Thursday, February 24, 2011

Great Ife: A Time for Sober Reflection...

The best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago and the second best time is now. I wish I had made this a proper release, and that I had pasted it a few days ago. However, I did not then because I did not have access to the information that I have now – but I will not pass up the opportunity to do this now.

Before I delve into the meat of this discussion, I want to make some things clear – and I will very quickly run through them.

If this spreads like I hope it does, then a lot of my readers may not know me personally – and so introductions are in order.

I am KOYE-LADELE Mogbekeloluwa, the Class Representative/Governor of the Part Five Class of Mechanical Engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. By the grace and calling of God, I also happen to be the General Secretary of the University Joint Christian Mission (UJCM) and subject to the spiritual authority of the Committee of Presidents – I am partly responsible for the over-ten-thousand Christian students of the University.

In a job interview after school, or on a good day, that sounds like a good thing – and trust me it is. However, at times like this, it poses a big problem – one that makes me overly careful about my response to issues – because I am no longer perceived as speaking only for myself. True, a lot of the time when I publicly speak about the dynamics of life on campus I maintain the position of the UJCM – after all I am her Secretary. However, today – I ask that the words you read be taken on their own merit – as I speak entirely for myself in this matter.

I believe in the strength of the pen, and like every true member of the ACJ* – I consider it my business to assert its power. Yet, please note that I am not entirely without bias – because just like every other human I view the world through a belief window that is tainted by my previous experiences.

Over the past 36 hours, I have not eaten a proper meal; I have walked from the Student Union Building to the DSA building no less than five times; I have made and received over two hours of phone calls and sent and received over 200 text messages; I have spoken for the first time at a congress of the Student Union – not minding in the least that I was booed; I have driven over 150km WITHIN the boundaries of the OAU campus, and I have been a participant in ALL sorts of meetings – all to the end that the School might remain open – and when it was obvious that it would be closed, to ensure that students leave the school in a peaceful and orderly manner.

Of course, I was not alone. I have occupied the position of a 'supporting striker' to Pastors' Olumide (CHARIS), Kolapo (CASOR), Zaccheus (RCF), Ayokunle (SCM), Niyi (ECU), Ayo (YCCF) and the COP. And yes, we have had help – from people bent on achieving the same thing – albeit with amazingly divergent approaches to the same isssue: John Pillar, Prof, Pst Opemipo (CASOR), F-jay, O-joy, Nelson, Ayo Ige, FM, Goddey, Etisalat, Tyma, Falade Wale Charles, Joseph and Ademola (ACJ President and PRO), Jadamz, the Presidents of Law, Accounting, Economics and many other departments. Truthfully, I could fill many books with the names of those who have helped out in one way or the other.

Having laid that framework, I will now continue onward to put forward MY position on this matter.

This is not the time to vilify anybody, so I will not bother to even hint at trading blame. If you are reading this because you are trying to identify who I (or UJCM) think is responsible for this closure, then this is a good time to stop. In many ways, this is a rant – and I plead that you follow the train – disjointed as it may seem.
First of all, I posit that school will remain closed for at least another one month – except a miracle happens. An optimal situation could see it re-opened in another three months, and a worst case scenario might imply a closure till after September. If you have been with me these past 36 hours, then these words are not new to you. In fact, I spoke them at the congress. Of course, I was booed. I also speak them from an informed position, you will find out more soon.

That raises my first question. Why is it that the majority of students do not show up at congresses? Why do most students abstain from these congresses, even when fully aware that these congresses can make or mar the quality of our stay on campus? I choose to believe that I (and others who spoke in the interests of peace) would have been taken a little more serious if there was more representation from the 'bookish' and 'spiritual' types who chose to go to class rather than attend the congress.

Some students may argue that the venue of the congress (Awo café) influenced the attendance, and they have a valid point (which I choose not to address) – but I would have attended a congress in Angola Block F toilet if I was aware that it had the power to decide whether I would be 'chased' out of school or not. That also raises the question as to whether enough students were aware of the congress (the Union leadership pasted notices in all halls of residences), and I answer that by saying this: yesterday, I read the most articulate editorial I have read this year – from the stable of the ACJ – succinctly titled 'Before we go home…'.

Why is it that people, particularly Christians, are often willing to pass on their say in decisions which directly affect the quality of their lives? Whatever happened to us praying AND working for the peace of Babylon, with the awareness that her peace and prosperity determines ours (Jer. 29:7)?

Secondly, it is time to 'shock' you. Whatever was decided at that congress COULD NOT have altered the decision to close the school down. Simpler put, the events that led to the decision to close school down had been set in motion a long time before, and whatever the congress decided – school would still have been shut.
This is not entirely about Part One students deciding whether or not to attend their Matriculation ceremonies (as if it was optional in the first place). This is not entirely about whether a Congress was held in the Amphitheatre or in Awo Café, and it is not about whether people showed up for it or not. This is not even entirely about the current leadership of the union, and it is not about the current management of the school.
Of course, this is not the first time school will be shut as a response to protests by students. The happenings of my Part One (where we were handed a lecture free third-of-a-year for protesting for a lecture free week) are still fresh in my memories. And of course, people who were here long before me (and who may have left or not) will remember farther down the line.

In so many ways, it is obvious why the management shut down the school – and to save space I choose not to include that here (I leave it open for debate in the comments section).

I must move more quickly, my eyes are beginning to droop from fatigue.

Alongside a group of other people, I was PRIVILEGED to meet with the Registrar tonight – after the highly anticipated Senate meeting by 4pm. As we work out a solution to this recurring problem, we will continue to make moves – both prayerfully and physically – and I will keep you updated via future incarnations of this post. And of course - by now, you must have guessed where some of the authoritative statements I made earlier derive from.

He posed questions to us which I will pose to you over the next few hours and days. I plead with you; tag your friends from Great Ife in this note. Let all sorts of people come. Let us hear and sift through all sorts of arguments. One thing I seek to achieve is to congregate all the 'arguments' in one place – instead of on thousands of 'walls' across facebook. Talk about it, argue about it, and comment – so that I and we can get to know what you think on these things.

For now, Great Ife, GO HOME! We should please note that we are intellectuals, and we do not have to be forcefully evicted before we make concessions so that we can gain credibility. One of the pre-requisites to any further discussions is the complete evacuation of the school. Great Ife, I plead with you, GO HOME!
Secondly, this problem requires a lasting solution – otherwise it will continue to recur in cycles such as this one. It is time that a lasting solution is found, and please – GREAT IFE – make your voice heard, and please do it here – where it counts. MAKE SUGGESTIONS, intellectual and sound ones of course. Respond to people's comments, argue, discuss, and bring forward your strong points, LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD! (God BLESS facebook)!!! What do you think about these things? What do you think about the fees? What do you think about the increment? What do you think about a downward review? What do you think about the suspension of the Student Union?

Thirdly, even as we chill at home – it is time for a mentally change. In 2007, a prominent student activist said and I quote "One activist is equal to 1000 students". That is WRONG, and it is time we proved it WRONG. We all have a stake, and like I have already said – LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD!

This is the beginning of a new phase, and it is not something that can be rushed at. A lasting and holistic solution needs be found – and find it we will – so that future generations will not suffer the same things. So far as the Management is concerned, this is an opportunity to re-define 'Ife' – and re-define it we MUST.

Finally my brethren, on the matter of the fees increment: I personally submit that while N20, 000 is too much – it is also unrealistic to continue to cling to our 'zero increment' policy. Prices rise, equipment and infrastructure become more costly to maintain – the same prices that obtained ten years ago do not obtain in worldwide markets anymore. Will you refuse to buy bread because a loaf sold for N60 today went for N20 ten years ago?

Funnily, in the event that the school remains shut for say another nine months. The same students who spoke brilliantly in favor of these reductions and re-funds will come back to school so meekly, and would even gladly pay more if it meant a re-opening of the school after such a long break. Or, am I wrong?

It is not enough to argue that the Federal Government SHOULD fund education. They should, and by God's grace – as we get better at our experiment with democracy our leaders will continually align their priorities better. However, as we steadily approach that point - will we continue to leave the quality of our education in the hands of bureaucrats who do not actually understand how things run on the 'ground'?

The world is indeed flat, and graduates from OAU are not competing with graduates from UI/LAUTECH/UNIBEN etc. When you get a degree in Mechanical Engineering from OAU, you just might end up competing with a Bachelor from MIT for the same position. Is it not time we made some concessions so that we can secure a better quality of education? If our fight is with the Federal Government for not allocating enough to Education, is the way out to fight with the school – and with ourselves in the process? Why not take the fight to the Federal Government herself?

Of the GREATEST IFE, let the debates begin!

I also ask that we get in touch with the leadership of the union (Fjay, Mandela etc) via facebook, sms, etc and send them encouraging words. I have been with these guys these past few hours, and I daresay that they really have tried to the BEST OF THEIR ABILITY to carry out the wishes of Great Ife – at least, as many people as have made their wishes known. At great cost to themselves, they have tried to the best of their ABILITY to provide a solution – and even IF they have made mistakes – this is not the time to vilify them. As it is, these guys have enough on their hands without our making it worse with unkind words.

At least, we (as many people as exercised their right to vote) voted these guys in – this is not the time to disown them.

Great Ife!


  1. Good job, koye. I think its a political strategy so they can deliver votes that does not exist,rememba d last elections and their declarations, if only ife students will not mind travelling all d way down to vote.