interviewBy Niyi Adebayo
Babatunde Oduyoye represents Ibadan South West North West Constituency of Oyo State in the House of Representatives. As an ex-student union president and member of House Committees on Education and Police Affairs, he speaks on his determination to combat Campus Cultism. He spoke to NIYI Adebayo
You are a former student union president and also a member of the House of Committee on Education. What would you say about the menace of Cultism on Campuses?
I must say without mincing words that government is responsible for the emergence of cultism on campuses.
You see in our days, we used to have mandatory student unionism. This implies that it was compulsory for all students to be members of the students union. At the beginning of every session, students would be made to pay their union dues, which were used to run the union. The bursary department of the various institutions were made to collect money on behalf of the student unions. The union was the umbrella body for all other kinds of associations or groups on campuses. Registration of these groups passed through the union. We knew what went on in those associations, and we had the list of all students in all associations including the Pyirates Confraternity then at the University of Ibadan. We knew who the members were and if there was any problem, we knew whom to call.
So, what has this got to do with cultism?
That is where I am coming to. You see, the power that be at the federal level then saw that the student union governments were getting too powerful. They (unions) were addressing press conferences, mobilising against all forms of injustices, and above all, they were autonomous. Government saw this as a threat and mapped out strategies on how to stifle the unions. So, what they (government) did was to break their union rank, by making membership voluntary. The implication of this was that students could choose to be or not to be members of the Union. This consequently affected the revenue base of the Union, as fewer students who chose to be members of the union paid. The Union had to resort to begging some money bags outside the schools before they could get money to execute their programmes By this it became possible for all sorts of people, fraudsters, ritualists, cultists and even robbers provided they have money to infiltrate the various associations on campuses. These people now turn around to influence, indoctrinate or initiate the students, since it is often said that " he who pays the piper dictates the tune.' These money bags, most of whom are of questionable characters, are responsible for luring these student into secret cults. This would not have been possible, if student unionism had not been made voluntary.
What is the way forward now?
Well, as an ex-student union leader and a member of the House Committee on Education, I have sponsored a bill to repeal that obnoxious decree that made students unionism voluntary. They (unions) have to be made compulsory again to empower them. That is the only way they can be made effective again in order to checkmate the activities of these cults that have now besieged our schools. At present, the bill is at the committee level, and very soon, it shall be deliberated upon on the floor of the house.