July 10 has been commemorated before I got to OAU and while there. I’m happy COVID-19 is not stopping plans this year and several notable people in Nigeria’s activist space would be talking on Zoom. Akinyemi Iwilade, prolific lawyer of international repute and former lecturer in OAU would also be live via Zoom.
As an event, July 10 reminds us of what we have lost to cultism. George Iwilade Afrika alive today would have been an invaluable member of the national activist movement.
Every July 10 starts with an announcement across the campus. Then a symposium where respected former Union leaders who proved their mettle while serving the Union come to give talks. Then at night, candles are lighted and a bonfire we dance around.
A procession from AngloMoz takes off to SUB. At Ken Saro Wiwa Building, the candles are dropped and Kegites (Afrika was a karid entity) alongside other groups such as the Union leadership and the left movement round up the event.
Movies have been made distorting painfully the account of events. But a factual narrative is contained in the book of Barr. Olumide-Fusika SAN, the student legal representative after the massacre. Titled A Cry For Justice. Water Must Flow Uphill was also written by Prof. Rogers Makanjuola who came on board after the event.
What happened on July 10 depends on where you hear it from. However, the certainty is that campus was left unsecured by the then Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Omole after which Union leaders that had earlier confronted cultists were open for a reprisal. The reprisal occurred to fight them back for their earlier parade of cultists.
Violence was unleashed and students died. The Students’ Union mobilized the following morning and served what Prof. Soyinka in a book where he addressed the departure of fraternities from their founding aims, he described the response of the next day as a commendable assault on the criminals and a mother of all response. The expressway from Ife to Ibadan was blocked and two people attempting to escape were caught with blood-stained clothes. More were caught and at various places.
Since then, OAU has frowned on cultism and open affiliation with cult societies has been downed. If you’re a cultist on OAU campus, it is useless because you cannot flaunt it. The day you try to threaten someone and admit to being a cult. You will be beaten up by students. This culture has weakened in recent times and we have a case where students are starting to affiliate. The management suspended 12 for this reason.
As students remember July 10 again, I enjoin them, now as a graduate, to keep our zero tolerance for cultism.
And to keep Ife’s uniqueness which has been rubbished by nonsense elements that came to the Union to contest and steal. Many of them are still known.
July 10 is important and the school management has recognized that date by participating in the event last year and releasing the Afrika Amphitheatre for the commemoration for the first time since 1999.
It’s also time to encourage the student activists left in Ife that they are keeping a legacy alive and they may be mocked by those other students who think the school is just classroom and bowing down around to their agemate Pastors/Imam in various fellowship and groups.
In Ife, we leave our room by 2 in the night and go to the farthest place such as Spider or Ajose without anyone threatening anyone.
This must remain.
Written by Koye-Ladele Mofehintoluwa,
Former Parliamentarian, Great Ife Students’ Union,
July 9, 2020.