The Punch’s Gbenga Adeniji. Except:
We learnt that you were recently arrested by security operatives on the premises of the University of Lagos. What really happened?
It was a minor issue which was blown out of proportion. I and three of my friends were discussing and moving towards the school. At the small exit gate of the university’s main gate, I was exchanging a contact with one of them from my phone. We were moving at a slow pace and one of the security officers told us not to loiter in an unruly manner. I nodded at him to show my acceptance of his order and also pleaded with him to be patient with us as we were almost through with the contact exchange.
To our surprise, the officer replied by launching into a verbal attack. He called my friend unprintable names. They started exchanging words. The officer manhandled him and this left my friend with a scratch on his body. It later resulted into a heated argument and noticing the gathering of students to the scene, I and my other two friends advised that we should move to the security unit to resolve the matter amicably.
My friend was dragged to the security unit and we all went there with another officer. When we got to the unit, we were told to make a statement which we did and we learnt that the university’s chief security officer had been informed of the incident.
While giving a statement, some of the officers kept making some comments directed at me. One of them pointed at me saying, ‘‘Were you not the one who insulted the vice-chancellor? The VC has caught you.”
One of the officers also said “You do not want to graduate; you are the Sahara agent, right?” I was taken aback and wondered the link between the matter and my rustication.
What did you do next?
We were at the security unit all through waiting to be attended to but nothing happened. We started making contacts to reach the CSO to resolve the matter. We did not hear from him and we were not released. We slept at the security unit. At about 5.45am, some policemen from Sabo Police Station came to take us to the station. Our shirts were tied to each other in twos. At the station, we made a statement and we were interrogated by a police officer. He insinuated that we should give a statement that we were cult members, planning to attack the school.
We vehemently refused to make such a statement. After that, my friends were given their phones but I was not given mine. They called mine an exhibit because I took the picture of the officer manhandling my friend with it. I took the picture to have a pictorial evidence of what happened and not for any other reason as the police officer alleged.
We were later locked up in a cell. Some student leaders later arrived at the police station. At that point, we were taken to the office of the Divisional Police Officer where the matter was resolved after the intervention of the CSO.
With the incident, are you in any way scared for your life?
On ethical grounds, I know I am no longer safe. I had received a lot of advice concerning safety.
The university in a statement said you and other rusticated student leaders were not victimised because of your involvement in a protest on campus. It stated that you were found to have breached a part of the regulations in the university’s 2015-2016 student information handbook. What is your reaction to this?
It was rather disheartening that the university came out to say that. It is an untrue statement. I and other student leaders were invited to a panel. The panel was known as, ‘Special senate disciplinary committee on recent students’ protest.’
I have the letters with me and they indicated that we were rusticated for our participation in the protest. Everything I wrote in the article I posted on my Facebook page pointed to the fact that the resolution of the Senate was not a product of a democratic process especially with the student leaders who participated in the protest. As of the day I was admitted into the university till the day I was rusticated, there was no regulation in the university’s student handbook that stated “unauthorised use of university name, logo, etc in a manner that would bring the university to disrepute.”
I saw the “emergency” handbook a day after I was rusticated with a student who claimed that only three of them were issued the book in a class of 78 students.
This affirms that it was a “kangaroo” verdict. It was premeditated and retroactive because I went to the panel with the latest handbook i.e for the 2014/2015 academic session and there was nothing of such in it.
Most students, especially freshmen, do not have the ‘emergency’ handbook. I can say convincingly that the handbook was ‘prepared’ to nail me. It is laughable because the university cannot attach that sub-section in clear legal terms in its allegations against me.
What is your position on the university’s submission that you abused the vice-chancellor yet expect to receive the university certificate?I am of the opinion that the university is a place for engagement of intellectual minds. It should be a breeding ground for managers; people who will be able to manage issues with all sincerity. A Nigerian graduate should be a leader who has undergone a certifiable training and must be open to criticisms and scrutiny. I have noted in one of my articles that if certificates amounted to civilisation and development, Nigeria would be the best place to be.
I know some people who have about three master’s degrees and two PhDs. I know someone who enrolled for a master’s programme because of a N10,000 increase in his salary. We are too conscious of certificates and this has brought little or no development to the country. It is high time we became educated and not “certificated.”
By mentioning the vice-chancellors’s name in my article on my Facebook page, I did two things. First, I awoke him to his responsibilities in the nation as a scholar. This is the same with other personalities I mentioned in the article.
Also, I exposed the administrative and managerial failure I noticed in the system. The language I employed might be harsh which I had apologised repeatedly, yet I maintained that the thoughts in the article were my opinions about the university’s Senate and should not be censored. I wonder why university administrators cannot tolerate a newly-reinstated students’ union that was proscribed for 10 years.
Did you organise a ‘group of boys’ as alleged by the university to cause commotion and chaos at the university gate?It was surprising to read such. The said ‘boys’ are serving corps members. It was so stated in the statement by the university. I do not think any corps members would leave their states of deployment to come and cause chaos at the gate of a university.
It was a case of trumped-up charges against us. We were the ones who asked the security men to move to the security unit to resolve the issue instead of creating a scene at the gate. I did not organise any group of boys. It is part of the desperation to nail me.
How would you react to the claim by the UNILAG authorities that you were arrested on campus because of your desperation to attract cheap publicity, earn public sympathy and continuously bring the name of the university into disrepute?It is an opinion which I won’t censor as a sensible and civilised democrat though they censored mine. Popularity or sympathy does not define a man. A man is defined by his level of consciousness.
Have you been barred from entering the university?
I have not been declared persona non grata on the premises of the university by the school authorities.