The Need for Student Activism in the Faculty of Arts


Aduwo Ayodele

As a second-year student, it is difficult to say that there is any student activist within the Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan. There are student journalists (a small population of campus journalists); there are even student politicians (the kind whose interest in AFAS is essentially based on securing political positions through votes). But there are unfortunately so, no concrete students who are passionately committed to the course of being ‘ideologically active participants’ in the association or faculty affairs.

These questions should arise. “Who is a student activist? What is students’ activism? Why is activism necessary? What does this idea mean within the context of our dear faculty, or interchangeably, within AFAS?”

Students’ activism is not in any way different from the mainstream idea of the same subject. It refers to efforts exercised to promote, social, political, economic or environmental reform. It is not an institution, but a philosophy that is made functioning, resulting from one’s clear and conscious understanding of ‘social revolution’. A fundamental change that heralds desirable transformation.

Good or sound activists are basically individuals (regardless of gender), who are intelligent to identify and stand for their selfless convictions. Students’ activism is fundamentally about raising awareness and promoting education to help liberate and empower the students’ movement. It thus is a way of thought and action that brings to the forefront issues like sound leadership, mass education, globalization, corporate accountability, students’ rights, human rights, racism and sexism, a cluster of constructive initiatives to help students understand the world.

The importance of student activism can be seen in its power to educate, organize and transform. This importance is such which is desirable in AFAS, but is currently unavailable. AFAS, like the main world in great turmoil, is almost accordingly faced by surrounding challenges that range from associational to aspirational. These problems do not merely exist in theory. For instance, there is a sweltering level of political apathy among Afasites wherein less than six hundred students actively participated in the last faculty election. That, on one side of the list, is not to say all. Being years after its long-dated establishment, the association has an incomplete, inexplicable organization of structures. With both executive and legislative councils in place, no known reason exists for the inexistence of a Students’ Judicial Council. Is it not said that these structures are meant to be ‘training grounds for today’s leaders’? It is arguably on this basis that students’ activism must be a vehicle, in the form of a powerful catalyst for desirable transformation.

Afasites Must Learn from History

First-class examples of where students’ activism has improved the course of humanity and students’ welfare including the Civil Rights movement are the 1968 students’ protest against the Vietnam War; and the University of Ibadan 1962 Anglo-Defence Pact protest, among a long list of others. These examples are remembered for the unforgettable, revolutionary greater good they have achieved. It is neither too late nor too early to understand that the radical reconstruction of society and a radical revolution in institutional values, as Martin Luther King Jr once said, is the sole basis of activism.

There is no doubt that the AFAS 2024 transitional, periodic election is within spitting distance. And ambitious students are tritely out. The disquieting political era is here, after which political silence (the most striking characteristic of the students’ movement in UI) would resume almost instantly, with all the motivating reasons for aspiring and contesting elections in the first place retiring into hysterical talks. But, just before the coming election becomes aroused, swarmed, and then lightless, the role of student activists fluttering around the whole process cannot be overemphasized. Half-resistant, the presence of student activists within the faculty and Association could be a reason for unserious, uncultured, and ambitious students to reconsider their double-aimed aspirations. This, against the far side of doubt, could turn into new initiatives within and outside of the Association.

While this piece is not a call for the disruption of public peace and order, it boldly states that peace and order are incomplete without positive, progressive human factors. The peace and order enjoyed today, whether in the Faculty of Arts, the University of Ibadan, or within the broader mainstream or globally are come-by products of ‘active intellectual engagement (activism)’ of past ages. The 1943 White Rose struggle, pioneered by siblings Hans and Sophie, which opposed the Nazi Regime, today is a highly respected and inspiring radical action in Germany. It challenged the brutalization of humans. The Greensboro sit-in of 1960, which advanced the course of the Civil Rights movement; the 1970 Kent State University struggle, which concretely cemented an antiwar sentiment in the United States, are notably other undeniable examples of where, why, and even how, for which students’ activism must be rekindled among AFASite, and by extension UItes. Numerous instances to awaken students’ consciousness, far beyond the traditional campus politics, are there to learn from. The 1976 Soweto Uprising in South Africa against the apartheid system; the unimaginable Velvet Revolution, Florida’s Douglas High School ‘March For Our Lives’ demonstration, among many other instances.

The call for student activism is not a misplaced one. The country Nigeria, like our dear Association, needs a rebirth of views and actions that could steer a radical departure from the systemic challenges that have been identified, facing our humanity, the country, the University of Ibadan, AFASites and our collective academic pursuit.

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