By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu
The Management of Federal College of Education (Technical), FCE (T), Umunze, has shifted the scheduled Students Union Government elections.
The suspension came on the heels of protests by some sections of the students who claimed marginalization and intimidation.
The College’s Public Relations Officer, Mr Sam Otti, though seemingly reluctant to react to the issue, however said the elections had been suspended because of grievances that came up hours before it.
He noted that the management had ordered the students back to their hostels and referred our reporter to the Dean Student Affairs of the College for further details on the matter, just as every attempt to get the contact of the dean proved futile.
Aggrieved students of the College took to the streets to protest what they described as marginalization and unequal treatment of students in the Students Union Government elections of the college scheduled for last Friday, August 2.
The protest, carried out in the early hours of Friday on the streets of Umunze Town, saw students in their hundreds but mostly from the Anglican and Pentecostal inclinations, march round the town carrying placards that read: “Say no to marginalization in FCE (T) Umunze;
“We need our Rights Back”, among others.
It was learnt that the students were irked by the fact that their candidates were disqualified from the election without what they perceived as strong reasons, even as they complained that it had been happening in previous elections of the students Union.
They alleged that some of the critical positions in the students Union Government (SUG) were reserved for anointed candidates who mostly assumed the positions unopposed, citing the past SUG elections where offices of the President, Secretary, Financial Secretary and other key positions were not contested.
Some students who spoke to newsmen claimed that this scenario was exactly what happened in the year 2013 when they were denied their rights to elect who should govern them which led to protests that resulted to suspension and termination of admissions of most students of the College.
Our reporter gathered that the protesting students earlier filed a petition to the College management demanding for a fair hearing on why the students were disqualified from contesting but the students felt that their appeal was not given the right attention it deserved, prompting the protest.
Speaking to our reporter, the Chief Judge of the current SUG, Rt. Hon. Justice Alaebo Promise, said they were protesting against so many irregularities regarding the electoral process in the ongoing students Union Government elections in the College, particularly the situation whereby some of the critical positions of the SUG were declared unopposed for just no reason.
‘We were demanding from the school to give us evidence of their disqualification. We actually put calls across to the management but we were told to do whatever we wanted to do. That statement provoked us and we said let us show them that we are not happy with these things.
‘It now looks like SUG is becoming an organizational platform where they bring candidate and then marginalize every other persons. SUG is a statutory body that must exist in every tertiary institution. They should give us right to exercise these rights,’ he said, alleging that the management had done underground work with a view to imposing candidates on the students.
‘This simply means appointment or selection. When a presidential aspirant is presented unopposed, that means there was no election. We were having this emotional feeling that the management was behind this ”every year unopposed government” because if they were not, they should have questioned it. If they were keeping quiet about it that means they knew something about it,’ Alaebo said.
He called for a review and change of the system, noting that open voting system was long outdated and alleged that many students had been victimized through the system. He therefore called for the use of secret balloting.
Speaking on the situation, the chaplain of Anglican Chapel of Ascension FCE (T), Umunze, Rev. Tochukwu Akaegbobi, urged that the students should be allowed to exercise their franchise since it was their own affair.
Meanwhile, when contacted, Rev. Fr. Ben Tochukwu Odika dissociated the Catholic Church in the school from Students Union Government politics, stressing that it was not a church affair.
He said the SUG elections remained a students’ affair and strictly meant for them. He noted that the students were supposed to have their elections that Friday but due to circumstances best known to the organizers, the election did not hold again, adding that some students wanted to use that as an opportunity to disturb the already existing peace of the institution by carrying out the protest.