STUDENTS’ STRUGGLES GATHER STORM

Aluta bells are ringing!” – announced a student-leader at the Olabisi Onabanjo University(OOU) on Friday. He was only waking a mass of students that had berated the Oke Imosan Government House of the Ogun state government at Abeokuta. The students, after the first day of protest on Thursday had left the Government house unattended to, and moved to the CDHR house where only the ladies could be accommodated while the males kept vigil at a college opposite. Students hardly slept as they formed a defence line against hired thugs of the state who had threatened to attack students in the night. It must be noted that the students’ movement in Ogun state had been under the siege of known cultists who are ex-students who still hold a criminal sway on the campuses. These persons are awarded with public positions by the state government in order to cow the just risings of students against the obnoxious education policies being implemented.

Like in Lagos and other states of the country, the Ogun state government has astronomically increased fees. After much agitations, and in fear that the inspirations from LASU’s historic fees reversal could restore students’ confidence to fight, the Ogun state government announced “fees reduction” in all the schools in the state. But the reduction only begs the question. The students’ congress at Ago-Iwoye promptly convened and rejected the reductions. The congress insisted on a total reversal to at most N50,000, and with implementation immediately. Recall that the government had announced that the reduction would be effective from next session. The mass of students are right, and should even demand for bursaries and scholarship to complement the N50,000 as most of the parents in Nigeria are starkly poor and for those who have jobs cannot afford the fee from the paltry N18,000 minimum wage paid by the governments.

The second day of protest by OOU students was successful despite the teargas and harassments by the police. Even the attack allegedly sponsored by a former student-leader who now works for government could not break the students’ will! At last, the Governor, Mr Ibikunle Amosun was forced to address the students and promised to look into their demands within a week. This readily shows that struggles of Nigerian students are taking shape as the “dog-eat-dog” neo-liberal economic policies of the country bites harder on working people.

Students are on the march all over the country, resisting attempts to plunge them and their parents into further hardship. As I write, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) students are gearing up to resume as the management announced resumption. This essay has a lifeline to discuss matters arising from that old “mecca of aluta,” but let’s journey northwards and avail ourselves of some happenings at the citadels there.

UNIABUJA FEES INCREMENT: ANOTHER DOSE OF JONATHANISM
President Jonathan and his cronies have always boasted of a faceless “transformation agenda,” telling the country and the world that the government is putting in place economic and political measures that would change our conditions for the better. But as reality mirrors, the leaves of Jonathan’s coconut has been harder and harder. The country is plunged into its most barbaric state since independence, and current policies of government shows that the end of these whole horrors is not yet in sight!

After the abduction of the Chibok Girls Government School students, in the most ridiculous way; an increasing number of students in the north (particularly females), are shying out of school, according to reports in the mainstream media. The state of emergency imposed by the Federal government which has allowed the free flow of brutality by soldiers, and has been a stumbling block to the self-defence of the working people against Boko Haram, is a major cause of this education apathy.

Worse still, most of the schools continue to be in skeletal backwardness without basic amenities while fees are equally being increased. Evidence of these sprouts from no other place, than UNIABUJA. The citadel is currently under lock and key due to students protests against astronomic fees hikes, on one hand, and ASUU’s protest against management’s misappropriation of funds on the other hand. The workers and students in UNIABUJA must continue to build political synergy, and fight the management and federal government to a standstill.

President Jonathan’s “TRANSFORMATION AGENDA” lacks the political will to transform the country in all the sectors. It is a fake agenda characteristic of what world capitalism is propagating everywhere. It will continue to destroy our education, and lead to retrogression in other sectors like health; employment etc. only a planned economy formulated and implemented by the mass of the working people themselves that can change our country, and indeed our world for the better!

AFTER THE EDUCATION WORKERS STRIKE; ALL HANDS MUST BE ON DECK
The Education workers in Nigeria for the past years have been going on strike, from one period to another. ASUU for example led a 6-month strike last year to demand the implementation of its 2009 Collective Agreement with FG. That strike got a massive support from students and their parents across the country with rallies and other forms of protest. Only the national leadership of NANS led by Yinka Gbadebo stood with the government against the strike. That NANS leadership got shamed all through as students and youths openly and practically dissociated from it. ASUU won a concession from the FG as 200billion naira was agreed upon to be injected into the varsities every year over the next 5 years. As I write, the implementation is still on with ASUU activists kept on their toes. But most of the managements have been recalcitrant in allowing for democratization of decision making and academic freedom. This is going to be a long battle in the ivory towers. It is instructive, however that the battle would become easier once the local branches synergize with the local students’ unions in the comradeliest manner. This tells the significance of the unity of workers and youths in the fight to change our society for the better.

Polythechnics and college of education workers were also been on strike for close to a year, until recently. While ASUP was on strike for 10 m0nths since October 2013, COEASU was on strike for 8months since December 2013. The strikes, however, have only been “suspended” for three months because of the intervention of Mallam Shekarau, the new minister of education. Students and workers must brace up and continue to engage and educate in wait of the minister’s stated resolve after the 3months. We must however note that the success of the strikes so far shows that we can defeat capitalism and this system’s anti-education stance. We posit that ASUP and COEASU should use the 3 months to build political synergy with the students through mass education and solidarity.

STILL ON FEES HIKES: WILL GREAT IFE, NAU, EKSU…HIT THE GROUND AND RUNNING?
The ball is in the court of the students and their union leaders to play!

Great Ife, which prides itself as the most radical campus in the country, is in a political dilemma. Those who are following the trend of activities since the mass resistance of students in a number of historic protests that led to the management’s insensitive closure of the campus, would agree with me that the Ife union is going the wrong way. The student’s union leadership had dropped political action for “negotiations.” This is despite the massive discontent demonstrated by the mass of students. The union leadership is giving excuses that “ideologues are hijacking the struggle.” And they even dissociated from the JULY 10 commemoration of the killing of Akin Afrika and 5 other student activists in 1999, this year. One cannot but state the obvious according to Albert Camus; “those who lack the courage will always find a philosophy to justify it“. Union leaders must know that they have a generational obligation to fulfil. They must put their personal discomfort before the collective self-emancipation. When anyone knows he does not have the political will to lead the just cause of the entire studentry, such element should quit. The mass of students are also advised to elect revolutionaries and class-conscious persons who would defend their cause to the latter, without selling out or chickening out, always!

Ekiti state University students are also battling a heinous fees hike imposed by the Kayode Fayemi APC-led government. Their union leaders have not been so assertive in building up mass resistance. Now that the Fayemi regime has been voted out, EKSU and other students in Ekiti must not have any illusion in the incoming government. They must start agitations for reversal NOW!

This bell must also be ringed down to Nnamdi Azikiwe University, where students are fighting against the fees increment for both new intakes and staylites. Fees of freshers has been increased from N35,00 to N52,000. Hostel fees have also been astronomically increased to N72000 from N32,000 which students even struggle to pay. Students have been protesting, and we urge workers to join them too. For the struggle against fees hikes is a class struggle, and all strata of the oppressed must join in fighting it.

One is then reminded of the case of Rufus Giwa Polytechnics, Owo where the Mimiko-led Labour party government has increased fees. Students immediately took to the streets, and the management responded with closure. Student-leaders in Ondo state are urged to rise above their romanticizing the Mimiko government to leading mass actions. Ondo State University of Science and Technology (OSUSTECH) has been in a bad state as the university has been left in the shadows for a long time now. While speaking with a student-leader in Ondo state, he informed me that the university has gone worse off to the extent that the few students admitted there are being transferred to another university in the state to get access to academic facilities. This has been confirmed from my enquiries. The Ondo state government must be made to know that the wealth of the state is more than enough to fund more than 5 tertiary institutions.

LASU AS EXAMPLE; ETERNAL VIGILANCE IS THE PRICE OF LIBERTY
The victory in LASU is a product of resilience and principled fighting. Despite the length of the battle and the many accusations and attacks on the leadership, plus the many betrayals within, the students’ union leadership led the struggle to a logical conclusion. Other unions must draw inspiration from this, and desist from unproductive negotiations and “diplomacy”. Even when the management and the Lagos state government made a questionable reduction, the students’ union stood its ground. This helped to expose the Lagos state government the more and draw more support from the working class. Those who come up with shameful positions that the concession of the reversal from N320,000 to N25,000 is “political” are only playing to the gallery. The struggle of LASUites took over 3 years of long drawn battles. If it has not been fought so dedicatedly; victory would not have been won. The Lagos state government (or any section of the ruling class) is not a SANTACLAUS!

One should then call on LASUites to be vigilant and use this chance to rededicate the union on a renewed class orientation. Mass political education and programmes must be outlined and prosecuted by the mass of the students, and for this, they need to build class conscious political organizations. The era of sodobe must be thrown to the pit of history. The union must now serve as a solidarity arena to other unions and strive to engage in the rebuilding of the Nigeria students’ movement. UNILAG needs such solidarity now as the fight for a new union after the long proscription is in its concluding stage. UNILAG management must not be allowed to distort the political will of the students by imposing a constitution on the students.

IN CONCLUSION: STUDENTS AND WORKERS MUST UNITE, LINK UP, AND FIGHT!
The experience of LASU has shown that when workers and students unite to fight for a common cause, victory could be won. This is why one urges all workers’ unions to take a conscious step uniting with students through their unions and radical groups in fighting against the current underdevelopment of the country’s education. This should also be replicated in other sectors of our society. Students’ union leaders who have illusions in the current system, and believe that negotiations and diplomacy can gain the necessary concessions we need should have a rethink, and understand these wise words of V.I Lenin:
“Only struggle educates the exploited class. Only struggle discloses to it the magnitude of its own power, widen its horizon, enhances its abilities, clarifies its mind, (and) forges its will”

AMANDLA! NGAWETHU!!

Kunle “Wizman” Ajayi
National Coordinator
Socialist Youth League

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