We’re voiceless, say UNILAG students
The argument of those who urgently desire the reinstatement of University of Lagos (UNILAG) Students Union Government (SUG) is that students have the democratic right to associate and have a uniform voice to make demands concerning their welfares when necessary.
Some of the students who spoke with The Guardian last Tuesday at the campus, were of the opinion that the time is long overdue for the management of the institution to lift the ban it placed on the university’s SUG, saying it is ideal for every institution of higher learning to have a union.
Recall that the senate of the university had after its emergency meeting on Friday, April 22, 2016, resolved that the University of Lagos Student Union (ULSU) constitution be suspended until further notice, and the ULSU executive and the Student Legislative Council (SLC) dissolved.
The decision of the senate was as a result of the students protest which occured between April 6 and 8 of 2016. The students’ were protesting lack of electricity, potable water among other issues that bother on their welfare.
The campus was eventually shutdown as a result, and was reopened on May 2, 2016 with some stringent conditions, which was heavily criticised by some stakeholders then, particularly the aspect that touched on students’ democratic rights.
One of the conditions was signing of indemnity form by students, which must be properly endorsed by parents and guardians before they can be readmitted into the university.
The incident occurred barely one year after the then vice chancellor, Prof. Rahamon Bello, unbanned the institution’s SUG, which was proscribed for a decade.
However, more than three years after the last disbandment, some of the students are asking the management not to throw the baby away with the bathwater while a few others said the past SUG leaders did not live up to expectation.
A 200-level student of the school, who does not want his name mentioned said, “we want the SUG back, without the students body, what you see is what you get. We need a voice, the proscription has somehow killed the enthusiasm of being a UNILAG student.”
Another 400-level student said, “ideally, every university or higher institution should have a student union. Truly, we need a voice! Currently, we need a better hostel facility, and the SUG would have been the best platform to voice it out and inform the management, but unfortunately we don’t have such platform.”
Also, a 300-level, Law student, said in as much as students need a body, it should be an independent body, not the type that would be gagged by the management.
“Students need a body, hence the need for SUG to be urgently revived, but then it shouldn’t be called UNILAG Students Union (ULSU). The right nomenclature should be SUG. By so doing, it will be a body that cannot be manipulated. The management should also have little stake in the union, anything short of that is not a students union,” he stressed.
For a 400-level computer science student, “I’m quite indifferent about it! During my early years in UNILAG, the union wasn’t all that it could be. It could have been better if the team had good conduct. But the union was disbanded as a result of their misconduct. It is absolutely wrong to protest and vandalise school properties. Notwithstanding, suspension would have been more appropriate than proscription. The management went overboard in their decision.
In the event that the management decides to lift the ban, the peaceful-looking young man, advises that a good student leader must be transparent, accountable, and selfless and should endeavour to protect students’ interest at all times.
A 300-level female student, on her part said, though, the reason it was banned was genuine, then, it is time for it to be revived, as parties involved must have learnt lessons and would be well guided going forward.
“Sincerely, we need a voice, not just a voice, but the one that will be heard. For instance, if we have something that is bothering us, all of us cannot go to the VC’s office to speak to him about it. But through the union we can easily reach the management. It is our hope that our leaders will not misbehave again. The previous leaders was not up and doing, in my opinion. The manner and approach to certain issues were totally wrong, we hope everyone will be guided if we the ban is eventually lifted,” she said.
Another male student, who declined mentioning his department or level said, “students union doesn’t add anything to us. It should remain banned. We don not really need it, as it comes with a lot of stress. At least there is peace on campus ever since it was banned.”
With the students’ outcry to own a voice it is hoped that the management will look into the issues raised.
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