By Adesina Wahab and Shina Abubakar
ORDINARILY, an orphan is someone who has lost both parents, and so somebody who still has a father or a mother cannot be described as an orphan. However, the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, LAUTECH, Ogbomoso, which has two living fathers, Oyo and Osun states, is not better than an orphan – no thanks to the way the institution is treated by the owners (parents). Since the creation of Osun State out of the old Oyo State, taking care of LAUTECH has always been a serious headache. Suspicion, buck passing and outright nonchalance by the two states are among the factors that have slowed down the progress of the institution.
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While Oyo and Osun states have gone ahead to set up their own universities, which they are striving to put on sound footing, LAUTECH has been allowed to be crawling many years after. Only recently, the Oyo State Governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, set up a five-member panel to look into the possiblity of a sole ownership of the school. He added that it was in fulfillment of his electoral promises.
Oyo State’s position
The committee named: “Oyo State Negotiation Committee on LAUTECH Ownership and Other Related Issues”, is chaired by the Chairman of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Ibadan chapter, Prof. Ayodeji Omole, and has a former Minister of State for the FCT, Chief Jumoke Akinjide; Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), Prof. Oyelowo Oyewole (Oyo State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General) and Prof. Dahud Sangodoyin (Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology) as members.
Relating the ownership issues to the biblical example of Abraham and Lot, Governor Makinde said parting ways with the Osun State Government on the ownership of the institution was not to begrudge her, but as a way of putting the interest of the state and the students first.
Makinde said: “30,000 students. 1,200 staff. Hundreds of thousands of naira in daily income from dependent businesses. Each time the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso (LAUTECH) shuts down due to non-payment of salaries or any other issue facing the institution, everyone suffers.This is because LAUTECH is not just the centre of academic activities in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, most commercial activities in this town revolve around this institution. And since anything that affects the socio-economic dynamics of any section of Oyo State affects us all, we must give these challenges due attention. It is for this reason that we are inaugurating this five-man committee today.
“In the past couple of years, epileptic strike actions by lecturers has led to students spending more time in the university than they originally bargained for. The latest strike is going into its second week. I think it is unfair to the students, the lecturers and the ancillary businesses domiciled in Ogbomoso that depend on the university. Your one job is to, in a manner of speaking, secure a divorce for us.”
Osun State’s stance
Osun also has a five-man committee on LAUTECH, in fact, it set up its committee before Oyo set up its own. However, feelers from the state do not indicate that it would agree to a parting of ways, at least for now. When Governor Gboyega Oyetola, was inaugurating the committee, headed by Prof. Olu Aina, the terms of reference he gave them included to determine the financial responsibility of each state to the university and the teaching hospital, and likely outstanding, if there is any, in accordance with the Act establishing the university and the teaching hospital in Osogbo.
It is to establish actual monthly wages and salaries of the university and the teaching hospital; to establish the total annual revenue, both Internal and external, of the university and the teaching hospital. It is also to consider sustainable viable options for the university and the teaching hospital, including financial and governance, without prejudice to the well-being of the students and staff; recommend, justify and ranking of all options in order of sustainability
In a chat with Vanguard, Governor Oyetola, who spoke through his media aide, Ismail Omipidan, said the state would not jeopardise the efforts of the panel by joining issues with Governor Makinde on sole ownership. He said the edict that established the university stated clearly how the union could be called off.
The mid course approach
A secondary school teacher, who is also a parent of a student in the university, Mr. Femi Michael, is of the opinion that both states may not agree on one of them becoming the sole owner of the university. “It is like the university is jinxed somehow and one wonders why it is difficult to share the assets or let one state own it or fund it adequately.
Recall that when Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was Osun State Governor, and Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, also of PDP was Oyo State Governor, the fortune of the university was not better. Also, when Senator Abiola Ajimobi of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was Oyo State Governor and Mr Rauf Aregbesola, also of APC was Osun State Governor, LAUTECH suffered a lot, not to talk of when there is political differences in the leadership of the two states now.
“The best bet is for the Federal Government to take over the school and start running it. That will be in the interest of the students, workers and the society at large. For how long will the school continue to crawl? Let the FG come in and save it before it collapses,” he opined.