A dark cloud of legislative cum administrative blunder is heavily hanging over the University of Ilorin Students’ Union, following its resolve to accommodate a bill seeking to establish what could be termed a hybrid Press Club.
At its 5th ordinary sitting on Saturday 6th of March, the Student Union legislative council, otherwise known as Senate Council, played a host to an ignoble Bill titled “An Act of the establishment of the Students Union Press Club”, being sponsored by a council member named Senator Olabode Stephen from the faculty of Engineering constituency.
In a frantic effort to justify his rather beclouded intents, the sponsor itemised the tenets of the bill to include encouragement of improved business and editorial practices and better media environment on campus; and to conducting awareness programs and promotion of the society’s welfare; amongst many other anti-metacognitive intents.
This contentious bill, according to our findings, has scaled through the first reading; and by our observations, it is uninhibitedly gliding through the other legislative procedures to earnestly land in the waiting executive’s pen ball for what would eventually go down in history as the most reprehensible, obsequious assent of an anti-people Bill.
In essence, to even conceive this confounding idea not unmindful of an already existing formidable Press outlet in the community, that is, the existence of the Union of Campus Journalists, (UCJ) University of Ilorin chapter whose years of existence have lasted over 24 years in the university, means that the integrity of the supposed student-centric union is deliberately brought out for a trade. And so unwittingly of the rest of the council members, sadly so, they joined in this free trade of integrity.
Precedencies bear witness to an avalanche of this kind of sheer drowning fantasy for self-aggrandisement and unhealthy penchant for recognition — perchance amongst other congressmen – of many of these council members. While it is acceptable for colleagues of the same entity to have a healthy competitive spirit, and in the spirit of sportsmanship to develop personal tactics to wrestle glory from one another, it is, however unpalatable, reproachable and, to say the least, highly uncalled-for to habituate the use of sacred institution in such chase for championship or performance-ships.
To us at UCJ-UNILORIN, tempering with an institution like ours is a reproachable adventure and antithetical to logical reasoning, considering the sacred roles a union like UCJ-UNILORIN play in the sociopolitical and academic rights advocacy in the students’ community. Hence, it is utterly unfortunate and highly contemptible the push by this member of the Student Union’s senate council. And we do not mince words to say this act is a one-short way to authoritarian unionism.
As a Union of discerning minds, we consider this ignoble, bushwhacked and vicious bill a ditch for dangerous, immoral precedence for the coming administrations who might wrongly assume that accepting all kind of bills is a corpus responsibility of the legislative arm of the union. Sadly to also note that in this age, when propaganda mechanism is the sole and the only coveted tool for political manoeuvring, it then effortlessly bares out the covert intentions of the sponsors of the heinous bill that seek to create a new Press body in the school.
In our cultural parlance, the age-long aphorism, ‘he who pays the Piper calls the tune’, decisively unclad the sinister motif by the pro-camp of this unethical, illogical legislative movement. Obviously, the real intentions are to first establish a praise-and-worship choir for the union and its organs while disguising it as the voice for, and of the people.
For whoever that is willing to know, the success of this bill is not only indicative of the present administration’s stark failure; it is a blanketed deep ditch for the coming administrations. Essentially, it is a powerful and rightful tool for regression of a society which should optimally be wary of.
Although, in fairness, and for the purpose of clarity, this unvenerable action would not have demanded a stance from UCJ-UNILORIN had it been the sanctity and sanity of the word “Press” had not been tampered with in the coinage of the Bill’s title. Equally, in order not to approach this issue irrationally, it is then constrained upon us to, first, hold that the most likely intent of the Bill’s sponsor is to establish a Public Relations (PR) Unit for the students Union and its organs, and not, as it is now assuming, an (in)dependent media outlet for the student’s community of the University of Ilorin.
The foregoing then makes it a customary duty upon us to call the senator’s attention and co-travellers to the malapropism of semantics to the sacred term “Press”. And also to address the incipient fact of the Bill existence and its lethal consequences to the future of the students of our shared patriarchy — the University of Ilorin.
An alluding voyage into the political sojourn of the defunct Soviet Union of the 17th century will create a good anecdote for this glaringly looming legislative faux Pas. And how at some point in time, similar nefarious anti-progress decrees – as we are also about to witness here – became the free ticket to a trip to the political oblivion of the then communist state.
The Soviet Union lost its heyday amongst the committee of the then world’s power blocks not only as results of its depleted economies and/or because of its waned military hardware, but the posterity also frowns on the then world power, today, because it committed the blunder of stiffening the voice of reasonings by choosing to have a censorship power over the thought process of its citizens — Press System was repressed, and totally placed in the hand of the then communist state.
It was a period of authoritarianism, not only in politics but also in controlling speech and people’s thought process. The Press was made a sub organ of government; censorship was at the peak. Any dissenting opinion, especially those considered a heretic to the state, suffered outright extirpation or irredeemable damage.
The singular instruments for Soviet’s mortal own-goal were restrictive and repressive decrees and state-ownership legislations of the Press — just imagine this perfect similitude in approach! The consequence of these actions oiled the gliding process of Russia and its then allies into the depth of political oblivion.
The essence of this historical allusion is to allow the cause of the past to serve as a compass for a safe sociopolitical journey of the present and the future. The past is full of lessons from which we can learn. This presents a leeway for structures of ethical and acceptable sociopolitical mechanisms to accommodate liberalism as a sacred ideology that must be allowed to breathe for the survival and enshrinement of egalitarian societies.
With these abounding instances of lethal effects of placing the Press in the hand of a governing body like the SU, it is, therefore, a reek of absurdity and inexpedient of anyone, not to mention a Union whose sole mandate is to reflect democratic tenets of libertarianism which provides boundless air of freedom for the Press.
No sane government has business in establishing a Press body of its own, except in most scenarios fundamentally aimed at taking on the role of cheerleading, praise-singing and, in most likely case, becomes a propaganda machine to be feeding the public lies and concocted information.
It is only through the freedom of the press that the governing union be able to get unbridled opinions of its followership genuinely. And consequentially attend to their yearnings in terms of their welfare and security, which intricately expound to academic and social needs — the corpus of the act that established the Union.
But to now think of enacting a legislative claw (not clause) that can potentially gauge the right to free speech, to us at UCJ-UNILORIN, is an attempt to smother free society and to revert to a mini model of authoritarian Soviet Union.
Therefore, it is so disheartening that this idea which the wider, stronger and complex communities have tried and consequently became structurally and existentially shredded is now what our leaders at this grassroots level find plausible and appealing in the discharge of the roles of governance. If this can be conceived in the first place, it is then safe to say that while the rest of the world has taken on to an onwards movement, backwardness is a direction our own leaders find adventurable.
On a final note, if the Press cannot be made free, the people cannot grow, and when people cannot grow, then the society remains stagnant. This idea of Unilorin SU’s Press Bill is unethical, alien to contemporary society, and therefore, it should not fly.