties are yet to receive life. This is a very deplorable situation and all parties concerned should fix up.
This issue also seems to stem from the fact that several persons who hold leadership positions at the “sub-union” level still have little or no regard for the union, holding sentiments that Union executives are on a course of their own. This was seen in the refusal of the leadership of a Hall of Residence to mobilize students for the congress because a letter had not been written specifically to their person on the matter. Also, it’s a common sight to see so-called leaders dividing the ranks and speaking against the Union’s position. It must be noted that this should not be the case as no matter where we find ourselves in the University of Ibadan, being students, they are part and parcel of the union. As Kunle Adebajo, a celebrated journalist, once said in 2015, “We can be Mellanbists or Zikists all we want… In a nutshell, we must first be unionists before we are hall-lodgers – for one is by choice while the other is perforce.”
Moving forward, we have to laud the efforts that halls like Zik and Mellanby have made towards the issue of price control in their respective halls through efforts to develop price lists for commodities and setting up a body to ensure compliance with it. Those who have not started or are still upcoming should do better. It’s also telling that when the meeting was initially called, Mellanby and Zik were one of the few halls in attendance, implying disinterest on the part of others in students’ general welfare. It begs the question, “Are Katangites, Awoites, Idiates, Techites, Educationists and all others not troubled by the issue of prices of commodities and charges on transfers? Why then are the leaders in these places so far unwilling to act on the union’s resolutions?” Time will tell where the priorities of leaders in these places truly lie. They must remember that there isn’t much of it.