I was already a University undergraduate, at the University of Ibadan, when Buhari and his co-conspirators struck with their coup and vanquished a democratically elected and legitimate government of Nigeria, under Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983. That was a major setback for which our nation is yet to recover from its hangover even till this day.
The new era ended a regime of more than four decades of serenity, freedom and luxuries in our the University system. Hitherto, a three-course meal at the Cafeteria sold for only 50kobo. We had laundry men who came for our clothes weekly. The various faculties were strong and real teaching took place. Our hostels were well organized and infrastructure functional, save for perennial water problem in UI. Since the death of Kunle Adepeju, the first student unionism martyr in Nigeria and its attendant crisis of the 70’s, the University had known peace until the Ali Must Go crisis under Obasanjo.
The Buhari era intentionally stripped the Universities of all those privileges. The 50kobo meals were cancelled and the Cafeterias contracted out. The meal subsidies were removed and students population visiting the Cafeteria slumped significantly. The standard of living dropped. Junky food spots – “Mama Put” sprang up everywhere almost indiscrinately. Several stoves and other cooking utensils found their way into the University hostels. Some hostels caught fire. Some fees were introduced under the commercialization of education Programme. Demonstrations and riots erupted in several Universities and became a gauging yardstick for knowing which Universirty was more vibrant rather than the Curricula. It was that era that brought out the leadership qualities and vibrancy in Lanre Arogundade who was the then President of the National Association of Nigerian Students. He traversed the length and breath of Nigeria mobilizing students against military rule and commercialization of education in Nigeria.
As students, we moved from prosperity to queuing up for essential commodities like milk and sugar for our survival. On one occasion, we could not get the allocation meant for the University of Ibadan. As a member of the Welfare Committee of the University, representing the students, we traced our consignment to NNSL in Lagos and when we enquired about our allocation, we were told that it was diverted to appease the wife of one of the Officers who lost his life in the military putsch. This we were told was on the instruction of the Head of State- Major General Muhammed Buhari.
This news almost galvanised our students into action in the University but for the administrative acumen of our then Vice Chancellor, Prof Ayo Banjo. He calmed frayed nerves with assurances that a remedy would be brought soon. We insisted on our allocation and we got it but two months later. There were students demonstrations from Ife to Kano, to Kaduna and Ibadan. It was also the inglorious years of the NSO later SSS and now DSS as they constantly played a ding-dong game with student Union leaders and disrupted student unionism activities wherever they gathered. I recall the kidnap of Mr. Lanre Arogundade in Ile-Ife which is similar to gestapo way the Umaru Dikko was going to be crated into Nigeria. I faced a University Panel for participating in one of those demonstrations and escaped rustication by the whiskers. Thanks to our ingenuity to promote the election of Honourable Babs Oduyoye as President of the Students Union.
Actions targeted at students,mstudent bodies and the Universities then, were symptomatic to the motto of Boko Haram of today, that says “western education is sin”. Education, which was very pleasurable became arduous under Buhari. Prices of goods and services skyrocketed on our various campuses. People started cutting corners and a one time serene atmosphere was polluted by the military junta and their unfavourable policies towards education. People started cutting corners and the hitherto citadel of learning and a model for the larger Society nosedived in ethical standards. University Education was a paradise lost under Buhari.
When President Jonathan asked Buhari the now APC Presidential candidate to name how many schools he built during his tenure it struck an instinct in me and brought back memories of my University days. Buhari during his tenure never showed any special love or special interest in education. With controversies trailing his own certificate, or whether he completed his secondary school education or not, the reasons for the parlous state of education are becoming clearer. After a deep reflection, I said to myself, this leopard hasn’t changed his skin. I don’t want us to go back to our horrendous experience under Buhari and so I decided to step up my campaign of another four years for President Jonathan. We have left Egypt. We are now on the way to our promised land, no more going back to Egypt.