CEC 2017: OAU DECIDED

After some months, the journey from the reinstatement of the  Students’ Union of Obafemi Awolowo University to the election of members into the Central Executive Council was largely completed this last decisive week. Within this months-long time space are some noteworthy occurrences and highlights.

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LIFTING OF BAN

The ban on campaign and pre-election activities was lifted last month. Before this time, certain intending aspirants had already littered the campus with teasers welcoming students back to campus and flashing their political ambitions. In fact,  some of them already started  campaigning and soliciting support. This is a flagrant disregard for the regulations of the university concerning election activities but who noticed?  How many students challenged the anomaly? Well, may be they did not even consider it inappropriate in the first place.

ON EXEMPLARY LEADERSHIP

With the lifting of the ban, posters and banners were placed at strategic areas of the campus and faces began to be associated with names. In the name of radical publicity, posters were used to deface walls in a most ridiculous and deplorable manner. Ideally, the aspirants themselves should have warned those helping to post against polluting the walls and in the case where that failed, they should have taken it upon themselves to remove the wrongly pasted ones, at least for the sake of their integrity. Their silence implied that they care more about results than processes even if the processes meant violating commonsensical laws. This is not leading by example.

THE DEBATE

A commendable effort was made by Association of Campus Journalists (ACJ)  to organize Monday’s debate where aspirants responded to questions posed by the panelists.  It was a time for students to meet the prospective leaders of the Students’ Union in person and behind the screens of Whatsapp and Facebook publicity and appealing banners and posters. There was an impressively massive turnout by students as offstage exercises were suspended and stage performance and presentation played out. Whether the large attendance had much to do with the increasing political consciousness of Great Ife students can be hard to tell. For some, they came to see how their favourites will steal the show and thrill the audience. Another category never really had candidates yet but came to decide who was worth giving a vote and who was not. These represent the politically alert electorates who are quite wary of the hands in which the Students’ Union’s leadership will be committed. Some others were there to relish the clash of Titans where the fittest and weaklings alike would be discovered.

The debate session in Oduduwa Hall on Monday

The debate session in Oduduwa Hall on Monday

The debate, to a reasonable extent, served to unmask a part of the personalities of the aspirants different from their alta egos. It revealed the gap between printed promises and personal competence. Not only that, it also revealed aspirants’ preparedness level and knowledge base as regards their respective offices, corresponding responsibilities and student unionism. At the end of the debate, the destination of many of them were not as unknown as it was initially. Some aspirants performed below their previously projected public image, others either maintained theirs or shocked the audience with the sudden rise to relevance. The later can be said of one of those vying for vice presidency and few others.

MANIFESTO DECLARATION

On Thursday, January 15th, candidates were to personally give a detailed presentation of their proposed work plans which are to be executed if elected. It was another serious test for the aspirants. However, supporters were continually out of control during the manifesto declaration. Their refusal to comply with protocols (like that of the banner regulation), the throwing of objects, poor composure by audience members, interruption of the Chief Security Officer,an apparent level of disorderliness altogether defy the civility and tranquility expected of educated – and not just schooled – individuals.

Manifesto declaration on Thursday held in Amphi Theater

Manifesto declaration on Thursday held in Amphi Theater

Certain thoughtful questions were asked though not all the candidates handled them satisfactorily and with brilliance. Some critical questions, however, went unasked – questions that probe the vagueness of several of the manifestoes, and those that demand light on the tenebrous concepts of traditional unionism and 21st century unionism, a  freshly evolving dichotomy. This yet fuels the conclusion that a good many students are ignorant of history and lack the knowledge of the substance their representatives should possess. Scrutiny by questions is one effective way of identifying capable Union representatives. In future times, aspirants should be allowed to take enough questions and enough time should be created for this.

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Majority of manifestoes are quite similar to those of previous aspirants, only that they underwent some recostuming. It was observed that some aspirants went out of their jurisdiction, promising to achieve feats that are not within the scope of their offices. An aspirant vying for the post of Public Relations Officer, an office for the spokesman of the Union, veered off his lane to talk about safety of students on campus. Two notable instances of vagueness were those of two aspirants for the office of Secretary General. One of them stated that he would establish relationship with general secretaries across faculties and departments but failed to state precisely what the essence of this would be. The other promised an all-inclusive project work but when asked to explain, his response was not near concrete. 

Apart from being vague, some plans are ambitious. Mention was made of the plan to hasten NYSC mobilization by an aspirant for Vice Presidency. That may not be impossible in itself but it is quite herculean a task. It is uncertain if the aspirant herself was fully conscious of it. The same person promised social welfarism. Now, the problem here is that there is the office of Director of Socials and that of Welfare Director already so where does she come in? Another aspirant for the same office promised to set up a committee that will be designated to look into massive academic failure. Unfortunately, no one asked if the committee will be all-student and if yes, how effective it can operate, given a number of limitations attending such mission.

THE ELECTION

The Students Union election was fraught with irregularities some of which include the clash between Association of Campus Journalists (ACJ) members, lack of uniform voting (the case of  Faculty of Arts) and inadequate ballot papers. These irregularities are symptomatic of the parrallelism between campus elections and the ill-supervised ones at the state and national levels in Nigeria.

Prior to the election proper, the winners of the offices of Director of Socials, Sports Director, Welfare Director, Assistant General Secretary and Vice President were somewhat predictable, Financial Secretary, Public Relations Officer and Secretary General were not easy to foretell while a dark cloud of uncertainty hung over the Presidency. The differences in the statistics before and after the Faculty of Arts’ voting went a long way to reveal the constituency’s numerical strength and how influential it can be during the Central Executive Council (CEC)  elections.

publish.illinois.edu

publish.illinois.edu

The emergence of Oyekan Ibukun (aka Dr Ibk) as the winner for the office of the President shares much similitude with that of incumbent U. S president Donald Trump. Not only did they win with similar drama, both do not have a political antecedent and also initially seemed to be less favoured to win.

LESSONS AND OBSERVATIONS

In the passionate quest to win the votes and mandates of student’s or at least to be elected, aspirants employed some unhealthy tactics which ironically worked. Nearly all of them relied on rhetorics, quotes, grandiloquent speeches, rhymes among other devices. It is unfortunate how easily and cheaply the audience were swayed and how their incessant excited shouts followed. Many of these aspirants  quoted freshly  crammed lines and Students Union constitution and barely at the mention of “Article…” and “Subsection…”, whooping would rise. Whether the constitution was rightly quoted or otherwise was no one’s business. This looseness invites the question of if there abound sycophants among the student populace who are cheaply bought over with sweet words, superficial idobales and other phony displays.

At the height of shallowness, a candidate (who eventually won) poorly acknowledged the owner of a quote thus “according to someone…”. Considering some inexcusable flaws and sheer ignorance exhibited by some of the aspirants, it is not inaccurate to conclude that most of the aspirants lack the intellectual stamina and leadership astuteness requisite of formidable and quintessential student union representatives as the Akeredolus and Falanas of old. It was not difficult to figure out that majority of those who performed impressively prepared and researched not because of they saw the genuine necessity of doing so but because they needed it to appear prepared and fit for the job hence to win students’ mandate.

Many voted based on departmental, faculty, religious, ethno-tribal sentiments. It should be noted that all voters are stale students. There were those who justified their reasons for voting an aspirant as being based on popular opinion about the aspirant, slight familiarity occasioned by having met somewhere before or lived on the same floor, their good looks and hearsay. This faulty and prejudiced orientation is one of the points held on by some fresh students to argue against the access denied them by the school authority to vote. Of a truth, there are 100 level students who are more informed and knowledgeable than stale students when it comes Union matters.

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Two big questions have been asked since around the electioneering period. First, why are the fresh students disenfranchised? (how justifiable are the why’s?) Second, why should finalists be allowed to partake in deciding the future – of the Union – they will not be part of? There are perceived inequality and unfair treatment by freshmen who have acquired some knowledge about Union politics and are eager to decide who and who preside over them. It is good that these questions are being asked. It is best that the office of the P. R. O provide real answers and if possible organise debates and discussions around the questions

Not many medical students have been Students Union president in the history of Obafemi Awolowo University. Oyekan Ibukun’s  victory is another of those few instances. In winning the election, the busyness associated with his field of study was overlooked as an excuse for him not to elected.  The content of his manifesto, his vision and ability to convince students that his plans are very feasible are some major factors that favour him for a win. None of the his six rivals could boast of all these.

It is very important that students mount adequate pressure on the elected officials to deliver on their manifestos by constantly reminding and demanding them to walk the talk. One good way to doing this into regularly circulate these manifestos among students, pasting them on notice boards and publishing them on online platforms. Demanding or being proactive is a more progressive approach than waiting for actions and then reacting.

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IN CONCLUSION

Now that the CEC has a full house, work should start right away. It behooves the Dr Ibk-led administration to set a pace different those of Omotayo Akande and Ibikunle Isaac, change the face of the union and return it back to the good old days when Ife Students Union represented everything lofty and novel.

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