Courageous and forthright students of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, scared the Osun State governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, from stepping into their campus to present a paper at the Third Emeritus Professor David Ijalaiye Lecture Series. They scared the living daylights out of him.
Reports have it that after a student group declared the governor persona non grata if he should step into their campus, students of the institution began to mobilise themselves for a massive protest against recent hike in school fees embarked upon by the Osun State government in line with this declaration.
This would have led to a great embarrassment for the governor. Indeed, he had to succumb to the counsel of security operatives in the state who told him point blank that it was inauspicious for him to step into the OAU campus, given the prevailing circumstances.
The students’ grouse has to do with the anti-people policies of Governor Oyinlola who recently increased fees payable in the tertiary institutions in the state. In the state’s colleges of education and polytechnics, Oyinlola increased schools fee from N3,500 to N25,000 and N4,000 to N47,000 respectively. This is coming after he established a multi-campus state university which fees are comparable to, if not more expensive, than private universities.
Given this trend, Oyinlola is leaving us with no other impression than he is bent on making higher education exclusively elitist. Education is now for the highest bidder in Osun State. The implication is that higher education is being increasingly denied most of the people of the state who are in no position to afford the exorbitant fees charged by higher institutions in the state.
OAU students are therefore doing the right thing by expressing their displeasure at this tyrannical policy of the governor. By chickening out, Oyinlola has cleverly prevented history from repeating itself. It will be recalled that the students of University of Ibadan in the early 1990’s embarrassed the then Nigeria’s military ruler, General Ibrahim Babangida, who had come to attend the institution’s convocation ceremonies but had to be ferreted out by security agents when students started peltering him with stones. It was the height of humiliation for the wily general who had always boasted that he was popular with students and was a skilled negotiator.
But it is not yet uhuru for him. Students’ attitude and reaction to a political authority is often the barometer to gauge that authority’s popularity and acceptance by the general populace. After Babangida overthrew the draconian regime of General Muhammadu Buhari, he was reportedly hailed and carried shoulder high by students, but when he derailed, he was humiliated and began a steep descent that culminated in his forced exit in ignominy in 1993. By the same token, Oyinlola has ominously embarked on his own disgraceful exit. It is just a matter of time. It is bad enough that he is usurping someone else’s mandate, but he has made it worse by denying the people of the state the opportunity to acquire higher education.
OAU students could have kick-started a groundswell of civil society opposition to the illegitimate government of Oyinlola. It is also an indication that protest is not really dead in Osun State as earlier thought. It is hope that this ferment will catch up in other tertiary institutions in the state, especially in places where school fees have been increased and then extend to the big cities of Osogbo, Ilesa, Ile-Ife, Iwo, Ede, Gbongan and so on. This, we expect, to also extend to the grassroots in the entire state until the evil policy is reversed.
We salute the courage and forthrightness of the OAU students and wish them success in the struggle against evil and tyrannical regimes in our fatherland.