“A world where good men fold their hands and watch villains of history rock there world like colossus”
At the end of the long ASUU strike, the students of university of Nigeria Nsukka resumed academic work , on November 2009 to find a new VC at the helm of affairs; Professor Bartholomew Ndubuisi Okolo. He succeeded Professor Ositadinma Chinedu Nebo. We the students returned and saw a school with demolished structures; the geography class in the social sciences, the guidance and counselling unit of the institution, all localized in a busy hub of computer business offices, and cheap sumptuous eateries. The PRO made us know the current administration wants to “restore the UNN master plan”. “The fallouts of the long strike; the upgrading of universities to western standard has started with UNN, the first prestigious university in Nigeria”, we mused. The PRO further let us know that the remaining eateries and business centres in the campus would soon go to the ground in line with master plan agenda.
That was a UNN existing on the backdrop of suppressed anger and discontent, caused by increase in school fees, with little or no increase in students welfare, banning of commercial motorbikes, and introduction of UNN shuttle that makes students wait like commuters, travelling from say Upper Iweka to Maza-Maza, Lagos or from Lagos to Kano. The administration of the former VC, made no explanation to phenomenon which the students took with biblical meekness as some students trekked non- tarred roads that lead to hinterlands of an enormously large institution. A UNN where the students go to toilet in the bushes, because the lavatories built by Nnamdi Azikiwe in Franco (group of male hostels) now stinks to heavens.
With the sudden demolition of structures by the authority and announcement of imminent extirpation of the few remaining related structures, the SUG demanded an audience with the VC, who to the amazement of the students rejected any of such. Mild agitation started growing in school as the students began looking at the man askance. Like sand being hidden in a basket, information leaked down to the students. Rumours flew of plan to increase the acceptance of admission fee from 6thousand naira to 25 thousand naira, a more than 300% increment. Meanwhile the master plan saga grew to a shocking extent. More business centres were demolished alongside eateries. Students had to transport to and fro the town for their term paper works as few remaining, though, sentenced-to-death business centres could not contain the demands of the population increased by sandwich students. Logically prices grew too. With the publishing of admission list the payment of 25thosand naira prospective students began. Another rumour tickled down to us that the administration has made a more than 300% increase in school fees.
As the students were then in their exams, which would finish with the month, fear grew that the increment would be made public once students depart school to return on February for the start of new academic session. The prospective students would kick-start the paying of the outrageous amount before returning students joins. Since they have not been admitted as students the prospective students would not show any refusal. They are definitely yet to come to terms with the harsh financial reality of being a student in UNN. Sequel to this premonition the SUG again demanded an audience with the VC, who sent message that their request is non-necessitated and referred them to the Dean of Students Affairs. That Thursday being 14th, the SUG published a formal writ intimating the students on the developments: unwarranted refusal and by implication relegation of the authority of the SUG senate. It made it clear that the House of Rep. does not accept any fees increase. It issued a deadline to the VC whom they made it clear to that he has till Monday morning, being 18th to alloy SUG to meet with him or they would view both the increment and silence as a slight on the SUG.
The students were already irked by these developments. A whole lot of students had taken to the streets of the campus as early as before7pm. We sought to make our intentions of rejecting any increment in fees known to the school authority. We trekked the length of the road that led through Nsukka to Opi, protesting to commuters and the public our discontent. As the majority of students were in Opi, a B-camp of questionables was raging inside school. An initial attempt was made by us to quell this extremely angry camp but failed. The five cars lying at the compound had its wind screens broken and some street lights too. The first-class senior staff club built by the Firstbank was visited where they served themselves drinks and dishes most of them never had before. They made their way to Chitis eatery and had their fill too for the day. No destruction of any sort was recorded in Chitis or elsewhere.
As this was going on, banks were uprooting there ATM machines within the campus premises. Some cynically said it was part of the new VC’s “juggernautic ” master plan saga. We heard that there was THE CBN directives for introduction of interswitch ATMs
Before this extent, a litigation attempt made to a popular Lagos state lawyer did not fell through. The commercialization of staff quarters was also introduced by the VC, though not made public, yet. The juggernaut VC also rebuffed any approach by his erudite fellows. He told-off his predecessor who attempted giving him some word. Ear witnesses testified.
The students made every effort to reach the VC, but to no avail. As a father would not despise his kids, students were awestruck by such never seen almighty pose from a leader. Some turned mob and destroyed properties in search of the VC.
As around 6pm when the demonstration had died down, the campus lion fm announced that the school’s authority has asked the students to vacate campus before 7pm. This injunction again made the students in Franco to lie outside of their hostels and make bonfire in wait for any possible military force, as the obedience of such order was impossible given the time. Wisely no policeman came that night, and possible bloodshed from both sides was averted. The students screamed and bonfired through the night. On Sunday morning a troop of mobile police sirened into the campus. They met students vacating the hostels with their properties in obedience to purported order from the federal government. The men of the force were merely driving through the school as the isolation of the schools began.
We learnt that NTA, on Saturday night reported there was violent destruction of school properties. Why did the mob destroy properties only where the VC was associated with? As at Wednesday 20th, there were rumours that the VC, strategically, bought some cronies and instigated them to destroy the properties in his lodge and office. He did this having found out the peaceful protest will absolutely put him on defensive. He therefore desperately sought a way of buying some offensive against the students. He knows the art of war too! We felt bad for the biased reporting and the play down by the NTA. Perhaps, it was line with the re-branding stuff. Let those telling our stories for us stop falsifying facts. We were not dissident. We sang national anthem and the UNN anthem, in solidarity.
If we do not fight for our right to survive and lead a minimally good life who will do that for us? Posterity will scorn us for engendering the strangulation of the human spirit by keeping silence in the face of tyranny. The story of UNN upheaval was a case of break in communication engineered by the incumbent power.
Therefore this is our choice and our stand:
- We would not accept any increment in fees
- The SUG are not responsible for the demonstration but the students as a whole (who have the SUG as their mouth piece)
- A sensible cost should be named (for the damages of the “rioting students”)
- The VC should step down(as he has proved even to a dummy he cannot rule in a time demanding so exemplary leadership)
- And apologize to the students and his noble colleagues, before he steps down
- We will name our cost( for damages from policemen who fired tear gas to non-violent demonstrators)
- Anything contrary to our choice is unacceptable
ALUTA CONTINUA... VICTORIA ACERTA