LAUTECH will bounce back
It is not too difficult to guess what was at the back of the minds of Governors Abiola Ajimobi and Rauf Aregbesola while they were conscripting their minds to the plot to undo the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso in the wake of the exit of Governors Adebayo Alao-Akala and Olagunsoye Oyinlola a few years back.
Judging by the famed bravado of Governor Ajimobi (Constituted Authority) and the braggadocio of Governor Aregbesola (I am too broke to help LAUTECH) in recent times, the two men appear to have nailed the coffin of that institution such that it is basically forlorn for anyone to attempt to exhume the carcass.
It is puzzling that the decisive unpopularity of the gambit notwithstanding, the two state governors have continued to engage in enterprises that will lead the 27 year old Institution to an uncharted path of failure. If, in spite of its invidious nature Aregbesola can be excused, after all he has a fall back option in Osun State University, Ajimobi has no excuse whatsoever for doing what he is doing .
Here is an Institution that has produced thousands of outstanding graduates in the field of Medicine, Engineering particularly in Information and Communications Technology and other academic endeavours. A university that has corporate bodies milling around her gate waiting to poach brilliant students that strewn the ambience. All that stopped the moment the visitors came to power.
Befuddled Nigerians are asking if the governors never knew that for three consecutive years this beleaguered LAUTEC was the scion of all eyes rated the best state university in Nigeria and the third best university in the country.
Not since the Federal Government acceded to the establishment of the College on March 13, 1990, a move triggered by General Adetunji Idowu Olurin in 1988, would anyone with the wildest of imagination think of a day when this burgeoning citadel of knowledge will be brought to her knees literally and a family of rulers will disdainfully and willfully throw away the future of over 30,000 undergraduates even at a time when a successful graduate is pinning away on the streets of parlous unemployment.
It is callous and confusing. Confusing in the sense that while these poor students and their lecturers became beggars at the corridors of their traducers, Ajimobi cannot hide his excitement and splashing money on and carousing international donors for his pet project, the Technical University, Ibadan (TUI) which, with all intent and purpose is a fledgling surrogate of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Ogbomoso.
With a Vice Chancellor and a Pro- Chancellor already in place, a fat till even before the Institution kicks off, negotiations with the Central Bank of Nigeria, Tertiary Education Trust Fund and the potential of facilities from international donors with groping executive backing, the Oyo State government has abdicated and inter switched its role in favour of a new son to the utter detriment of the orphan.
Our own Governor is now on an overdrive telling everyone with glee that here cometh yet another landmark achievement of his last year in office. If killing LAUTEC to establish TUI is an achievement, only time will tell. I mean if robbing Peter to pay Paul is the smartest way to grease an ego and gloat over the sport like a hunter who just killed a prized deer, then they can ask the pall bearer to go back home for the coffin is empty. In recent history, many cases of executive malfeasance will struggle to beat this classic ruling by substitution. Not forgetting that in neighbouring Ogun State, there are five existing state Universities and not one of them is being sacrificed for the other. Overall there are 38 State Universities in Nigeria and none of them is having this kind of heartrending crisis except that between Cross River and Akwa Ibom states which was swiftly resolved in favour of the latter because politics was set aside.
With the benefit of hindsight, it now begins to unravel why the Supreme Court took that strange decision in 2012 that compelled the two state governments to retain joint ownership of LAUTECH.
In 2010, largely due to the intervention of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Akala and Oyinlola of Oyo and Osun states respectively, jointly signed an agreement ceding LAUTEC to Oyo State following all formal procedures. When the Institution’s case got to the Supreme Court, somehow the Joint Agreement ceding LAUTEC to Oyo State signed by these former Governors and which could have had direct impact on the case was missing and it was neither an oversight nor a coincidence. Because the Governors knew that presenting the Agreement before the Supreme would automatically hand over the Institution to Oyo State, it was removed as an exhibit.
Five years on and the subterfuge is still haunting us all.
As for IUT, even its very name smacks of underhand Executive subterfuge. The bill was brought before the house under the name Oyo State Technical University, Ibadan and has passed the first, second and third reading only for the name to be substituted with Technical University Ibadan by the only one who could have done it. But the intrinsic implication of that name change is that it is unknown to the laws of Oyo State because it was breached where it mattered most. While one is not being parochial, it is a matter of fact that currently, two ranking members of the 8th Assembly who actively egged on the Executive to perpetuate this anomaly are the current Chairman of the Parliamentary Council who was Chairman Education Committee in the 7th Assembly and another member both of whom have filial reasons to maintain the status quo on LAUTECH.
It is not surprising that Oyo and Osun State governments have not enjoyed a single support outside their cabinet and of course the Governors’ Aides but it rankles that they have now resorted to blackmailing both students and workers alike often turning the Wole Olanipekun’s Panel report on its head. Kudos must go to both of them for maintaining dignified postures in spite of the provocation and for going about their protestation with civility.
Men of goodwill have sort to assist in finding solutions to this quagmire. Prominent among measures been proffered are for the Federal Government to take over the Institution. The problem with this is that the Central government is already drenched in its own sweat trying to manage the existing 40 universities under it with myriads of crises in a substantial number of them. Aside from the perennial issue of funding at a time when existing ones cannot meet their basic needs, taken over another university cannot be undertaken by sheer executive fiat.
The other option is private ownership. As it is there are 68 private universities in Nigeria and we are still counting. The efficacy of many universities in this category is suspect mainly due to unhealthy priorities given to the business aspect to the detriment of academics. Many of them are battling to survive under the present economic climate and this is steadily rubbing off on their academic and corporate responsibilities. Besides the structure of LAUTECH is such that it will take a massive restructuring to make financial sense to investors.
All these apart, the manner by which plots of land were handed out to the institution at inception may make it difficult for the investors to survive the potential litigation from owners whose landed properties were commandeered in the name of sacrifices to the community. Many of them are already gearing up to lay claim to their lands if the place is turned into a profit making venture.
The third option is for the institution to be handed over to Oyo State government as it was in the original agreement between Akala and Oyinlola in 2010 as brokered by Obasanjo. It is tidier, efficacious, realistic, cheaper and justifiable. Grey areas like the College of Medicine can be worked out with minimum fuss.
It is such a pity that we have had to pay a heavy price for a decision that should have been wrapped and sealed seven years ago but that is what you get when everything has to be measured through the political periscope.
Oyelade, an author and publisher, wrote from Ibadan.