For almost two decades of crisis over ownership tussle, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) can now heave a sigh of relief following the resolution of the face-off and ceding its ownership to Oyo State. SOLA ADEYEMO examines the development
Monarch: NUC’s intervention timely
Alumni: No victor, no vanquished
Alao-Akala: I’ve been vindicated
These are best of times for the Ladoke Akintiola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, Oyo State. The university, which in the two decades has been bogged down with age-long bickering and protracted tussle between Oyo and Osun States over its joint ownership can now heave a sigh of relief.
Respite came on the way of the university hitherto characterised by incessant workers and students’ protests, strikes and closure, nonpayment of staff salaries and other entitlements, disruption of academic and administrative activities, following the intervention of the National Universities Commission (NUC) to resolved the unabated crisis.
Established on April 23, 1990 by the then Military Administration of the old Oyo State, under Colonel Sasaeniyan Oresanya, LAUTECH has its main campus located at Ogbomoso in Oyo State, while the Teaching Hospital was subsequently established in Osogbo, Osun State.
However, when Osun State was carved out of the old Oyo State in 1991, both states became joint owners of the institution, which had until the latest development, remained a clog in the wheel of progress of the university.
When the university was established 30 years ago, what had appeared to be a marriage of convenience in the early years suddenly turned sour after the creation of Osun State from the old Oyo State.
Following the ownership tussle, regular funding of the institution, as well as appointment of principal officers of the university became a major contending issue between the two states, which starved LAUTECH with funds, resulting in incessant strikes of the workers’ unions who were owed several months of salary and other entitlements.
For several months in the last two decades the university had been closed, while both academic and administration activities at the once high-ranked institution and centre of excellence were paralysed due to bickering between the owner states.
The crisis, which has continued to threaten the existence of the university, blew to the open during the administration of former Governor Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala of Oyo State, who was scheming for sole ownership of the LAUTECH, and Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, his Osun State counterpart.
Meanwhile, the ownership face-off, which has since continued to fester, however, reached a crescendo during the tenure of the late Governor Abiola Ajimobi and former Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Oyo and Osun States, as the lingering crisis could not be resolved.
Throughout their tenure the university never knew any peace, as it was moving from one strike to the other. Worried by the intractable crisis and the inability of the two owner states and other stakeholders to resolve the impasse, the National Universities Commission (NUC), the agency supervising university education in the country, had in the last few months put machinery in motion to intervene in order to save the soul of the institution as well as the future of students and members of staff.
Through NUC intervention, the bad blood generated by the joint ownership of the university among the successive governors of the two states for over 13 years, was on Friday, November 20, laid to rest. To save the university and the students, whose future is being jeopardised, both Osun and Oyo State Governments mutually agreed that the joint ownership of LAUTECH be formally dissolved following extensive mediation by the National Universities Commission on the need to restore tranquility and conducive learning environment in both institutions.
Announcing the resolution of the protracted tussle, the Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, declared that the ownership of LAUTECH under the new arrangement had been transferred to Oyo State Government, while Osun State Government is to take over the College of Health Sciences of the institution, located in Osogbo, the state capital.
Rasheed, who disclosed this at a press conference in Abuja, noted that as a way forward both Governors Seyi Makinde of Oyo and Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun States had signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) in that direction. Following the MoA, the NUC scribe expressed optimism that the new arrangement would resolve the age-long crisis and restore sanity and normalcy back to LAUTECH that peace and stability had hitherto eluded over the years.
The decision became necessary due to governance and management challenges confronting the development and growth of the university, and the urgent need to reposition the institution for its core mandate of teaching, research and community service.
But, savouring the excitement that followed the NUC’s announcement, Governor Makinde described the development as a victory, especially for the students of the university, who he noted would no longer have to spend between seven and eight years for a four or five-year course.
Given their different political platform, Makinde (a PDP governor), however, commended his Osun State counterpart, Gboyega Oyetola of APC for making the splitting of the institution possible. Makinde, who said such achievement would have been impossible without Oyetola’s understanding and cooperation, insisted that there was no winner or loser, but for the students who will now enjoy hitch-free academic sessions. The governor, therefore, pledged improved funding for the university and with a promise to return LAUTECH to its old glory as one of the leading universities in Africa.
He further declared that funding the university would pose no difficulty for the state as this had already been captured in the state’s 2021 budget; even as Governor Makinde added that the state had been taking full financial responsibility of the institution since the beginning of this year.
“When we came into office, we promised that Oyo State would fund the university from January to July, and Osun for the other part of the year, but for some reasons, when we came into office we had to intervene and for 2020, Oyo State has been funding LAUTECH alone and we have appropriated enough money in the 2021 budget to continue doing this,” the governor said. Makinde added: “Nothing is going to be taken for chance.
Of course, we have issues with how the university has been run in the past, and we have to change this and it won’t be a matter of where you come from. There won’t be an Osun must go. It is a university, and we have what it takes to put LAUTECH where it used to be nationally and also on African and international ranking maps.
“I went to my brother, Gboyega Oyetola and I spoke with him to let us keep ego aside on the issue of LAUTECH. I explained to him that the university is a universal phenomenon and it should be treated as such. Indeed, he saw reasons with me and we gave God the glory. I remember my time at UNILAG; I didn’t even know where my lecturers came from.
“Now, the real work has started. We have to ensure that LAUTECH is well funded and to contribute to the economy of Ogbomoso and Oyo State in general. I will go to Ogbomoso very soon to meet with the stakeholders. However, I want to plead with the lecturers that there is no Osun Forum; or Oyo Forum, but what we now have is LAUTECH Forum.”
On plans to retrench any worker based on his or state of origin, the governor reassured that workers, who are indigenes of Osun State working at LAUTECH should not fret over their employment as none of them will be sacked or disengaged. Also, on the university assets, Governor Makinde said that the process of sharing the assets of the university was transparent, as it was valued and monitored by the National Universities Commission.
“Whatever that are in each of the two states belong to the individual state and will be appropriated, while lecturers and students from each state would enjoy what they used to enjoy before the current situation,” Makinde said.
Reacting to the development, Osun State Government had assured the people of the state that the dissolution of its joint ownership of LAUTECH, and the new terms of management as spelt out by the NUC is in not in any way skewed against the state. Also, echoing the position of Oyo State, the Governor Oyetola pointed out that all workers of Osun extraction either in the College of Health Sciences or LAUTECH ceded to Osun or those in Ogbomoso were assured of job security.
Osun State Government, in a statement issued by the Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, however, vowed that there would be no intimidation or discrimination against the staff, even as the government noted that the agreement stated that indigenes of Oyo and Osun States working in either of the two entities would retain all their rights and obligations stipulated in their letters of engagements.
While allaying the workers’ fears about their job security, the government said that there was no need to fret about the dissolution, as all workers of Osun extraction would enjoy security of their jobs.
“Osun students were also assured that they would not be subjected to fees or admission differentials as they would pay the same tuition fees as their Oyo State counterparts,” the statement added. It further reads: “The agreement ceded the LAUTECH Teaching Hospital and all its assets to Osun.
Therefore, all landed properties and movable assets located at the College of Health Sciences in Osogbo, including Mercyland Hospital and Ilie are now properties of the Osun State.
“LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, which is an independent organisation, has not been affected by this dissolution, and will therefore continue to render necessary services to our people.
The citizens are, therefore, advised to continue to cooperate with the government to develop our institutions. Basking in the euphoria of splitting the ownership of the university, the monarch of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Oyewumi Ajagungbade II has commended Governor Makinde for his unrelenting and determined efforts in resolving the crisis and securing the sole ownership of LAUTECH for Oyo State.
While acknowledging the giant developmental strides of Makindeled administration, the paramount ruler, urged the Governor not to relent in his efforts aimed at repositioning LAUTECH, which he described as a one of the best higher institutions in Nigeria.
Oba Oyewumi, however, applauded the National Universities Commission and other stakeholders for the historic feat, urging the LAUTECH community to uphold the university’s remarkable and worthy academic excellence.
In a statement signed personally by him, the monarch said: “Let me use this medium to express my heartfelt gratitude of the people of Ogbomoso to Governor Oluwaseyi Makinde of Oyo State for his unrelenting and determined efforts in securing the sole ownership of LAUTECH for Oyo State.”
“The protracted crisis as a result of the joint ownership of LAUTECH by the two states has continued to set the institution backward and this has negatively affected the socio-economic development of Ogbomoso, as the university’s host community.
“Thus, the eventual ceding of the ownership of LAUTECH to Oyo State Government after many years of extensive consultations and negotiations, is indeed a timely and welcome development”, the monarch noted.
Similarly, in his reaction, former Governor Alao-Akala, an indigene of Ogbomoso, who had since his tenure been fighting to secure the sole ownership of LAUTECH for Oyo State, congratulated the Oyo State Government on achieving the ownership of LAUTECH, and described the NUC’s intervention as a welcome development.
The former governor, who expressed happiness of the development, said: “I have been vindicated as I began the process of getting the university solely owned by Oyo State.” He, therefore, commended Oyetola and Makinde for allowing reason to prevail and for putting the interest of the students, whose education has been in jeopardy for so long into consideration without allowing political interest or party affiliation to destroy the unity and progress of Yoruba land.
Alao-Akala, who also praised NUC for its role in the final settlement and eventual take-over of the institution by Oyo State Government, advised the Makinde-led administration to immediately set machinery in motion to ensure that the university is returned to its pride of place as the foremost technology institution in Nigeria in line with the vision of the founding fathers.
Meanwhile, the Alumni Association of the university had repeatedly made clarion calls to well-meaning individuals and stakeholders to bail the institution out of its financial mess due to non-allocation of funds by the states for the benefit of the suffering students.
The Chancellor of the university, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu was also alleged not to be helpful in the course of the university for his silence throughout the crisis period. The alumni association of the university commended Governors Gboyega Oyetola and Seyi Makinde for the historic development, saying in a statement signed by the Alumni Association Global President, Onilede Solomon Limo, that the resolution of the crisis should be described as “no victor, no vanquished.”
The statement reads in part: “Governors Gboyega Oyetola and Seyi Makinde have displayed a high level of maturity and spirit of sportsmanship worthy of emulation by all leaders.
Despite their political differences, they objectively put into consideration the interests of our students, staff, graduates and the future of the university. History will not forget the governors for the amicable resolution of the age-long standoff concerning the joint ownership of the university.
“It is noteworthy that our ivory tower broke many records under joint ownership; and despite the challenges faced by the institution, it is still contributing to the educational and technological advancement of the country and African continent. With this latest development, we are optimistic that the Oyo State Government will carry on the good legacies bequeathed to it.
“The intervention of NUC is highly commendable. However, we enjoin politicians or any group not to play politics with the amicable resolution reached by Oyo and Osun State Government. In spirit, LAUTECH belongs to the people of both states; and all stakeholders will forever respect that fact.”