Ifemosu Adewale was recently expelled from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta after posting an open letter to the vice-chancellor of the university on his Facebook page in which he complained about the happenings in the school. He tells LAWRENCE MIKE about his frustration
You made some allegations in an open letter to the vice-chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta which centered on transportation issues and indiscriminate arrest of students by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the police. What did you hope to achieve with your open letter?
To call the attention of the management to those issues so as to fix them so the students can be happy. Good transportation system and security are highly essential for any educational institution that wants to thrive.
You’re in 200 level but you’re already an activist as the convener of the Youths In Good Governance Initiative and also the Ogun State Secretary of the African Action Congress party. How did you get involved in all these?
I’m from Ogun State and I’m not as young as everybody thinks. I already graduated from the Federal College of Education, Abeokuta in 2013 with a Nigeria Certificate in Education. I started student unionism and activism there and held various positions and even vied for the post of the president of the students’ union. After the programme, I went to FUNAAB and ought to be in 300 level now but I changed courses because I didn’t like my former course. But I’m not in FUNAAB’s students’ union government.
Prior to your letter, did you make any attempt to get to the school authority like going through the SUG or dropping letters in the school’s suggestion box?
No, because they all know about the problems. Most yearnings of students that the union heard about were ignored. So I saw that as a waste of time because the things I pointed out were not things that were just happening. They have been going on for two years.
Do you think the SUG in your school has been compromised?
The reason for the establishment of the students’ union is to fight for the rights of students, but what is happening is contrary to that. Invariably, we can say it has been compromised.
According to your expulsion letter, you were invited to appear before a panel to substantiate some of the allegations you made and you couldn’t do so. Is that true?
No. That is false. The story was fabricated to make the media and the general public think I actually offended them. At the said meeting, I wasn’t given a fair hearing as I had my wedding on August 23 and a message was sent to me at exactly 4:05pm on August 28 to appear on August 29 (next day) by 1pm and I had already relocated to Omu-Aran in Kwara State. So I had to wake up very early just to be there in time. I got there before 1pm and didn’t face the panel till around 3pm. I was already exhausted and they didn’t allow me to express myself. They were throwing questions at me and even misquoted me.
One of the issues I mentioned had to do with transportation. I careful chose my words in the letter because I was not sure of the specific amount of money that was disbursed to that department but I’m sure for any department to work effectively, they need funding. I was constructively analysing my points in that letter, saying that if FUNAABOT (FUNAAB Bureau of Transport) is a department under FUNAAB, then definitely there’s going to be some funds disbursed to that office to run that department so they should account for the money. Are there no funds at all? Are the funds not enough?
We should know the problem so we can proffer solutions. That is what I analysed in that letter and I was sure I did not mention any amount of money. When I got to the Student Disciplinary Committee, they told me to bring documents asserting the amounts of money they had collected and I said, “Sir, I did not say in that letter that I knew it was N10m, I said monies. Monies can be N1, N2, N10 or N100m.”
The second issue I mentioned had to do with security. Do you know that just this week; some hostels in my school were robbed? Yes, it is common. Students can no longer walk or sleep with their eyes closed. The security officials will come and do theirs; armed robbers will come and do theirs. So, a lot of things happen there. Funnily enough, we have a divisional police station in front of the school. Why then is security not guaranteed? Then we should question it. That’s what I was talking about. But they pounced on me and changed everything.
If you check the letter of my expulsion, they started by stating that I had been charged for posting on the Internet but what they actually expelled me for was insubordination. Now let’s ask ourselves a question, if I have actually defamed the character of the institution or made libellous statements against the image of the institution, they should sue me for defamation, and not expel me. I checked the meaning of insubordination, it says: “Not paying respect to a lawful authority.” That means you actually expelled me because I did not respect you. I even checked the school’s code of conduct and the greatest offence should get you suspended for a semester or at most two semesters. A letter of expulsion doesn’t make any sense. Those things were just concocted lies.
Don’t you think suing the school will be difficult as it will cost you money?
By the special grace of God and with His support, it’s not about being proud or boasting about anything, I already have more than 10 Senior Advocates of Nigeria that are interested in this case; SERAP just joined and Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation is also there. It will be justice for all Nigerian students, not for Ifemosu Adewale.
Are you disappointed with the way things turned out?
I’m very disappointed. How would an open letter written to call the attention of the management to the plights of students be tantamount to expulsion? It is appalling that of all offences, all what they could expel me for is insubordination!
Do you regret posting the letter on Facebook?
Not at all. The only regret I have is that I should have called their attention to more things. It was borne out of what I encountered, I was not writing on behalf of some people. I wrote it because I was a victim.
How did your parents and family react to the news of your expulsion?
They are the best parents. They know my cause and what I stand for. They have been highly supportive.
Right in the office after receiving my expulsion letter, the first person I called was my wife and the only thing she said was “it is well” and then told me to return home. My wife is the best thing I have in this life. After that, I called my mum. She asked me just three questions: Did they expel you for rape? I said no. Was it for examination malpractice? I said no. Were you expelled for engaging in cult-related activities? I said no. She said you were expelled for a just cause you believe in and you should be proud of yourself. She begged me not to think about it and prayed for me. That was when I knew I had the best family in the world.
So what’s your next line of action?
To follow the due process to get back in school.
And if you’re not?
Nothing can be done to the truth but for the truth. It will be in history that democracy and human rights were buried during the administration that expelled me. I ask myself: “Is this a good history to write?”
Will you consider starting afresh elsewhere if all efforts prove to be abortive?
In this life, we can only move forward.