Olorunfemi Adeyeye

23.06.2023 news INTERVIEW: How UNILAG Turned Activist Femi Adeyeye’s 2-Year Rustication to 5 Through the Back Door

Published 23rd Jun, 2023

By Opeyemi Lawal

Olorunfemi Adeyeye, a student activist and campus journalist, gained admission to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in 2012 and was supposed to graduate in 2017, but he was rusticated from school in 2016 for demanding better student welfare. He was reinstated in 2021, and his journey to graduation has not been without glitches. Adeyeye shares his story with OPEYEMI LAWAL in this interview.

One day in April 2016, students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) woke up to protest against poor welfare on campus. The protest was the biggest the institution had witnessed in a while. The students challenged the institution for its failure to provide water and electricity, among others.

The protest was soon to become riotous, and security officials were deployed to send students away from their hostels. School resumed afterwards, but some students were suspended for their involvement in the protest, one of whom was Adeyeye.

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What events led to your rustication from the University of Lagos?

This was an event that happened about seven years ago. The suspension started in 2016 after a massive protest that shook the foundations of the University of Lagos. A protest like that had never happened in a long while.

It lasted from April 6 to 8 in 2016. The students protested against a lack of water and poor electricity on campus. The protest ended in a very riotous manner because the management made it so. They brought in anti-riot policemen armed to the teeth to disperse students and chase them out of the campus. In fact, they gave us till 10 o’clock that morning to vacate our hostels.

So, we stood against it. I was just a journalist on campus, but I had friends who were student union leaders. After that, the whole campus was shut down for two weeks. Everyone was sent home, and on the expiration of the two weeks, the management came up with a memorandum of many things. From the resolutions from the meetings that they held, nothing really addressed the reason we went on strike.

One of the very funny things they wrote was that everybody who was coming back on campus would have to sign an indemnity form, indemnifying the university from any problems and all of that.

The second thing was the reabsorption of oath form, i.e., electricity would now be on campus and would be made available from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, after which nobody should expect light. Those things sounded really funny because this was an exam period.

Prior to this, the protest kicked off because it got to its peak and students were using perfume to class because there was no water to bathe. It was just crazy.

That happened, and then I had to react to that senate resolution that things could not be done that way. People don’t go on two protests and you come up with this. It means that you do not respect students who actually constitute the majority on any campus.

And if we all believe in democracy, the majority definitely should carry the day. But that was not happening. That was why I reacted and wrote an article expressing myself related to the issues on campus, including sexual harassment and a dozen other things.

I was invited to a panel on June 1, 2016, which was after the 400-level first-semester exams. They allowed us to write our exams before sending the invitation. They sent it to me and some guys at the student union leadership.

Adeyeye after his graduation
Adeyeye after his graduation on Monday

Did your invitation to the panel lead to your suspension from school?

I was invited, and instead of running down to the panel like an ideal student would do, I suggested to everybody that we ask them what they were inviting us for and the topic of the discussion.

You don’t just go; you should write to them. Some of us, you know, students, were already jittery. They ran to the management and were already begging. But for some of us, at least, a good number of us, we stood our ground and said we did nothing wrong. We only expressed ourselves. We only protested, which is our fundamental human right, and for that reason, we have no reason to genuflect or start begging people.

We wrote back to them asking what the discussion was going to be about. That was what they called it. There were different panels at that time, all constituted by the senate. But this one had to do with how we were suspended.

I relayed this to them and then I made it very clear they couldn’t just invite me to a panel. “Let me know the topic of discussion. What are we coming to discuss?” Every other person got their response in three days or so, but mine came after two weeks because they had to go and check my article again.

I’m very sure they read it again line by line, to be sure of what they could charge me for. The exact offence they would say I committed. At the end of the day, they came back with some very funny allegations. I looked at them and said, “No problem, I would be there.”

It was during my student industrial training, and I could not appear before the panel. When I did, I discussed issues with them, told them why I wrote what I wrote, and many other things like that. But just like any other disciplinary panel, most times, they are already predetermined.

Whatever you see at that panel doesn’t actually count for anything because, till today, I’m still asking for the recording of that panel. After all, the chairman at that time, Professor P.K. Fulghum, said, anytime I needed the recording, I could reach out to the secretary, which I’ve done, but they are still hoarding it. Because if I had that recording, if I played it anyway, nobody, nobody would listen to that and not feel bad for those guys at the panel, because they didn’t know what they were doing.

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Afterwards, on July 29, I received a call that I had a letter from the department. When I got there, it was a letter of suspension for four semesters. They said I should actually be expelled but some people begged.

We took it up and went to court, but the matter was struck out on technical grounds. We protested and did a lot of things. On the expiration of the four semesters, they locked my portal. They held me down again. I was supposed to be reinstated in 2018, but it only happened in January 2021.

Adeyeye in 2019
Adeyeye in 2019

That is three years added to the two years, two academic sessions that they suspended me for. I was invited to the panel again, even while I was under suspension to answer different allegations, because even during that time, I led students to protest against the suspension of Lawrence, an activist who was suspended for a protest that happened in 2015. He was suspended in 2017, and he was already a graduate, he and Ochuba Polycarp, who had his certificate with him but was still rusticated. The news came to me while I was under suspension and I led students against it. We made it a very big case, and I was arrested, detained and sent to prison.

You were in what level when this happened?

I was in 400 level second semester. My course is five years, actually. Department of Building.

What efforts did you make to be reinstated?

I was reinstated, but they just did that for the show. I imagined they thought that “this guy has finished four semesters, let us just send him a letter”. And they sent the letter even at the end of that semester I was supposed to resume, which means already they’d added another semester to my four semesters.

At the end of the day, I went to that panel with a lawyer and addressed the whole issue that they brought up again. In total, I appeared before three to four panels. One of the panel sessions was cancelled. But this is aside several meetings with different people. The efforts, at the end of the day, after I was reinstated on paper, now made me be reinstated properly. This was when my student portal was opened.

I wrote different letters, and different protests alongside people calling them out on social media. In fact, one of such was that the Vice Chancellor, Professor Tony Ogundipe, was asked by the alumni association in the US why I had not been reinstated after all these years, but he had to lie.

All those things were part of the pressure at the end of the day that led to the fact that they had no choice but to just open my portal.

How did this affect your academic life?

Of course, it was on pause due to the suspension. Academics was on pause but education wasn’t.

Could you state specifically how?

Education was not on pause. I was thinking differently. I did a lot of classes on communication, media, and other things I was interested in.

Political education also was so much heightened. I attended several political education symposia. Education goes beyond what is being taught in the four walls of a classroom.

Several resources were at my disposal to widen my horizon about my worldview, my political view, my social view, my economic view and other things. I think that’s even more important than differentiation and integration. Yeah, that’s academics for you.

Olorunfemi Adeyeye

How did your family react to the rustication?

As normal African parents, they would definitely feel bad. No one would be asked to vacate the university, especially in their penultimate year, when they are already expecting that you will be done, and feel good about it. It’s a normal thing.

What is expected is that someone just needs to stand up against bullies. It must be someone. You know, that must be someone. So, if it’s not for me, it will be from another family. If it’s not for me, it will be for another family. But then they got used to it when it became more than the university. So we are not just holding down the university alone. We started, you know, moving from school to school.

I don’t know if you’ve heard about the popular Student Authority protest in Lautech, Oyo, and my organisation at that time, Alliance of Nigerian Students Against Neoliberal Attacks (ANSA).

What are your post-graduation plans and how do you think this experience will shape you for them?

Post-graduation plans have already been set in motion since I was suspended, so there’s nothing actually new to start listing.

I have plans to practise the building profession fully with keen interest in sustainable construction and production of smart buildings.
I will also be furthering my education as soon as possible. It is my sincere pursuit that professionally, I can add to the body of knowledge and the ease of doing things in the country.

What do you do at the moment?

At the moment, I run a logistics business in Lagos, and I also take up media, technical writing and corporate PR jobs. I have been doing this for over four years.

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Published 23rd Jun, 2023

By Opeyemi Lawal


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