Which way, LAUTECH?

The recent five-member committee inaugurated by Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, to work with a similar team from Osun State to deliberate on the future ownership of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, should, in all intent and purpose, be viewed as a welcome development aimed at resolving the protracted crisis bedevilling the university.

Without mincing words, the unresolved rift between Oyo and Osun states, the joint owners of the university and the attendant confusion rocking the institution has, for long, beclouded the collective aspirations of the states.

The establishment of the university, which ordinarily should have guaranteed mutual development of the two owner-states, has turned out to be a source of division of the people who had lived together for ages before the creation of Osun State out of the old Oyo State on August 27, 1991.

The discomforts caused the administration and image of the university for decades by the ownership crisis, resulting in underfunding of the ivory tower, in every sense, are unwarranted.

The unfortunate thing is that the assumption that the university, like its contemporaries, would pilot technological advancement and offer accessible and quality university education to indigenes of the states and other Nigerians in general has been rubbished and eroded for too long.

The two states are today at war, albeit cold one, over an institution that should have been a source of unity among the people, but which unconsciously had been murdered on a platter of egoism, self-aggrandisement and unguarded politicking.

Like other institutions established under similar situation, especially the former Ondo State University, which joint ownership between Ondo and Ekiti states was amicably resolved without any strained relationship, we believe the two gladiators in the case of LAUTECH should have toed the path of reasoning, without sub-consciously jeopardising the future of the students.

In fact, what is playing out in LAUTECH today is apparently that of obtuse cynicism and political distrust between the two states, given the age-long crisis and failure to agree on the modalities and basis of nurturing the university.

Now that the two states have not been performing their financial obligations to the university, the institution’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) went on another indefinite strike after the 10-day ultimatum earlier issued to the management over non-payment of workers’ three-month salary had expired, which for many years has been the lot of the university.

To compound the students’ predicament, the union had threatened to withhold the students’ ‘Rain Semester’ examination results for 2018/2019 academic session until they were paid, which further portends grave consequence for the students who spent better part of their time out of campus in the last three or more years due to disruption of academic activities.

It is most worrisome that at this stage when the ship of the university is almost sinking, the two state governments are busy with buck-passing, accusation and counter-accusation over their indebtedness to the institution.

No wonder that Oyo owes LAUTECH over N4 billion, while Osun State owes over N7 billion; but while Oyo State is working to liquidate its debts, Osun State is being accused of not responding.

Although, the present Oyo State government led by Governor Seyi Makinde has inaugurated a five-member committee to work with a similar team from Osun State raised by Governor Adegboyega Oyetola to deliberate on the ownership of the university, as well as reach out to eminent personalities in the two states, we are not persuaded enough that the continued joint ownership of the institution will either resolve or bring succour to LAUTECH’s existence.

Now that emphasis is on divorce of the estranged relationship, we insist that the best way to resolve the recurring crisis, which has decimated LAUTECH, is to allow a state take full ownership of the institution, which at a time in its history was the best in engineering field in Nigerian universities.

Since the periodic crisis has not allowed the university to grow, we insist that the best option in this regard is to follow the ‘Ondo/Ekiti Model’ in which the two owner-states would sit round a table, agree that the joint ownership has failed and share the moveable assets.

We totally agree that the joint ownership of the university has been futile in all ramifications and should be discontinued in the best interest of the students and workers.

Though, the decision of the two states to raise the committee to work on the continued existence of the institution or otherwise is laudable, the committee should not only be courageous in carrying out its assignments, it should also muster the right political will to address all contending issues as they are, in order to free the university from the shackles of uncertain future.

If the immediate past governors of the two states – Senator Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State and Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State – who belonged to the same political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), failed to resolve LAUTECH crisis for eight years, it speaks volumes about the already lost love between the states, which have failed to work together.

This, therefore, is the best of time for the two governors to reason and act decisively on the continued existence of LAUTECH, as no institution could thrive under such precarious, disdain, stressful and unpopular condition that university is currently facing.

Enough of the political showmanship that has no regard for the future of the students and workers.

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