Adekunle Adebajo : Unjust Trials of Campus Journalist
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an Elephant has its foot on the tail of a Mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
– Desmond Tutu
So, it happened. What happened really? The Management of the University of Ibadan rusticated a campus Journalist, Fisayo Adekunle Adebajo, for two semesters. And if you may ask me, “What sin(s) did he commit?” His sin was that he wrote an article two years ago, published in the Guardian Newspaper, titled, “UI: The Irony of Fashionable rooftops and of Awful Interiors”. It would be worthy of note to lay claim to the fact that the article was a product of pure investigative work(s) and absolute brilliance from the writer, Kunle, who is now being punished by his supposed alma mater, for the same article.
Fisayo Adekunle Adebajo, is a campus journalist and he did what was right by revealing the deplorable state of facilities in Nigeria’s premier university. His feature story (article) was an expository one, as it exposed the issues of cosmetic renovations in University of Ibadan Hostels.
According to Dele Momodu, a renowned Nigerian Journalist and the Publisher of Ovation Magazine,
“A society without the press is a dead society”. The words of this important figure (in the Nigerian Media sector) readily come to mind in this situation. In fact, he just hit the proverbial nail on the head. Imagine, that Kunle did not write the story, in that year; would we know the state of things in Nigeria’s premier university? An uninformed society is no different from a dead one. And we all do know that the Press is the principal organ of Information dissemination in a society.
The truth remains that the authorities of the University of Ibadan are only trampling upon the rights of Kunle Adebajo, especially his right to freedom of expression, which is enshrined in the most basic law of the Land, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It should be noted that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the highest and most supreme Legal provision/document in the land, higher and superior to any law at all within the Nigerian circle. The University of Ibadan rusticated Kunle, for two semesters. And, Kunle is supposed to be a Law graduate of the institution. The authorities claimed that he was found guilty of writing a story that soiled the image of the school. At this point, permit me to say that the same story-that University of Ibadan claimed soiled her image-won ‘Kunle accolades, locally and internationally.
The action of the management of the University of Ibadan is condemnable and uncalled for. The rustication of Kunle Adebajo for two semesters is a gag on freedom of the Press in the University (University of Ibadan), and on Campus Journalism, generally. ‘Kunle, as a Campus Journalist, was only performing his duties as a member of the press. And he was also exercising his basic and fundamental rights of freedom of expression. Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, as amended, states, “The Press, Radio, Television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government of the people.”
This provision of the Constitution has exonerated Adekunle Adebajo. He only did the right thing. He wrote about the state of things in Nigeria’s premier university. He put the management of the University of Ibadan on her toes. He criticized the “Policy of fashionable rooftops and awful Interiors”. He condemned cosmetic renovations of facilities in Nigeria’s Premier University. He wanted the Management of the University of Ibadan to be accountable to the students of the university.
Criticisms is part of life. Criticisms allows for checks and balances, growth and development in the society. A journalist is not only obliged to inform or report alone. The role of a journalist goes beyond only informing, although, they all are still couched under the umbrella of information and enlightenment. A journalist informs, educates, enlightens, entertains, criticizes, satirizes etc. Sincerely speaking, ‘Kunle’s story, published in the Guardian Newspaper in 2016, was not only an expository one; it was an excellent criticism/critique of the actions of the management of the management of University of Ibadan. The simple question is, “Is it that the Management of the University of Ibadan is allergic to healthy criticisms?” Or “Is it that the management of Nigeria’s premier university feels that ‘Kunle exposed what they were hiding, to the world?” Kunle in his article did expose the lies in the system and the hypocrisy of University administrators. Once again, “UI: The Irony of Fashionable rooftops and awful interiors”, was an eye-opener, mind-blowing, and a well-written article/piece from the stables of Adekunle Adebajo. Because of this same piece, he is being victimized by the authorities of the University of Ibadan.
I went through the article, and when I did my personal research, I discovered that ‘Kunle Adebajo laid it bare. He didn’t tell a lie in his piece. So, I remembered the words of Cabral, “Tell no lies, claim no easy victory, tell it the way it is, to the people”. And Mr. ‘Kunle Adebajo is now being punished for writing the truth. The Management of the University of Ibadan does not seem to appreciate the honest piece written by our own ‘Kunle. Instead of addressing the issues highlighted in the piece, they now are meting out injustice to Kunle. Rather than appreciate Kunle for being an honest journalist and critic, they rusticated him for two semesters. We can then boldly assume that the world does not appreciate the honest and good ones. Gleaning from the words of a Campus Journalist from Obafemi Awolowo University, Oladeji Afeez Yusuff, “The dishonest ones will inherit the world; the good and honest ones will inherit paradise. The reality of things is that the world seems not to appreciate the good and truthful ones”. Oladeji Afeez Yusuff did not lie afterwards; his statement is in tandem with the current realities of this world.
The action of the University of Ibadan, rusticating Kunle Adebajo for two semesters, is tantamount to silencing the voices of Journalists. It is similar to limiting the Freedom of Campus Press. It is tantamount to victimization and oppression. It is tantamount to injustice. Because they have the apparatus and machineries of victimization, suspensions and rustications, they have decided to employ them in dealing with ‘Kunle Adebajo. I am of the opinion that they feel that Kunle Adebajo has stepped on their toes; that ‘Kunle Adebajo has opened their “yansh” to the world; that ‘Kunle Adebajo has exposed the skeletons in their cupboards. So, they decided to use their powers to mete out unjust treatments towards him.
‘Kunle Adebajo, is not the only one in this kind of situation. We have heard of how the authorities and managements of different tertiary institutions victimize and oppress student activists whose sins is clamoring for what they feel are right, justice, and the betterment of the welfare of their fellow students. And this phenomenon is fast becoming a popular one in Nigerian tertiary institutions. Nowadays, students are being rusticated for facebook posts criticizing their schools’ managements. Nigerian tertiary institutions are fast becoming “Animal Farms”. They are fast becoming “North Korea”, where the students are subject of victimization and oppression from the authorities; where the rights of students cannot be guaranteed and democracy reduced to totalitarianism.
By rusticating ‘Kunle Adebajo for two semesters, the management of Nigeria’s premier university has trampled on the rights of ‘Kunle Adebajo, his right to freedom of speech and expression, specifically. The Provisions of the Section 39, sub-sections 1 and 2, of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) were contravened by the management of the University of Ibadan. Section 39, sub-section 1, states, “(1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and import ideas and information without interference”. Going by the provisions of Section 39 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution, ‘Kunle Adebajo has committed no sin. He has the full back up of the constitution. He has the right to freedom of expression. Section 39 (2) of the 1999 Constitution does provide, “Without prejudice to the generality of subsection 1 of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions…” ‘Kunle Adebajo has acted in line with the constitutional provisions of the land, and so, even the bye-laws of the University of Ibadan cannot nail him.
The Bye-laws of the University of Ibadan, which the panel that investigated ‘Kunle’s issue relied on, was employed in the decision to rusticate ‘Kunle. But, ordinarily, the “bye-law(s)” of the University of Ibadan is subordinate to the provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria. If we are to go by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, ‘Kunle should not be in the situation that he is at present.
The Campus Journalism circle in Nigeria, as at present, is giving me joy. The reason for this is due to how they have pushed the campaign for the reinstatement of ‘Kunle Adebajo. The Free Campus Press Movement (FCPM) supported by the National Association of Nigerian Campus Editors (NANCE), Campus Journalists’ bodies and notable media houses/outfits, is really doing the needful at this particular point in time. In regard to the movement for the reinstatement of ‘Kunle Adebajo, I feel that all hands should be on deck. We cannot afford to stay neutral in the face of oppression. Former United States President, Theodore Roosevelt, did say, “We despise and abhor the bully, the brawler, the oppressor, whether in private or public life, but we despise no less the coward and the voluptuary. No man is worth calling a man who will not fight rather than submit to infamy or see those that are dear to him suffer wrong”. So, it is necessary that all campus and mainstream journalists support this struggle/movement for the reinstatement of ‘Kunle Adebajo, because an injury to one is an injury to all.
In the meantime, I appeal that all campus journalists in the Nigerian tertiary institutions to support the Free Campus Press Movement and the “Free Kunle Adebajo” campaign.
On a final note, I appeal to the management of the University of Ibadan, to reinstate our own ‘Kunle Adebajo. I urge her to rescind her decision to rusticate him for two semesters. I advise that the panel that investigated his issue review its decision.
Isaac Adeonipekun Omole
Graduate of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
Outgoing President of the National Association of Nigerian Campus Editors.