LAUTECH: A truthful way out

lautech-ajimobi-and-aregbe_2 Many people did not know the present conditions of academic activities on Ladoke Akintola University of Technology campus until recently when the aggrieved and protesting students of the institution shut the door of the school against UTME candidates.

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People thought that the school had finally resumed after several months had been wasted. Logically, the students should not be blamed. They stopped the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board from conducting this year’s UTME at the ICT centre of the school. With this, they believed, their unheard voice would echo throughout the country. Sincerely, governments often turns deaf ears to Nigerians’ cries. They are of the opinion that the crisis rocking the institution will be quickly solved and normalcy returned to the academic institution. For more than 10 months, the school was shut down when the two owners, Oyo and Osun states, failed in their financial obligations to the school.

So, the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) members of the school embarked on an indefinite strike. A lot happened during the closure of the school. One of them was the confrontation at the Oyo State Government House, Agodi. The school was later reopened early this year just for the students to write their examinations. And after that, all tools were down again.

This could have been avoided, though, before it escalated to something big and embarrassing to the educational sector. The greatest mistake is the idea of allowing the two states to co-own the school. The two states do not have the same financial capacity. Besides, considering what happened elsewhere in the case of creating another state from an existing one, LAUTECH should be an Oyo State property.

Allowing Osun State to be a co-owner is an historical mistake. Of course, the school might have more problems than the present ones if it were to belong exclusively to Oyo State, but the problems could not have been as complex and complicated as what we have now. The management of the school has to approach two governments at once. An instance of this tedious task is what is currently going on. Even Osun State is showing some nonchalant attitudes. It has an alternative: Osun State University. To worsen the dire situation, the owners are reluctant to release funds, but only ask the management of the school to source for funds.

The Osun State University has its own expectations from the government’s purse. The expectations are a burden on the government. The truth must be told, especially at this time that the economy of the country is in jeopardy and a serious crisis. The Osun State government prioritises the needs of its solely owned institution at the detriment of LAUTECH. The evidence is the smooth running of academic activities in UNIOSUN.

Would it have been better if the Osun State government releases the school to be operated and managed by its partner? This will be done mutually, based on a win-win rule. The LAUTECH Teaching Hospital is located in Osogbo, the Osun State capital. The Oyo State government, too, should be ready to let the Teaching Hospital go.

It is all about negotiation, and the university itself is in Ogbomoso, a town in Oyo State. This may be challenging and frustrating. There is no pride in co-owning a university without fulfilling the obligations to the school. This roundtable will be in the interest of the frustrated students and the school at large.

The Teaching Hospital will further improve the status of the Osun State University if it is later agreed to be a property of Osun State. And the state government will concentrate all its efforts, resources and intuition to upgrade the standard of the state university. Having two responsibilities at the same time with little or no resources can make one irresponsible. So, it is quite advisable for the state government to relinquish Ladoke Akintola University to Oyo State, which does not own yet a university of its own.

So, taking up all the responsibilities of the school may bring sanity and stability to the academic activities and calendar of the school. Lagos, the richest state in Nigeria, has just one state university. So, Osun State, one of the poorest, of course, is not expected to be able to own and co-own universities.

There will be anxiety and fear of intimidation and retrenchment of the workers if any of the owners denounces its ownership of the school. It will be argued that if Osun State, for instance, withdraws, its citizens working in LAUTECH may be fired, humiliated and probably attacked. It is understandable. But this does not constitute a real issue because there is always a way out. The two states have citizens in the school and its Teaching Hospital in Ogbomoso and Osogbo respectively. So, a Memorandum of Understanding can be signed that all the workers and their jobs will be protected till they retire.

The MoU can have a stipulated period of time that it will be effective. This will secure the interest of the state in this regard. Who says there is no rift at all between the Oyo State indigenes and Osun State citizens working in the institution as it is now? The issue of safety of the workers is not a barrier.

The owner state governments argue that the crisis will end in three weeks. They rely on the possible reports and recommendations of the audit firm mandated to audit the personnel and finances of the institution. The two governments only want to shift the responsibility of funding the university. This is evident when the Osun State governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola declared, “We engaged an international audit firm to know why LAUTECH can’t run within its own resources base. The university should be able to fend for itself. My appeal to the management, academia and the students is to exercise patience…” The governor should have given examples of universities, most especially the federal ones, that fend for themselves.

Then, LAUTECH would be expected to join the list of those universities. This is informing us all that the only thing the proprietors can do is to implement the recommendations of the audit firm, which include how the university will generate funds for itself. There is no light yet at the end of the tunnel.

The Federal Ministry of Education has a role to play in this case. It cannot just fold its arms while thousands of students suffer from what is beyond their control. Things will continue to deteriorate if the Federal Government can only look or pretend that all is well with LAUTECH. The Federal Government cannot be looked up to for finance. But it can set up a committee to look into all the crises crippling the institution. The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Education, can broker the negotiations between the two states.

The truthful way out is sharing LAUTECH and the Teaching Hospital between the two states, this is a credible solution to the crisis.

(Edited By Olamide Michael)

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