By Sodiq Lawal
For the students of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, uncertainty surrounds expectations they would have their union reinstated by the authority of the school anytime soon.
In an exclusive interview with the vice-chancellor of the university, Professor Ogunbodede Eyitope said the students’ demands for the restoration of their unions would take a while to be achieved.
Students’ Union, (SU) activties have not occurred in the university since the turn of this year.
The OAU SU was suspended in November 2017.
In justifying the indefinite suspension of the Ife SU, then led by Edward Ibukun, the school accused the union leaders of actions that could negatively impact its reputation and endangered the members of the university community.
“Following security reports of incessant fighting and unruly behaviour during the Congress of the Students Union and the recalcitrant attitude of their leadership, it has become inevitable for the University administration to suspend the activities of the Students Union of the Obafemi Awolowo University,” read the statement signed by the registrar, Dotun Awoyemi.
Weeks earlier, the university had suspended some student activists who the school accused of leading a ‘violent’ protest against power outage which reportedly lasted six days.
The registrar also cited the widely reported fight between the vice president and the social director “in which head butts and stabbing were recorded” during a meeting of the union executive to make decisions in respect of expenditure of funds released on September 5.
Then, he mentioned the “vandalisation of the vehicle of the Ekiti State Chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists on July 14, 2017; vandalisation of NURTW buses on October 6, 2016; and forceful release of students under investigation from police custody on October 6, 2017 and recent ‘serious fighting’ and open fracas at the meetings of the Union.”
Meanwhile, before the union was suspended, Mr Ibukun faced allegation he connived with his colleagues in the executive council to ‘loot’ N2 million belong to the union.
However, the scandal led to the blocking of the union leaders’ access to their e-portal pages.
One of the executives, Adewumi Michael, the director of sports, disclosed that the university locked their portal pages because of the inability of the president and other executives to account for the N2million.
The leaders of the suspended union have called on students to unite to form a common front towards the struggle to restore their union.
Further, they said banning union would have implications for a school’s role in grooming future leaders and providing an environment to help students nurture democratic attributes.
Also, the VC of OAU said: “We are going to reinstate the union if the atmosphere is okay and we are sure that we won’t have a ‘murder’ case in our hands.”
While speaking on the effects of the absence of SU as decried by the students, he said there are other bodies responsible for students’ welfare asides the SU.
“We only suspended the union activities at the central executive level. We still have students’ unions in our halls of residence,”Ogunbodede said.