Students of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, have protested the outcome of their union’s election, accusing the electoral body of manipulating the process to favour ‘management’s candidates’. OLAMIPOSI ALAO reports.
IT was an election that the students had waited for; but in the end, it turned out to be a no-event. It ended in violence.
At the time of this report on Monday, the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, was still in turmoil over the election. Also affected by the crisis is Osogbo campus. Students marched on both campuses, demanding the cancellation of the election results. The protesters went wild, destroying school properties and making huge bonfires on the road.
Among the properties destroyed were the Students’ Union Government (SUG) building, the union’s Hiace bus, furniture, editorial boards and lecturers’ vehicles.
Members of the staff and visitors were harassed by the protesters wielding sticks, rods and other dangerous materials. Movement in and out of the campus was hectic.
The election was conducted by e-voting to curb irregularities. But, students said the process was riddled with fraud and malpractice.
They said the election outcome reflected management’s wishes. They accused management of manipulating the process in favour of its candidates. Many complained of disenfranchisement, accusing Independent LAUTECH Electoral Commission (ILEC) of deliberately leaving them out of the process after succumbing to “management’s pressure”.
There was tension on the campus when the election was shifted to last Friday from June 1. Students became suspicious, alleging that the electoral body was preparing the ground for the “management’s candidates” to win.
The election into the union’s parliament was, however, held last Thursday to douse the tension. The following day, election was held for executive positions. Students were required to go for accreditation at Information and Communication Technology (ICT) centres on the campuses and wait to vote.
There was massive turnout at the ICT centres, but the accreditation was delayed because of computing challenges. Cadets of some paramilitary organisations were strategically stationed to keep the peace.
But, few hours into voting, the ILEC chairman, Musbau Lawal, announced that voting would end at 4pm. Many students, who were yet to be accredited, pleaded for extension of the voting time, but the commission’s chairman allegedly declined. The chairman, it was learnt, declared the election results at 4pm and announced the winners.
This did not go down well with disenfranchised students, who accused ILEC of acting a script.
The students demanded the cancellation of the election as they marched on the Kudirat Abiola Students’ Union Building. They attacked some of their colleagues, who defended ILEC’s decision. They also attacked electoral officers with fetish objects and other weapons.
The protesters blocked the Ogbomoso-Ilorin Expressway, leaving motorists stranded for hours.
At 6am last Monday, the students staged another protest, barricading the school entrance. The masked protesters were peaceful but they stopped vehicles from entering the campus.
Reacting, management, following an emergency meeting last Monday, suspended Students’ Union activities indefinitely and condemned the violence that trailed the election.
In a statement by the Registrar, J.A. Agboola, management said: “At the emergency meeting of the expanded management committee, held on Monday, a decision was taken to the effect that all Students’ Union activities be suspended with immediate effect and until further notice. Management has set up an investigation panel to probe the union election.”
A former students’ union leader, Damilola Abodunrin, said the election was not credible despite being conducted electronically. He said: “The credibility of the election on a scale of 100 is 10. There has been suspicion that the electoral body was under pressure to skew the process against some candidates. The fraud in the process was visible to the blind.”
For peace to return, Damilola said the election must be conducted again without management’s interference.
Chairman of the SUG Petition Tribunal Mahmud Abdulsalam said the aggrieved students should have approached the tribunal for redress, rather than resorting to violence. He condemned the students’ action, saying violence does not solve problems.
He said: “From what we witnessed, there is no cause for alarm. We don’t have any official result yet, so students should have taken the path of peace. We will ensure that all petitions that will be sent to the tribunal are treated accordingly and a verdict will be sent to the electoral commission and the management.”
A student of the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, Israel Fawole, said there was no need for violence when the union constitution allowed aggrieved candidates to seek legal redress.
“Aggrieved persons need to embrace peace. The Students’ Union constitution has spelt out ways to settle any discrepancy in the election. Resorting to violence is against the spirit of the constitution. So, I will implore all concerned parties to seek peace.”
A student, who spoke to CAMPUSLIFE under the condition of anonymity, said: “One of the reasons why students will not agree with the outcome of the election is the fact that, we discovered some people in the ICT centres used our matric numbers to vote on the portal before we even went in to cast the ballot. This was when we raised the alarm and the electoral committee chairman hurriedly announced the end of voting.”
The ILEC chairman, Lawal, denied that the election was manipulated to favour a group of candidates. Speaking to our correspondent on telephone, Lawal said: “The election was free and fair as far as I am concerned. There is no iota of truth in the allegation that the process was manipulated in favour of some candidates.
“The election was supposed to end at 4pm, but I added additional 40 minutes. The results of the election were ready immediately after the election, since it was conducted electronically. I announced the results I saw on the computer after voting time. But, the truth is that, you can’t satisfy everybody.”