By Timothy Agbor, Osogbo
Students of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun state, southwest Nigeria, have defied the order by the institution’s management saying they should vacate the campus following their protests against the increment in the school fees even as the undergraduates condemned the management for claiming in the media that they embarked on violent protest.
The students also resisted a team of mobile policemen from entering the university as they shut the main gate of the school and made fire in which a large amount of beans were cooked by some female students protesters.
The policemen, who apparently came on the order of the school management to ensure that the students vacate the campus were also offered cooked beans, which they rejected before they called a superior officer to speak with the Students’ Union President, Mr. Ibikunle Isaac.
The management of the institution led by its Vice Chancellor, Prof. Bamitale Omole on Wednesday, 18th June, 2014, announced the indefinite closure of the university thus ordering the students to vacate the campus latest by 4pm on Thursday, 19th June, 2014.
But the apparently resilient students took to the main entrance of the institution and shut the gate insisting on ‘no retreat, no surrender’ until the management reversed the hiked fees and announce the re-opening of the institution.
The protesting undergraduates who believe peaceful protest is a right enshrined in the constitution also prevented a team of mobile policemen from gaining entrance to the campus to ensure that students comply with the management’s directive.
In a release issued and signed by the Public Relations Officer of the Students Union, Bamidele Oludare said “students resolved at a congress on Wednesday night not to vacate campus and we have all our students still around and powerfully following up on the struggle.
“The management through its Public Relations Officer, Mr. Abiodun Olanrewaju told the media that we embarked on violent protest, I want to say that the assertion is erroneous and should be discarded because our protests against the astronomical increment have been peaceful and orderly.
“While our students have barricaded all roads and linkages of the campus, the mobile policemen who were at the school gate were peacefully denied access to the school at the campus main gate.
“The university management decided to shut down the university community on account of “violent protest” by Great IFE students. Members of the public should not be deceived by this propaganda, which is built on blatant lies and distortion of obvious truth. In reality, the autocratic closure of the university is intended to break the resistance of students against an astronomic, inconsiderate increment in fees.
“This closure threatens the democratic advancement of the Nigerian society, and indeed is a militaristic relic haunting the voice of the majority, harmless and poor citizens. Our union condemns, in strong terms, this vicious closure and we demand for immediate reopening of the university”.
He then vowed that students would not leave the campus until the management reverse what he termed “astronomical” hike in the school fees and announce the opening of the university for the 2013/2014 academic session.
“As at Thursday morning, soldiers and policemen have been deployed to the university main gate to assault students and SSS officers have been recruited and planted amidst students to effect quiet and orchestrated arrest of union leaders. Also the university has followed this wickedness up by instructing workers in sensitive departments of the university such as power house, water department, health centre, butteries and markets to shut down so as to frustrate students who reside on the university campus.
“Our union condemns this onslaught, and we remain undaunted in our struggle against oppression of the poor. We however seize this medium to reiterate our commitment to this struggle against increment in fees and immediate re-opening of the university”, the statement read.
Meanwhile, the demonstration by the students was colourful as some female students prepared beans at the main entrance of the university for students in order to sustain them while they barricade the main gate.
While some turned the main entrance to football pitch, others were seen chanting anti-Omole songs while the drumming and dancing lasted.
As at the time of filing this report, our correspondent learnt that the students were manning the gate to prevent incursion of the security operatives.