My nephew and I were recently chatting about the state of things in our tertiary institutions. He is a year one student at OAU (Obafemi Awolowo University), well, in a normal world he would have been in year 2. He had since beginning of his course of study spent 6 solid months at home courtesy of ASUU strike actions. When the last strike ended we all rejoiced but I was quick to warn him that another one is round the corner as that is the way the system has been operating for the best part of 20 years. Anyway this time, OAU is closed because students protested the high increase of tuition. If it wasn’t that, it sure will be something else, this time we don’t know yet how long OAU students will be at home. Well, since the state governorship election is round the corner, the word on the street was that OAU is unlikely to open its gates until the election is over, so give or take another six weeks at home.
I digress, but it’s hard not to talk about university closures when we all know what the implications are on the quality of our graduates.
During the chats with my nephew, one thing led to another and I made an example referencing the case of Afrika – George Iwilade and his mates murder case. I expected Ade, my nephew to join in, I didn’t find it funny when he asks ‘Who’s Afrika’ I thought he was joking but he said he could not remember the incidence. Yes, he was a lot younger when the horrendous murder happened but for some reason I was under the illusion that Afrika and his mates’ murder case should have being imprinted all over OAU buildings and indeed in all of Nigeria higher institutions to serve as constant reminders of why students cults have no place in our schools. More importantly of the facts that youths were the ones being brainwashed and then used as tools to instil fears in the minds of their mates.
It was July 10 1999. I happened to be on campus this night. I had talked to George Iwilade a couple of times before, he was young with that ambitious mind of someone who really was determined to change the world starting from his school. You could see the piercing look in his eyes. I really did not have any business with him but he contacted me as he wanted to have a dialogue on issues that I had no control over. Just like many change makers in history, sometimes they were grossly misunderstood. What is painful in our country though, is that over the years bad people have perfected their tactics in every aspects of our society that the easiest and fastest way of dealing with someone you disagreed with is to get rid of them, quicker as there is no fair justice system in place.
Like in any management, usually the boss is talked about but not often do we hear about the team that are working underground to make sure the boss’ work get the right recognition. It was Babatunde Oke that I knew quite a bit among the slain students. He was very energetic and positive guy. He was Afrika’s first hand man and very loyal man at that. If it wasn’t for his loyalty to Afrika, he wouldn’t have been killed that day. It was shortly after I saw him that he made his way to join Afrika where Tunde met his untimely death. Tunde Oke would have made an excellent leader as he was patience and worked hard to present Afrika in positive lights, to me at least. Instead of them reaching their full potentials in life, they were mercilessly butchered, it was horrific to put it mildly. Their offence – Afrika and his team were exposing cultists on campus so the school authority could deal with them appropriately. Should this not be the job of school administrators to fetch out bad students so everyone can be safe and focus on their primary aims of being on campus?
I have never in my life felt so much hopeless and helpless as I could not for the life of me imagined why these students deserved to be butchered just because they raised their voices against cultism on campus. Days later was the biggest crowd I have ever witnessed on campus gathered on Sports Centre field chanting:
Oro nla le da, eh eh oro nla le da (great loss you’ve bestow on us)
eyin te pomo wa te je o dagba (those who killed our children, devoid of growing old)
oro nla le da (great loss you have caused)
Afrika and his mates murder were not the first case of unresolved murders in Nigeria and certainly hasn’t been the last, actually, it has since gotten worse. No one has been brought to justice for their murders. Sweeping all murder cases under the carpet and pretend as if nothing has happened is the most painful part of remembering this incidence fifteen years on.
I really hope OAU students will do more to remember Afrika and others and if there is one request to ask for their government is to make sure these guys’ murderers were made to pay for what they did.