By Sunday Saanu
At every graduation ceremony, particularly before students receive scroll of honour and are pronounced “graduates”, the Registrar will invoke what could be regarded as academic ethos, saying “the persons standing have been found worthy both in character and in learning to be admitted to the degree of …” From this phrase, character and learning are the two major constituents of a degree a graduate parades as a symbol of academic training. Interestingly, one of the mission statements of University of Ibadan is to produce graduates who are worthy in character and learning .
But, what is character? An online dictionary describes it as “the inherent complex of attributes that determines a person’s moral and ethical actions and reactions. Indeed, education has for its object, the formation of character. The synonyms of character include attitude, nature,attributes, disposition, reputation, among others. To underscore the importance of character, an American author, John Maxwell says attitude is the librarian of our past, the speaker of our present and the prophet of our future”. In other words, bad character is like a flat tyre, you can’t go far unless you change it.
The recent students’ protest at the University of Ibadan (UI) began two days before commencement of planned first semester examination. The union, led by a 200-level student, Ojo Aderemi, had issued a six-point demand at a “congress”, which management describe as illegal. Some of the demands of the students included a two-day ultimatum given to the University Management to constitute the students’ welfare board.
The union also wanted a fact-finding committee to be set up to look into the issue of the use of hot plates in halls of residence. In addition, the Aderemi led union insisted that examination would not be allowed to take place unless the management issued identity cards. They also resolved to disrupt the scheduled programme of Oyo state government at the International Conference Centre to be chaired by Governor Abiola Ajimobi. They decided to occupy the Ojoo/Agbowo/UI Sango Federal Highway as well as all Faculties, lecture rooms, and lock up Centre for General Studies.
Sadly, all efforts to pacify the students by the Management including several meetings, interventions from different stakeholders, pleadings with the students not to disrupt the planned first semester examination that had already dragged on endlessly failed. Apart from wanting the examination to be postponed, there was a suspicion that the students were being manipulated by some subterranean forces on campus in order to settle scores with the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka. At last, the rampaging students got the effect they wanted: the examination has been postponed, just as the school has been shut down against undergraduate students, while the post-graduate students are in school for their research.
However, it will be unscholarly to generalize that all undergraduate students support the protest and are happy with the aftermath. Students are in various classes: decisive, dreaming, and drifting. Let us briefly examine the attributes of each category. The decisive students in this context, are the first class candidates. They are apex-minded. They don’t like protest or disruption of any kind . They want to graduate on time and take on the world.
Their movements revolve around the classrooms, library and religious centres. UI has this class of students in abundance. They don’t participate in unionism neither do they get involved in Aluta.
The dreaming students are those ones aspiring to make good grades. Many of them are from poor homes. They want to graduate on time and get jobs in order to change their economic status. They want to make their parents happy. They have no god-fathers. They run away from trouble. They are mostly found in religious centres, praying. They may be poor, yet they are dreaming of a better tomorrow. They hardly participate in unionism. Do they even have money for electioneering? Thousands of them are in UI and other federal universities because the cost at the public universities is the cheapest.
The last category, the drifting students are very vocal. They have a foot in school and another in town. They drift to receive one or two lectures in school and dash to town to participate in political rallies. They are politically savvy. They fester on campus like pestilence Their mates call them “NFF” that is No Future Ambition. They see campus as their home. Even when they have graduated, they won’t go away. They are the students union kingmakers. They are the nightmares of university administrators.
Using this classification to dissect the recent protest in UI was largely engineered by the drifting students and some drifting graduate-students. Is it not surprising that it is a 200-level student who emerged as the President of the Students’ Union of Ibadan status?
This is probably because the decisive and dreaming students at 300 and 400 levels see unionism as a distraction , thereby leaving the turf for the drifting. And, less than a month after his election, Ojo Aderemi, in his impertinence rocked the boat with arrogant juvenility.
Since the protest broke out, ill-mannered and saucy students have turned the VC to a butt of cruel jokes. On a daily basis over the social media, Prof. Olayinka is called all manner of unprintable names. Various mendacious and malicious comments, intended to besmirch his integrity are posted with reckless abandon. One begins to wonder if some of these contumacious children know that respect for elders is one of the cardinal imperatives of our traditional customs. This is a sad commentary on civility. It is the barbarism of the worst kind.
By all standards, Prof. Olayinka remains the symbol of our collective integrity in UI. He is the leader of the academic community that is parading the highest number of professors in Nigeria. By extension, he is the first VC in this country today as many other universities look up to Ibadan for leadership, mentoring and inspiration. How audacious can a mannerless undergraduate student be, to describe such an academic titan as a “ disgrace “?. With time, all of these bad manners will come home to roost. Those who are running down the system and insulting the principal officers on social media should know that their names are being compiled. At the appropriate time, they shall be invited to come and face the music. Do they know that UI can withdraw the certificate she has issued if discovered that the holder is not worthy in character?
Perhaps it is apposite at this point to call on all stakeholders, including parents, lecturers and religious leaders, to work in synergy for the redemption of our youth from the morass of superciliousness and arrogance of ego. Already, Lagos and Abuja branches of UI Alumni Association have stepped in, to plead for the students.
As Italian poet of the late middle ages, Dante Alighieri notes “the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who,in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality, this is certainly not a time to keep quiet.
Some of our youth clearly need what a psychotherapist, Jude Bijou calls attitude reconstruction. Delinquents in the garb of unionism must not be allowed to pollute a decent academic environment of Ibadan’s status.
Saanu writes from University of Ibada via [email protected]