BEFORE I SIGN THIS UNDERTAKING…
…Questions for the UNILAG Management
‘He who asks questions does not miss road’ – African proverb.
‘He who fails to learn from the lessons of history is bound to repeat its mistakes’ – Universal proverb.
Pardon my pretence to wisdom: I have only incorporated those two proverbs because I know that we are Africans, or, in the case of those who have become so Eurocentric as to have no regard for anything African, they are at least universal citizens. But most importantly, I want to preface this article with the fact that necessity, not wisdom, is driving me into writing this; and if perchance I say anything wise or worth ruminating upon, it is because there yet is a place left for the truth even in an era of falsehood, some place for justice even in a disproportionately unjust world, some place for the feeble voice advocating freedom even in the midst of universal tyranny.
Thank you, especially if you have patience enough to read through to the end…
The beginning – and I hope the end too – of this writing is the protest of the students of the University of Lagos and their ‘purported expulsion’. Ok, there is no reason to garb the fact: let us put it bluntly – the expulsion of the students, because of their protest on the 6th and 7th of April 2016. It is no light phrase – ‘expulsion of all undergraduate students’ of the University of Lagos – and I think that is why the management did not explicitly state so. But there is no clearer way of putting it than by saying that students will only be ‘readmitted’ upon fulfilling some conditions: signing undertakings. How can they re-admitted unless they have formerly (and formally) been expelled? Now some facts before questions.
On Thursday, 7th April 2016, the school passed the following news bulletin round the school (please check for the full news as I would only be providing extracts).
“….In order to forestall a further breakdown of law and order on the campus, the Senate resolved to take the following decisions until the situation normalises.
All academic activities on campus are hereby suspended with immediate effect…
A decision to reopen for normal activities will be taken as soon as municipal services improve…”
Even a layperson will understand this crystal-clear message: academic activities were suspended, not students; normal activities will be resumed, not re-admission of students.
(Addressing the Unilag Management now).
This was what you presented to us and the world when you were vacating us from the hostels. Whether you have supporters or opposers, it is on the strength of your representation. Then on Friday (I hope I will ever have some reasons to thank God it’s Friday) 22 April 2016, you posted…
…In preparation for the resumption, students are expected to adhere strictly to the following guidelines:
Students are to complete the undertaking form and get it notarised.
No student would be READMITTED without completing the above process.
Now, could you reconcile these two representations? That you expelled all the students at once in the cloak of restoring normalcy, without letting them know of their expulsion, because you are aware the world would scream at such abuse of power and due process? If this readmission does not render the vacation an expulsion, please kindly explain to me and for those who wish to understand. Note: I have not yet inquired into the invalidity of the purported expulsion, only the representation of it.
Now for the undertaking. (I actually thought at first that it was an undertaker’s form, with its harrowing content!) In paragraph one, I am supposed to pledge that I will pay due respect and obedience to the authorities of the University of Lagos and I will faithfully observe ALL regulations, which may from time to time be issued for the GOOD ADMINISTRATION of the University.
Not to question the propriety of this vow, or your competence at managing the University, what happens when you make policies that in the eye of the reasonable, right thinking persons are not for the good management of the University? For you must admit you are not perfect. Am I then permitted to refuse to obey such rules? Suppose for instance that you insist that no water is to be brought into the school and you don’t supply enough (as usual), if I go outside school and buy bag of sachet water and bring it into the school and perhaps sell to two or three roommates who are dying of thirst, have I violated my oath? Please define ‘due respect and obedience’! Define good administration! I long to know, that I may not disobey!
And for my parents who will sign indemnity form that I will be of ‘good behaviour and conduct’, exactly what am I to infer from that? Leaving aside whether every student have parents and whether some of them are sponsoring themselves – which you have acknowledged through your work-study programme – I ask that I may know: what do good conduct and behaviour mean? That if you were to increase any UNILAG-only commodity like tuition fees, etc, I am not to protest if you refuse negotiation? That I cannot exercise my constitutional right to association without your approval? That I am to accept whatever policy you propose without any form of protestation? If these are your meanings, please make them clear to me that I may know how to start seeking for the black goat in daytime.
As a precondition for entering halls of residence, I am also to sign hall clearance. I am fortunate enough in this regard to have been allocated a hall among the thousands who could not get. You acknowledged the discomfort occasioned by students because of lack of adequate hostels and permitted students without hostels to stay with their friends (correct me if I am wrong). Now that I must carry hall clearance for entrance, what will be the fate of my friends from Anambra and Kano who have nowhere else to stay but school? Will they have to come from Anambra and Kano in order to write their exams every day? In signing my hostel clearance, will I not be signing their damnation? If you must throw the baby away with the water, at least acknowledge the baby’s right to struggle for survival.
You have taught me many lessons, but now I don’t know whether you mean to test me or to unlearn those lessons from me. You derided before me the African kings who in the face of threat and illiteracy signed away their people to the colonialists and slave-masters. Today, you want me to sign away my freedom, even with the full implications glaring at me. Whatever be your motive, I WILL NOT SIGN THIS UNDERTAKER’S FORM UNTIL YOU HAVE MADE YOUR TERMS AND CONDITIONS SUFFICIENTLY EXPRESS TO ME!
And perhaps by now you understand the irrelevancy of talking about READMISSION, because I WAS NEVER EXPLELLED.