Of the Toothless SUG and its Unproductive Strategies


by: Samuel James

Students of the University of Ibadan observed two sessions without a union; two sessions without a voice on the round table of decision making; two sessions without a vehicle of comrades that may convey their feelings to the management. On May 30, 2017, the Senate proscribed Students’ Union activities in the University owing to a protest over the delay in the issuance of digitized identity cards. Subsequently, student leaders identified in the protest were tried and punished by the school management.

The ban was eventually lifted after a reported appeal by the Dean of Students, Professor Adekeye Abiona, before the Senate on August 30, 2019. An election was conducted on November 7, 2019, which ushered in the Integration Movement: Akeju Olusegun (UISU Pres), Oladiti Temilade Aisha (VP), Fijabi Israel (GS), Mustapha Oluwajayode Emmanuel (AGS), Oladeji Richard (House Secretary), Oladeji Abiodun (PRO),

Now that the union has been restored, how much has it done to restore students’ representation? How has it conveyed our voices to the management? How much contribution has it made to the decisions that affect the students’ community?

This Integration movement kicked off its administration heeding the advice of the former Vice-Chancellor, Abel Olayinka, “to see the management as partners in progress.” The Akeju-led administration so far has also demonstrated – through a strange confidence in the management and many talks – that it would serve as a diplomatic mediator between students and the school management.

Yet, the emergence of the virtual mode adopted by the school management as well as the unexplainable increment of technology, sports and medical fees have shown that this administration is weak in its diplomatic relations with the management. They are falling short of the expectations that students have for them. All we have got from them are empty promises and procedures that yield no results.

Beyond a shadow of doubt, the announcement of a virtual session was met with mixed reactions as many of us questioned the possibility of virtual learning in a comatose education system. The management went ahead to make it happen, not without hitches though. Nine weeks into the session, we still have to contend with network issues during classes on Zoom/Meet/Telegram/WhatsApp, insufficient data, minimal delivery of knowledge, epileptic power supply, unfavorable deadlines and more! These are some of the downsides of the new normal inevitably caused by the CoVID-19 pandemic.

But here’s how the virtual learning system has exposed the ineffectiveness and toothlessness of the Akeju-led administration. Since the management has already failed to collaborate with network providers and assist us with subsidized data plans for effective the learning process, the UISU proceeded in good faith to notify us of plans to get subsidized data plans from network providers such as MTN, but after the notification and WhatsApp publicity, nothing has been heard. Frankly, I think students need anything but empty promises at the moment. The SUG may lose the trust of students because of this. If the plan to get subsidized data has failed, the SUG should communicate the feedback to students as well as its next step if there is any.

The increment of technology, sports and medical fees has also exposed the Akeju-led administration as a mere town crying gong that invoke no action in a modern society. Even though Akeju had a meeting with student leaders from different halls and faculties on January 21 to “hold the management accountable” over the bomb that had just dropped. Some resistant ‘Aluta’ spirit there! They disagreed with the tech fee hike in unison and then agreed to a referendum poll for students’ opinion on the issue. The poll was conducted, and about 80% of students rejected the increments. Yet this has not brought about any change in the decision of the management. In fact, silence from the union executives after they got justifications for the hike from the directors of medical sciences, sports and iTems is deafening. All these show that the strategies of the union are poor and unproductive, especially on crucial issues that affect students in the university.

Meanwhile, the SUG however deserves some applause for wading in on the deadline of course registration vis-a-vis an epileptic portal. That they were able to ensure the extension of the deadline for course registration is commendable. But one can only imagine how the Union would have responded if the management had refused to bulge. Perhaps it was actually the technical pressures students put on the portal that saved the day rather than the correspondences of the SUG to the management. One can only wonder how the SUG could have saved the day should the management had proceeded with its plan to fine late course registration, especially now that the SUG President has presented his case against a physical protest.

Indeed, Akeju was right in affirming the commitment of the Union to fighting on behalf of the students in the absence of a physical protest. We need to understand that a protest is not always the answer most of the time, as we are at the receiving end. We bear the brunt of such mechanism which should ideally be the last resort just as strike is the last resort of civil servants. However, does the management still yield to dialogue and other conciliatory procedures? Is it not the case with them like federal government, that the only language they understand is protest?

Saturday 17, the SUG President on Agidigbo 88.7 FM did try to explain that there are procedures to follow when trying to influence the university management. But how effective are the methods applied? Sadly, the management still wields the power and authority that leaves the Union and students at its mercy since the ban was lifted.

The Union needs to become more strategic, proactive and ‘up their game’ with the management. They never agreed with the management on the increment of the fees, yet this did not change the mind of the powers that be. They hardly understood why the technology fees had to be raised unfairly, since they got to know about it too late after the Senate had sat and approved the hike. This shows the SUG as lagging behind in its duty; there is a need for the executives to follow every move of the management, watching them closely through their agents in the Senate, if they have any. Getting to know about the Senate’s sitting on the hike later than usual exposes a crack in the walls of our Union.

How serious are our leaders when they promise to ease the burden of data on students? How effective are the approaches they have been taking to influence the management and how much work have they done in the interest of the students? The Students’ Union needs to discover and exploit effective strategies that would benefit students at large without necessarily challenging the power and authority of the school management. Desperate times, they say, call for desperate measures. Can the Union do a little more than falling short of our expectations?

1 thought on “Of the Toothless SUG and its Unproductive Strategies

  1. The UISUG are giving us nothing but fake promises, we expect them to be make things easier for we student but on the contrary, their impacts are not felt, they are a body with no engine, there has been no news about the subsidized data that student registered and paid for. The UISUG are throwing the trust student have in them into the dust, they are seen as toothless.
    They have failed woefully in all aspect, SUG should always be able to act on matters and issues before it start troubling or inconveniencing students. Back to the issue of the epileptic portal that is hindering students in registering their course, it is the vociferation of students that jacked the UISUG from their slumber to be able to postpone the deadline for the course registration but unfortunately, the issue of some courses that are not on the portal which is delaying student in registering their courses has not been addressed.

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