On Femi Adeyeye, ThisDay’s Segun Adeniyi went to Abuja university and murdered free speech

Dear Segun Adeniyi,

I just read the words you passed on to students of BAZE University, Abuja.

You visited the school on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, and, two days later, published what you told them on ThisDay’s website.

That was one hell of a speech. Thumbs up and God bless you.

I’m, however, sad you ruined the discourse with one case in point: Femi Adeyeye.

Up to the point where you alluded to the rusticated University of Lagos student, you did a great job exposing BAZE students to the consequences of using social media irresponsibly.

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Everything you said was on point until you dragged Adeyeye’s name into the mix, taking his case entirely out of context. See, imagine jailed ex-US congressman Anthony Weiner was lecturer to the 15-year-old girl he “sextually” abused. Imagine if you told the girl she shouldn’t drag Weiner online because her career could suffer as a result. Imagine!

Adeyeye was rusticated after criticising UNILAG Senate on Facebook over their seeming refusal to make life easy for, or at least dialogue with, students.

There was no light and water on campus. And that was a few of the problems. Student leaders took the issues to the management which neither fixed the problems nor promised to do so. They ignored the union. Then the protests came, and the management responded by calling armed police who breached UNILAG gate like the school was a stronghold to Boko Haram terrorists, and evicted peaceful protesters. It was so bad that friends carried a blind female student over a wall to get her away from the chaos that didn’t ensue till police barged in.

Adeyeye, and many others, called UNILAG out on social media after repeated pleas fell on the management’s nonexistent ears, and he was punished for it. What happened to Adeyeye is called “victimisation”.

You weren’t saying students should endure inhumane treatment for fear of victimisation, were you?

Sir, you should have told BAZE students how social media could be used for social advocacy and activism without recourse to violence. You should have told their VC that punishing students, who in the face of a management that will not dialogue in the 21st Century take to social media to expose terrible states of existence, has no place in modern society. You should have told them that social media is so powerful that administrators must put their schools in order and continue to deliver on the basics, and more, if they don’t want to be exposed for the frauds they could be.

I feel what you did that Tuesday was sow fear in those students. After rightly impressing on them on taking personal responsibility for what they post online, you should have told them, and in the presence of the school management, not to sweep any injustice under the campus carpet, not to suffer in silence.

Imagine if a lecturer raped a BAZE student tomorrow and the issue is reported to an unresponsive management. Shouldn’t students blow such case open while paying due diligence to protecting the identity of the victim?

It’s ironic you alluded to Adeyeye in the manner you did in an article where, in talking about President Buhari’s war on corruption, a “war” you seemed to doubt, you said:

“To the extent that justice is the anchor of peace and the premise of social development, it is easy to locate some of the current problems in the country in the arbitrary use of power and the promotion of selective application of justice. And when such becomes manifest in the public space, as it is in Nigeria today, what follows is that the people will begin to lose trust in both the leader and the system.”

If a management becomes oppressive and victims call for dialogue but are ignored, should they suffer in silence or open up to the public? Why should such victims fear future victimisation? They’re victims already. Should we, for instance, encourage young Nigerians to keep mum in the face of a government that is failing education?

You see? Do you? Sir, do you see?

Adeyeye, alongside 10 other students, were targeted and victimised for trying to make UNILAG a better place. That’s what happened. They were not like the “Harvard 10” who were denied admission for posting racist comments online. They didn’t film colleagues drowning near UNILAG Lagoon Front. They didn’t share such nonsense online. They didn’t sext an ISL student. They didn’t film Akokites gang raping female students. They didn’t share images of themselves having wild fun at Jaja Hall reading room while others tried to study. They didn’t hack Lecturer Pants Down’s phone to expose his mobile porn collection or list of female students he’s pressuring to bed for grades.

They did what a sensible human being would do if they saw your child at the end of animalistic treatment.

Mr Adeniyi, you chair the editorial board of ThisDay, a reputable news platform in Nigeria. If anyone should champion free speech, it should be you. But you went into that BAZE hall and killed it. I’m sad.

Telling “powerless” students that raising alarm about injustice could ruin their future is not something someone like you should do.

You said you just joined social media, but I’m sure this is not the first time you’re hearing about free speech. I want to believe you’ve been to other parts of the world where systems work, where students are treated with dignity, and where these students drag lecturers on social media whenever there’s injustice on campus.

If BAZE students take your words to heart, how will they make Nigeria great? I fear for the future of this country.

See, sir, the idea that a potential employer would snub Adeyeye for doing what he did is what is killing our Nigeria. They don’t do this in saner climes except the cases border on hate speech, racism, misogyny, terrorism and similar matters.

If I, for instance, apply to work at ThisDay tomorrow and you pull this letter to my face and say “access denied”, it wouldn’t mean potential ThisDay journalists shouldn’t call you out whenever you goof. It would only testify that you could be one of many reasons Nigeria may never be great.

I humbly suggest you call Adeyeye and apologise to him. You should also reach out to BAZE students and put the young man’s case in context.

With sadness of heart,

Rotimi Akinola.


NOTE: Adeniyi has apologised to Adeyeye. Click here for details.

3 thoughts on “On Femi Adeyeye, ThisDay’s Segun Adeniyi went to Abuja university and murdered free speech

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