A Passionate Letter to Great Ife Students
For months now, we have been watching the turns of events on the Great Ife campus. From the lift of the ban on the Students’ Union to the emergence of the new crop of students’ leaders, from the hike in school fees across board to the students’ mass protest (on air and the streets) and subsequent close down of the school. The dust appears to have settled or at least to be settling now. Since the school resumed early last week, I have been reflecting on the imports of the new developments in my Alma mater.
I will not argue if the fee increments are justified or not. Issues of interest rather are (1) why did the students’ struggle failed in Ife? (2) What are therefore the possible aftermaths of this failure, first on the students, their parents and then on the larger society? And (3) Why will OAU students fail where their LASU counterparts succeeded?
Taking the last question, I need not mention that LASU is not OAU and OAU is not LASU. One has as Visitor the President of the Federal Republic and the other the Lagos Governor. Again here, I need not do a compare-and-contrast analysis of the two personalities before you form your opinion. Whatever your opinion is, remember “I don’t give a damn”. Sorry I mean I personally don’t give a damn…
Remember also that the margins of the hiked fees in the two schools are not the same. Where LASU just added another figure “0” to the N25,000 to make what you and I know, OAU authorities moved from some N37,000 to N82,000 roughly for Freshers and from N6000 or so to 20,000 roughly for Returning students. I’m sure those in Sciences and Medicals will pay slightly higher.
So naturally, you should expect more furry from the LASU counterparts. Is it not “just” N20,000 some will even say. And it is this “is-it-not-just” mentality that makes our country arguably “just” the only country on earth where fees and prices of commodities and services will be increased by over 300% and some will still say “just”. I will talk more later on this Nigerian mentality.
Asides the disparity in fees, it is relatively easier to mount pressure on a Governor whose office in the State Secretariat may just be few kilometers away from the four cardinal points of the state. Consider how effective the “cooked-beans-and-garri” protest of the LASU students was, compared with the Federal Expressway blockade by the “Ever-Tatan” Ife Students.
The first was embarrassing to the Lagos Governor, the second only chocked up the already oppressed innocent road travellers, namely me and you. I need not remind that those commercializing your education fly in the sky. I’m not sure if Jonathan was even briefed that some of you even “ranted” on the streets. (Don’t mind my diction, but you can take it as my tacit support for true federalism and return to regionalism in Nigeria. That is an article for another time anyway).
Away from all these comparisons, let me tell you, comrades, the key factor responsible for the failure of (y)our struggle. Some will think of the betrayal by some student leaders, discordant tunes from the Exco–members or the “holier-than-thou” tussle among them. To me all these are secondary.
Truth be told, we failed because we have lost the sense of brother’s keeping, self- sacrifice and -denial. “A wa ti goge, ka fara to o ja. Eyin toku ke mura”. It is this weakness that the school authority seized and they won. To rule them, just divide them.
You may have forgotten, when you wrote your last semester examinations, there was a release that the increment will affect only the fresh students. So you slumber on. Shebi it is just the Freshers? Read the preceding sentence again… Did you see any “just” there? Yes, that is the mentality. OAU is in her present state because of this mentality. Nigeria is in her terrible state because of this mentality. Before long, another release increasing the Returning students’ fee came out. Gbam!!! Ohun ta lai mokan fi n se ra re lo po.
To even shoot yourself on the foot, you went on paying the hiked fee clandestinely, one after the other. And “Things Fall Apart” immediately for you. The “center” of your Student Union activism could not hold thereafter.
Take this bombshell now, if this regime of hiked fee stays, sooner or later there will come a generation of Ife students who will be more of “Aje–butters” than “Aje–Pakos”. The same Great Ife that produced me and many others who wouldn’t have made it to school if this was the status quo.
If there was a hope of education in Nigeria for the orphans, the self-sponsored and the sons and daughters of the poor, the embodiment of that hope was Great Ife. And will I send my ward to a school with 4+x or 5+x academic calendar year? Will I send my ward to a school with prison-like hostels? (Again forgive my bluntness. Otito lo ba mi je).
I know many right now in Ife could not get feeding allowance from home because the hiked fees were paid through the last penny or by debt. I wonder what creative knowledge and education will go in and come out of a starving student. The French people say: “A ventre affamé, point d’oreille”. Ebi e wonu, ko ro mi o wo. Such is the future of our country. I thought we said, our graduates are unemployable. Those coming will not even qualify to be called graduates!
Price away education from the poor, and take many more Nigerian families deep down in to generational poverty, where diseases, squalor, desperation, despair, national unrest, underdevelopment and national stagnation are the order of the day. If our leaders refuse to reflect, ordinary citizens like me and you should.
The least we should do now is lobbying to ensure that the current bloated treasury available to the school is judiciously spent and channeled towards easing life and studies for the general Great Ife community and not siphoned.
I will leave you with Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” And you and your family are the smallest unit that make up this world. If you don’t change, through education of course, then the world will not.