By Jimoh Abibat (MSA Ile-Ife)

The Students’ Union Action Committee of the Obafemi Awolowo University marked this year’s commemoration of the July 10, 1999 assassination of student leaders in styles.

The members of the MSA featured prominently in the events; speaking from the platform, introducing our organisation to the hundreds of participants, and selling our papers.

Five students’ leaders of the Great Ife Students’ Union, including the Secretary-General of the Students’ Union, Akinyemi Iwilade, known as Afrika, were assassinated by cultists of the ‘Black Axe Confraternity. These Cultists also went on to seek out the President of the Union, Lanre Legacy, who escaped assassination only because these Cultists failed in their efforts to behead the leadership of a radical union that was engaging the management in several protests against fee hikes and poor welfare. Testimonies from the perpetrators of this nefarious act, at the Panel of Enquiry set up to investigate the event by the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency, indicted the Vice-Chancellor of the university at the time, Prof. Wale Omole. The Cultists confessed that Omole sponsored the attack.

The Olusegun Obasanjo presidency immediately removed Professor Wale Omole from office as VC, which was basic. Since then, no justice has been served on the sponsor of this tragic event. Professor Wale Omole has gone ahead to hold top public offices, including serving as the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of a public university. This is a slap on the face for the families of the victims of the 1999 massacre and successive leadership and members of the Great Ife Students’ Union. The MSA calls for this clear case of assassination to be revisited and perpetrators brought to justice; compensation should also be paid to the families of the bereaved and the Students’ Union of OAU, Ile-Ife.

Every year since July 10, 1999, the students’ union or radical students’ groups has always organised political events to sensitise students about the significance of the tragic events of July 10, 1999. It became an event to reinforce the anti-cultist principle of the Union and of its progressive and radical traditions.

This year’s July 10 events came against the background of preparations for new Students’ Union elections after the management lifted the ban on Students’ Union activities, which it unlawfully suspended in the first place. But socialist students and activist groups have resisted the ban; they have been organising the union under the Students’ Union Action Committee since the ‘proscription’ of the Union in 2017. The same Committee pulled off a successful July 10 event this year, which recorded robust physical and virtual participation.

The Great Ife Students’ Union Building

The July 10 symposium was the cream atop the week-long events. Former Students’ Union leaders and socialists spoke from the platform about the need for students to elect radical leaders that can defend and advance the interests of students. The management also sent representatives, despite receiving no invitation, ratcheting up its scheme to hijack the events, without atoning for the roles its predecessors played 22 years ago. Even so, the present management has doubled down on its confrontation with the Students’ Union, increasing fees indiscriminately and banning the Union to crush legitimate protests.

Wole Engels, the National Organising Secretary of the MSA, was one of the speakers at the Symposium. He spoke to the need for the students to link their struggles to broader issues that face Nigerian youths, and elect a Union that can resuscitate Great Ife’s role in organising a new, radical national students’ movement. He also introduced the MSA to students and emphasised the support socialist groups have given to the struggle to sustain the vibrant traditions of the Great Ife Students’ Union.

Ayo Ademiluyi, a Member of the MSA National Secretariat, also spoke at the Panel Session, which was held after the Symposium. The Panel Session also had the Dean of Students’ Affairs, Professor Aransi and the Chief Security Officer of the University,….as Panelists.

The Panel Session which was moderated by Adejumo Kabir, a journalist with Premium Times featured discussions on the extent of interference of the University Management in Students’ unionism. With an Electoral Committee in place for the elections into the Students’ Union elections, Ayo Ademiluyi emphasised the need for students to fight for an Independent, vibrant and fighting Students’ Union and encouraged as many of them to join the Movement for A Socialist Alternative (MSA) which has a Branch on the campus through which they can be politically educated to play correct and conscious roles in the Students’ Union that is emerging.

The MSA sold four papers at the event. We also gained contacts among students’ activists that listened to the speeches of our comrades.

The symposium and growing consciousness of students, partly triggered by electoral activities, have raised new prospects for recruitments and consolidation of the MSA in OAU.