OAU School-Fee Hike: The Necessity of Cautionary Activism by Oladapo Ajayi

by ahjotnaija

Mr. Oladapo Ajayi is Nigerian and Master student resident in Germany. He is the initiator of the TACTProject, a NGO practically committed to giving poor children a fair chance at education in Nigeria. He is an activist and a grassroot political and community organiser

Mr. Oladapo Ajayi is Nigerian and Master student resident in Germany. He is the initiator of the TACTProject, a NGO practically committed to giving poor children a fair chance at education in Nigeria. He is an activist and a grassroot political and community organiser

By the grace of God and fate, I attended Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, I could not have wished for more in the context of the available choice schools in Nigeria. There is something about OAU that transforms her students. Such factors make you believe in the deeper truth that resonates in OAU anthem, namely *Great Ife* beyond the rhetoric.

Historically OAU was founded in 1962. This period, historically, was the good old days of Negritude. The period emphasis was placed on Black’s beauty. It could not have been an accident to have named OAU the most beautiful campus in Africa. The founding fathers had a clear mandate and vision, that is, to have an indigenous culture of African scholarship. The institution is supposed to compete favourably on the world stage. As a social-welfarist leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo built with the defunct Western region’s tax payers fund an institution for the African race.

OAU did not only become a testimony to this vision. A new academic culture of de-colonization evolved, self-esteemed and confident principles are infused into the psyche of an average student of OAU. This reactionary academic culture becomes a ritualistic responsibility for every generation of students that tread the campus. This responsibility will mean, firstly, to live the culture of pride in one’s identity. Secondly, to be critical of what is *the other* or *the order*. These two word may not be easily separated from colonialism and oppression.

Therefore, for every generation of OAU students, there is always a battle to fight, there is always *the other* and there is always *the oppressive order*. Historically these have proven to be true. Even when Nigeria was under a military government occupation and in the currently *make-believe-democracy*.

These ideals have their own price. For some generation, it requires not only suspension and expulsion but even blood. For my generation, we can say that we walked on the sweat and blood of legends amongst equals like the great Activist Iwilade (aka Afrika). This is the truth: struggles and students militancy are generational inheritance of OAU students.

In truth, the challenges faced by students since the 1980s are very similar. The challenges are unseparable from the nation’s leadership problems and the systemic decay; and even, the collapse of the nation’s public institutions in the face of a fast growing population.

However, with a persistent and constant source and mode of problem there is a shifting factor of time. Time is a very interesting aspect of history, it not only marks history and events, it shapes even the future. Interestingly, OAU students have magically (but understandably; through sweat and blood) defiled the role of time for most part of history. For example, OAU students of 15 years ago will boast of how they pay the sum of 90 Naira for a decent student accommodation. A student like me will boast of how I paid less that 3,000 Naira for a bed space till 2010. In truth, we benefited from sweat and blood.

Ironically, these seemingly beautiful experiences do not necessarily translate to beautiful academic experiences again, neither do the beautiful experiences mean good academic atmosphere. In fact, it does not guarantee a stable academic calendar. As a matter of fact, this will result in having sub-human living conditions and overstressed school facilities due to lack of maintenance. The lecture theatres are irritatingly disfigured and are less functional. The sport-centre with the Amphi theatre is turned to a lecture space and just like Nigeria’s pride, OAU’s pride diminishes yearly.

It is very easy to completely put the blame of the decay on the state of the nation, but it will not be enough if we consider other parameters. An obvious parameter for me as a close observer is to compare the academic and living condition of an average University of Ibadan (UI) student in the last 12 years to that of an OAU student. We need not talk about UI’s upgraded library financed through Mc Arthur’s foundation. Let’s not see the new post-graduates hall of residence. In fact, let’s not see anything that may strip our *Great Ife* of its pride. Let’s just walk into any hall of residence in University of Ibadan and compare with that of OAU.

You may be forced to ask why the need for education in such condition after all. I will be quick to say that the living condition in University of Ibadan’s hall of residence is bad enough. Unfortunately, that of OAU is even unsuitable for sub-humans. Neanderthals had it better. The halls of residence is a total eyesore!

As a proud OAU student, I returned in 2012 for a master’s degree in Public administration; of course, I was sure it was the cheapest I could get in Nigeria as usual. Regrettably, my experience was a shock; I realized how much I was shielded from the reality of OAU’s academic decadence due to my less-populated undergraduate department. That is not to say my undergraduate department was functional even with her few number of students! There was no language laboratory during my stay, departmental toilets were defective, departmental library looked like a store-house. The resource-room where most lectures were given, was soaked with water at some point.

So, readers can imagine if with this experience, I could be shocked 2years after graduation in the same university because I felt I had worse conditions for a master programme! The rest is history. I dropped out of the course without remorse or regret. I am still trying to make sense of my world.

All these premises built above are to make case not as a *capitalist*. By the way, anyone who have a different understanding of what is acceptable is best classified by OAU student as a capitalist apologist. As Great Ife student you learn by heart that the school authority is part of the oppressed class, in fact all the lecturers except for Dr. Dipo Fasina and any Lecturer with a leftist ideology. As an OAU student, you learn to identify agents amongst your mates. Anyone who has a different opinion on issues is likely to be an agent of the *ruling class*, i.e. *the other*.

So I will clearly say that having considered the risk of being tagged, at least the following statements are true about me. I am not a Marxist; I am not talking from a privilege point of view because I have never been privileged in the sense of being privileged. I am always interested in new ways of seeing things and getting problems solved for the benefits of people without bias. I know that I try not to be sentimental in my views.

I am aware that OAU fees have been reviewed upward. in fact, in some cases to the tune of 500 percent increment; it is such an unfortunate case. I believe and support students’ reaction to this and I hope they will be determined and strategic enough to at least have a considerable reduction in the fees. However, I will like to implore the students to consider the role of time at this historical period.

Time in this case, is of two sides. it is the time I initially refer to as a determinant of a people’s position in history. On the other hand, time is also that material period that is required to catch up with the fast moving world that is beyond OAU.

The time as a determining factor will help the current students appreciate the fact that students’ militancy is naturally going bankrupt, outdated and unpopular. This time will help the students realize that marching on sweat and blood is becoming unpopular. Time in this sense will help the students to know that education in OAU and in Nigeria at large is unapologetically nothing to write home about.

This time will help the students realize that, ideas rule the world now and tactics must change as all the university management cannot just be out to increase the fees for the purpose of stealing. Time should prevail in our reasoning that happiness, personal fulfillment and a purpose driven life are not necessarily a certified life. Time should help the current generation realize that the Nigerian society is in danger from all angles and it may cease to exist sooner than we are prepared for it. This time should help us realize that most students in the university today are not all entirely the children of the masses.

As OAU students, we learned the rhetoric of the masses and oppressed, so we tend to fight for the right to educate the poor masses that are supposed to be OAU students; in recent times, OAU like every Nigerian university has created a sorting system that helps them control the class of undergraduates in the universities. The Institution now has a pre-degree programme where the candidates pay as much as 150,000 per year. This institution has become so competitive that over 33,000 students were screened for less than 5000 spaces in 2012! The entire Nigerian education system is now working in a way that million of the masses in public secondary schools cannot and may not be able to pass their final examination not to talk of qualifying for a university matriculation examination. In the end, they might never qualify to write OAU entrance examination, after all.

The current generation must reluctantly admit that in life *something must be given up*, our parents must stop taking Ankara, recharge cards, rice, burial ceremony and wedding ceremony aids from the politicians. They must brace up to the fact that education naturally is designed to create hierarchy in the society, so that the space for the most qualified becomes very limited. They must learn to fight to climb the ladder without sentiments. Youths must now read about Prof. Ojetunde Aboyade. We must learn from Afe Babalola’s stories. These two men like many others pulled through without statutory help of the government.
As for many Great Ife Alumnus, I have an interesting puzzle for us. Are we going to pull the house down completely? Knowing that we actually do not have a ruling class that cares? Are we going to get stuck to the identity and culture of the past without learning and re-inventing? Are we going to make the current students fight for a decadence we never fought for and make them pay with more blood? Are we ever going to shift attention to the likes of Oronsanye’s report that the Federal Government is implementing policies to cut down cost heavily on public spending? When are we going to stop seeing every Vice- Chancellor as anti-masses-agent?

If the standard of education in Nigeria must be improved, there is a price to pay for the long negligence. Everybody must be ready to help. Let’s just have 20,000 OAU Alumni that will provide the sum of 5,000 Naira for this university we all are falling to die for on social media. I believe we will generate 100,000,000 Naira annually. Let us identify the real masses in our University system and subsidize their expensive fees to the extent of their need. Let‘s help them get attention from their local government chairmen and governors. Let’s stop fighting for the wrong cause! More than half of the current population of students in the University today are not actually children of the masses we claim to be fighting for!

Aluta Continua! Vitoria Acerta!

Attention: The views and opinion represented in this article are solely those of the author. They do not necessarily represent those of http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com or the editorial policy of the blog. Comments will be forwarded to Mr. Ajayi for response if necessary.