The murder of Nurudeen Yusuf Alowonle popularly known as ‘Omomewa’, a student leader at the Lagos State University (LASU), on Wednesday, unsettled the leadership of the school’s students union.
Alowonle was attacked, alongside Waheed Majekodunmi, a Senior Assistant Registrar of LASU, in front of the school but the other victim only sustained an injury to the arm.
Alowonle’s 2018/2019 set of Accounting Education graduated in February 2020. Many of his colleagues are already observing the one-year mandatory national youth service but the university held on to him. He faced a disciplinary panel on the allegation of admission racketeering from 2019 till the day he died after attending a probe session. How did it all begin?
THE AMBITION TO LEAD 35,000 STUDENTS
As the State Coordinator of Education Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization that advocates for free education in Nigeria, Alowonle led myriads of campaigns on education reforms.
Along the line, he volunteered for FollowTheMoney, a project of Connected Development (CODE), another non-governmental organization that holds public officials accountable for how public funds are spent.
“There was no issue that requires activism that Alowonle was not part of,” Mutiu Kuku, an ally of the deceased, said.
“He was the most dogged student who challenged any rot in the system, even when other students lacked the will to speak up.
“Professor Olanrewaju Adigun Fagbohun’s tenure as the Vice-Chancellor marked a rebirth in LASU, an eradication of cultism and insecurity, but Alowonle saw beyond the achievements on the surface. He led campaigns against other issues like a potential increase in school fees.”
Alowonle was also a member of the Student Representatives Council. In late 2018, he nursed the ambition of becoming the President of the school’s students union.
“When he began to pursue the ambition of becoming the President, I tried to convince him on how he could continue to lead LASU without necessarily contesting for that office but he stayed with his conviction.”
Alowonle lost the election but didn’t immediately accept the outcome. For a while, he contested it, believing the winner was “a puppet of the university’s management” imposed on students.
In the accounts of different students that spoke with FIJ, this was the most recent time Alowonle had a critical confrontation with school management under Professor Fagbohun.
“At other times, he would write letters and even copy the state government under Akinwunmi Ambode, the erstwhile Governor of Lagos State,” Kuku noted. “His advocacy was not channelled to an individual but the system.”
CARELESS DEAL THAT LATER BECAME A PROBLEM
In October 2019, Alowonle received a call from Moses Micheal, who introduced himself as a worker at LASU’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Department, to help collect N160,000 from an unknown person. Michael said he would come for his money from Alowonle whenever he returned to campus.
Alowonle gullibly agreed to help in the money collection. He got a parcel on behalf of Michael and did not bother to check what was in it. It turned out the parcel contained an Admission Screening Report for 13 new LASU intakes.
While he was going to class with the parcel, Alowonle was accosted by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) and LASU’s security officials. They found the parcel in his bag and levelled an allegation of admission racketeering against him.
FIJ obtained one of the statements Alowonle wrote to prove his innocence.
“As a leader of the Education Rights Campaign on the campus, I am conversant with the manner in which the management have set up workers’ leaders and lecturer activists on the campus just to defame them without any substantial pieces of evidence,” the statement read in part.
“They make it easy for the management to victimize them by ensuring that they do not get any support from the workers community that they belong to.”
Speaking after Alowonle’s demise, Kuku vowed that the allegations against his friend were “malicious and nothing short of a plot to unjustly punish him”.
He also told FIJ that he had met with the school’s authorities, including the then VC, Fagbohun, to reiterate Alowonle’s innocence.
Samuel Olalere, a former LASU Students Union President, who is now Chairman of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in Lagos, said Alowonle was targeted to silence his campaigns for educational reforms.
“Alowonle’s persecution is not strange to us in LASU,” he told FIJ on Saturday. “I have also been framed up but I championed the battle. Alowonle is just another victim of similar persecution we faced while we were on campus.”
PERSECUTED TO DEATH
FIJ learnt that Alowonle had appeared before the probe panel on four different occasions, including on Wednesday.
“He was persecuted to death,” Yusuf Temilolu, Alowonle’s family’s lawyer, said. “On the day he died, we both attended a sitting of the university’s panel against him on a case that was not known in the law of the school.”
The lawyer also accused the panel of foot-dragging over Alowonle’s case until his unfortunate death.
In response to Alowonle’s murder, Ademola Adekoya, LASU’s spokesman, said that the university’s security department was “working with security agencies to investigate the sad incident with the aim of bringing the perpetrators to book”.
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