By Remi Otuneye
Before I go further, let me quickly state here that I have written this article not to create or recreate any bad blood or bitterness.
It is for us to do as we are led to avoid mistakes of the past, like Steve Biko, I write what I like.
I am responsible for what I write; not what you understand.
Here we go.
“Good morning Katangites, Katangites good morning! This is the voice of Honourable Otitoleke Richard, a.k.a Conscious!” the intro soon became a movement, echoed by residents of the hall whenever he was addressing the students. This trend dominated the session preceding the Powerfuls’ regime and Conscious, as he was fondly called, happened to be the PRO of Great Independence Hall (2009/10), Premier University of Ibadan nicknamed after the failed Katanga Province of Congo as Katanga Republic. He was a respected Honourable of the hall, having served as honourable member of the Independence House of Representatives, and a member of the Hall EXCO as PRO. For Conscious, contesting the topmost post; the position of Administrator General of the hall was a task that had to be fulfilled. If money were to be the determinant, he did not have the wherewithal to pursue his political ambitions, but his political prowess and strategy to undo his adversaries was legendary – he was a master of his game.
As second semester resumed for 2009/2010 session, the first to publicly and tacitly declared his ambition, using a customised text messaging platform, was a prolific writer and pen guru, Odekunle Ayokunle, a.k.a Oddy. whose writings greatly inspired me and helped to ignite my passion for writing though we have disagreed on many issues like who to be the pioneer Students’ Union President, PDP versus APC (ACN as it the was called back then), etc. I recall a time when we ‘had it out in the open’. It was an election day and campaigning had presumably ended since voting had commenced. But Oddy was seen openly canvassing for votes for his candidate, Adeola Adelabu. Due to his personality and status as ‘senior citizen’ of the hall, no one dare challenge him. For some reason, I summoned courage, riding on what I can now only call “theoretical marxist reasoning” instead of being pragmatic; blinded by the notion of Ujamma (in Swahili, meaning brotherhood), I spoke up in defence of Tokunbo Salako, the candidate we considered to be our man, ‘Eje ki Ose’. This singular act was later commended by Oddy’s box roommate and close associate, Iyalaya. ‘You spoke well,’ said, Iyalaya.
In the build up to Indy Hall elections, it was rumoured that Oddy was asked by some elders whose names I deign to mention, to step down for the more formidable candidacy of SOE (former Secretary of State 2008/9) whose late ambition declaration could not match the moving train of Conscious popularity within and outside the Republic. Lo and behold, the ban was lifted, we were dawn out deep sleep, as very early in the morning, political war drums rolled; campaign ventilated the social milieu, constituted by makeshift musical instruments; ranging from cooking pots, the covers, sticks, serving spoons and many more, as they rhythmically played to a well composed song:
“Conscious for hall AG, Gbogbo aye loti gbo!(2ce)
Ko di gba ta ba y’ada, y‘ obe…Gbobo aye loti gbo!”
Then I heard the master stroke, “They have been ruling for past 12 years…” Who are they?
Coincidently, an unfortunate incident occurred at just about the same time. On a Friday, during the Ramadan fast, a female Law student entered the female section of the mosque preaching “repent, Jesus is the way”. Understandably, this didn’t go down well with many including Christians. Thank God for the maturity and sincerity of elders of Muslim community of the school – the tension was timely doused. It was some days later, a group of Muslim Student Society members led a peaceful match on what is perceived to be an encroachment on their religious beliefs. Responding to the incident, the School’s management issued a communique which the then Hall AG hastily and unwisely disseminated. The communique banned Christian students from praying or sharing their faith within the hall premises. The announcement by the then Hall Chairman, Semiu Aloyinlapa did more harm than good to an already combusted atmosphere. Asking the Christians to carry their faith outside while Muslims still had a designated area with the hall was asking for trouble. Crisis was brewing; the school security was quickly drafted to the hall of residence and immediately, the resolution passed by the management was suspended “till further notice”.
While campaign was relaxed in the truce period, some were secretly agitating for disqualification of Conscious and all kinds of tactics were adopted just to crush him out of the contest. The battle line had been drawn. It was no longer just between Conscious and SOE, but a battle for religious supremacy. The die-hards were not succumbing, in the same spirit, the Hall Warden was invited to give a decisive period when the elections would hold, and a date was chosen, Olawale Ghazal (Muslim without prejudice) was appointed as chairman of INDEC…to cut the long story short, Conscious was elected as unopposed candidate to be The Administrator General of Katanga Republic. Like Machiavelli’s The Prince, the end had justified the means.
It was Machiavellian indeed! In his famous book on strategy, 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene posits in Law 47: “Do not go Past the Mark you aimed for; In Victory, learn when to Stop. The moment of victory is often the moment of greatest peril. In the heat of victory, arrogance and overconfidence can push you past the goal you had aimed for, and by going too far, you make more enemies than you defeated”. After we all thought we had crossed the greatest hurdle and victory was delivered to Conscious, things took a different turn. He (Conscious) was not magnanimous in victory, he ventured into what later happened to be one of his greatest mistakes. His preferred candidate for the seat of Speaker, Indy House of Reps lost to the more experienced and constitutionally endowed Opeyemi Ajekingbe.
We entered a new session (2010/2011), and Conscious’ first conciliatory assignment was allocation of special rooms in D block and elsewhere to his associates while using the same approach to spite his perceived enemies. He allocated room B56b (Box Room) previously occupied by El Rufai to Okunrinkoya Benjamin (who later became his successor). Another wahala! His refusal to endorse Tokunbo Salako(Tcool) was another error, especially as majority of those he led wanted him to endorse Tcool. At this point, he lost most of his admirers including yours sincerely. Subsequently, his preferred candidate, Adeola Adelabu lost to Tcool, in a keenly contested election. There was jubilation in Indy, Zik and some other halls of residence including Queen Idia Hall, the jubilant crowd came down to Indy Hall to appreciate Katangites for massively voting for Tcool despite Conscious refusal to endorse him. On sighting the crowd, he approached Tcool to embrace him only to be booed by the livid crowd. It took him more than two weeks to recover from that embarrassment.
Election was over, it is now time to walk the talk. The Conscious-led EXCO a.k.a The Powerfuls unleashed its programs. Truly, there was a massive positive change in Indy like the illumination of Maracana Stadium. All things were working together like a well-oiled machine. Indy Hall became a mecca of sorts and was the envy of all (other halls).
Our song: Awa Lo ni Indy hall became popular like never before, even more than the University’s Anthem. Some Zikites ‘bandwagoned’ along changing their identity to ‘Zikatangites’. Then, introducing yourself as Katangite was a thing of honour and glamour. In this period, we had some female admirers who preferred to be addressed and referred to as Kantangress. One of such persons is Adeshewa Adekoya, a voice to reckon with when it comes to human right activism. It was a sweet experience. Independence Hall marked its 50th anniversary and all captains of industries and dons of society who had during their academic sojourn in University of Ibadan belonged to Indy Hall, turned up for the series of events. Katangites were awarded home and away. One of such is FOPA (Fifteen Outstanding Persons Award) the biggest in campus organized by JCI won by Oddy and Conscious as best Pressman and Hall Chair of the year respectively.
The annual Hall Week approached and a committee was set-up and chaired by Alwal. The committee failed to deliver and Conscious and his team decided to take the bull by the horn and salvage the program. Their rooms D1 and D2 became the meeting rooms for the inner circle consisting only of Conscious, the Finance and Defence Commissioners – other executive members were relegated to the background. Money sourced and raised was ALLEGEDLY spent recklessly, mistrust came into the picture, and things were falling apart faster than they could piece them back together. The occupiers of D1 & D2 warranted the envy of their other colleagues. At the same time, neither The House nor The Speaker was informed about money being spent inappropriately. To some Katangites, the most painful part wasn’t the financial misappropriation, but the allocation of cow meat to Katangresses in Idia and Awo Halls when the said meat had not gone round in Indy Hall. All this was the straw that broke the Carmel’s back.
It was an opportunity for Conscious’ adversaries to make a public show of him. In the heat of the brouhaha, Oddy wrote a wonderful piece on how a Plasma Television set meant for all Katangites was damaged in the room of Administrator General while trying to impress a female visitor (you may say katangress, lol). On hearing this, Katangites went berserk! Conscious’ picture on a banner was violently destroyed in anger. Ajekingbe, the Speaker whose mandate Conscious tried to outmanoeuvre, called a special joint plenary session of Honourables and Congressmen to discuss the happenings and mismanagement of funds. The first to be impeached was my very good friend, Gado (Now Dr Godwin Folarin) for none performance and reneging his duty post. Some were cleared, while others were reprimanded to go and sin no more. But the main targets were the occupiers of D1 and D2 who were thoroughly hammered. There was also a plot to have Conscious face the institution’s Disciplinary Committee, but, as a Master of his game, the water he had put forward in his glorious days saved him from embarrassment from his adversaries. Many were obviously against him – nothing other than sheer POLITICAL hatred except in some few cases – including the Speaker, Chief Editor, the aggrieved people’s congress over cow meat, aggrieved common roomers over broken TV, some aggrieved remnant of SOE team, even the Hall Warden, Dr. Odesola was against him, but one person stood by him, the Dean of Students’ Affairs invariably standing on the nod of the ‘bearded’ Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Isaac Adewole, the current Minister of Health, Federal Republic of Nigeria. There was a soft landing for him, the school administrator’s approval was even more evident as on their graduation day, among the over 2000 graduands of the 2010/11 session, the then Vice Chancellor specifically pulled the fallen General Conscious up to the podium, shook his hands, hugged him in a “This is My Beloved Son” cuddle.
I wish the present Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Idowu Olayinka can do same in this current dispensation by extending the olive branch – to the ‘unbearded’ students -and sheathing his sword. The gown doesn’t fight in town.
UI ko ni baje ooo.
Otuneye Durojaiye Remi, a graduate from Ibadan School of Politics, writes from Lagos.
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