AFAS Press recently engaged the University of Ibadan Students’ Union presidential aspirants in order for them to articulate their plans and stake their claims to the coveted seat of the presidency of the Premier Students’ Union. Here is Valentinus telling UItes why he should be elected on the 29th of April 2017…
AFAS PRESS : Can you introduce yourself to Uites?
Valentine: I am Valentine Igbonekwu, a 400L law student University of Ibadan with an ambition to serve in a capacity of student union president of this session.
AFAS PRESS : What informed your decision to contest for the post of the presidency?
Valentine: Well, having been a student of the University of Ibadan for 4years, I’ve come to realise that the Union is not strong enough and that is why our request is not being granted, we fight and lose and I have this passion to make the union stronger.
AFAS PRESS : Have you had any experience on leadership?
Valentine: Thank you so much, I’ve actually held different leadership positions. I was senior prefect in my primary school and in my secondary school, in University of Ibadan, I was the class-rep from 100L to 300L, within that period, I was also privileged to serve as the assistant general secretary, then the General secretary of National Council of Enugu state students Unibadan chapter, I was the Finance minister of Nigerian Federation of Catholic students (NFCS). I was also privileged to serve as the hall secretary of the prestigious Nnamdi Azikiwe hall.
AFAS PRESS : Do you think those past experiences are enough criteria to contest for the post of the presidency?
Valentine: As a matter of fact, I’ve held other presidential positions before coming to UI. I was the president of my class, United Comrades. I was also the president of LON, it is a society back then in the seminary, I was also the president of my primary school set till University level. Considering the institution that we are in, having served in faculty, in the hall, in other organisations as well as in the religious setting, I think I’m well experienced to serve in the capacity as the president of the student union.
AFAS PRESS : So, you went to a seminary? You are a priest?
Valentine: Yes, I went to a seminary. As a matter of fact, if I went to the seminary, and I’m in UI, I’m not a priest. I’m not qualified to be a priest. I went there to get my certificate and I left there after I came back from Rome for my Latin diploma.
AFAS PRESS : You made mention of the Union being weak. What is the state of the Union like to you?
Valentine: Well, for me, just as I said earlier the Union is not strong “enough” to combat some of the challenges we have, even the union is not financially independent , the union dues is being paid into the management’s account and end up not getting the stipulated amount we are to get. Yes, we have the press, yet we focus on the internal press leaving the external press, we can get people outside who can also work with our own press to make sure that some of the things that are happening in UI are well publicised, the ones that are anti-students are properly criticised, so that we can proffer solutions. I won’t say the Mote’s struggle a waste of time, but we lost to a reasonable extent. We lost because for me we are not strong enough. At this moment, we can’t move from a battle field to a war field at the same level of strength and that is why I said consolidation is my agenda.
AFAS PRESS : You did mention that the Union was not financially dependent. Yet when you were the hall secretary of Nnamdi Azikiwe hall the move taken by the past led administration to stop the management from intruding into the account of the hall dues students was said to be thwarted by you by refusing to be a signatory to the account.
Valentinus: Well, as a matter of fact, as regards signatory to the hall’s account, my years in the university had made me realised that some hall wardens, as hall wardens are signatory to the hall’s account but then coming to Nnamdi Azikiwe hall, our constitution clearly provides that the hall warden, the hall chairman and the finance minister shall be the principal signatory to the hall’s account but the interpretation act of the Nnamdi Azikiwe hall constitution 2003 did not declare what the hall’s account is, and that is one of the fundamental problems we encountered when the heat was on. So in Zik hall there have always been demands by the hall management to be signatories to the account which we never allowed it.
AFAS PRESS : Why the presidency? Why not any other position?
Valentine: I am an intellectual, by virtue of being a Uite and being a law student and as a matter of fact I’ve got experienced in terms of leadership, I’ve served in different capacities, I’ve equipped myself for this presidency. I feel I am fit, credible and qualified to serve in the capacity of SU president because I feel that it is the position where I’ll serve and be felt by all Tom, Dick and Harry in the UI.
AFAS PRESS : To you, who is an ideal SU president?
Valentine: An ideal SU president in my own perspective is he, who sees about the interest of his people is highly protected.
AFAS PRESS : Can you stake your studentship for the purpose of the Union?
Valentine: As a matter of fact, the time I made up my mind was the time I actually staked my studentship for the union because I know there are unforeseen circumstances that make someone to lose his studentship. I want to serve my people. I’m studying Law because I made up my mind to be a human right activist and I know the implication of serving in that capacity.
AFAS PRESS : In human right activism who is your role-model?
Valentine: Marthin Luther King (jnr) as well as Nelson Mandela.
AFAS PRESS : Both of them are described as passivist, so we should be expecting passivism and not radicalism if you become the SU president?
Valentine: Radicalism in my own point of view is just a reaction to an action based on the gravity of that action. Shutting down the university gate and locking down the gate is just tantamount to saying someone touched your cheek and the other person slapped you they are both touching of the cheek. It depends on what the management has done that will make us either we’re going to lock the gate or we’re going to negotiate. I don’t say I’m not radical; everyone is radical depending on the action. There are two sides to every coin, you’ve picked yours but me I know the side I’ll pick
AFAS PRESS : Do you think there are better ways than protest?
Valentine: We protest sometimes because we don’t understand our rights and as a law student I understand our rights. It’s not. Just about protest, we’ll still negotiate; we’re going to take strategies like negotions. When people understand that you know what they know, they’ll be scared to give you your rights, they’ll allow you to assert your rights rightfully. There are three Cs to aluta: which is the Consultation, the Consolidation and the Confrontation. But we say it is not just the Confrontation, let’s us consolidate to make sure that we don’t confront and to make sure that we don’t have reasons to confront to solve our problems.
AFAS PRESS : Can you Itemize your programs?
Valentine: My programs are in three ways, the academics, the advocacy and the ‘welfarism.’ I choose to do it that way because I’ve looked at the academics, UI is an institution that places high premium on intellectualism and still does not provide a conducive environment which it include in their mission “to provide conducive environment for learning and research”. The KDL is not being open 24hours. A as a matter of fact, the student union reading room is almost like a toilet so we’re working on making sure to ensure that the library is open as it’s supposed to be. And then we’re also working on having a new Student Union reading room which is going to be named if approved by the house by the person who is going to build it. Let Laws take his due cause. I beat my chest that I’m going to advocate for the students and make sure that students’ rights are not trampled upon, people are not just victimized. Let’s go to the Student Union endowment funds where students of UI would get some financial grants especially the indigent ones amongst us because we have discover that we’re living in a community of inequality when it comes to financial basis; so that from the student union, we can give out financial grants. This particular committee would be properly set up and properly managed so that the ethics of the committee would not be compromised. Then, definitely there are going to be improvement in UI water and bread because I remember what the Vice-Chancellor said on June 16th, when we had meeting in Trenchard hall, when the bread department moved to their new department there were going to be improvement but obviously there is still no improvement so that’s why I say that my agenda which is consolidation, which is a problem-identifying and solving agenda. We’re going to ensure that in terms of academics we’re sound, in terms of advocacy we’re sound and in terms of welfarism to a reasonable extent our welfare would be given much priority.
AFAS PRESS : Are you desperate for this position?
Valentine: I am not desperate. There is no cause for desperation.
AFAS PRESS : What is the ideology behind your politics?
Valentine: My ideology is just problem-identifying and solving ideology. Let people understand that there is a different between Consolidation and Confrontation. If we find out our problems and solve our problems then there is no cause for alarm.
AFAS PRESS : Do you think the SU is necessary?
Valentine: Yes, I think the SU is very necessary.
AFAS PRESS : Rate Nifemi led administration on a scale of 1-10
Valentine: Well, I choose not to judge a ship before it gets to the harbor but, as a matter of fact, from the little I’ve seen and then giving them opportunity to land before we eventually critic, I’ll give them 5. At least they’ve been working from the time they were elected to this time.
AFAS PRESS : Do you think you’d be able to manage the enormous task of the SU presidency with your academic rigour?
Valentine: It is something I’ve been managing with my involvement with student leadership so I still believe I’ll still manage it and I’m still managing it.
AFAS PRESS : Are you congress-shy or congress enthusiastic?
Valentine: I’m congress enthusiastic.
AFAS PRESS : Convince Uites that you’re the man for the job.
Valentine: UI students actually understand the fact that as an experienced person and as an intellectual who have actually been in UI for over three years, I think it is high time we solved problems other than creating problems. We’ve had a lot of problems, let us at this juncture begin to proffer solutions to our problems other than creating more problems to ourselves that is the basics of my agenda.
AFAS PRESS : If you’re not contesting, which other aspirant would you vote for or support?
Valentine: if I’m not contesting, the aspirant I would vote for…. I’ll remain silent on that issue.
AFAS PRESS: who is your biggest threat?
Valentine: As far as I’m concerned, every aspirant is a threat.
AFAS PRESS: Your word for Uites
Valentine: Greatest Uites, I feel that it is high time for us to come together to consolidate the union, for us to speak with one voice, because the voice of the people is the supreme law. Let’s come together to identify and solve our problems. That’s all I have. I Love you all.