When I — and many others — were admitted into the University of Ibadan, we were required, like many other sets of freshmen before us, to undergo a manual admission clearance exercise in the University’s main campus. From far and near, we all travelled down to campus for the two-day exercise. Having let the vertigoes of coming to the university for the first time overwhelm me, I failed to notice very important details. But that was not to be on the 9th of December, 2016 when I was finally on my way out of the school upon completion of the exercise.
Upon reaching the end of the exit lane of Oduduwa Road, which doubles as the University gate, the Security personnel on duty motioned to my guide — a student — that we both cross the road to the other side, adding that “student, you no fit pass this side o. Cross go the other side.”, without further explanation. When I inquired from my guide why this was so, he simply mentioned that the closure was as a result of ‘Boko Haram threats to bomb the school by 1st of October’. And now, almost two years down the line and with no forsseable threats lurking anywhere, this gate remains locked for reasons only my ancestors can tell.
When one passes through the Pedestrian portion of the Western wing of the University’s main gate, one would imagine that it has become Heaven’s gate locked out to Hell-bound persons after the Judgement day, which both Christians, Muslims, and some Traditionals believe in. It is (and has remained) eternally shut out against pedestrians for over two years and students at the western lane have to the cross to the eastern part of the road to go through the gate.
The whole episode could be said to have started back in 2010, where a similar threat was received by the University community from a certain Al-Wilayat Al-Islamiyya Gharb Afriqiyyah group. However, the funny act did not begin on the orders of the management. The Students’ Union, then under the leadership of Mr. Tokunbo Salako, blew the trumpet of strike and the gates were shut down for the Security Unit to beef up security. When the whole kerfuffle died down, the gates were once again re-opened.
A similar bombshell was dropped in 2016 when the Boko Haram sect ‘notified’ the University that they were coming to gift the University Independence Day gifts of bomb blasts, adding that ‘even your little searches at the gate won’t do anything…’, according to ThisDay Newspapers. Today, there is no sign of Boko Haram bombings to come, neither is Independence Day anywhere close, but the University gate remains shut out against pedestrians.
ARGUMENTS FROM THE UNIVERSITY
Like 2010, like 2016, the argument that has emanated from the University is that the gates were shut as a result of the aforementioned bomb scares. The gate was shut so that all Pedestrians would use the Eastern wing for movement into and outside the university. This was to ensure that all movements were adequately screened so that the perpetrators of misfortune would have little or no chance to strike. Just recently, upon quizzing a member of the Security Unit, the testament was similar. Two years ago, it was the most sensible thing to do, but today, reverse is the case. The reason for its being closed today is unknown and the proposed date for re-opening is unavailable…perhaps the gate must be commissioned like many other structures of its kind.
REFUTATIONS TO THE ARGUMENT
In asserting his stance in one of his numerous teachings, the great philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, opined that “they that approve a private opinion call it opinion; they that dislike it, heresy; yet heresy signifies no more than private opinion.” And so by the same token, to some, the Security Unit might have been right to shut out that end so that the stop-and-search exercises could be thorough. To others, closing the gate — and carrying out stop-and-search exercises — is as futile as searching for lions in the ocean. However, what every sane mind will agree upon is that after two years, leaving the gate locked and letting innocent students go through a lot of stress is irrational.
First, the terrorists who asserted that gate-keeping cannot stop them are smarter than going through the University main gate. They must have devised a plan to infiltrate a less-noticeable area and so, searching people at the gate is a necessary-yet-futile effort. Shutting the gate was not the best thing to do when there was evil lurking around the corner, and it certainly is not the best thing to do now that those days are over.
Secondly, the life of the average Nigerian is secured only in the hands of his or her Creator, and UItes are not excluded. As I read in one of the numerous publications of the third generation of The Courtroom’s scribes, “during the similar occurrence (of bomb scare) in 2010, as I heard from a reliable source, officers of the Abefele who were stationed at the gate at a time accosted someone who they thought shared semblance with members of Boko Haram. They requested that he open his bag but this fella refused. They insisted, yet he remained adamant. However, when he eventually made to unzip his backpack, the ever-gallant foot soldiers of UI’s security unit suddenly took to their heels.’ Therefore even if the bad guys were to visit indeed, the security personnel of the University might not have been able to stop them then and maybe more personnel and arms — and prayers, as President Buhari thinks — might have stopped them and not the shutting of a mini gate.
In the golden words of Max DePree, the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. And reality, in this case, is that the extra stress students and visitors go through while crossing Oduduwa Road on their way in and out of campus and is unnecessary and unfair, and the only way forward is for the gate to be opened for students and visitors’ use.
In the same vein, one of the major arguments put forward by unrelenting critics of the Prof. Olayinka-led administration is that the management and the students are in a state of mutual distrust. This, in turn, is as a result of lack of proper and effective communication between both parties, particularly from the end of the University authorities, which cause students and visitors to suffer for reasons they have no idea about. Therefore as a matter of urgency, reasons why the gate remains shut should be available to the public… if the gate must remain shut.
As a freshman witnessing an oddity for the first time, I was taken aback by the fact that the Pedestrian wing of the University main gate was shut for over a year. However, as a sophomore just one year later, I have become accustomed to these oddities, not because they have become normal, but because if I decide to worry about every oddity in UI, hypertension may send me to my ancestors sooner than I expect.
See you next week.
Till then, stay focused, stay conscious.