CASE BACKGROUND: Once upon a time in recent weeks, the Dean of Students in a meeting with the Hall Wardens Committee instructed that every Hall Student Executives must open an account with the UI Microfinance Bank and Assistant Hall Wardens must be signatories to such accounts. This instruction has already taken effect in the female halls of residence and Sultan Bello hall. On March 10, 2016, residents of Bello hall protested the cancellation of their gyration night as the Assistant Hall Warden refused to approve the budget submitted to him. This week, Courtroom seeks to examine the soundness of this controversial policy.
YES, THEY HAVE THE RIGHT
For the sake of peace, tough decisions must be made ~ Tanzanian Aphorism
It was a great day. Indeed, it was a glorious spectacle. It was a day gaily coloured with optimism and joy. It was a day that seemed like feathery fantasy and stone-hard reality had converged to create a most unlikely magnitude of blessings. It was a day when history crowned the future.
What day do I speak of, you ask? Pardon my parrot-like pampering of wild weightless words in this matter of severe seriousness. I speak, My Lords, of the coronation ceremony during which student unionism gained its rightful place on the throne of freedom, away from the Evil Eye of the Big Bad Beast – the school authority. Hearts lit up with hope. The youths now had the chance to bask in the light of self-rule and have a taste of heavenly wine, fresh-flowing from the golden goblet of independence. I want you to picture that scene, let it be animated in the imagination of your minds. All is well. The students will finally be free. Pause! Let us fast-forward to a familiar year called 2016. What do you see? A deserted palace. An unhappy people. A burning city. A broken dream. An island of dashed hopes. An amalgamation of failed leaderships!
Just last year, the school was rocked by a series of corruption scandals which made the national scene seem like the holiest of holies. We heard of student-leaders suddenly buying cars and getting fatter. Money grew wings and flew out of accounts. Dinner parties flopped harder than an Adam Sandler movie. Packages well paid for began to look like left-overs at a charity event for beggars. To put it very subtly, in the most polite manner, OUR LEADERS BECAME THIEVES! They put the name of student unionism on a leash and dragged it helplessly in the mud. And the school administration, unwilling to watch these student-leaders continue to rob their fellow students in plain sight, chose to have a hand in the affairs. I write in a story form because I believe the justification for my stance resides within the narrative. It is only sane to agree that the intervention of the school management was very necessary and should stay, at least for now.
The rights which were given to the students have been misused and it is indeed paramount for extreme measures to be taken. After all, it is not like the school management is asking to be the ones choosing the leaders or dealing with other cogent student-centred matters. All they ask is to be included in the financial goings-on in order to ensure that these opprobrious situations do not arise again. It is for the good of you and me. They have abused their sovereignty and they must learn what the consequences are. To hell with total freedom! What good is a freedom that only leaves you feeling cheated by those you elected into office? When we fight for the right of the hall executives to solely own the authority over the finances, what we are really fighting for is unlimited, unchecked power for these individuals. I don’t know about you, but the thought of that scares me.
Some may argue that the legislative arm is there to play oversight function, but where were they when problems arose in halls such as The Great Independence Hall and Kenneth Mellanby Hall? Where were they when we cried foul and it seemed no one was ready to fight for us against these embezzlers? I ask; where were they when the problems became so bad that the topic became a national affair and the management had to step in? Had they been effective enough, there would be no need for this debate.
Without boring you with excessive “water is wet” analogies, I urge you to do the right thing and rule in favour of the right of the Assistant Hall Wardens to be co-signatories to the hall accounts. God bless you.
The irrationality of a thing is no argument against its existence, rather a condition of it ~ Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzche
On the 4th Saturday of March around 11pm, students of the university in their tens trooped to the Department of Maintenance and Works to demand for a resurrection of light which had selectively forsaken their halls of residence for some time (Tedder and Mellanby i.e.). On getting to the most handicapped unit in the university, they were greeted with verses of tragedy straight from the day of Sophocles. Men who man the maintenance claimed, almost with tears in the eyes, that light could not be restored until Wednesday as the cables were faulty (yep – same ol’ story) and they could not work overtime. The students however gave them until the midday of Saturday to do something.
To cut short the long story, I was strolling across the UI Main Road on the said Saturday when Mellanby Hall reverberated with shouts of jubilation. They had successfully reunited the halls with power supply at exactly 01:20pm. Yet, listening to them on Friday, one would have thought even if heaven threatened to fall, this feat could not have been pulled off until Wednesday. But the verses of tragedy from the university staff turned out to be fictional too. Is it then persons who cannot be trusted with the simple truth that should be trusted with the common wealth of students?
Milords, our forebears in the African continent have warned us that if the owner of a calabash calls it worthless, others will join him to use it to pack rubbish. Our wardens have indirectly called our legislative councils worthless; shall we then join them in packing rubbish with the hallowed chambers? I ask – in a situation where hall executives have to explain to hall wardens, or whosoever, why they need money before they can withdraw; what then is the use of duly elected hall legislators? Why do they sit for long hours when others are in the capital of dreamland just to ensure there is no wastage in spending? Are we planning to establish a bicameral legislature whereby the upper house may decide to upturn in a minute what the lower house took days to arrive at? What sense does that make milords? None since I’m asked.
It has been argued that this tyrannical policy is a great way to reinforce check and balance, and that it would prevent student leaders from defalcating funds. But, as George Washington would have put it, it is better to offer no excuse than a bad one. Are we saying hall wardens are not capable of corruption? Or have we forgotten, amongst others, the 2006 scandal in the Department of Educational Management where university lecturers were seen devising all forms of skulduggery to deny fellow lecturers their deserved promotion? How would lecturers who refuse freedom for their kind allow it for ‘bloody students’? By the way, I even suspect that the real motive behind this decision is for the school to expand her IGR. It is perhaps a case of ‘when the moon is shining, the cripple becomes hungry for a walk’. They have seen the huge sums students are capable of making from a single programme and want a share of the cake. They probably have forgotten that you do not get Domino’s Pizza by dominating. You rather get it by sacrificing.
Milords, let us think deeply about it. If this anomaly is normalised, in no time it would mutate and perhaps beget unimaginable abominations. Soon, we would be asked to key into the introduction of a Treasury Single Account for student associations. They may even require that the Bursar’s consent be sought before a toothpick is bought for student programmes. In point of fact, I think rather than give in to this nightmare, we should even just pay our hall and faculty dues as part of the school fee so that the management can include dinners and packages as part of its budgets. We might all even ‘kuku’ open accounts in the university’s Microfinance Bank because the management thinks we are too juvenile to handle money. If we allow this milords, then we would have substituted unionism for ‘minion-ism’. We would have defenestrated student leadership and welcomed student dealership. Our wardens will turn prison warders and we will forever be mere vassals to them, our feudal lords.
Not to waste time on a matter already as settled as the P-Square rift, I would say that allowing hall wardens or any of their agents to hold sway upon our treasuries is analogous to having two foxes and a sheep vote on what to have for dinner. As a matter of fact, I am so enraged by the mere thought that I find no better way to capture my feelings than with the resounding cry of Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon – this is no more than a veritable bugaboo that must be poo-poohed by all compos mentis Homo sapiens. Milords, I have spoken!
CONCLUSION: This column is about you, it presents the two sides of a case courtesy of two writers from different schools of thought. “Audi alteram partem” means hear the other side before passing your judgment. Take the gavel, make your decision and slam because you are the judge in this courtroom.
SHOULD ASSISTANT HALL-WARDENS BE ALLOWED AS CO-SIGNATORIES TO THE ACCOUNTS OF HALL EXECUTIVES?
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