Tensions were really on the high; the school that usually allowed undergraduates to go through all their programs without paying any fee asides the tuition fee of the first year, till when you were to collect your certificate; was now insisting on outright payment of tuition fees and an increment had just been made. The policy was more harsh with the clauses that came with it; one of which was that: if you don’t pay up within the stipulated time, you’d go back to the year that succeeds the last paid tuition. We had people in final year that were running the risk of going back to year two.
Worse was, the fees at the time which was about 11,000 was increased to 45,000. Everything just seemed too foreign to the students. Of course, it was a new Vice Chancellor with his own principles. At the time, Student unionism was quite high in the school. I had steered clear of it in my first year despite my admiration for it, I felt I needed to study ‘things’. In my second year, I got involved. At the time, you could now add ‘Comrade’ to my name (smiles).
The students were known for the strength of their protests in times like these, but the V.C. was unmoved despite all the counsels for him to make a truce with the student’s union governing body. I lived off the campus then; but that weekend I had chosen to spend it with my friend in the school hostel, most especially for the constant power supply they had then as opposed to what was outside the school campus. Meetings upon meetings were been held by students; ranging from ethnic groups, to classes, faculties, departments and even hostels. At the time, I attended a hostel meeting the Friday before the Monday, same on Saturday and also on the Sunday preceding the D-day.
11th April 2016 was the D-day! It was the day the ‘No school fees, No exam policy’ would be implemented. Plans had already been made to shut down the school from as early as 5am. Meetings upon meetings had been held and it was about time for all these strategies to be implemented.
A hand bell was rung by someone as he hollered at us to come out that it was time. I managed to brush and wash my face as I ran out to join the herd of protesters that were chanting war songs. It was thrilling to me! Well then, I came out to see the gates locked. No staff came in, twas just protesters. There were plans to shut down a federal road (East-West Road) for a day too. I was still here in this campus as my school had three close campuses (Delta campus, Abuja campus and Choba campus); and the V.C. lived in one of them. The protesters marched to the V.C.’s residence and threw stones at the house which made the security personnel there to shoot in the air. All this was before dawn.
By dawn, I decided to step out to see for myself too. Condemned tires had been brought to the road; trees and things to create blockades. News came in that some students who had paid their fees had stubbornly gone to write the exams. Another herd of protesters were mobilized to go and disrupt the examinations. I heard some students were even flogged by the protesters. I was shocked when I saw the security post of one of the campus on fire. At that point, I knew things were headed down down south. This needed a speech from the V.C at the time. But, he didn’t come!
More persons had filled the road by now. It was past 8am and things looked like not ending. Police officers had come around; but surprisingly they addressed us, instead of arresting us. They advised us on making sure the protest remains peaceful that very soon our V.C. would address us. I waited a bit, nothing seemed to be happening. I returned back to my house, I slept off; only to be awakened by shouts later. It was well into the afternoon and protest was still on; but it had been hijacked. School properties were stolen; people, houses, shops, were robbed. It was getting really violent. More police officers had been brought. A trailer transporting noodles had been stopped and robbed of its contents, same as one carrying pasta. This was skyrocketing to some thing else.
I went back to hostel and I heard gunshots being fired; I ran to the fence and sat on it as other people did, so I could get a very clear and precise view. I was shocked as I saw students picking up the tear gas and stoning them back at the police officers. Even when the officers shot at the ground, they didn’t move back. At that point, I left the fence. I was going back to the hostel to charge my devices, when I heard people running and crying; I was puzzled and wanted to know why, so I joined those who circled and interrogated them. That was when we knew someone had died and some others had been injured! One of them crying was saying he knew the dead student. Protest had gone south!
The murdered student, Peter Ofurum; wasn’t even at the venue of the protest from the beginning. He was a final year student of management at the time; and he was the president of faculty of management students association (FAMSA). He had been warned to move back or risk being shot at; to which he relied “shoot me, shoot me if you want to shoot”. Who would have known live bullets were used to quell protests. The angered officer in his state of ‘madness’ shot at the boy. The boy, a final year student whose parents had already paid his school fees; came out to join the protest and then lost his life.
Some sources had it that; he was with his girlfriend all day, who had pleaded he should not go to the protest. They had even come back from somewhere and while she was going to open the house, he stopped to buy a handkerchief and then got a call from his fellow comrades. That was how his end came to him!
You could blame many things or persons, but it was a sad time! Justice was denied; the officer wasn’t brought to book. It all ended like it never happened after three months.