By Daud Olatunji, Abeokuta
About 250 workers of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Abeokuta were in panic mode following alleged imminent loss of jobs ahead of the change of status of the institution to university by the Ogun State government.
The idea of transforming the 38-year-old MAPOLY to a university of science and technology was initiated by the Governor Ibikunle Amosun-led administration to address the yearnings of the hundreds of industries located in the state for qualified manpower.
Amosun, having sent the bill to the state House of Assembly for the establishment of the university and the bill passed, inaugurated an 11-man Technical Committee to midwife the Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology (MAUSTECH), Abeokuta and the Ogun State Polytechnic, Ipokia.
According to him, the decision to upgrade the polytechnic to a university of science and technology and the establishment of the Ogun State Polytechnic, Ipokia was to ensure that his administration leaves a lasting legacy in the education sector in the state.
A former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Peter Okebukola, is the Chairman of the Technical Committee.
Prof. Oludele Itiola is Secretary while members are Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, Prof. Rahmon Bello, Prof. Ganiu Olatunde, Prof. Femi Bamiro, Dr. Sabur Raji, Dr. Ebenezer Nkom, Chief Ronke Folarin, Mr. Bola Bankole and Mr. Rahim Jimoh.
Few months after the committee’s inauguration, MAUSTECH got approval from the NUC.
Meanwhile, the MAPOLY staff, who allegedly got information that the upgrading of the institution may cut 250 jobs, grounded activities at the polytechnic.
In fact, a directive was said to have been issued by the Technical Committee ordering over 250 lecturers of the institution to turn in their resignation letters and reapply.
The lecturers, who protested within and outside the institution’s campus in Abeokuta, locked the gates, and blocked them with vehicles, chanting solidarity songs.
They had arrived the campus as early as 7 am, and placed fetish objects, including dead snakes, sugarcane sticks, and local fowl eggs drenched in palm oil, in two calabashes, in front of the gates.
The workers also carried placards with various inscriptions such as “Okebukola must go” and “MAUSTECH must stay.”
They prevented vehicles from leaving or entering the campus.
The local Chairman of ASUP, Kola Abiola, said the Okebukola Committee had directed that over 250 workers of MAPOLY should resign and reapply to become the staff of MAUSTECH.
Abiola alleged that Okebukola gave the directive during a meeting between the committee and the leadership of ASUP.
Also speaking, the Zonal Coordinator of ASUP, Zone C in charge of South West, Adetunji Omobaorun, said the action of the lecturers had the backing of the national body.
He argued that the state government and the committee did not recognise the right and interest of the major stakeholders in their decision.
He said, “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 trading in the land of the black.”
Ogun State President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Balogun Olawale, also described the alleged directive “as wrong,” advising that the government should be considerate.
However, Okebukola refuted the claims.
He said in Abeokuta that the claims were in contrast to the position of the committee that no member of staff would suffer job loss as a consequence of the upgrading of MAPOLY to MAUSTECH, and the establishment of Ogun State Polytechnic, Ipokia as the successor of MAPOLY.
Okebukola 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”He disclosed that the new university and polytechnic would take off in September.
Okebukola added that both institutions would begin operations in the premises of MAPOLY before the relocation of the polytechnic to Ipokia.
The Technical Committee said, “I never made the statement and I can never made such statement because I don’t have the power. “Our game -plan is that we are going to enrol students into faculty of environmental sciences, faculty of science. We will establish a faculty of ICT where we will train students on cyber-crime, cyber security among others. Then we have faculties of applied social sciences, economic sciences, engineering and technology and quite a number of the polytechnic staff are highly qualified to lecture at the university, they will have the edge.
“We are also going to create room for the polytechnic students to gain admission into the university.
“Both organizations will run together in that campus until the ND11 and HND 11 students finish their programmes.
“The state governor, who is a man of his words, has said that the Ipokia campus will be ready in about three months. But for the time being, they are going to be here running their programmes.
“To recap, nobody is going to lose any job; we, as the technical committee, don’t have the power to sack anybody”.