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Bringing LAUTECH out of the crypt

It was heartwarming to learn last Thursday that the governors of Oyo and Osun states have resolved to end the crisis that has engulfed the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, for many years. Both Governor Abiola Ajimobi and his Osun State counterpart, Rauf Aregbesola, agreed to retain the university as a legacy of their common heritage and work towards its rejuvenation. In the light of that, a visitation panel headed by Mr Wole Olanipekun was set up. I am particularly thrilled by the choice of the panel chairman given his landmark accomplishments when he sat aboard the governing council of the University of Ibadan as the pro-chancellor.

LAUTECH is a sad reminder of our penchant for destroying all that is good. It seems as a people we lack the capacity to consistently uphold standards, keep values and cherish virtues. Like the locust, we have a knack for visiting untold destruction on everything with which we come in contact through our collective dizzying myopia and incinerating politics. I will explain presently.

In 2010, LAUTECH was rated the best state university in Nigeria. It was also regarded as the eighth best in the country as well as Africa’s 76th best. The university’s medical programme was assessed as one of the best in Nigeria. Many of its faculties, especially the Faculty of Engineering, were rated quite highly. The university was a pride to the owner-states, the joy of its students and the glory of the host communities as students from all the corners of the country flocked to the university.

But its ascent to that enviable height marked the commencement of its descent into ignominy. As the university’s profile was rising, so was the rivalry between its owners. The genesis was the decision of Osun State to start its own university. That in itself is noble because a state cannot hold itself bound because of an alliance it has with another. If a state believes that its interest would be better served by embarking on a project, its partnership with another state in a similar project should not be a hindrance. But apparently this did not go down well with Oyo State government who made moves to appropriate LAUTECH to itself. Subsequently, Oyo State House of Assembly passed a motion of disengaging from the joint ownership with a view to assuming the sole ownership of the university.

Explaining the rationale behind this move in 2010, then commissioner for education in Oyo State, Professor Taoheed Adedoja, said Osun State government had been shirking its responsibilities to the university, especially with respect to capital projects.

His words, “The arrangement is such that Oyo State pays staff salaries from January to June while Osun pays from July to December. With this there is no problem; the arrangement is perfect. However, when it comes to the issue of capital projects, it is a different kettle of fish; Osun State does not cooperate at all, thus leaving the responsibility of developing the university to Oyo State.”

Of course, Osun State resisted the move by its co-owner to whimsically take over the jointly-owned university and this resulted in a paralysis of the institution. Since that time peace has been on vacation on its campuses. Going on strike has become the norm rather than the exception in the university. Owing staff salaries is a common occurrence as the two states engage in a blame game. These have had a telling effect on the university calendar. Medical students have been spending between 10 and 12 years for a six-year programme. This has cascaded down to other faculties. The once celebrated university and a leading institution in not just the country but on the continent has become a butt of jokes in the comity of tertiary institutions. It has moved from being among the best 10 in the country to one of the laggards. It has become the choice of admission seekers who are left with no choice. LAUTECH is a victim of adversarial politicking.

I went through all these to make a point. The visitation panel should not be perfunctory or casual in the discharge of its functions. The problem in the university is deep-rooted and unless the panel uproots all the issues and dissect them dispassionately, whatever its recommendations are would just be a placebo; something to allow for the passage of time so as to pass the burden of solving the problem to others. Going that route would be a disservice to the university and its students. The best thing is to tackle the problems once and for all so that the university would be able to contribute its quota to the nation’s human capital development.

If the panel is able to do this, all the members would have etched their names in gold in the hearts of citizens of the two owner-states as well as all lovers of education.