Wednesday, 17 July 2024.

Top 5 This Week

Related News

UNICAL Protest Was Political – NYCN Chairman

By Frank Ulom

The Chairman of the National Youths Council of Nigeria, NYCN, Cross River State Chapter, Comrade Daniel Obo Jnr., has asserted that the peaceful protest embarked upon by the University of Calabar, UNICAL students on Monday 4 December 2023 over fees increment was political.

Speaking with newsmen on Wednesday 6 December 2023 at the NYCN Secretariat in Calabar, Obo said he was informed that the Students’ Union Government, SUG President didn’t partake in the protest, adding that it takes God’s grace to gather students nowadays to protest.

“When we say the protest is political. See, let me tell you. In Cross River State today it takes God’s grace to gather students to go and protest. I’m a unionist. They have instilled so much fear in the students to the extent that on their own students cannot come out to say they want to protest. If not, why did the previous government left with our money for bursary?

“My own position is that the SUG president said he did not go out for the protest so we did not know who went. Does that not call for concern? So who led the protest? If I do not lead any protest for the well-being of young Cross Riverians and then another person leads it, it then becomes a sponsored protest. So, therefore, if the SUG president did not lead that protest, it was sponsored,” Obo said.

He said he was informed that the protest was hijacked as students were being called to go out to protest, including those from the nearby University of Cross River State, UNICROSS.

“Security report getting to us is that people are even calling students and encouraging them to go and protest. They are calling them to say that the school fee increase doesn’t make sense, to the extent that people want students from UNICROSS to come and protest in the activities of UNICAL. The SUG president seems to be very handicapped. How about NACRISS, which is the umbrella body of Cross River State students? The reality here is that UNICAL is a federal institution, so if you go into UNICAL you will see other states student union bodies there. It’s not like a school where you go and it’s totally Cross Riverians.

“Our first interest here is the security of our state. I am not a student union leader. When you talk about people who are asking people to protest, between you and I, you cannot tell me that the SUG president was responsible for that protest. It’s not true. What we are saying is that anybody with whatever differences shouldn’t bring our state into it. What I am saying is that institutions in Cross River State should be strengthened rather than individuals using authority to strengthen institutions when decisions try to favour them,” Obo said.

Continuing, the NYCN Chairman said, “People are angry that they have increased school fees, but let not that anger leads to the destruction of our state. Let that anger not lead to the insecurity of our state. Let that anger not lead to destroying the University of Calabar. That’s my position and I remain there and stand there. Nobody is accusing anybody directly, but naturally, it is the duty of SUG to negotiate school fee increments.”

He said no matter the course, a protest is not the way forward in resolving matters in today’s Nigeria, adding that most protests have been hijacked leading to the destruction of properties.

Obo said a dialogue and or a roundtable is the best way to resolve matters like this, urging the students to confide with their union leaders to get the best out of management.

“For me, first I believe that protest is not an option. The best option is to see how there could be dialogue because when school fees are increased, the highest you can do is to demand for reduction. But you do not have the right to say it cannot be increased anymore. And if you look at the present economic situation, you will also discover that… Some have also said that every year the present Vice Chancellor increases school fees.

“As I sit here, I belong to a national platform where virtually every activity of every state is being dropped. I can tell you as of today that about 6, 7 universities have also increased school fees. We cannot continue to talk about leadership from the bottom-top approach. It is time we begin to look at areas that even make laws, as regards people governing us. They are also asking some youths to go through protests. If you put all of these together, it’s beginning to be political. And so when the destruction happens, it becomes a Cross River State destruction.

“I’ve also been asked too to be part of protest as a youth leader of the state that it doesn’t make sense to increase school fees, and I said no. That’s not an option. Rather they should strengthen the student union government whose responsibility it is to negotiate for students on campus. So they can get involved and possibly be sure that there’s a dialogue.

“As an umbrella body for the young people, any youth who goes out to do protest within our name, we will say no. Even when you try to do something that carries our image and we are not comfortable with it we must rise up to say no. We are not in support of the protest. Even for people who are in government, whether in the executive or legislative arm, it is not necessary to encourage people to go and protest.

“To even start with, as representative how many scholarships do we have? As representative how many education programmes do we have? As representative how many of our students are going outside to study? Between you and I, you can also not take away the fact that there’s some level of both infrastructure and academics that are getting better in UNICAL.”

READ ALSO | Dr Udoka Appointed Director Of UNICAL Performing Company (UCPC)

Obo Jnr. said his Youth Council reached out to the Vice Chancellor of UNICAL, Prof. Florence Obi immediately after they got the news that students are protesting.

His words: “First, I am not a staff of UNICAL and I am not an aide of the Vice Chancellor, but the reality is that the moment that protest started we were able to reach out to her, and the only solution at that point was for her to make a statement. I’m sure that she eventually made. I’m sure other Cross Riverians in different spheres of life tried to also reach the management, to say look this increase doesn’t make sense. In fact, I drove to the school to discover that the Vice Chancellor to the registrar to the bursar were not in town.

“The moment we discovered that these set of leaders were not in town it became more dangerous, so we had to also step in and say no. There’s no need for all of this. When your management is in town, as a student union government, you go and sit down with your management. If the school management say this is our position on this matter, school fees should have 100 per cent increase, it is now SUG position to say no. This 100 per cent increase is a challenge to us. It is not the issue of society to say go and protest because they’ve increased your school fees. It is not the issue of the government to say go and protest. It is also not an issue to say look I have political differences with anybody – whether family or relation. No. The reality is that whose duty it is to negotiate school fees for students if school fees is increased?

“If we don’t take this institution and strengthen it to make negotiation, are we the ones that will continue to negotiate for the institution? The management has suspended the increment, but I am very sure they didn’t remove the fact that they increased school fees. The student union need to be strengthened to go and negotiate for the students. It’s not you and I.”

He said the country is witnessing one of the worst inflation in history, noting that, “Even the market we go to things have increased. As I speak with you, if before you and I had this conversation your data was for N1,000, it can no longer be N1,000 because naturally things have increased. Even when you go to the market and things have increased, there’s a conversation you will have with the person who is selling, the person can reduce something for you. So if the school management wakes up to say look we’ve increased school fees by 100 per cent, the SUG should say no. Don’t increase by 100 per cent. Increase by 50 or 60 percent. That’s what it should be.”

The Youth Council Chairman said the students need to stand with their leaders and table whatever grievances they have because they elected them, stressing that both the SUG and the university management need to have a roundtable discussion before taking any decision that will affect the students.

“They said the SUG is a puppet to UNICAL management, was it the management that elected the SUG? The student elected him so that’s their leader. The students have to deal with whatever decisions their leaders take because they elected them. As I sit here, I cannot take decisions that are against the youths of Cross River. I will not. Before you elect your leader you must be conscious of the kind of leader you want. So for me, if they said the SUG is a puppet in the hands of the management, it is because the students are not giving them support. For me, it’s about the SUG. I’m sure the SUG tenure will elapse. If they want to elect another SUG the students should be interested in who governs them.

“To me, I believe that anywhere there’s no roundtable discussion, particularly in the context of our country, we must be running into trouble. Management has to look at the plights of the students from issues of insecurity to issues of school fee increment. But this cannot be looked at by protest. Please go into negotiation. Use every relevant stakeholder and authority and go into negotiation. The management is human, and management should be human enough to look at the plights of the students. That’s our position.”

Get Faster News Update By Joining Our: WhatsApp Channel

Frank Ulom
Frank Ulom
Frank Ulom is an experienced Journalist, Blogger and Writer with several years of experience. His stories are based on community development and have brought positive change across board.

Latest News