By Prof Tale Omole
I decided to wade into the controversy surrounding the demonstration against IBEDEC by students of FUOYE at Oye-Ekiti on 10th September 2019 and the unfortunate turn that it took for three main reasons. First, I am from Oyę-Ekiti and whatever affects the town for good or for bad affects me. Secondly, I’m a former Vice-Chancellor of a Federal University and presently a Pro-Chancellor of a State University. So I have spent about 40 years of my life among students in the university environment.
So I can say that I understand the psychology of students in time of crisis and the sociology of the university in peace and war time. Thirdly, Erelu Bisi Fayemi is a woman that I have known for many years and I have interacted with at close quarters when I was a Vice-Chancellor and now a Pro-Chancellor of EKSU.
Let me at this point express my deep and heart felt condolences to the bereaved families of the late students who lost their lives in the melee at Oye-Ekiti. I pray that the God of heaven will comfort you all IJN.
Again my condolences to the SUG of FUOYE and the entire students body. I pray also that the God of heaven will comfort you all.
I learnt of the crisis at Oyę-Ekiti a day after it occurred. I was inundated with phone calls from friends who wanted to know what really transpired on that day. Again the social media as usual was awash with all sorts of versions and accounts of what happened at Oyę-Ekiti on that day. Knowing how stories can be slanted, tainted and blurry on social media, I decided to put a call to three people at Oyę-Ekiti in order to have the true picture of what happened at Oyę Civic Centre. Fortunately, two of these people were at the civic center on that day. From their accounts, the two people said Erelu Bisi Fayemi after dancing with the women went straight to address them. That it was after her address that it was observed that fracas had broken broke out outside. The two said everyone was inside the hall as they never knew the seriousness of what was happening outside. The two people said they knew there was trouble outside when they saw some people rushing towards the civic center.
At that point I was told that Erelu Security details spirited her out of the hall and into her vehicle and sped away! As she was being driven off her convoy was being pelted and many cars I was told had already been damaged outside by some people. It was in this melee that I learnt mayhem was let loose and some police started shooting. When I heard these versions which corroborated one another the question that came to my mind was that if Erelu Bisi Fayemi had finished addressing the beneficiaries of her empowerment program and was being driven away from Oyę-Ekiti , how then could it be possible for her to have ordered her security details to shoot anyone not to talk of students of FUOYE when she herself was on her way out of Oyę-Ekiti. The picture that is being painted of Erelu Bisi Fayemi is totally different from the true picture of Mrs Bisi Fayemi that I have known for years.
When I was the Vice-Chancellor of OAU, Erelu Bisi Fayemi devoted a chunk of her time and money to help and assist students especially the female students. Indeed in order to advance the cause of female education and raise the status of our female students in the university, she went on fundraising using her national and international network and connections to build and donate a Gender Institute for OAU Ile-Ife her alma mater. The edifice is still there today. Since I became the Pro-Chancellor of EKSU, Erelu Bisi Fayemi has consistently demonstrated her good heart by coming to the assistance of a number of our students at EKSU. I remember in particular a final year female medical student who lost both parents and was about to withdraw from medical school because of financial difficulties. It was Erelu Bisi Fayemi that took over the payment of her school fees. Through the efforts of Erelu Bisi Fayemi, the National Communication Commissoion as recently as April 2019 donated over a hundred laptops again to EKSU to help in the ICT development of students of EKSU and other universities.
So with this kind of antecedent and demonstration of love and assistance for students, I think it is ungenerous for anyone to suggest even remotely that she could order anyone to be shot at not to talk of ordering that students should be shot.
I am not a politician and everyone close to me enough knows this.
But at my age in any clime people like me should not be afraid to say what they know . That two lives were lost is enough a calamity. But it is even more tragic if politics is brought to bear on this unfortunate incident. The question that keeps coming to my mind is that do people playing political roulette with this unfortunate incident even know that Mrs Bisi Fayemi herself is a mother of a young man who is about 25 years old! So it beggars belief that this kind of insinuation can be made!
In my years as a former Vice-Chancellor, I have seen first hand that two wrongs can not make a right. Consequently I wish to appeal through this medium to all and sundry that we should not play politics with the death of these illustrious students that died at their prime. The memory of these gallant students should be respected and dignified. To the students, I will advise that they should await the outcome of the investigative panel set up by the authorities in FUOYE on the crisis and and the report of the panel should be made public immediately its concluded. If there is any other panel set up to unravel the part played by any policeman in this unfortunate incident at Oyę-Ekiti, the report also should be made public.
From my experience as a former Vice-Chancellor, politicians are always waiting on the wings to exploit the misfortune of students to promote their selfish and venal agenda. FUOYE students should not allow politicians to make them the canon fodder in their unending feud. Consequently, I appeal for calm and students should please eschew violence while investigation is on going as we earnestly await the release of the report of the investigative panel.