The Press Night/Presidential debate for the 2021 University of Ibadan Students’ Union elections took place on Thursday, 7th October 2021. Due to compliance with the COVID-19 protocol, it was announced that only 150 observers and three pressmen per organization would be allowed into the New Faculty Lecture Theatre (NFLT), Faculty of Science where the event was held. This wasn’t followed to the letter as everyone interested in the event eventually gained access to the Hall. As you go to the polls today to choose your leaders, we bring you a comprehensive report of the Press night/Presidential debate.

The event began at 3 pm with the Presidential debate. The candidates were Mr Adewole Olayinka Abdullai, a 400-level student of Veterinary Medicine and Mr Oladeji Richard Oluwaseun, a 300-level Sociology student who recently resigned from his position as house secretary of the Students’ Union to join the race. The expectations of the press night were high, but the debate turned out to be poorly conducted and more of a question and answer session than an interactive one between the contestants.

Next up were the contestants for the position of Sports Secretary: Olawale Joshua and Asaye David. Asaye David being a student of Human Kinetics appeared to have the advantage of experience in the field of sports, hence the higher level of feasibility of his plans. However, he failed to explain how exactly he hoped to achieve the plans. His statistic of the number of UI students not engaged in sports was discovered to be falsified. Olawale Joshua promised to promote all sporting activities and collaborate with sports institutions. He admitted later on that he had not worked with many of the organizations.

Olalekan Micheal is the only contestant vying for the post of Public Relations Officer (PRO). His plan of creating an official website for the Union is commendable. According to him, Facebook is one of the most useful tools for promotion; this is debatable especially considering that a lot of students favour other social media applications over Facebook. When challenged, he countered that the majority of freshers join pages and groups on Facebook for information. He also stated that he wouldn’t make use of the Twitter platform to disseminate information as it’s still banned by the government. However, it was unveiled by a pressman present that Mr Michael uses Twitter constantly in his role as the PRO of the Faculty of Law. Mr Olalekan also plans to reinstate the Students’ Union press commission which went dormant upon the suspension of the Union in 2017. He promised to improve the image of the Union by effective dissemination of information. OMA, as he is popular called also seem not to have an understanding of the word PRESS since he thinks establishing a students’ Union press organization is within his job description.

Similarly, vying alone for the position of House Secretary is Olaniyan Matthew. His duties appear to be poorly defined and overlap with a lot of the manifestoes of contestants for the other positions. However, his unique plans are to renovate the Students’ Union Building, repair and maintain the Students’ Union buses and liaise with all committees for general welfare. He also promised to refurbish the toilets in the Students’ Union Building within 100 days in office.

For the office of Treasurer were Mr Musliudeen Toheeb and Miss Peniel Abigail. Both contestants promised to organize financial literacy workshops to enlighten the students. Mr Musliudeen is more focused on proper record keeping and minimizing expenditure while seeking grants and sponsorship. While Miss Peniel also promises accountability, her approach is more student-based; partnering with banks to open accounts for students and inviting trustworthy savings and investment organizations to engage students. When asked if students should keep on saving in Naira despite overwhelming inflation, she replied saying “Yes, as long as we’re still spending Naira, we should save in Naira.” It is shocking but worthy to note that while both contestants claim to have experience with bookkeeping, none of them has used any software for the purpose.

Mr Arinola David is the only contestant for the post of Assistant General Secretary. In addition to assisting the General Secretary in his duties, he promised to coordinate the Welcome week for Freshers, coordinate all activities of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) on campus, and organize a career fair. He also plans to bring the Union closer to students by creating a forum for all Assistant General secretaries on Campus.

The post of General Secretary is sought by three contestants: Afeniforo Progress, Ajiboye Daniel, and Bamidele Paul Taiwo. Afeniforo intends to make the Union Secretariat more approachable to students, ensure transparency and digitize the Secretariat. Ajiboye disagreed, stating that suggestion boxes are more feasible for UItes than Google Forms and Social Media. He however proposed using social media to foster unity among students. Bamidele promised to run an accessible and accountable Secretariat while working with General Secretaries from all the departments. All three candidates promised to organize symposia and seminars that will encourage intellectualism among students.

Contestant for the post of Vice President, Oluotanmi Zaynab appears to have the most workable plans so far. To improve academics, she promised to ensure that tutorials and mock examinations will be available for courses taken by many students. She also plans to organize competitions like a Spelling Bee competition for freshmen and “Battle of Brains” between the faculties. She, however, failed to address the issue of continuity of the competitions. Likewise, she stated that digital and soft skills acquisition programs will be held. Furthermore, she also proposed a quarterly trade fair and promised to coordinate refreshing activities for the Finalist Hangout and Union week.

Finally, the Presidential contestants Mr Adewole Adeyinka Abdullai and Mr Oladeji Oluwaseun Richard came up. Their manifestoes are shockingly similar, both of them promising and including improvements to transportation, security, and health, skills acquisition and setting up a Trust Fund for indigent students. Both of them also promised to make the Union more accessible to residents of Alexander Brown Hall (ABH). While Oladeji intends to do this by setting up a committee at ABH, Adewole is not clear about his plans in this regard. Both candidates have a lot of plans that will require funding, but apart from promising to seek out sponsors, they are not clear how these activities will be funded. In too many instances, they promised to lobbypartner and liaise with the school management. When lobbying fails, Oladeji stood for peaceful demonstration while Adewole insisted that conflict cannot be solved by demonstration. They disagreed on some areas such as security. Adewole advocated for the arming of security men on campus while Oladeji believes that armed security is a threat to students’ lives. Adewole suggested that students (especially of MBBS and Nursing) volunteer at Jaja to improve healthcare delivery. He is not clear about what exactly they will do and how it will be of benefit to them. Oladeji also promised to “partner” with the school management to allow students in halls of residence to use hot plates. He did not take into account the rising electricity tariff.

The line-up of aspirants was not the most encouraging. Many of them did poor or no research at all. Their attention to detail is highly questionable, considering the astronomical number of grammatical and typographical errors in their manifestoes. Still, the Union must be led, and the race is about to finish. As you vote today, consider capability instead of affiliations and popularity. Hopefully, this will serve as a wake-up call for more capable students to engage in Union politics so that better leaders can emerge.

Voting stops at 3 pm, and may the best man win.

A’isha Ibrahim