BY SIKIRU AKINOLA
Many would have thought the crises ravaging the Ladoke Akintola University, LAUTECH, Ogbomoso, would have ended, especially with the appointment of former Lagos governor and national leader of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as chancellor of the institution jointly owned by Osun and Oyo States. Many people, including students and staff of LAUTECH heaved a sigh of relief after he was appointed. Rather, the crises have continued to fester, with no end in sight!
It all started in 2009, towards the tail end of the administrations of Governors Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Adebayo Alao-Akala of Osun and Oyo State respectively. In a bid to take full ownership of the institution, Alao-Akala, in whose hometown the institution main campus is situated, built another Teaching Hospital (TH) for the institution. The institution’s TH has always been in Osogbo, the Osun State capital. Soon, they started defaulting in the funding of the institution. Rather than nosedive when the administrations of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and Sen. Abiola Ajimobi began, things became worse, on daily basis.
I am concerned about the institution in many ways. I have close persons whose lives and survival are dependent on LAUTECH. Maybe I would have attended the institution if I were an arts student. The school was a pride to many people, including those of us who were not science students. Before 2009, the school, and its students, won many laurels, both within and outside the shores of Nigeria. From far and wide, people wanted to study there. Lecturers were eager to observe their sabbatical in the school. Practically, it was one of the sought after state universities in the country. If there were anytime the institution experienced industrial action, it didn’t have anything to do with funding or salary payment.
Since 2016, when the two brother governors of Oyo and Osun states have decided to be insensitive, the school has known no peace. It has been 10-month strike, 2-month academic activities. Everything has been grounded economically and academically. Some students have resorted to anti-social behaviors while lecturers have lost their remaining dignity.
I know of lecturers who have had to transfer their wards to public schools as they are unable to pay school fees. Some lecturers dare not go home in daytime as they would be ambushed by their creditors. Many lecturers, and other workers, have been sacked. Some have left their jobs, for better offers and greener pastures. Some students have had to spend 4 years in the same level. Application to the school has dropped. Those who are there don’t even know when they would graduate. Those who have graduated don’t know when they would be mobilized for youth service. Some may not even be qualified for the few available jobs when they are done with service due to age factor. Those who have businesses on campus are counting their losses. Ogbomoso’s economy is in comatose because of the epileptic academic activities at the institution.
If Tinubu has ever stepped on the soil of that institution, maybe once. I cannot even remember. This is the same Tinubu who is known for providing leadership during troubled times. The same Tinubu who led the opposition to unseat the incumbent. The same Tinubu whose Bourdillon street many successful politicians have visited for blessing. Guinea’s Alpha Conde and many other African presidents are his allies. 2019 elections are here and his names have continued to be dropped. Twice, in just one week, President Muhammadu Buhari has invited him to Aso Rock, for solutions to some problems.
For the mess to stop, don’t you think Tinubu has a lot to do? Forget those who are saying they will solve the problem few days after taking over as Governor. It is beyond that. It is just a mere campaign talk! No matter Tinubu’s achievements and popularity, history would be unkind to him regarding his silence on the LAUTECH issue. Whether people will describe it as political or not, this is the best time for Asiwaju to help solve these LAUTECH issues.
In fact, if it means resigning as chancellor of the institution, it will be an honourable thing to do. But that would amount to obvious lack of capacity to tackle issues for someone who ruled Lagos for 8 years.
If the assets and liabilities had been shared when Osun was carved out of old Oyo State, this present problem would have been avoided. I have an advise for Asiwaju and others. I may not have the experience in leadership but I believe my opinion may be useful. I know they know all these but they might have forgotten or not courageous to apply it.
I learnt LAUTECH owes N5 billlion. It is huge! How did we get here? The same school we were (sorry, I wanted to write ‘are’) proud of, especially in 2004 when it won several accolades. We can still bring back the good old days. As it stands, the two governors are helpless, not because they are ‘idealess’, they don’t have the financial muscle. I laugh when some people say Osun should concede the school to Oyo because they now have their own state university. Lame excuse I call it. In fact, any governor that does that will not be favored by history.
This is not the best of times for Tinubu to be chancellor of the institution. He has been criminally silent on the matter. Despite that the two governors are his ‘boys’, he has refrained from making comments.
I have a solution, sorry solutions. To rescue the university from his ‘onigbese’ state, Tinubu can bail them out with N3 billion. Yes, three billion naira! It is too much. And it is not. Tinubu can afford more than that, even from his personal purse. You want to ask I am his account officer? However, he need not use his personal money. God has shown mercy to Tinubu in many ways. He has a solid connection of useful friends, both within and outside the country. In Guinea, just like I said, he has Conde. In Nigeria, he has PMB and several governors and ministers. In the last election, the PDP made us to know he is the biggest landlord in Lagos. He can organize fund raising for LAUTECH and more than the N3b would be raised. The two governors should raise the remaining N2b between them. Some people will call this rubbish; that I am not being realistic. But that is not all.
After paying all the arrears and outstanding, a careful audit of the assets and liabilities of the school should be carried out. Heads should be made to roll. This is all in a bid to reposition the institution for greatness. However, if Oyo State is ready to pay what Osun demands, to hands off its shares of the ownership, it can be worked out.
Akinola is publisher of www.oyoinsight.com. He can be reached via 08021195118