by Awo Sam and Kunle “Wizman” Ajayi
On Thursday, April 11,2013, students of all the state tertiary institutions in Osun under the aegis of National Association of Nigerian Students(NANS) and Joint Campus Committee(JCC) Osun Axis “stormed the streets of Osogbo to protest the continued closure of their schools, right from the Olaiya junction to the State Secretariat which they shut down”. It marked a major turning point in a long drawn struggle that continues with resilience.
For the past six weeks, Osun Education workers in all the state higher institutions have been on strike over the non-increment of their salaries as agreed on in the COMPOCAS salary scheme. After a month warning strike, the state Government failed to even call the workers to dialogue at all. Enraged by this, students at a popular congress held at the College of Education, where they brainstormed on the situation declared their support for the striking workers positing that they as students would also join the working class and so would not want to be treated badly as government does now.
Compelling the OSCOED, ILESA management to send their cries to the government, students went on a lecture boycott and halted all activities on that campus. Students in other campus like Osun State Polythechnic,Iree; Osun State College of Education,Ila-Orangun;and Osun state College of Technology, Esa-Oke also boycotted lectures. Student-leaders, the second day visited workers’ Unions and booked a meeting for the next day-where delegates of the students led by Awo Sam, an SYL cadre and the NANS ZONE-D AGS, as well as the JCC Chair met with the workers for three hours. At the meeting, workers stated and explained their Six-point demands that includes: full implementation of salary structure; elongation of year in service; invisible contributory pension scheme; among others.
Consequently, a widely broadcast warning protest was held at Ilesa by students, which was first resisted almost violently by the police force. The students dogged resistance prevailed, and thousands marched to the streets educating the public and expressing solidarity with the striking workers. A Senate meeting of the JCC was held on Wednesday at Ilesa where Students’ Union leaders were asked to address a state-wide press the following Monday. It was at the press conference that students gave the State govenment a three-day ultimatum. But by Wednesday, the Osun Commissioner of Police called for a meeting. Then government through the DSMG called for an Osun students and stakeholders assembly where all education stakeholders came at the Charity hotel osogbo including civil society organisations, commissions, security agents, past NANS leaders, ministries, all union representatives etc.
Students made recommendations and the day after, the final stage was set at the Osun local government service commission hall where the Governor Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the Deputy governor Mrs Titi Laoye-Tomori and other government functionaries were in attendance. The students represented by Comrade Awo Sam spoke, and Governor Aregbesola replied, proving his non-readiness to address both the workers’ and students demands.
He was rather raising drowned sentiments and addressing the NAOSS issues alone. But after the students showed resoluteness in their demands despite the fact that students were never allowed to respond to the Governor’ reactions, a committee was resolved to be set up for April 3rd!
Waiting for five good days, students went back to their campuses to discuss. Students in their large numbers stormed their various campuses (Colleges Of Education, Ilesha and Ila; the polytechnics Iree & Esaoke) with the belief that the government should have addressed the demands of the striking workers. By being recalcitrant, the government was deemed to betoying with the futures of the students as well as the present of the workers.
The students were however inspired that the workers chose to stand by their positions/demands & students thus resolved to make Wednesday 10/04/2013 the last day due for the report Government a day of protest. Students promised to remain on campuses, and called all other workers to and students outside Osun state to join in solidarity. By that Wednesday, there was no resolution in sight. The Osun Govermnet failed to failed to address the workers legitimate demand and pay them accordingly. This was what made the students to storm the street on the 11th.
THE STRIKE AND PROTESTS CONTINUE
Following the three-day ultimatum the students gave the Osun Government to resolve with the workers, nothing tangible could be seen. What Government functionaries are doing is to try to break the students’ protest and isolate the striking workers. All these they do by getting the compromised leadership of National Association of Osun State Students (NAOSS) to heap praises on the Government on the radio and television. This does not mask the fact that even the Osun state bursary and scholarship’s payment have been nothing to write home about. And as the students position in the March 19th Press statement made clear:
“every student, worker and parent will agree with us that Osun higher education remains one of the most backward among others, and this must change. NANS/JCC is here today again like ever before to tell the public that Osun higher education suffers neglect as no single demand of the students has been met since the inception of this government including the acclaimed reduction in tuition fee in the colleges…The warning strike of the workers was with the expectation of a call for dialogue but reverse was the case as we students are living and studying in poultries. Nigerian students due to the situation of things can’t understand why government has adopted this unfortunate and condemnable inflexibility that most of the elite’s children are attending private schools in the country or abroad. It is therefore easy to say why some of them are interested in deliberately killing public schools and institutions.”
Osun students will continue to stand by workers as we urge the State Goverment to accede to all their demands by “any means neccessary.” Striking workers are in turn urged to join the students on the Streets once the ultimatum elapses, and the barricade calls.
The point is that this helps embolden the resolve of students and workers, and educate the mass of people more. We do no need to warn all those who are blackmailing the studentry; opportunists and agents, to stop. We understand those roles and their actors’ overtime. What is basic is that Osun Education workers and students remain resolute!
It is not surprising that, the Osun government being much worried by the resilience of workers and students on the strike, has in collaboration with some ex-students’ Unionists led by Adegboyega Matthew aka Great Matthew (the immediate past President of OSCOED,ILESA), went ahead to acquire a kangaroo court judgement ordering the workers back to work. But in quick response, genuine students-leaders went on air to debunk the rumour that students had sued their striking lecturers to court. And then went to present the disclaimer at the Striking Workers congress on April 18. Workers unanimously hailed the students’ unwavering solidarity! However, OSCOED ILESA students could not hold their fury at the grand betrayal of their former President, and so held a congress on the 22nd where they cöndemned Great Matthew and his cohorts thereby declaring him and his cohorts persona non grata! Such is the fate of betrayers and cowards! As the strike continues, workers and students should advance the struggle with regular public education and demonstrations ,while continuously building synergy for advancing the course of Social change in the country. In the unity and action of workers and Youth lies the power to move the mountain of Education Underdevelopment in Nigeria. Victory is sure, with the unity and determination of workers and youths!