UI’SU: A Town Hall, Different?

The Thursday, February 17 town hall meeting was not the first of its kind in the recent history of the Students’ Union. It might not be the last. But, in a bid to provide an answer to the uncomfortable question if it was the adequate answer to the inadequacies posed against students’ welfare at the University of Ibadan, an assessment of the Union’s current state is necessary. In this article, we shall be addressing the backdrop to the town hall, and ultimately reconcile what it was and the spate of students’ welfare.


The idea of the town hall was first voiced by an ‘honorable member’ on the floor of the Students’ Representative Council during a plenary sitting in October, first semester of the 2023/2024 academic session. The suggestion came in following the knowledge of and debate on a letter calling for congress by the Students’ Union, duly signed by over three hundred UI students, was submitted and received by the two arms of the Students’ Union. It occurred that in a bid to avoid a congress, at the sitting of the council which preceded the congress of October 14, a motion bidding for a town hall was successfully moved, because it was considered fine-drawn subtle, passable, and an easygoing way of addressing all strands of concern begrudging the University of Ibadan student community, than a congress. The Congress was eventually made possible in due course as a result of a petition sent by some students to both internal and external institutions, with the clause of a protest at the University of Ibadan Students’ Union building. This explanation is necessary for context. It is also to oppose assertions that the town hall meeting was an idea that was neither tabled nor agreed to at the SRC.

Without pretense, it also needs to be remembered that the earlier scheduled town hall meeting, which had been announced by the Students’ Union to hold on Friday, November 10, 2023 by 4:00 pm, was pushed to February 17, 2024 — three months after.  Such deferral of date for whatsoever reason should not have taken three long months before rescheduling, if and only if student welfare was a priority. Note that the rationale behind the town hall was so that questions and lamentations of students could be listened to.

The Town Hall is not a Bargaining Chip

It is often said that there are three C’s of Aluta. Three ways of channeling students’ concerns. They are through consultation, consolidation, and confrontation or demonstration. These channels for the Students’ Union are charted waters through which it has historically projected her concerns. These formats are provided to democratize the Students’ Union, and all other kinds of pressure groups, in fulfillment of its objectives. In between her members’ interests and the second party with whom reconciliation on a bone of contention has to occur, it is expected that a Union understands that its tacit responsibility must be to maximize the C’s for the common good. Was the ‘town hall’ an adequate answer to the inadequacies posed against students’ welfare at the University of Ibadan?

In resolving students’ grievances, it must be understood that the Students’ Union constitution is not silent about how. The constitution, among other ways, suggested a Congress as the apex arm of the Union. It emphatically noted that the Congress decision on any matter is final. By what is implied than explicit, the Constitution recognizes decision making, the democracy of thoughts through the Congress, as its biggest bargaining currency. In practice, the Students’ Union as a timeless idea must be able to democratize its needs through the C’s. Through the Congress, and it only, in accordance with the University of Ibadan Students’ Union constitution and its core objectives, can students’ aggregate interest be represented. Not through town hall meetings that only allows for dialogue. While the Congress is the only way to aggregate and pursue core student interests, a town hall is not, but can rather be an indictment on the Students’ Union leadership, which has been inadequate in leadership and representation.

For one, the unhealthiness of a town hall meeting, as a way to address students’ concerns, played out at Thursday’s meeting. The meeting commenced with a warning that no student in attendance should record events. As a matter of fact, in a public institution like ours, basic pieces of information should be basic, and not outright denied. If it occurs that a misrepresentation of the discussion at the town hall was presented afterward, there are indeed specific ways to address that. With no doubt that there can be malicious mishandling of the bilateral dialogues at the town hall, the balance of the meeting must not be misplaced.

Also, the meeting’s unhealthiness is characterized by many unasked and unanswered questions raised by students. While time can be excused as a reason to treat questions thinly, it is a reason to embrace congress as particularly suggested by the Union’s constitution as a better, democratic and organized way to address questions or concerns of the student community. This does not cancel the place of partnership that should ensue between the Students’ Union as a body and the University management as key administrators. That room for synergy should however not be a substitute for the democratic representation of students’ interest.

On the Major Issues Raised at the Town Hall

Certain concerns were raised at the town hall meeting which demands evaluation. These issues range from the spike in transportation, to the erratic supply of electricity and by implication water, waste or composite issue, laboratory fees, underwhelming treatment of Faculty of Education students, and duplicated fees. Some of these issues, considerably so, are supposed to be otherwise channeled directly as a Union to the Government.

Erratic Supply of Electricity and Water

“We are planning to migrate from IBEDC. About two weeks ago, we were with the Minister of Power working on providing electricity” – Professor Kayode Adebowale.

It should be understood without much ado that some concerns are way out of the University’s arms. They are more likely to be resolved through the instrumentality of the Federal Government itself. The deplorable state of electricity on campus, with consequences on students’ academics and general welfare is of no doubt a dire concern. The use of electricity in the University cannot be overemphasized; the absence of which a redress must be sought, but rightly. The problem of distribution of electricity cannot be delinked from the root problem of generating electricity in the country. Nigerians share an insufficient supply of 3,500 megawatts load off-take from the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI). The solutions being such that they cannot be independently supplied by the university, further leaving the bulk of the issue to the Government with the social responsibility and authoritative will to execute. Thus, attempts by the union to secure better delivery of power is most likely to be better resolved when the root cause, at a national level, also is.

While the management at the town hall had promised to ensure that the University is made a priority, with efforts also in motion to see that both Awba and Eleyele Dams serve the University community, the need to revamp the electricity sector remains important. The Students’ Union should begin to consider off-campus students, who are disadvantaged by the shortage of accommodation outlets on campus, and how electricity supply can be worked to serve them better. It should not sit back with a dampened thought that the solution to epileptic supply of electricity will miraculously happen without a radical call for one. While the management have appreciably made efforts by addressing the Minister of Power, the Union has a duty to consolidate that very effort. The union, recognised also as a means for projecting national interests, shares the responsibility of calling out the Nigerian power sector.

The Unsung Pain of Duplicated Fees 

Some of the biggest problems that necessitated the call for a congress and passably a town hall was the introduction of levies or fees like studio levy, laboratory levy, utility levy, a 50%, and in another case a 100% increment in accommodation fee (depending on how fresh a student is), a surge in technology fee, among other concerns.

The congress, as the most powerful tool of the Union had expressed through its general meeting on October 14, “its displeasure concerning the state of welfare of the students.” The congress had demanded that the ‘management provide clarifications on the fee charged by the faculties and the departments’, among other resolutions.  As far as it is concerned, the question of efficacy has to be raised about the town hall, as it has failed to address the Congress question, which deserves not to be aired. Big as it were, the conscious questions of the Congress are too important to be left unanswered. “What were the newly introduced fees meant for?” “what is the justification for the duplication of fees?,” among others.

Considering that the University is less than a semester to flagging next session’s fees, while also taking cue from the inordinate increment of fees ravaging the country, as well as the silence that pervades students’ questions on fees, the town hall was broadly a failure in a bid to address grave concerns. The forum added no solution but has instead dampened the concerns. Notably, a key message was that fee payment is majorly the concern of parents.

Town Hall, Different? 

With no desirable difference in sight, the need for the University of Ibadan Students’ Union leadership to rethink its strategy cannot be overemphasized. Electricity issues, water issues, fees, are lingering concerns. The state of the Union and the state of the campus are simultaneous concerns. This devastating state is intertwined with the anti-people policies of the Tinubu-led Government. With a deepening economic crisis affecting all sectors in the country today, how many town hall meetings will address the aggravating economic concerns?

The alternative? That students take the initiative of leading their own union. The idea, the principles, and the power of a congress can never be replaced with any subsidiary idea. With a congress absolutely understood as the best bargaining chip, the best solutions can begin to trail pressing concerns. As a final decision making ground of the students’ community, we believe that the Congress is the most healthy forum to address all pertinent concerns and to get patriotic and endearing support of students.

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