The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) has called on the authorities of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) to immediately and unconditionally permit the restoration of its Students’ Union which was suspended over a year ago during students’ legitimate protests against fee hike.
In a statement to mark the 13th anniversary of the gruesome massacre of five Students’ Union leaders by suspected cult members, the ERC also advocated the recall of Wale Owolabi, a student activist who was victimized in the wake of the protests.
The ERC recalled that on Saturday July 10, 1999, fiercely-armed members of the Black Axe Confraternity stormed the University and after hours of sporadic shooting, murdered in cold blood George ‘Yemi Iwilade Afrika (the Secretary general of the Union and a Part 3 Law student), Eviano Ekelemu (a Part 5 medical student), Efe Ekede, Yemi Ajiteru and Sabo Oke.
“The killings occurred in the midst of the struggle of students against management anti-poor policies including demands for the recall of former union president Anthony Fashayo and other expelled union leaders,” the statement said. “Confessions made by the arrested cultists pointed to the then V.C, Prof. Wale Omole’s involvement but not only was Prof. Wale Omole let off the hook, all the detained cultists who went under trial have since been discharged!”
It regretted that 13 years after those events, the OAU Students’ Union which the five students leaders fought and died defending is now under the jackboot of the university management.
“This is why we use this occasion to again reaffirm our call for the immediate and unconditional restoration of the union and recall of Wale Owolabi whose studentship was criminally deactivated for leading roles he played in the struggle against fee hike,” ERC said.
It noted that although the union was suspended by the previous administration of Prof. Faborode, the current one of Prof. Tale Omole has been playing hide and seek with the matter, adding that despite promises made by Prof. Tale Omole upon assumption of office as new Vice Chancellor, there has been no clear signal that the management wants to keep those promises.
“Indeed from all intents and purposes it appears the school management merely wants to continue playing with students legitimate rights to independent unionism hoping that agitations would soon die down,” it said.
ERC called on staff unions, OAU alumni, well meaning Nigerians and the general public to also help call on the OAU authorities to listen to the demands of their students and restore the union, reinstate Wale Owolabi and allow students to manage their union independently and democratically without undue interference.