A response to New Telegraph’s May 6 Anti-students editorial

Just as the Budha quote on the top right corner of the Editorial page of New Telegraph; truth “cannot long be hidden!” This is why one cannot but respond to the demonizing of the ongoing significant and sensitive students’ protests across the country, by New Telegraph Newspapers with an editorial titled “Undue Radicalism in Our Universities.”

Legally, section 2 of the 1999 constitution backs the right to protest, and the freedom of association. These rights are to be interpreted in the best interest of the affected especially when the oppressor is aggressively trampling on constitutional provisions. The groundswell of protests is in response to the renewed high-handedness of the university managements aimed at stifling students and trade unions’ rights to freely express their views and challenge whatever is seen as wrong in the system.

The right of dissent should be respected by any sane human who claims to be democratic. Why is it that the Vice Chancellor of UNILAG refused to address students on the eve of the mass protest despite the pleas from the Students’ Union leaders? Politically, freedom is not freely given anywhere in the world, it has to be struggled for. As we usually say- freedom is not freely given even in Freetown! We all understand that the universities are now run as money-making ventures by cabals who are really not interested in education advancement but building profiles and looting.

The recent happenings at the Obafemi Awolowo University exposed how VCs operate several accounts, and run the campuses like a business empire. This is why the #probeomolecampaign is largely supported by students and staffs alike. So, the managements do everything possible to loot by cutting costs massively from funds meant to be used for developing the schools while also imposing cruel and illegal fees on the mass of students.

The editors of New Telegraph are duty-bound to be objective in writing about the roots of the protests instead of speaking from the management’s angle alone. Such bias as this negates balanced reporting and the anchoring of “the sanctity of truth!”

uniport-slain.student1The editorial also shows another inhuman bias on the case of the UNIPORT student protests. That the students “went on rampage over what they termed “indiscriminate and arbitrary” hike in school fees” without pointing out the fact that the protests were largely peaceful until the management brought in policemen that consciously murdered a student-leader whose last words were – “don’t shoot us,” is appalling.

How can anyone with blood running in her/his veins overlook this wicked act that also claimed two other lives? The records have shown that it is the managements that usually start the violence by shunning dialogue and imposing undemocratic and extortionist policies, while wasting school funds to hire trigger-happy policemen to bulldoze all dissents.

Instead of the managements to dialogue and reason with students towards addressing genuine grievances either from the students or the workers, the tactics employed is to close the campus and then blackmail the dissenters. U.I shows this so clearly! Students demanded and got the reinstatement of the unjustly suspended students’ leader, and were surprised when the management hurriedly closed down the campus without consulting all stakeholders, and refused to effect his reinstatement. The students made it clear that there was no reason to close the campus, but the management turned the deaf ear.

In Akungba, the insensitivity of the management overtime was clearly exposed to the world. A student was hit by a moving vehicle on the express and got rushed to the school hospital, only to be delayed and unattended to. The student died in such a pitiable manner, and the management didn’t show any concern. What is expected of other students who know such a condition could also befall them? New Telegraph has kept mute about all these.

The hospitals on Nigeria campuses are not health centres but “death centres.” Real change-seekers must be concerned about this, and not defend a rotten system that undermines societal development.

Editors of New Telegraph must review their takes and apologize to the students’ unions concerned. The closures of campuses, as can be clearly seen, if only people choose to be objective, are caused mostly by the moribund state of our education; the corruption of campus administrators; and the excessive commercialization that seeks to price education out of the reach of the poor.

To resolve the education crises, democracy must be upheld on our campuses. This will help to minimize corruption and underdevelopments. Education must also be well funded and cheaply accessible to the poor who constitute the majority of our society. Then, the managements must stop turning ivory towers to barracks!

We hope New Telegraph will abandon its reactionary position for the sake of conscience, and fairness. We hope the paper’s editors would also openly denounce the sexist cartoon below that May 6 editorial that portrays oppressed women’s so-called “nagging” as excuse against the re-introduction of the Gender Equality Bill.

Women deserve gender equality as respite for the age-long abuses and oppression, just as students deserve to hit the streets in their most organized manners to protest against the illegal closure of campuses and cruel abuses of students’ rights!

by Kunle Wizman Ajayi