The July 1999 Massacres: A Requiem For The Unconscious By Jimoh Oladipupo

On July 10, 1999, five students were killed on OAU campus by a national syndicate of the most notable cult groups who were sponsored and given access to the campus by the vice-chancellor of the university.

This piece argues that the past twenty years of Nigerian democracy since 1999 has been the repetition of the happenings that led to the massacre of the OAU 5 by similar characters and forces on a much broader or even national scale!

Whether or not the events of July 10, 1999, have a profound basis for coinciding with the same year of democratic take-over from the military regime is a question that deserves substantive consideration.

If the events before and after that night have been studied in the light of the political and socio-economic throbbings of Nigeria before and after 1999, perhaps a prophetic layout would have been derived for the path Nigeria was headed at the declaration of pseudo-democracy in 1999. 

The push and pull motions between the management and students of Obafemi Awolowo University has always reflected our challenges as Nigerian people with respect to the government because the conditional interests of students and the university authorities expose the motives at the interior of the Nigerian policy-making machinery.

Without further rhetorics, the parallels between the university community and the Nigerian society must be drawn after twenty years of supposed democracy. 

After the attempts of the military junta to impose Structural Adjustment Program was met with ardent resistance from Nigerians to such a point that it could only be partially and slowly implemented, the pro-democracy or democratic government had done little to improve funding for quintessential public institutions as education. 

The Vice-chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University saw an opening to indirectly promote the program but his machinations ended in a fiasco as he was defeated by a union of students he had earlier proscribed. Meanwhile, the neo-black sects had degenerated into neo-fascist gangs owing to the growth and sustenance of neo-colonialism in Nigeria. 

The then vice-chancellor must have been enlisted into these now degenerate sects when they still possess the elements of radicalism to fight colonialism on a national scale but the myopic outlook of these sects which limited them to demand independence based on nationalist sentiments was the defect that would lead them inexorably to decay. And they did decay because they ended up defending a new kind of colonialism by plotting an attack against genuine activists who were at the fore in the fight against neo-colonialism and neo-liberalism. 

This attack launched under the auspices of Wale Omole through the joint action of national neo-fascist fraternities led to the loss of George Iwilade (Afrika) and 4 other youngsters.

Like the neo-black movement turned neo-fascist sects, neo-colonialism and its agents in Nigeria also have other products of decadence which have greater national importance but this time through multiple roots, some of which may also have been originally radical. 

Militancy in the South-south region has now spiralled into institutions of abduction. Again due to lack of government oversight in the North-east terrorist groups have emerged, most notably, Boko Haram.

The Boko Haram insurgents emerged amidst whatever admixture of political sentiment; religious sentiments or economic conditions due to the total neglect of the region by the government or should we say the neo-liberal policies of the Nigerian government acted the alchemist and the blacksmith by smelting the alloys of the aforementioned factors to birth the dastardly group known as Boko Haram. 

This is not to imply that all rebel groups termed as terrorists are acting toward a pernicious end or do not sometimes or in some ways constitute progressive and legitimate demands but that they were forced to adopt such an approach by the ruling class.

Also, like Wale Omole, the Nigerian government and their loyalists do not hesitate to exploit the decadence in these groups to achieve greater decrepit feats for pecuniary purposes. In what way? Before Boko Haram began to produce offsprings such as the Fulani herdsmen and before the Niger Delta militants formed the foundations of the abduction industry in Nigeria they were not free from manipulations by politicians. 

We know how the Niger Delta militants soft-pedalled during the Jonathan administration only for them to attempt a come back once power changed hands. We also know how the funds earmarked to put down Boko Haram became redistributed along with party membership and friendship lines. 

Yet at the present stage, Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen who are now at the head of the kidnapping game have become tools between the ruling political gangsters to shoot points of political discredit against the opposition at the expense of the life of an average Nigerian.

It is now common knowledge that this groups; their subsidiaries and wannabees who are under the payroll of the crime barons who are godfathers in the APC and PDP often display excesses and can be sometimes uncontrolled, after all, their job is to become wanton interlopers of the peace of the Nigerian people so restraint by their paymasters cannot be accurately defined or determined. 

An example is the Offa robbery in which dozens of Offa residents were murdered by hoodlums sponsored by the last Senate president Bukola Saraki, who presently walks free since he has granted the wishes of the opposition in the executive arm of the government. Other instances include the Bado in Ikorodu; the unbridled killings and abductions in the Middle-Belt by the Fulani herdsmen and other rising trends of terrorism in the South-west including Lagos.

The sustenance of these terrorist groups for such protracted periods as we have in Nigeria is only due to ceaseless sponsorship by some economic and political power embodied by a particular class as is the case in every part of the world. 

The Iranian government has been alleged (however true this allegations maybe) to sponsor rebel/terrorist groups such as Hamas in Palestine; Al Qaeda; the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the Taliban. General Haftar who has launched fresh rounds of military conflicts in Libya is been surreptitiously supported by a complot of US/UK, UAE and the Egyptian government in which case these imperialists are only fighting through this groups to increase their territorial expansion for exploitation. 

The motive and method are no different from the Nigerian barons who are battling over the crumbs they will arrogate from selling the Nigerian polity to modern slavers like China and the US. So they must secure the slot in Aso Rock with which they can negotiate the next era of the black slave trade with the neo-colonialists. 

So they must cripple the security systems through underfunding to ease the fray of their henchmen. The underfunding of these security forces through low pay, sub-standard equipment lands the low-ranking members and officers in a state of fear and desperation. 

So that in the manner in which it is presently preponderant on OAU campus the security personnel attack the very people they should protect. 

Even though SARS and other subsets of the Nigerian Police Force do so to loot and extort citizens directly, on OAU campus it is to implement policies that will, in the long run, lead to the extortion of students. No wonder the SARS now constitute another force of brutality to students and citizens alike and most times their target is the young citizens.

Back to 1999, Wale Omole could not endure the spite of defeat that oozed from his vanquished fee increment agenda so he had to strike in reprisal. 

For the Nigerian government, they have found but meagre resistance to their neo-liberal schemes which they execute through privatization of public institutions, nevertheless, they must dehumanize the people by collapsing security; sponsoring terrorism and abduction. 

So that the average Nigerian can lose his sense of self-worth and see little value for his own life and those with any mental resilience conclude that the solution is to leave the country, even as prospects to travel abroad become more difficult.

Nigeria has now become one of the most unsafe places to live in the world. This, the Nigerian ruling elite hopes will serve as the ultimate distraction to stall the people from resisting the conversion of the administrative bodies and public institutions to a den of brigands whose only interest is to loot the national treasury and split booty amongst the highest multinational bidder cooperation. 

The strategy seems to have worked excellently for the rogues at the helms of affairs. After two decades of democracy the only successes we can recall are the success in the privatization and commercialization of our public institutions (NITEL, NEPA); degrading economy; deterioration in living standards; and rise in the number of internally displaced persons (IDP).

Great Ife students after the attack organized themselves to apprehend the cultists and began a powerful campaign for justice to be done and for actions to be taken against the patron of the leading Aiye confraternity — prof. Wale Omole. 

Not one cultist escaped apprehension or legal action yet above any feeble trust in the justice system of Nigeria in ’99, the Great Ife studentry declared the campus and her students’ residence a zero tolerance zone to cultism and this has been sustained for years after that night of carnage.

The occurrences of July 10, 1999 was a sign at the inception of the return to civilian rule that our democracy was ‘pseudo’ and that the attempts to revert the average Nigerian to slave-like conditions had taken more subtle forms which will cloak the ploys of the ruling class to launch a surprise strike to conquer the Nigerian people. The same pattern which Wale Omole employed in July 1999.

Sadly, after almost two decades of worsening mass murders, genocide, terrorism, rising numbers of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s), the Nigerian populace have still not treated these deaths the same way Great Ife arose for the massacre of the OAU 5.

The victims of these government-sponsored collapses of Nigerian security are the Afrikas whose death as gone unanswered yet this collapse is the offspring of mass-neglect of the lessons from OAU soil in 1999. 

Like the thousands of Nigerians lost on the altar of decrepit political interests, the life of five OAU students too was brought to an abrupt end without any retribution or reprimand to their murderers. 

For the justice system in their day acquitted hitmen and gave the mastermind another appointment in a different university.

Tragically, the degradation in national life has weighed down heavily on Great Ife such that she is fast losing her radical stance on privatization and cultism. 

The effects of the 1999 union and those before and after it are beginning to fade away. The extent of success of the accommodation policy is a clear indication of this. 

To shame the historic impenetrable students’ security, cultists attacked and still threatened to return. For this cause, Great Ife must understand her position in the Nigerian set-up and the limits of student power without active synergy with workers, other students, and other radical political force, because the battle is one between the exploiters and the exploited. 

Hence Nigerian students must organize together across campuses to fight privatization and all the machinations of neo-liberalism. Gone are the days of sectarian or sectionalized struggles. 

The Nigerian student must be prepared to do battle against the oppressive management, the looting federal government and the anti-masses imperialists with one stroke and regarding issues not directly linked with education.

If in a country a high-ranking general can be kidnapped and killed by hooligans and gangsters then we can say that no one is safe in this country. 

The implication of this is that we might be faced with impending terrorist take-over if nothing is done. 

The Nigerian man must arm himself now with the spirit of solidarity and must come to the reckoning that freedom must come in the words of Malcolm X “by any means necessary” even if it means mass armament.

For if this trends continue in their ghostly appearances across the federation they may acquire the flesh and blood of a blatant armed conquest of the Nigerian people — at this point, the fascist government of Mussolini will be a caricature.

History is bound to repeat itself when the Nigerian people — students, workers and artisans alike launch a war against their enemies in the national and world ruling class to become their own security and the determiners of their fate. 
The events of July 1999 are indeed a warning and a requiem for the unconscious.

—Jimoh Oladipupo (IDEAL)

Jimoh Oladipupo is a student of Obafemi Awolowo University, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, one of the 5 imprisoned but now released students in 2018, a member of the Alliance of Nigerian Students Against Neo-liberal Attacks (ANSA) and a radical proponent of socialism.

Email: [email protected]


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