Students, lecturers face uncertainties over MAUSTECH
The announcement and eventual approval for Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY) to be upgraded to a university in Ogun State was greeted with excitement and hope. A few months after that, things are no longer at ease, Head, Education Desk, Iyabo Lawal, examines the situation leading to the current crisis in the institution.
Fast-forward to October: the echo of the students’ chants was tumultuous. “We no go ‘gree oh! We no go ‘gree!” They sang, not with joy but with disappointment and angst over their inability to write the exams slated to have begun on September 18.
The visibly concerned governor of the state was in no mood to castigate them. He said, “Creating Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology will not affect you. We have said nobody in the school will be relocated to Ipokia. It will take four years before MAPOLY goes into extinction. The reason is this, those in Higher National Diploma (HND) one now, you will leave, those in Ordinary National Diploma (OND) one, you will be in this Abeokuta. All of you here, you will go through your normal course.”
Where did this all begin and what issues are at stake? Rewind to the first month of the year. With a trademark cap that points heavenwards, the head tilted a little forward as the back arched, he appended his signature to some papers on his desk. He gave a wry smile of approval. That was Governor Ibikunle Amosun signing a bill to be forwarded to Ogun State House of Assembly.
In January, the Ogun State governor, forwarded a bill to the state assembly asking for the upgrade of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic to a university – Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology (MAUSTECH). It was an epoch-making moment for the people of the state and its academic community.
As part of the plans in upgrading MAPOLY to MAUSTECH, is the proposed establishment of another polytechnic to be situated in Ipokia. Some months later, however, the move by the state government became a cause for concern and disruption.
No sooner had the state inaugurated an 11-member technical committee in April to ensure the smooth take off of the university and following the presentation of letter of approval for the upgrade of MAPOLY to Ogun State government than trouble began in the rocky Southwest state.
In April, Amosun inaugurated the committee headed by a former Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, at his Oke Mosan Office in Abeokuta, noting that the working group would be disbanded once the new school’s governing council is constituted.
About three months after came the cheering news; the NUC presented a letter of approval for the upgrade of the MAPOLY to MAUSTECH to a delegation of Ogun State Government.
The NUC Executive Secretary, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, who gave the approval letter to the state governor at the NUC headquarters in Abuja, said the university has become the 45th state university and the 85th public university in the country.
Rasheed noted that Ogun has managed two state-owned universities to an “enviable level” and expressed the hope that the third would not be an exception. But, he felt that the government has to do more in infrastructural development.
In presenting the letter, the NUC boss stated, “This letter is for the recognition of the Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology. Consequent upon your letter of intent and the formal presentation of the master plan, relevant briefs and others, I, on behalf of the NUC, write that with effect from Monday, July 3, the MAUSTECH has been recognised as the 45th state university in Nigeria and also the 85th public university.
“This university is also the 153rd in the country. The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund and the National Youths Service Corps are being informed of the establishment of the MAUSTECH, Abeokuta.”
That excitement, however, was soon short-lived. Few days after the presentation of the approval letter for the take-off of the new university, the MAPOLY Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP), grounded academic activities in the institution over an alleged directive by the technical committee set up by the Amosun administration.
The union claimed that the Okebukola-led committee issued a directive ordering more than 250 lecturers in the institution to turn in their resignation letters and reapply. In protest against that order, the lecturers took to the streets, shut the school’s gate and blocked it with two vehicles, chanting solidarity songs.
Not only that, expressing their flagrant disdain for the said directive, the lecturers displayed various items and objects in front of the school which included two calabashes containing dead snakes, sugarcane, and eggs, all soaked in palm oil.
In their hands were placards and cardboards, expressing their angst: ‘Okebukola must go’ and ‘MAUSTECH must stay’ and prevented vehicles from either entering or exiting the institution.
MAPOLY’s ASUP Chairman, Kola Abiola, said the directive was given during a meeting between members of the committee and the leadership of the union. In spite of the protest, Abiola pointed out that the union is ready to engage in a dialogue with Okebukola’s team but vowed to resist any measure by the state government or committee that would lead to the eventual loss of jobs by the lecturers.
The Zonal Coordinator of ASUP, Zone C in charge of the Southwest, Adetunji Omobaorun, said the action of the lecturers has the backing and the blessing of the national body.
According to him, it is imperative that Ogun State government and the committee recognise the rights and interests of the major stakeholders any decision-making concerning the institution.
“The committee and government have refused to give recognition to the plight of major stakeholders and our interest is not their interest. We say no to slave trade in the land of the black,” Omobaorun asserted. It was the same sentiment that was expressed by the State President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Balogun Olawale.
Nonplussed, the embattled head of the 11-man committee, Okebukola, said there was no attempt to terminate the appointment of any lecturer of the institution as MAPOLY begins its transformation to MAUSTECH.
He said, “We held a meeting with all staff at the beginning of our assignment and conveyed our position on job security. This position has been re-echoed in subsequent meetings with staff unions. It is curious that some persons have taken undue liberty of misinforming the general public with the spread of such fake news.
“We have given the good people of Ogun State a pledge that in the shortest possible time, MAUSTECH and Ogun State Polytechnic, Ipokia, will be among the brightest stars in the firmament of quality higher education in Nigeria, indeed in Africa.”
While that statement calmed frayed nerves for a while, another protest was staged in October. This time, it was MAPOLY students who took to the streets complaining about the delay in their second semester examination schedule and relocation of the polytechnic to Ipokia from Ojere.
The delay in their examination was linked to their lecturers’ strike action over the uncertainty of the status of a new polytechnic. In their hundreds, the students headed for the Governor’s Office at Oke Mosan in Abeokuta.
Demonstrating understanding about their plight, Amosun assured the students that the existing MAPOLY students would remain at the Abeokuta campus – only new intakes will be at the Ipokia campus of the new polytechnic.
The governor also promised to meet the striking lecturers, to facilitate the conduct of the examination, which ought to have begun on September 18. “We’ve told them: those who are in the polytechnic now, they will finish their courses. We’re going to employ new lecturers for Ogun State Polytechnic and anyone that is qualified among them can apply. We’re not taking away all your lecturers now because they are here.
“If they believe (otherwise), they are only trying to blackmail us and we will sort it out. They have met me and I have explained to them. What they are thinking is that all of them would have to go to Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology. It is not going to happen.
“But your lecturers are not comfortable with this. They believe all of them should be in the new university automatically but we said no. The only reason they are not conducting your exams is to think they can blackmail or hoodwink us. But your exams will be conducted,” Amosun stated.
Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, formerly Ogun State Polytechnic, Abeokuta, was established in January 1979. Although Brigadier Harris Eghagha originally conceived the idea of the polytechnic, the government of Chief Olabisi Onabanjo saw it through. Thus, the defunct House of Assembly enacted the act cited as the Ogun State Polytechnic Act No. 8 of 1980, was provided for the establishment, incorporation, constitution and functions of the institution.
Academic activities began with 220 students, 29 academic staff and five senior administrative officers at its initial temporary sites at Oke-Egunya and Onikolobo, both in Abeokuta. The institution moved to its permanent site at Ojere in 1986 where it occupies 959 hectares of land. Following the death of Chief MKO Abiola, the polytechnic’s greatest benefactor in 1998, the institution was renamed Moshood Abiola Polytechnic.
Following that, the law of the polytechnic was repealed and a new law cited as Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Edict of May 1999 was enacted. Now in the eye of the storm, education experts noted that for the proposed new university and polytechnic to kick off without acrimony, all issues must be fully addressed. Some stated that the government, though has good intention, should have discussed all the matters involved with stakeholders, particularly with the lecturers before embarking on a big project of converting a polytechnic to a university.
Others believed that rather than converting MAPOLY to MAUSTECH, the latter should have started on a fresh ground. Be that as it may, yet others observed that the lecturers are being a bit unreasonable in their demands to be part of the new institution, the university. According to the experts, only adequately qualified lecturers with the requisite qualifications in the polytechnic should be allowed to form part of the academic staff of the new university.
It is not clear when and how this debacle will be resolved. In the mean time, as always, the students are the ones bearing the brunt of a government’s seeming policy somersault and lecturers’ somewhat obstinacy.
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