INDYPRESS recently met up with Ojo Aderemi, a 200-level student of the Department of History, who is also a presidential aspirant in the upcoming Students’ Union elections.
CAN WE MEET YOU?
Ojo Aderemi: my name is Ojo Aderemi, a student of the department of history, 200level. I am currently vying for the presidency of the Students’ Union of University of Ibadan. I am a social critique, a political activist,and a public speaker, and a creative writer.
WHY ARE YOU VYING FOR THE POSITION OF PRESIDENT?
Well, first thing is that I’ve always been politically conscious, and, secondly,I have identified some problems with student unionism during my stay on campus.I’ve been on campus for 5 sessions now [including a 3-year diploma] and I’ve been observing. I was a campus journalist and I was a member of AFAS press and I’m always communicating my ideas about student unionism through writing, and so I’ve identified some issues with student unionism that needs my attention, my practical presence, agents-in-council, so that’s basically why I’m vying.
WHY CONTEST NOW IN 200 LEVEL?
Well, I’ve been being on campus for a very long time. The issue is that it will be easier for me contesting in 200 level because I’ve worked with several people, and many of them have graduated but some are still around. So contesting in 200 level,I’ll still be able to secure their help,as regards these things. And constitutionally, I can contest any time I like. So, it is my choice to contest in 200level.
WHAT ARE THE UNION’S PROBLEMS?
First, there is a problem of the weakness of the union, the union is meant to be a pressure group that will mount pressure on d authorities on behalf of d students.It’s supposed to be a door of strength,a standing army, to defend the rights of students all the time basically that is why there is a student union in our university. We’re in the third world. Sometimes, we may have to use the entire mobilisation power of the union to demand for justice, but the union really is not performing its historical responsibility. That’s the problem we’ve distinguished right now.
WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THE OPINION THAT YOU ARE TOO RADICAL? AND THAT DURING YOUR TENURE, THE SCHOOL WILL BE LOCKED DOWN REPEATEDLY?
That’s not true. That’s just a little decline in political consciousness. The shutting down of the school gate isn’t a doing of the students union, but a doing of the university management to sabotage the students’ demand. Secondly…
IS SHUTTING DOWN THE SCHOOL GATE NOT A DIRECT REACTION TO UNIONISM?
Well, why not respond to their demands? Why must you shut the school gate and send everyone home, and bring them back to school while the problem remains there?
HOW ARE YOU SURE THE PROBLEM WILL NOT PERSIST IN YOUR TIME?
I’m not the one who will be shutting down the school gate anyway. We shall be calling periodical congresses, and the opinion of the students will be heard. If the congress says “do this”, that exactly will be our policy, I’m not the one that will go to the gate, and start shutting down school. However, most of the leaders who are afraid of protests, have open field, even in the labour market. So a union leader should be prepared for all these things, so that he can be able to control, whenever eventualities arise.
So, a student leader must understand all these. He must at all times, remember why he is a union leader. Defense. He must protect the interests and rights of students, not his own rights. The Students’ Union is supposed to take the welfare of students very seriously. Our ladies are being exploited in their halls of residence, as they are not being allowed to use electrical appliances. It is the duty of the students union to intervene on this. The issue of victimization, it is the duty of the students union to intervene in all these things. The fundamental duties of the students union are being neglected. We need to balance the students union and make it what it should be: a real tower of strength for the students. Students are no longer interested in the students union anymore, because year in year out, students are being disappointed. We need to bring our students back. And that is why we’re going to go out of our way, to make sure we deliver to the students, so that we can bring their interest back to the SU.
NOW, WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS TO COMBAT THE PROBLEMS?
As regards welfare, the last students information handbook of 2014/2015 (Pg 152,chapter 10), provides that the Students Welfare Board should meet periodically to review the welfare condition of the students, but the last time I heard this board met was in 2015. These are issues we intend to take care of first, and also to make sure that the welfare report of 2015 is implemented. The student welfare report of 2015, as improved in 2016, suggests that there should be light along Awo road, where a lot of crimes are perpetrated. These are things we would look into, also we are going to constitute a larger Security committee of the SU, where defence ministries of the various halls of residence, paramilitary organisations will be involved. Then as regards the disabled persons, we will be drafting a bill of rights for them, to protect them too, because they’re also part of us. We are also going to be anti-increment. We need to stop the management from turning students into internally generated revenue by charging obnoxious fees. On the issue of victimization, students are victimised for expressing their opinions on this campus. That has to be stopped. We should have the freedom to express ourselves, even if its injurious. We are also going to be working with other Student union bodies in other schools to restore sanity to the rotting state of the National Association of Nigerian students. We are also going to work hard to make available big-name entrepreneurs periodically so as to lend some words of advice to the student entrepreneurs. There are several other plans but these are these ones that are most important.
ON STUDENT VICTIMISATION, ARE YOU GOING TO BE PROACTIVE OR REACTIVE?
We are going to be proactive. We are going to be putting institutions on ground to fight victimization. Last year, there was a demand by a body, called the Association of Assistant hall Wardens to allow their members became a signatory to their respective halls of residence’s accounts. That itself is a form of victimization and we need to check it. The SU congress must act on it as fast as possible. We are going to be proactive about that, and when we are renewing to improve student consciousness through our activities, we will attempt through the SU congress to amend our constitution to accommodate a student judiciary council.
STUDENT JUDICIARY COUNCIL?
HOW FEASIBLE IS THAT?
It is only feasible when students are aware of their rights. When we have been able to politically conscientize the students enough. So, definitely it’s our right actually, so it’s going to be feasible.
WITH THE CURRENT POLITICAL APATHY IN THE UNION, HOW DO YOU WANT TO MANAGE SUCH AND STILL HAVE TIME TO PROCEED TOWARDS AN SJC?
I’m happy that you established that political apathy on campus is very high. These are the issues. But there are still some vibrant comrades who are only waiting for a union leader with courage, a progressive. So, definitely, to eradicate political apathy will be easy because once the students see that they have a union leader with a drive, a passion to change society, they will be interested again. It is just natural. So, definitely these things are possible and the legacies will be continued by generations that will be coming after us.
SO YOU ARE THE UNION’S MESSIAH…
(Laughs) No. The word Messiah…I only know of one, and for the Christians that’s Jesus Christ. But then, periodically, there used to be a rise of someone who will make a difference…
SO, ARE YOU THAT PERSON?
DID OTHER PRESIDENTS NOT MAKE A DIFFERENCE? WERE THEY USELESS?
Well, I never said they were useless. They did their best to help society. Some of them had beautiful plans but you know, a union leader must have an ideological background. It is compulsory. You have to have what you stand for and be dedicated to it.
THEN WHAT IS OJO ADEREMI’S IDEOLOGY?
Well, I respect the idea of Democratic socialism, collectivism. When decisions are taken together. I believe that education, healthcare, housing should be given to people for free.
THE PROTEST WHICH WAS HELD LAST YEAR PARTLY IN HONOUR OF TUNJI-EKPETI MICHAEL WAS A COLLOSAL FAILURE BY MANY STANDARDS? WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Thank God you mentioned the word “partly”. The protest was not in his honor. The protest was for bad welfare and poor living condition on campus. We all know the truth about that protest, in d early hours of the protest, nobody mentioned Tunji-Ekpeti Michael. Well, it was a disaster truly, because students were not coordinated well during that protest. And we have learnt from history.
SOME FEEL YOU KEEP COMPARING THE UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN STUDENTS’ UNION TO THE OBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY STUDENTS’ UNION. ARE YOU HERE TO MODEL OUR UNION AFTER OAU’S?
The last time I compared the University of Ibadan Students’ Union to OAU Students’ Union was when I was still a campus journalist and I was observing. The truth is that the configuration of both schools are different. The University of Ibadan was built by the imperialists while OAU was built in rebellion against the University of Ibadan. So, the Obafemi Awolowo University was built on the foundation of rebellion nd that is what goes on in their Students’ Union. Though I do not wish for ours to turn into that because one of the weakest student unions in Nigeria is that of Obafem Awoloo University because they cannot even deliver the votes of half of their undergraduates at the elections. This is quite appalling. As regards their radicalism, their leaders have always been vibrant with argument power and that is what I am inspired by.
ALSO, MANY HAVE LAMENTED ABOUT THE APATHY OF OUR LADIES TO POLITICAL LIFE IN THE UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN. THEY HAVE CALLED FOR AN ORIENTATION OF FEMALE STUDENTS IN THE PLITICAL SPHERE. DO UYOU HAVE PLANS FOR THAT?
Of course, when I talked about political education of students on campus, I was also referring to that, although when it comes to apathy, it is not particular to them. I don’t like when we just accuse them anyhow. I think the halls which have been providing more votes in the past elections are the female halls. They are really conscious and they are voting. But as regards their interest in leadership, we need to inspire them. There have been female politicians who were very strong on campus in the 1980s. We can invite them around and tell our ladies their experiences on campus. Then, I still do not see why we should give special treatment to any of the folks. I am a feminist to an extent because I believe that men and women are equal. So, for one to be politically apathetic is just a configuration of the society.
DURING THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE, YOU SAID YOU PERSONALLY DO NOT BELIEVE IN ENDORSEMENTS. WHY THEN DID YOU NOT REJECT THE ENDORSEMENTS YOU HAVE GOT SO FAR?
In international relations, I have come to learn that you bargain sometimes for a win-win position. Historically, the issue of endorsement has been able to shape the voting pattern of students and we had to participate in the endorsement. In my primary place where I live and study, I have opponents coming from there and many of them were democratically elected individuals said they wanted to support someone and the choice was between me and someone coming from that same place so, I had to take part in the endorsement. So, it was a compulsion. As regards Zik, it was a primary.
SO, ARE YOU SAYING HALLS OF RESIDENCE ARE NOW POLITICAL PARTIES?
Normally, with the political terrain in the University of Ibadan, the halls of residence are your political parties, which is why I created the Patriotic Intelligentsia. It is a political movement with a political ideology which will be fielding candidates in elections.
DURING YOUR TENURE AS THE DIRECTOR OF MEDIA AND PUBLICITY AT THE NANS LEVEL, IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT YOU WERE NOT FUNCTIONAL, RELEASING NO STANDARD PUBLICATION WHATSOEVER?
Ha. We released several publications but it is the duty of the PRO to do so. All I did was to vet publications and give advice. When the PRO was not functional for a time and we held congresses in other institutions as regards issues in Oyo State, my name was appended to several publications. I can even say that I released more publications than the PRO.
IN A FACEBOOK POST ON AUGUST 12, 2016 AT 1:38 PM, YOU WROTE: “IT IS NOT OUT OF PLACE TO CONLUDE THAT IT IS MORE HONOURABLE TO BE ZIK HALL CHAIRMAN THAN BEING SU PRESIDENT…” WHY NOT GO FOR ZIK HALL CHAIRMANSHIP INSTEAD?
It was an excerpt from a post of about seven pages. I was a journalist then and I wanted to bring the interest of readers to the post. It was just a witty saying.
SO, YOU COMPROMISED YOUR VIEWS FOR READERSHIP?
We are in a community of youths, so sometimes we do certain things.
ALL THIS TALK OF WITTY THINGS, HOW DO WE KNOW YOUR ATTRACTIVE MANIFESTO IS NOT JUST FULL OF EMPTY WITTY SAYINGS?
You said yourself that my manifesto is attractive. These are well-researched issues which can make or mar anybody. Putting yourself in the leadership of the Union can destroy your political future. When I was a campus journalist is different from now that I am a politician?
DURING THE DEBATE, YOU PLEDGED THAT BY THE END OF YOUR STAY ON CAMPUS, YOUR CGPA WILL BE NOTHING LESS THAN A SECOND CLASS UPPER. HOW CAN YOU MANAGE OUR UNION WITH YOUR ACADEMICS?
With the power of a Union comes great responsibility. I still have 300 and 400 levels to engage in rigorous academic exercise. I’m not a lazy human being. I can combine certain things together.
BEING SOMEONE WHO LIKES TO PLAN AHEAD, WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE VICE PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRANT?
I do not reserve the political right to comment on any co-aspirant.
IF YOU WIN ON SATURDAY, WHAT WILL BE YOUR FIRST STEP IN OFFICE?
Right from Saturday, we will start planning how to implement our policies. There is no time to waste. We will begin consulting different quarters.
WHAT ARE YOUR FINAL WORDS FOR UITES?
University of Ibadan students should be the custodians of intellectualism which we claim to have. They should not be blinded by any form of prejudice. We should be objective in our process of selection.