By Hammed Hamzat
February 1, 1971 will forever remain fresh in the memories of University of Ibadan (UI) students. It was the day the supreme price was paid for unity and welfare of UI students by Adekunle Ademuyiwa Adepeju, the first student martyr gunned down by the Nigerian Police.
In acknowledgement of the incident’s importance in history, the institution’s Students’ Union executives, led by Edosa Raymond Ekhator, recently held the maiden edition of Kunle Adepeju Memorial Lecture tagged The Role of Students in Fostering National Unity and Integration.
Ekhator said Adepeju died in the struggle for better welfare services to students. His death was a shock to many, which was why over 50,000 students witnessed his burial ceremony.
Chief (Dr.) Gbolade Osinowo, who was Adepeju’s roommate, chaired the memorial lecture. He described Adekunle as a thoroughbred gentleman and a man of noble character, amiable, kind, hardworking, intelligent and God-fearing.
He said at 23, Adekunle had exhibited characteristics of leadership and his death highlighted the problems faced by Nigerian students in tertiary institutions. “What Adekunle fought for is like paradise in the minds of students today.”
The Dean of Student Affairs, Prof. A.R.A Alada, who represented the Vice Chancellor, said Adekunle represents many things to different people. He described his remembrance as a call for freedom against oppression, victimisation and injustice of students.
Alada added that in recognition of what Adekunle fought for, the Students’ Union Building (SUB) was named after him. He commended the Students’ Union executives for organising the intellectual discourse in memory of Adekunle Adepeju.
The guest lecturer, Dr. Wale Okediran, spoke on the challenges facing the nation, such as youth unemployment, avarice, corruption, weak political structure, ethnic and religious intolerance, and insecurity. To overcome these problems, Okediran recommended true democratic values for the leadership and citizens, public service reforms, and involvement of the civil societies in governance.
Chief Segun Okeowo, former National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) president, commended the university management for lifting the ban on Students’ Union activities in the premier university.
A Kunle Adepeju Students Aid fund was inaugurated to cater for indigent students and donations were received from invited dignitaries. Family members of the late Adekunle were also present at the event.