There may be times when we are powerless but there must never be a time we fail to stand up for ourselves”― Elie Wiesel
In moments like this, my library becomes a heaven of endless worship to which I dedicate endless hours of religious studying. Books of history by such canonical figures as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. have been daily doses of spiritual fortification to my intellect. What is common to these books is the glorification of youth and its exuberant proneness of seditiousness when it comes to rising against the excesses of an establishment. They believe strongly in the assertion of one’s stance against threats, which is to say that if Madiba and MLK were alive today, they would certainly endorse the #OlayinkaMisfit trend.
Though many have argued that the hashtag is a fallacious movement rigged in ad hominem, we need to understand that the on-line rave crusade is not exactly to be interpreted as a direct personality attack on the Vice Chancellor. To dwell on such would be to ignore the underlying factors which birthed the trend. It is so much more than just another twitter treasure characterized by bored broods being brutally bratty towards the elderly. It transcends such banality. It is an ideological stance which stresses the importance of students’ unity and the philosophical worth of education in Nigeria. Data acquired from tweets shows that the activists are more concerned about the overall implication of suspending a Students’ Union much more than they want to cast Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka in a negative light. With mentions directed at media houses and governmental bodies, the hashtag tries to draw the world’s attention to the state of students’ plight.
Furthermore, it is obvious to whoever is paying attention that the trend is consequent upon events which the students feel create enough justification for their agitations. The inconsequential, two-session payment of ID card fees; indiscriminate punishment of students; ban on hotplates; interruption of undergraduate activities; suspension of Students’ Union executive and legislative councils and the communication gap between the management and the students led to the explosive face-off. And in such face-offs, in which one party has the power to dismantle the physical unity of the other by suspending the basis of their association, there is a need to equal the playing-field. The heavens must be thanked then, for the invention of the internet as it is the free tool of defence the aggrieved have to combat their adversaries.
Moreover, there is no way you suspend a Students’ Union leadership and expect silence. As history has shown, the students will always rebel against such decisions. Now, they can choose to be rebellious through violence and so can they choose to be rebellious through peace. They chose peace, restricting their bite-backs to the online space. Yet, my adversary says the trend is uncalled-for? Would it be better then, if the battle was fought on the streets? Would it be better if their “dead bodies [were] dropped”? Certainly not. This is the only voice they have and to tell them that it is unnecessary to speak, that to express their minds is a crime, that they are ghosts shackled by silence, My Lords, is the height of inhumanity.
In the end, this is not about the Vice Chancellor. This is not about Ojo Aderemi. It is about principle. It is a classic scenario: a people disadvantaged by their lack of conventional power fighting back with the limited might they’ve got. The use of a tag invented by a national veteran to symbolize the trend is nothing but a move to give it a face.
If you are going to judge the necessity of a hashtag, it is not to be based on what the constituent words literally mean but what they represent, in this context being – civil defiance, expression of hurt and increase in socio-political consciousness among the youths. If all of those are unnecessary, then we might as well be living in a dystopia.
I’D SAY NOT, MILORDS
If a man wants to grow a long tooth, he should have the lips to cover it ~ Anonymous African
For a while now, Mother Internet has been having sleepless nights. The whining of a section of her children has deprived her of much-needed rest. Dust has still not settled on the highways of Twitter. They have been playing host to a set of restless visitors – the kind of restlessness that reminds one of Senator Melaye’s viral video some weeks back. We see them carrying placards of varying sizes and different letterings – #BringBackUISU, #UIVCMustGo, #IStandWithThe200LevelStudentWithoutBeards and so on. One which without doubt towers highest, however, is #OlayinkaMisfit. It started with a post by UI’s former lecturer, Dr Oladoyin Odebowale and was fuelled by a story on ThePage NG. Three days and 5000 tweets later, and whoala! A trend is born. Milords, is this a step in the right direction? I humbly posit not.
You see, just as a mass protest, activism on a platform like Twitter is often more about noise than real signal. And just like a physical protest, it is bound to get pretty bloody. Trust me milords, a glance will convince you. One of the agitators compared Professor Olayinka to a spectre of incompetence, tyranny and autocracy, conspicuous consumption [whatever that means], absolutism and an array of other things, each making me regurgitate memories of the 1993 Bombings in Bombay and those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Armed with just 140 characters, another student wrote, “#Olayinkamisfit, I’m pretty sure when this man was born, he didn’t suckle the breasts of a woman but a statue, hence his tyrannical manners.” The same user referred to the VC of Nigeria’s premier university as “Abacha”, “Lieyinka” and “one browless man”.
Others tweets accused Professor Olayinka, a two-time DVC and father of two, of having mental deficit and dementia, of being a corrupt demon, of destroying every legacy in UI and of being unfit to even be a primary – sorry nursery – school captain. If this is not microwaving the polity, milords, what is? Though we may take a step forward with creating awareness, many of these tweets will make us not only moonwalk dreamily backwards but – if we are not careful – will totally sweep us off our feet.
Other than further straining the student-management relationship and preventing future dialogues under the AC of good faith, #OlayinkaMisfit has even led to a massive “covfefe.” According to a tweet by @AfricaFactsZone (with over 96,000 followers) on 3 June 2017, “two days after shutting down a university in Nigeria, the VC (Vice Chancellor) attended his son’s convocation in a university in the US.” Funny how facts can easily be twisted once they are tweeted.
There are, besides, a thousand and one other ways students of University of Ibadan could have better fanned the embers of their grievances. Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it is the truth nonetheless. Instead of trending on twitter through sheer “copy and paste”, Uites could have created an online petition which delivers each signature to the inbox of key decision-makers and which gathers the intelligent views of both petitioners and supporters.
Uites in each state, to show resoluteness and sincerity of purpose, could have organised peaceful rallies to the state secretariats on the same day and shared reports online. Uites could have thrown their 30,000 ton weight behind the tons of other things like publication of opinion articles, penning and dissemination of petitions, lobbying with big wigs within the polity and so on.
It is high time we asked ourselves: Really, of what measurable use has the trend been? No single response have we seen from @IsaacAdewole, none from @bukolasaraki, none from @ProfOsinbajo, neither have we heard from @officialEFCC. Some even went as far as tagging @realDonaldTrump, who, though a devoted tweeter himself, cannot afford half a hoot. Do not forget so soon how many he gives about Global Climate Change. Zero! Thus, if no reaction has been obtained from any of these persons, or anybody else who is a ‘somebody’ in this country, why then are we still in this courtroom?
I am not saying, milords, that we have no right to take over the streets of social media. But when taking over the street unwittingly paves way to the street taking over, misfits become more than just one. They multiply.
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.
#OLAYINKA MISFIT: A NECESSARY TREND?
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