William Shakespeare might have thrilled the world with his spell-binding “The Comedy of Errors” first performed in December 1594. However, what happened at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) in August 2016 was heart-rending that it could be described as the tragedy of errors. While the errors in Shakespeare’s work induce laughter, the errors that played out recently in FUNAAB induce tears. Such errors should not be repeated.
For Vice-Chancellor Olusola Oyewole, a personable gentleman and robust scholar I met during the 12th General Conference of the Association of African Universities (AAU) Conference in Abuja in May, 2009, recent weeks have been a baptism of fire. Apart from the embarrassment of a publicized invitation from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the preventable student unrest that put the University in negative spotlight attests to the failure of doing the right thing at the right time. Universities and other institutions of higher learning have a lot to learn from the errors underpinning the FUNAAB scenario, seven of which are highlighted thus:
One, though enemies abound and suspicion always trails those who occupy public office, a bit of transparency could have averted the petition of the so-called “Concerned Stakeholders of FUNAAB”. If financial transactions are always made open, there would have been nothing for people to “dig up” or “whistle-blow”. This is why it is heartwarming that the University of Ilorin for many years now has consistently published its financial transactions on a weekly basis, a pattern that institutions that do not do so should emulate.
Two, the student unrest of August 18, 2016 that turned violent was caused by the “persistent robbery and rape” of FUNAAB students living off-campus by criminals. The University could have waded in before the frustration and aggression theory, one of the theories of social conflict, took its toll on the students. The welfare of the students who live in the neighbouring communities of institutions is part of management responsibilities, not those who live on campus alone. Simply, when people are frustrated, they become aggressive, the same point reinforced by the well-worn saying that a hungry man is an angry man.
Three, students should imbibe peace education, which is “the process of acquiring values, the knowledge and developing the attitudes, skills and behaviours to live in harmony with oneself, with others, and with the natural environment”, and learn how to control their emotions, especially anger. As Aristotle said, “Anyone can get angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way; this is not easy.”
The “rights” in the above quote were not all observed by students in the unrest under reference. Innocent motorists and ordinary people struggling to eke out a living bore the brunt of their anger on the day. The account of what happened, according to Sodiq Alabi, poet and shop owner, whose family was caught up in the melee, was gripping.
Drawing from the above, you don’t get angry and burn down a police station or attack our security agents if you don’t have an armoury of sophisticated weapons like the Niger Delta Avengers or you have not set up hidden camps in Sambisa Forest like Boko Haram! In all instances, regardless of provocation, the security agencies deserve our respect because they put their lives at stake to protect the rest of us, even if we pay them to do so.
Five, parents should bring up their children properly. Some students just like “aluta” for the fun of it because of poor parental upbringing. Being active is good but being violent is bad. In a situation where parents neglect their responsibility, their error of negligence would lead to tears as witnessed on the faces of parents when their arrested children were being whisked away in Black Maria after judgement was delivered on the students. Parents should teach their children: DON’T TAKE THE LAW INTO YOUR OWN HANDS.
Six, given that most undergraduates these days are mere teenagers, including minors, it was erroneous on the part of the police to have fired live bullets at them. The police are paid to protect and arrest, not to shoot at sight. Students are the future of the nation and there are better ways of putting their youthful exuberance in check than inflicting on them collecting punishment.
Lastly, it is imperative that the public join hands with governments and proprietors through investing in hostel development on campuses. The more students are kept on campuses, with good management, the more they are protected from tragedy-inducing errors.