Osun, Oyo states playing politics with our lives at LAUTECH —Students

Osun, Oyo states playing politics with our lives at LAUTECH —Students

November 23, 2019 OSUN GOVT, OYO GOVT

Students and Staff of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso are grieving over the impact of the prolonged disagreement between Oyo and Osun states, albeit recent gesture by the owner states to end the disturbance.

Ladoke Akintola University of Technology community (LAUTECH) in Ogbomoso, Oyo State is currently in a state of anomy in view of the prolonged crises confronting the institution. The staff and students of the university are unhappy that their fate is hanging in the balance without any hope of a lasting solution.

The academic staff of the school, this week, started yet another round of strike over unpaid salaries.

LAUTECH has been hemorrhaging for many years as a result of lack of cohesion between Oyo and Osun states, the joint owners of the school.

Despite the initial relief that followed the release of the sum of N472 million to LAUTECH, Ogbomoso and LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, Osogbo on Wednesday, November 13, by the Osun State government, staff and students of the school are saying that they are not convinced that the problem is over yet.

Explaining why the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), LAUTECH chapter embarked on strike on Monday, the Chairman of the union, Dr Biodun Olaniran and the Secretary, Dr Toyin Abegunrin, listed breach in agreement as the crux of the matter. They said, specifically, that the owner states failed to meet their call for payment of members’ three months salary arrears.

STUDENT LAMENT

Students of the institution who spoke with Saturday Tribune, expressed doubts on the sincerity of the owner-states to address the root cause of the problem.

They urged core stakeholders in the affairs of the university to chart a way for progress rather than play politics with the lives of the students and staff.
Lamenting the losses being suffered as a result of lack of cohesion between the two owner states, Oluwaseun Abiodun Laurel, President, Students Union of LAUTECH, said both the students and staff of the school were inundated by the hiccups. He explained that they were unhappy that the institution, which was once the best state university in Nigeria, had been relegated to a child of circumstance among its peers.

Abiodun said he regretted that the future of many people was being jeopardised. The students were saddened about the latest strike embarked upon by LAUTECH ASUU in protest against the non payment of their salary arrears few days after.
While praying that the latest initiative being taken by governors Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State and Seyi Makinde of Oyo State should end the era of crisis in the institution, the union president said: “I had spent one extra year in the university due to disagreements between the two states. I am a student of Animal Production and Health; I got admitted into the institution in 2013. I am a scholar and I did not have any carryover all through till date but this is my sixth year on campus as a result of interruptions.

“Some students who came in through the pre-degree programme had spent eight years on campus and they are still here because of unwarranted delay. I should have spent five years but I just finished my final papers after spending one additional year. We just resumed a new session but we are not sure of what may happen next.

“The University is experiencing serious academic disturbance. The staff members of the school have been battling non-payment of salary. Examinations had been shifted on many occasions. To address the problem, we had cried to Oyo State government to come to our aid.”

However, he said that all efforts to meet Governor Oyetola of Osun State were abortive. “We played a major role in helping the institution out of its predicament. The students union appealed to all stakeholders, including the staff unions by bringing in the parents forum and the ‘Ogbomoso Parapo’ to plead with the staff unions. At some point we brought the Commissioner for Education in Oyo State, Prof. Daud Shangodoyin, to plead with the staff unions to open the school gates in order for students to write exams.”

In her own case, Miracle Ayo-Oluwa Dada, a 300 Level student of Agricultural Economics, described the school calendar as “so frustrating”. Dada, who got admitted into the school in January 2018, said that she might graduate from the school in the year 2022 if the academic calendar is stabilised.

She said: “With the school calendar it has been so challenging and frustrating. The situation is killing the passion to learn. But currently, one is a little bit relieved and happy because one hopes that something good will come out of the ongoing efforts.

“I was privilleged to meet the 2017/2018 set when I came in as a fresher. Before I got admitted, there was a long strike and the newly admitted students in 2016 were unable to resume until 2017/ 2018 session. The university had to merge two sets together and that was heartrending for the students.”

Dada, who expressed the hope that the new committee would come up with lasting solution, said: “I noticed the zeal in Governor Seyi Makinde during his campaign and his recent actions and determination to make Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso a better institution.”

She said that lack of cohesion between the two states also accounted for the infrastructural deficit being experienced in the university. According to her, the school is currently contending with inadequacy of lecture theatres as well as shortage of laboratory facilities. She said: “Students have to wake up and get so early to school in order to have a seat in the lecture halls and in the laboratories. Noise in the overcrowded halls often hinders learning.

“it is commonplace for lecturers and laboratory attendants to sell lecture handouts without teaching. Students rely on Muslim and Christian fellowships to support students with tutorials. We learn despite the odds that come with learning in the school. LAUTECH students experience incessant strike actions that cripple academic activities. However, students maximize the opportunity of the internet. We survive through endurance and determination.

“Different committees had been set up by previous governments without making any headway. This committee should let the members of the public know about its recommendations and they should round off on time.

“Personally, I advise the Osun State government to let go of the institution and allow the Oyo State government to take over. I also want to advise co-students to be diligent and face their studies because education is key to unlimited wealth.”

While recounting her experience as a student of the school, Agboola Gloria, a graduate of Crop Production and Soil Science, said: “I gained admission through the Pre-degree Programme in 2012 and started the undergraduate programme in the year 2013. As a result of the incessant strike, this is my seventh year in LAUTECH.

“Who knows if there is hope of graduating anytime soon. That would be possible only if they can see beyond their political differences and set their priorities right.”

Although candidates are often discouraged from seeking admission into the school due to the unstable academic calendar, it was learnt that most of them end up in the school due to frustration. Some undergraduate students of the university said that they cannot encourage intending students to seek admission in the school due to the unstable academic programme.

OYO, OSUN ON POSTION

LAUTECH was said to have drifted into controversy during the time of former Governor Adedayo Alao-Akala of Oyo State and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun. It was learnt that the gentleman agreement between the two states at the creation of Osun State in 1991 got strained when ex-Governor Alao-Akala allegedly attempted to convert the institution to the sole property of Oyo State following the creation of Osun State University.

Speaking with Saturday Tribune on the instability at LAUTECH recently, Mr Ismail Omipidan, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Oyetola said that the interests of Osun State government on LAUTECH is solid and unwavering. He added that the stake that the state had in the institution could not be traded.

Omipidan stated that with the inauguration of the 10-man-committee on LAUTECH, acrimony and suspicions on the ownership of the university should be laid to rest as the matter is already being addressed by the committee.

On his own part, Mr Taiwo Adisa, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Makinde, said: “I would not say that the issue is getting messier but just let me agree with the fact that Oyo and Osun jointly own LAUTECH University but not LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, Osogbo and LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, Ogbomoso. We need to get that one right because they are two different legs of the same school. The teaching hospital in Ogbomoso is owned by Oyo State while the one in Osogbo is owned by Osun State, so the financial responsibilities of the two rest with the host states.

“The other issue that we have now is the ownership of the university itself which was not resolved when Osun was excised from Oyo. Ordinarily, during the process of asset sharing following the creation of Osun State, Oyo State University of Science and Technology then would also have been split to ensure that the issue of joint ownership does not emerge. Those in positions of authority then believed that Osun and Oyo were like Siamese twins bound by culture, language affinity and more and that they can work things together. That was unique in the entire country. That was why the issue of joint ownership was left untouched but every other thing owned by the two states was shared when Osun was created.
“I think that the spirit of that time – the spirit of commonality and oneness – got polluted and that is why you are seeing what looks like a tussle for the soul of the university. It is not really a tussle but a sort of divided ideas between the two states. The idea of Osun is almost practically contradictory to the idea of Oyo on that university. The idea of Oyo State is to nurture that university to maturity and make sure that it maintains high turnout of students. You know, within a short time it rose to become the best state university in Nigeria. But the vision of Osun State is to put structures there and allow the VC to be looking for money to pay salaries. Meanwhile, when it comes to appointment, the same government that could not give them subvention would still appoint the VC and the registrar, and would still want to have his way.

“Our own idea is that a university is not an institution that you want to turn to a profit and loss center. It is an institution that provides social services. The essence of the university is not the same as the private company that you set up to make money. If a private company is not making money you can wind it down. Universities world over rely on subventions. Government universities all over the world are not left to their own fate.

“At our own level, we are not about bandying words and arguments. We are just stating our view that this university is luckily located in Oyo State and the idea of joint ownership has become jaded and out-modelled. There are no other states that you can point to in Nigeria that jointly own a university. The idea that Oyo State has put out is that LAUTECH, Ogbomoso should be owned by Oyo State while LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, Osogbo should be owned by Osun. In Nigeria and throughout the world, which university is jointly owned by two states?”

According to him, it would be difficult for a university to go forward with the current arrangement on LAUTECH due to divergent interests. “You cannot guarantee that the idea on this side at a particular time is the same as the idea on that side. Right now, Osun State is saying that the university should be self-funded but Oyo State is saying that LAUTECH should be nurtured to contribute meaningfully to the development of humanity.”

Stressing that partnership is not strange to any business, he said, however that once a party starts to default such party could be paid off. Adisa stressed that once a part of the state was excised, the base of the school should take the ownership while the other state would set up its own university. He cited the example of the old Bendel State where the Bendel State University, Abraka was ceded to Delta State and Edo State created its state university (now Ambrose Ali University, Epkoma).

The same thing occurred during the creation of Bayelsa State from the old Rivers State. The Rivers State University of Science and Technology was taken over by Rivers State while Bayelsa State went ahead to set up the Niger Delta University.

Asked if there was an agreement by the two states to set up different teaching hospitals for LAUTECH, Adisa said that Oyo State decided to set up the teaching hospital in Ogbomoso because the commonality that informed the decision to set up the university had been frustrated.

HOW DO WE GET HERE

Meanwhile, a document by the Osun State government titled, ‘The quest by Oyo State to take LAUTECH by force, dated July 28, 2010, stated that Osun State cherished the brotherly bonds between the people of the two states just as it loved the memories of the founding fathers of LAUTECH.

The document dug into the history of the institution by revealing that Professor Ojetunji Aboyade, a reputable indegene of Oyo State, who headed the Governing Council of the university had made a strong case for the joint ownership of the university in 1993. He had warned that an attempt to run the university alone “is messy and should be avoided. How does one decide the value of how much Oyo State should compensate Osun State? What about the established goodwill?”

Following this, a consensus was reached at a meeting between the pioneer Military Administrator of Osun, then Col. Leo Ajiborisha and his Oyo State counterpart, then Col. Abdulkarim Adisa, on November 25, 1991 that the university be owned jointly.

A letter signed by the military governor of Oyo State, Col. Adisa, dated November 26, 1991, addressed to the university council said: “That the two governments have accepted joint proprietorship of OSUTECH (now LAUTECH) between Oyo and Osun states including any constituent states that may result therefrom later.

“The two states will jointly fund OSUTECH in the ratio of equality of states that is 50/50, and, funds will be so directly released to university council accordingly. In this end, the university is to submit its budget to the component states for inclusion into the states’ budgets.”

“Name of the unversity: The two governments agreed that the name of the university be changed to ‘Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso’.”

The letter stressed that it was agreed that students’ placement in the university should be on 50/50 ratio to the proprietor states.

What to expect

Although apprehension is palpable that some staff of the university who are of Oyo State origin were pushing for the sole ownership of LAUTECH by Oyo State, their counterparts from Osun State are saying that it is a tall dream as such a plan can work except if there is an agreement between the owner states.

A staff in the accounts department of the university, said the strike by ASUU is a sectional reaction to one of the many problems beseting the university. “Both states are owing us a lot of months but the school had paid some of the outstanding through Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). The bitter truth is that LAUTECH can’t finance itself totally with IGR and any attempt to increase school fees more than what it is now will make the students population drop.

“The workers are not happy. One of the primary agitations of workers is that they should resolve the ownership issue. Also, workers believe that the two months given to the 10-man committee is too much. The sum of N250m released to the university by Osun State government cannot pay a month salary although we usually augment with the IGR. What the staff members want is that the owners should be consistent in releasing monthly subvention.”

When contacted, Mr Lekan Fadeyi, who is the Public Relations Officer of the university, said that all matters bothering on the way forward for the school are being deliberated upon by the 10-man committee that was jointly constituted by Osun and Oyo state.

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