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AS JUSTIFIED AS THE “FAN” IN FANTA

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A kii fina sori orule sun – Anonymous Yoruba Man

My revered Lords of venerated status, it is an unspeakable honour to be before you this day. I do not warm up to you so as to win this debate even before it starts. Nah! My words are coloured with joy because I presently write from home, a place I had not been in months. Necessitated by the close-down, I have got the chance to have a long-overdue taste of mother’s amala and gbegiri and see my infant nephew for the very first time. Let us keep the congratulatory wishes till after I’ve won the case. Although, I would love to talk about the intense heat wave, reduction in Viju Milk thickness, high global cancer rate, Barcelona’s Champions’ League elimination and other things that are clearly Buhari’s fault, I’ve been saddled with an already self-solved case.

Chants morphed into curses. Intellects crashed into radicalism. Painted fists were kissed by animation. Violence mated with youth and birthed a protest of historical interests. Classes were stopped. Bodies were flogged. Gates were closed. Plans were disrupted. Events were postponed and tests were cancelled. Everything that engendered the notion of a university had been crushed by the iron boots of student militation. Enraged by the fire of frustration and previously-bottled anger, the students would not listen to the voice of reason. Who could blame them after all? Nonetheless, at that juncture, what better could the management have done other than to lock down the school?

While no one is gifting the management with accolades for granting students only few hours’ ultimatum, the argument is not whether or not the time given was ample but whether or not the decision to lock down the school was dead-on. In every way you look at it, the choice was expedient to the maintenance of peace in the school environment. Some of the protesters were being overcome by the spirits of violence and irrationality, harassing lecturers and fellow students alike. The community was no longer safe and since classes were being hindered anyway, it was only logical to send everyone home. Besides, let’s face it, most people craved a break. The form in which it came is irrelevant.

Anyone who witnessed the demonstrations would agree that it was a classic case of mega-disturbance and a state of emergency needed to be declared. The protesters were barging into classes and chasing other students out. It was reported that a particularly uncooperative lecturer was drenched by the ire of the unionists. “A kii fi ina si ori orule sun” was what my ancestors used to say. No man sleeps while his roof is set alight by a furnace. It would have amounted to negligence if all of this was ignored and a close-down was not initiated.

More so, the students’ demands could not have been met by the simple wave of a magic wand, irrespective of what those silly little Disney films would have you believe. The demands: the revocation of Tunji Ekpeti’s controversially-tailored suspension, stabilization of water and power supply, investigation into the victimization of residents by Idia hall management and the unreasonable dishing out of the infamous SDC letters to individuals (such as my scholarly opponent here); could not have been handled within just a few hours or even days. A series of consultations had to be held among the management officials and between the management and the student representatives before commencement could even be made in respect to meeting these demands. Why then make students stay longer to suffer these horrid predicaments? It is unrealistic and even inane to argue that the situation could have been dealt with in any other way which would still be as effective as this.

Able Abel, as one ‘Kunle Adebajo once described him, is proving to be true to the name. While he has made some pretty terrible faux pas in the past, this is a right step on the path of redemption. Whether the staff or the students are his main concern could be argued till Armageddon and till we get entwined in the webs of eternity. But one thing that is sure is that the interest of the institution is chief among his priorities. The situation was a calamitous one which was fouling the name of the school. It was crucial to regroup. In order to weaken the resolve of the protesters, thereby saving the face of the university (which once again, is and should be his priority), he chose to allow everyone the freedom to go to their homes.

To start arguing for my opponent’s side would be to cry over spilt milk. It is rather hypocritical to be enjoying this break yourself and then criticize its existence. I mean, that’s just downright duplicitous. Accuse me of circumstantial ad hominem all you want. The fact remains the fact. The close-down was the best course of action and, without regard to how you may feel towards the VC, it was an absolutely smart pronouncement on his part. Now, if you don’t mind, can you just rule in my favour speedily so we can all go home? Oh wait, we are home already! Forgive my apparent lack of seriousness, elation does that to you sometimes. I hereby, with all severity, rest my case.

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NO WARRANT FROM EITHER LAW OR LOGIC

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If you are building a house and a nail breaks, do you stop building or change the nail ~ One of the many sayings in Rwanda

In the beginning, there was God. And then God created Adam and Eve, placing them in the beautiful Garden of Eden. They played, ate and made merry until they hearkened to the susurrations of the Serpent. Having been forewarned, the flowers and fruits of Eden became forbidden for them and they were both shown the way out. Thus was the glorious birth of Mr. Shame (though destined to suffer a premature death). And thus emerged the human race along with its countless evils – you know, corruption, examinations, politicians, SDC letters and others of the ilk.

On the 26th of April 2016, Major General Able sought to re-enact this opening chapter of humanity through a radio broadcast comparable only to the military takeovers of the 20th century. In what appears to be a strange attempt to be equitable, by 2pm, he gave all students two hours to leave the school premises. Be you a Ciroma from the deserted deserts of the North, a Chukwuma from the troubled waters of the East or an Adekunle from the Atlantic coastlines of Lagos, everyone had the exact same amount of time to reach their last bus stops. All hail the wisdom of General Able! But while we are at it, we must realise that unlike Adam and Eve’s case, the students paid for their stay on campus and they certainly had not sinned before their abrupt exile.

To say that the management’s rash decision to lock down the school was warranted is like suggesting a decapitation, and not medication, is the viable solution to headache. It reeks of the laughable approach of escapism. The same approach which pushed Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to grant an interview session with D’Banj while dodging the 2011 presidential debate. The one which makes a man take to alcohol not minding that it has never been a solution. It only makes him forget the problem, that is if it does not even compound it. Milords, it is the same age-old approach which moves the ostrich to bury its head in the ground whenever she hears the footsteps of danger, rather than confronting it headlong. The approach is like a placebo which offers temporary relief and succeeds only at wasting precious time. It no doubt does not befit a community of intellectuals such as ours.

The university has argued that it was compelled to send us packing on such a short notice due to “the disturbance of peace on campus” and the threatening of the peace and security of innocent students. They claimed that thugs from the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) caused chaos on campus, but it is a notorious fact that students of the university themselves participated actively in the procession and no destruction was recorded (except perhaps against poor tree branches used to block traffic).

And then asides the unequivocal rejoinder released by the Mr Abayomi Ahmed, we should ask ourselves the following: if truly the school was shut due to student disturbance, why did the Vice Chancellor mention at Queens Hall that the god of vacations will only be satisfied with at least one month of inactivity? And then this is coming in a period of unsettling peace. If the management itself needs some break from work, why couldn’t they ask politely rather than passing the buck to the students? The truth of the matter, if we are to be sincere, is that the school was locked to avoid a query from Abuja which we hear is due each time university activities are disrupted for up to 72 hours. No other reason is evocable.

Milords, let us not forget that studentship is a contract and accommodation, a form of tenancy. As a matter of fact, in its recognition of this, the school required that I sign a tenancy agreement before I could secure accommodation the previous session. Hence, we have our rights both as students and as tenants. According to the Lagos State Tenancy Law, these inalienable rights include the right to privacy (porters in QEH take note!), the right to freedom from unreasonable disturbance and that to the exclusion possession of properties. It also states, inter alia, that the landlord shall not disturb the tenant’s quiet and peaceable enjoyment of the premises, and shall not interfere with his access to his personal property. From the foregoing milords, we can see through the uneducated propaganda of our educators and realise that the lockdown was not only morally reprehensible but legally indefensible.

I will never forgive myself if I quit this battle without due acknowledgement of the ordeal which befell some students all because of the VC’s diamond decree. Imagine the horrors of thoughtless rushing, night travelling, highway robbery, extortion and many others. Mothers even had to beg their child’s friend to lend them some money just to safeguard his/her safety. However, one case which is particularly heartrending is that of a student who boarded a Lagos bus only to resort to begging. Good enough, he was able to get just enough to pay the fare at that level, but he still needed as much as ₦600 to get to his place. To save face, he deliberately left this latter need out. If only the management had exercised more brain power rather than flaunt ego muscles, we would today be spared from these stories that touch.

And so milords, at the risk of waking up the sleeping lions of the SDC, I must say that the lockdown was not only unwarranted, it is unacceptable, unbecoming, unconscionable and, as a matter of fact, unenforceable (for some like me are still marking attendance at Klazz Restaurant, thankfully without having to go to class).

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. 

MANAGEMENT’S DECISION TO LOCK DOWN THE SCHOOL: WARRANTED?
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