by Yusuf Temilola NURUDEEN – Optimist

Just last week Monday, Nigeria celebrated her 18th year of democracy. On the following day, Tuesday, 30 May, 2017, the Management of the University of Ibadan in an undemocratic manner decided to suspend the Students’ Union of the University. I was forced to ask myself if we are really in democracy. Of what substance is the ‘democracy’ we celebrate if it is not rooted in our standards even at the university level?

As the microcosm of the society, I think the campuses should be the centre for the cross-fertilization of ideas that will transform the larger society. To the best of my knowledge, the cardinal principle of democracy is a government that guarantees freedom (freedom of speech, association, practice religion, choose our leaders, and equality before the law). Take these principles away and democracy ceases to exist. If these common principles are not entrenched in our educational institutions, the implication is that we have lost our sense of value for democracy. Maybe, we do not have one at all? 

Whereas, the greatest nations have not in the actual sense been built on the mastermind of astounding engineering designs, nor on the intriguing genius of skilled artistry, or the magnificent of towering skyscrapers, rather, the entire fabric of such sensible nations gather their being from the inestimable and ageless regard for freedom which translates further to freedom to think and etch innovations. Where freedom is valued it becomes the compass for progress into the daily thoughts, actions and furtherance of the people. This has been exemplified in the beautiful stories of nations such as the United States, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Germany; nations which have taken hold of the future via a collective set of progressive values.

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In a situation where our universities heads can now close schools at will, rusticate students at the slightest or provocation of students’ demand of basic amenities on campus such as water, electricity, an informal message seems to have been passed on to an uncountable army of upcoming Nigerians who will pass through the system: ‘the end justifies the means’. The present case of UI is even worst, common plastic Identity card for students, the University of Ibadan cannot produce having postpone first semester examination twice for that reason.

On our campuses logic does not prevail anymore. Students suggestions does not hold water. We now run universities expected to produce dummies, yes-men who are incapable of raising or forming opinions or repelling perceived evil. In a situation where Students’ Union are not suspended, the university management will do everything to compromise electoral process. In the University of Ilorin, a perceived vibrant aspirant is disqualified on the eve of the election to pave way for the university management anointed candidate. My alma mater, Lagos State University is not left out. The invention of the electronic voting system have been reported to be the means to rob students of their mandate.

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Ditto University of Lagos, Olurunfemi Adeyeye has been suspended for more than a year for his post on Facebook about the ills of the management. As that was not enough, he was persecuted, incarcerated and remanded in the prison for demanding justice. Olaniyan Mohammed; the Union President was rusticated for leading fellow students in call for the management to wakeup to her responsibilities. Jumai; the Union Public Relations officer has been stopped from participating in the one year mandatory Nigerian Law School Vocational training and capacity building programme. Who will pay these loss time? Sadly, these suspensions are done without recourse to upholding the cardinal fairing hearing.

These raises many questions over the rationale behind the existence of our ivory tower-a place that is projected to be over and above all other sectors of the society. Do we still have professors of Law? What were they doing when students are rusticated without recourse to the trite principles of rule of law? Maybe all professors of war and conflicts resolutions and other ‘social scientists’ are in extinction. Did I just say scientists? Apologies. Because they have failed in their responsibilities of fostering social cohesion.

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Have they forgotten so soon? But they taught us that conflict is inevitable, the ability to solve it make us better as a people. The early our universities deviate from these intellectually destructive ventures the better for us. Our ivory towers must begin to shake hands with the society in constructive manners. The system must begin to provide pragmatic solutions to be Nigerian maladies by laying the proper foundation for our value system. I rest my case.