Yours faithfully belongs to an enclave of writers who, pained by the utter decadence present within the system, dedicate their craft to criticisms of the socio-political order in the University of Ibadan. I have always been discontent with a lot of things. And I guess being inspired heavily by the likes of Tijani Mayowa, Habeeb Kolade, Osho Samuel and Ore Afolayan – some of my mentors in campus journalism – has imbibed in me a need to speak up when things are not going right.
However, I must admit, four years of bleeding out on the pages of the public’s consciousness has not been kind to my mind. It has become tiring to point out the flaws in this painting called our Union while everyone else hails it as the next Mona Lisa.
This however should not be mistaken as a resignation into silence but a choice to effect a change in tone of approach. When criticisms seem not to work, perhaps we may try another route – give a utopic representation of the Union with the hopes that we can work towards it progressively. As a truly concerned unionist, here is my personal blueprint, not for a perfect union but for a better one. If we were to be serious about changing the Union, what we need is not a singular revolution but a gradual change in orientation. I believe progress in the Union can be achieved in the following fields:
I choose to begin with my clan. I risk being evicted from the community by my clansmen for saying this, but I believe the press has failed the Union. Over the years, it has become painfully easy to point out the few campus pressmen who stand out for writing about the ills of the Union in its wholesomeness and the goings-on in the respective residences and departments/faculties. This should not be.
The Union of Campus Journalists, under the aegis of the ever-gallant and rambunctiously energetic President Samuel Arowosafe [I have to praise my boss o, so I don’t get D-listed] should focus its orientation programmes this year for the new in-takes on the need to be more socio-politically alert in our various environments. Being a writer does not equate to being a pressman. NASELS Press should not be publishing a book review, for instance, while ignoring the fact that the association’s president has not organised a freshers’ welcome towards the end of the semester. That was just an instance by the way, it did not actually happen. But it does happen too often. We are the watchdogs of our society. No pressboard should publish this week for instance without a commentary on the riotuous Presidential Debate which occurred on Saturday. The press needs to be felt wherever it is established as a terror to the wicked and a truth-teller to the public.
In addition, I believe pressmen should not be entirely stifled from participating in the political process. Believed naturally to be objective-thinking, pressmen have not just ideas, but actionable plans which can be very useful to those in positions of leadership. The only time pressmen should stay away from political leadership is during elections, when their influence could radically tilt the fate in favour of certain candidates. Pressmen should have a quota in every electoral commission. They should be able to head and join committees which deal directly with the social health of their society. Take Independence Hall for instance, members of the press are not just writers but leaders of committees. We cannot continue to write and throw insults without doing anything to change the situation. It is called armchair criticism and there is no positive sense of the word.
The electioneering process on campus is a true comedy of errors. We need to have a lot of changes in attitude before we can ever get better. This past Presidential Debate was a success by all means. A big shout out to Femi Adesope, Haleem Olatunji, Alao Abiodun Joshua and Yusuf Akinpelu, who all worked day and night to make it happen. However, it was still heartbreaking. Yes, the Large Lecture Theatre was about 80 perfect full but that is not enough. The number of people who came out to check out their aspirants in order to decide whose resolve, plans and charisma was most fitting for a president was too discouraging in comparison to the number of those who did not come. How can we progress with this kind of apathy? Do not complain that a President does not perform when you did not vote wisely…if at all.
Furthermore, hall endorsement is a phenomenon which I will continue to call a true evil. If we want our Union to be better, we either have to scrap the idea of hall endorsement totally or restructure it to suit the needs of the Union better. As it stands, it is merely a case for halls of residence to voice support for certain candidates whose victory will benefit said hall, albeit at the expense of the Union. This is bad. We need to either forget about it completely or have a form of rehabilitation of the process. Our halls of residence should not matter at all when we are talking about who to lead the collectivity of the studentship. To quote the prodigiously-cerebral ‘Kunle Adebajo wrote in May, 2015: “We can be Mellanbists or Zikists all we want. But when the fate of the union is at stake; our individual halls must not be factored in decision-making and action-taking. In a nutshell, we must first be unionists before we are hall-lodgers – for one is by choice while the other is perforce.” Moreover, there should be certain requirements to vie for political positions. Inexperience is not to be allowed in our Union. It should be constitutionally required for whoever runs for the positions of General Secretary up to President to have held an executive or legislative leadership position either at the department, faculty or hall levels at some point in time before picking up the form. I know this will be controversial, of course. But we need to understand that whoever will run the Union must have experience in leadership in the University of Ibadan. That way, we can judge them based on their antecedents. Yes, holding a position previously is not a given symbol of quality. However, it erases the occurrence of greenhorns who have not proven able to lead students in their locales picking up forms to lead the entirety of the University of Ibadan student-base. In this current electioneering period, for instance, many voters are choosing who to pitch their tents with based on the aspirants’ previous performances in their leadership positions.
The need for the judicial council cannot be over-emphasised. We need to prove capable of settling our own disputes among ourselves instead of leaving it all to the Student Disciplinary Council. We may be skeptical about its ability to work at the Students’ Union level but, why not try it at faculty and hall levels first? Let all faculties and halls of residence have their own judicial councils first. Give it a three-year test-run. Afterwards, if it works, then we can begin the process of adapting it to the Students’ Union. We need not look further even, it is already a glistening success in the Faculty of Education for instance.
Women need to be fully incorporated into the system…by force. Too often, our ladies are so invisible in the system. It is their own faults. I am sick of finding excuses for them. do you know how many ladies are vying for political positions in this year’s Students’ Union elections? Yet, we see many of them flocking to the social media webspace to ridicule Olamide Akanni, who deifinitely has her flaws, but is at least not too chicken to put herself out there. You might not want to vote for her but, man, you have to respect her boldness. Orientation programmes aimed at resuscitating the political consciousness of women need to be held periodically. We all know the presence of women anywhere spices things up. They are perhaps the strongest beings on earth and we cannot do without them.
To conclude, I believe it is my job, with the platform I have been given as a pressman, to attempt to contribute to the discussion on exactly how to make our Union work, how to conquer the behemoths of underdevelopment which have dwarfed the growth of our beloved Union. I want to use this medium as a clarion call to fellow pressmen to ditch the make-up articles and football commentaries, and take on the esponsibility to be the consciousness of our Union. Together, we all can make it work. . You do not need to agree with these plans of mine…I am not saying I know best. But, at least, I am speaking up…isn’t that what matters?
By Kanyinsola Olorunnisola