The frustration of an unending strike continues for the students as there is no willing money bag like Moshood Abiola to help them out this time.
When the ownership of Oyo State University of Technology was entrusted in the hands of Oyo and Osun States due to the creation of the latter in 1991, no one knew a school founded, owned and financed by two states would ever suffer neglect and get a wretched orphan treatment from its parents.
At the very beginning, if anything, nothing suggested the institution after some years of its conception would be hit with ownership and financial crises. The need to have a new University in Oyo State alongside the premier University, University of Ibadan, amassed a great amount of goodwill.
In fact, financial crisis was the least problem the university now known as Ladoke Akintola University of Technology envisaged.
This was evident in the amount of funds garnered at the launching ceremony of the University in 1989. A total sum of N19 million was said to have been realized in both cash and pledges at the ceremony. Bashorun MKO Abiola was the Chief launcher and he donated N2.5M. Abiola would later become the first Chancellor of the institution in 1991.
Abiola was a very generous philanthropist who had special interest for schools in Nigeria. Institutions like Lagos State University, University of Lagos, Moshood Abiola Polytechnics and many others benefited from his philanthropic spirit. The period Abiola served as the Chancellor of LAUTECH, he ensured the institution did not suffer any lingering crisis that would lead to shutting the school gate for more than one year.
However, as conceived during the administration of Adetunji Olurin in 1987, the state's university was designed to operate a multi campus system with the main campus in Ogbomosho (Oyo State) while its College of Health Technology campus was situated in Oshogbo (Osun State).
In October 1990, the university hit the ground running. It started its academic session with 436 students at the main campus and 36 at the satellite campus. The name Oyo State University of Technology became a number one choice for science students because it was the first State University of Technology in South-West region of the country.
Ten months after, precisely August 1991, Osun State was carved out of Oyo State. The two states went their separate ways but the university remained a bond between them. Since both states have a campus each in their territories, the need to consider name change arose because it would be imprudent for a school named Oyo State University of Technology to be co-owned and financed by Osun State government.
Chief Samuel Oladoke Akintola's name therefore came into the picture.
Some decades before the conception of a state university in Oyo state, Samuel Oladoke Akintola had become a household name in the old Western Nigeria. He was the premier of the region comprising of Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ogun State. He was a politician, aristocrat and orator. He was also a fantastic lawyer who hailed from Ogbomoso.
By virtue of his role and contributions to the defunct Western Nigeria government, his fame, ingenuity and place of birth, Ladoke Akintola's name seemed to befit the school more than anything else. Thus, the university was eponymously named after the industrious and illustrious son of Ogbomosho, Chief Samuel Oladoke Akintola.
It was a new name and a fresh beginning for the institution as the university enjoyed relative peace and academic excellence in its 20 years of establishment between 1990 and 2010. Within this period, the National University Commission named LAUTECH the best state university back to back in 2003 and 2004.
Being the best state university was a great achievement for the school, as it became the first choice university for admission seekers for courses of study such as Pure and Applied Science, Medicine, Agriculture Engineering and Technology as well as Environmental Science.
LAUTECH was still enjoying its crisis-free moments when Osun State government established its own university, University of Osun State known as UNIOSUN.
While it may be true to say the lingering crisis rocking LAUTECH started with the establishment of UNIOSUN in 2010, it is also noteworthy to mention that the university, like other institutions in the country, has made strike actions its language of protest before the thought of having a state university struck the mind of Osun State government.
So, shutting down the school gate for one or two months is not new to LAUTECH, but this unending strike is troubling and worrisome.
According to Adebayo Adeyinka, the former Students' Union President of the school "Strike action is an age long thing in Nigerian University. If I remember very well, I was admitted into LAUTECH in 1992 and I finished in 1999. I spent seven years for a five year course without having carryover or extra year".
Adebayo, however, admitted that the crises that brought about the strike actions in the 90s were not as perennial and poorly managed as what is happening to the school right now.
How did LAUTECH get to this point?
As Adebayo rightly stated, strike action is the only language Nigerian workers seem to understand to express their grievances with their employers. In June 2016, the Academic and Non-Academic Staff Unions of Lautech embarked on an industrial action that would later become the genesis of too many negative news about the school.
It all started with protests over non-payment of accumulated salaries, with the hope that the strike would be called off once the government meet their demands.
Three months after the strike had commenced, there was no ray of hope for the workers who were expecting to be paid their dues. Instead, a letter was sent to them from Oyo state government in September 2016. That letter dashed their hope and took any form of resolution between the government and workers miles apart.
The letter had stated that the state institutions (including LAUTECH) should no longer expect subventions whether for any arrears, current or future expenses in running the schools from the state government.
It was also stated that each institution will still be getting 25 percent of its subventions to augment the running cost, assuring that the government would continue to support the institutions with the amount as a sign of its commitment to their well-being but are largely expected to internally generate funds for the staff income.
This didn't go down well with the Academic Staff Union (ASUU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) of the university as they vowed to remain on strike until their demands are met.
While Oyo state, due to lack of funds, was taking steps that ended up aggravating the situation, Its counterpart in Osun state was reportedly not moving a muscle to consider the plights of the workers and the students.
In February 2017, Osun state government was reported to have defaulted in payment of salaries of staff for 15 months. Yet, all efforts by Oyo state government to transfer the ownership of the institution to itself has always been vehemently thwarted by the government of Osun state.
Oluseye Ojo, a resident of Ibadan who poured his thoughts about LAUTECH crisis in an article titled: "LAUTECH: Seven years of turbulence" mentioned that the former governor of Oyo state, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, in May 2011 made effort to ensure that the state became sole owner of the institution via a gazette he signed.
According to Ojo, "the gazette, marked 09 and Vol. 36. Sections 26 of the amended law stated that “rules, convention or practice in existence in respect of the joint ownership of the university are hereby revoked and shall cease to have validity or force of law with effect from December 31, 2010.” Section 27 stated that “the university is deemed to be solely owned by Oyo State as from December 31, 2010.
"But the Supreme Court judgment delivered on December 26, 2012, following a suit filed by Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, upheld the joint ownership of the university. The apex court ruled that Oyo cannot unilaterally lay claim to sole ownership of the institution."
Similarly, a lawmaker in the Oyo state House of Assembly representing Ogbomosho North, Mrs. Olawunmi Oladeji and nine others co-sponsored a motion that the ownership of the school be transferred to Oyo state. The motion was titled: “Reviewing the Joint Ownership of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology: A Step toward Sole Ownership by Oyo State Government”.
Mrs. Oladeji argued that the inattention of government threatens the joint ownership of the institution. She said that the internally generated revenue (IGR) of LAUTECH has been depleted because the money meant to be used for payment of gratuity, pension of retirees, and other developmental projects is being used to pay salary.
Following the allegations against Osun state government, the two state came together again to affirm the joint ownership of the institution. After meeting with the Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun state over the school's crisis, Gov. Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi revealed that the two states had agreed to an irrevocable commitment to the joint ownership of the university in accordance with the laws setting up the institution.
To further calm the situation, the government-owners agreed to mobilize an initial N500 million lifeline to settle the salary arrears of the striking academic and non academic staff. Also, since the problem facing the government and the institution is largely about funds, a panel headed by Wole Olanipekun recommended an upward review of tuition fees from N65,000 for indigenes and N73,000 for non-indigenes to N350,000.
Nothing evokes 'aluta' spirits in Nigerian students like school fees hike. The moment the news about the proposed school fees got to the students who have been sitting idle at home for some months, they took the fight to the governor's office to ask why the governor, whose generation enjoyed free education, think increasing their school fees is the solution to their school's problem.
The students' protests and the governor's reactions sparked a very disappointing episode in the lingering LAUTECH crisis as the students and the governor disgraced each other on camera.
The governor there and then promised the students that their school would be opened in February 2017. Very true to his words, the school was opened only for the students to write their second semester exam and ordered to go back home again.
For the students, the frustration continues as there is no willing money bag like Abiola to help them out this time, but there is a chancellor whose silence over the crisis continues to get louder than the noise of the students' protests.
"Tinubu as the Chancellor of the institution should be ashamed of keeping silent over the school crisis", a 400L student simply identified as Moshood said out of frustration.
In August 2012, the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was appointed the Chancellor of the institution.
In a statement issued by Festus Adedayo, the Special Adviser on Media to the Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, it was stated that both Oyo state and Osun state governments took the decision to have their political party's national leader as the chancellor of the university since both states are under the umbrella of the same party.
It should also be noted that 'Jagaban' as Tinubu is fondly called was instrumental to the governorship ambition of the two governors. So, for the governments of Oyo and Osun to make the former governor of Lagos State the chancellor of the school that binds them together is very understandable.
As the Chancellor, Tinubu was expected to bring his administrative ingenuity and vast experience in public management to bear on the running of the institution and reposition it to meet the standard of its peers all over the world.
That is yet to be seen from Jagaban. As a matter of fact, the students, the academic and non academic staff are worried about Tinubu's deafening silence over the school's crisis.
The ASUU Chairman of LAUTECH, Dr. Abiodun Olaniran recently expressed worries about the Chancellor's attitude towards the school.
“We are not comfortable with Asiwaju Tinubu’s silence on the matter, he has a significant role to play and we want him to quickly intervene and bring an end to the lingering crisis,” he said.
The crisis has also degenerated to blame game between the government of Oyo state and the academic staff union of the institution.
While the government alleged that the union is thwarting effort to audit the university's financial account to find a lasting solution to the problem, the union insists that the school is highly underfunded and if anything, the audit should be done in accordance with the dictates and edicts of the university.
However, as the government, the union, the Chancellor and other stakeholders continue to subject the first state university of technology to this undeserved humiliation, the alumni association led by Adebayo Adeyinka, the former students' union president of LAUTECH is taking a bold step to raise funds for the poor university through #fundlautech initiative.
It was reported in June 2017 that the initiative has raised over N5milion for the school in just nine days. The former governor of the state, Senator Rasheed Ladoja was reported to have donated N2million for the course.
In all of this, Osun state government is paying little or no attention to the crisis bedeviling LAUTECH as the state now celebrates the glory of UNIOSUN at the expense of LAUTECH which is jointly owned with Oyo state.
Right now, UNIOSUN and Osun state government are basking in the success of 50 students of the school who ended their medical studies in Ukraine while LAUTECH students and their books are gathering dust at home, languishing and lamenting over the closure of their school for more than a year.
The state government of Osun would continue to enjoy good and happy moments as long as it channels the bulk of its resources to fund its own university. Oyo state and LAUTECH on the other hand would continue to cry over lack of funds because Osun government is not playing its responsibility well.
It is high time the two state governments found a lasting solution to LAUTECH's crisis. The future of over 32,000 students of the institution has been slowed down by the disagreement between the two governments and the academic staffs.
Even though the APC National leader has not been in the country for over three months now, it is also important for the state governors' god-father, leader and Chancellor of the school to promptly rise to the occasion and play his fatherly role as Bashorun Moshood Abiola did during his days as the Chancellor of the university.
Governors Ajimobi and Aregbesola have got to sit again and come to a conclusion that would sweep out the crisis once and for all or else, LAUTECH would remain under lock and key for a long time. And this only spells ill luck for the students.