TheNigerianVoice Online Radio Center

LAUTECH: A MARRIAGE GONE SOUR

By NBF News



Gov. Akala & Gov. Oyinlola

The once peaceful atmosphere of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) has given way to chaos. No thanks to the ownership crisis rocking the 20-years old institution. Jointly owned by the governments of Oyo and Osun states, LAUTECH was adjudged the best state university in Nigeria for two consecutive seasons in 2003 and 2004 by the National Universities Commission (NUC).

Boldly embossed on its website as its vision is: 'To work towards the social, cultural and technological needs of the funding states, i.e Osun and Oyo in particular and Nigeria in general'.

But today, the university is now enmeshed in a survival battle. Rather than work towards the technology emancipation of its funding states, LAUTECH today serves as a source of worry and concern to its workers, source of disappointment to its over 20, 000 students and a big headache to its two owners.

Although, Oyo State Government might lay claim to the fact that it made its intention to take sole ownership of the institution known last year, pointers to the present travails of the institution, however, emanated during the 11 months stint of Alao-Akala as governor of Oyo State in 2006.

In the state budget for that year, the governor had voted a whopping N10 billion for a new teaching hospital for LAUTECH, which was to be sited at Ogbomoso. This action negated the Act that set up LAUTECH as its teaching hospital and College of Medicine were located at Osogbo, capital of Osun State.

But the genesis of the present crisis emanated last year, when Alao-Akala wrote his Osun State counterpart, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, informing him of the decision of his government to disengage from the joint ownership of the university to take sole ownership.

Oyo government's decision, it would be recalled, was a follow-up to a resolution by the state House of Assembly, which claimed to be acting in response to the wishes of Oyo State people

But the position was opposed by the Osun State government through a resolution passed by the lawmakers. With the impasse created, the two states agreed to inaugurate a committee to look into the continued joint ownership of the institution as well as its future.

The decision was reached at a meeting, held at Ogbomoso in February 2010, by Prince Oyinlola and Otunba Alao-Akala. It was agreed that the committee be co-chaired by the secretaries to the government of the two states.

The committee held its inaugural meeting in Ibadan on February 19, while another meeting held April 22 at Osogbo. But the matter got out of hand when on April 26, the Chairman, Governing Council of the institution, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), wrote the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Benjamin Adeleke to proceed on compulsory leave, preparatory to the end of his tenure.

Ayorinde was said to have based his action on the directive from the Visitor to the university, which was the Oyo State governor. But the action jolted Osun State as the rationale for the letter was unclear to it. Apart from the fact that Adeleke's tenure expires October 31, the Osun State government felt slighted that it was not carried along before the decision was taken by its partner in the joint venture.

However, the subsequent appointment of Prof. Moshood Olarenwaju Naseer as the Acting Vice-Chancellor further confirmed the moves by Oyo government to take over the institution. The ousted VC hails from Osun State while Naseer is a from Oyo State.

The appointment was seen, not only as a big blow, but as a violation of the Edict that set up the university. Osun State government claimed it was not carried along nor consulted before the appointment was made.

Naseer's appointment consequently served as the last straw that broke the camel's back in the bid to resolve the lingering ownership crisis. Further relationship between the two states became a cat and mouse affair.

A Governing Council meeting called Friday, June 18 ended abruptly as Osun State delegates to the meeting walked out to protest the presence of the Acting VC at the meeting. All entreaties to make them stay failed.

To further stress its displeasure with the appointment of Naseer, Osun State government took a legal action to stop the Acting VC from parading himself as head of the institution.

With the resolution and subsequent endorsement by the State Executive Council, Gov Alao-Akala thereafter ordered natives of Oyo State working at the Ladoke Akintola University Teaching Hospital and the institution's College of Health Sciences in Osogbo to report at Ogbomoso on June 30, 2010.

The governor's directive, which was adhered to by the workers, eventually sent panic and confusion into the teaching hospital while the graduating medical students were ordered to embark on six weeks break to allow the school authorities address the development.

The decision of Oyo State government to withdraw its workers from Osogbo actually demonstrated the magnitude of the problem on hand. The final year medical students, who only had 25 days to the commencement of their final examinations, cried foul insisting that the decision will definitely affect them.

The hapless students, who said they had overstayed their time in the institution, having spent over 10 years for six years courses, appealed to all the stakeholders to sheath their swords and resolve the impasse for the sake of humanity.

Their parents and alumni of the institution also appealed to reason from the two warring elephants. The parents of the medical students appealed to well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the feuding states for the sake of their children.

Briefing newsmen in Osogbo, class representatives of the medical students, Messrs Paul Akano and Adetunji Tajudeen, lamented that their set had wasted enough time to be bogged down again by the ownership crisis rocking the institution. The duo stated that their set has spent over 10 years so far for the medical programme, which ordinarily should take six years.

'The present final year students have spent not less than 10 years in the medical school instead of the normal six years. This set has been victimized by various activities that have slowed down our academic activities. This set of students has just 25 days to their final examination and completion of their programme. Now, this problem is coming up again.

'We appeal to all concerned people; Oyo and Osun States governors and every stakeholder in the institution. We want them to give us protection; we want them to, please for God's sake and for the sake of our parents to look critically at this issue. We have suffered enough as medical students and that is why we are making this strong appeal', they stated.

In a petition written to the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan on the LAUTECH crisis, former President, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Mr. Oludare Ogunlana, urged the president to 'intervene on this issue and put an end to this madness once and for all'.

In the petition, copy of which was made available to Daily Sun in Osogbo on Tuesday, Ogunlana stated that Gov. Alao-Akala lacked moral justification to solely pull out of LAUTECH when he could not pay teachers' salary in his state.

In his reaction, Director of Research and Strategy of the Osun State chapter of the Action Congress (AC), Mr. Sunday Akere, called on the warring governments to ensure that 'the legacy of our fathers remains protected'.

Akere advised the governors to resolve the issues involved especially since they come from the same party, he advised them to employ chieftains of their party to mediate in the matter in the interest of the students.

Speaking on the matter in his monthly open forum programme for July, Oyinlola blamed his Oyo State counterpart for the impasse that has become the lot of LAUTECH.

According to him, the ownership of LAUTECH goes beyond the two personalities as governors of the funding states.

'It is not anything about Oyinlola or Alao-Akala; it is about joint inheritance of the two states. And in this time and age, one expects that we should do things in line with rule of law. That is my belief.

'But one thing I want to say is that nobody will be allowed to appropriate what belongs to Osun State without being challenged or be it legally or carry along with every sense of civilization. This is the position of Osun State government', he added, vowing to pursue the matter to a logical conclusion.

Upon the disruption of his programme by the protesting students, Oyinlola told the students that they should go to Alao-Akala to lodge their grievances, saying he was educated enough to know their plight.

The students were not done with the verbal assault heaped on them by Oyinlola as they proceeded to Oyo to register their grouse. At Oyo, Alao-Akala assured the students that their studies would not be affected as he would make provisions for the prompt conduct of their final examination.

Also reacting to ugly scenario, a body of consultants of the teaching hospital called for caution in the lingering crisis.

In a statement signed by Dr. Benjamin Eegunranti and Dr. Ademola Aremu, Chairman and Secretary, Medical and Dental Consultants' Association of Nigeria (CDCAN) LAUTECHTH branch respectively the consultants stated that if caution was not exercised, the crisis may cause the university the accreditation of both its undergraduate and postgraduate training.

On the fate of its final year medical students, the consultants expressed fears that the accreditation procedures may prevent them from graduating in the next two years.

'At the moment, the crisis had truncated the academic activities of the medical school as well as the clinical services in the Teaching Hospital. The final year medical students, who were admitted for a six-year course and now have spent an average of 10 years in the programme, were expected to start their final examination in couples of days. But now, they have had their programme disrupted by this crisis.

'Furthermore, other medical students in clinical years, students in Nursing, Medical Laboratory Technology will also be adversely affected. If this crisis continues without urgent intervention, both the university and Teaching Hospital will forfeit their accreditation of both undergraduate and postgraduate training', the consultants' It stated.

Subsequent events added flame to the already tensed atmosphere rather than dousing the heat. The Osun State government headed for the Supreme Court for adjudication in the matter while at the same time urging the Oyo State government to set up its own state university . On the part of Oyo State government, it insisted it was the sole ownership of LAUTECH or nothing, arguing that Osun has created its own university.

Daily Sun gathered that with public attention attracted by the crisis, former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, decided to wade into the matter and find an amicable resolution to it.

But few days to appointed date for a meeting with the former president and Chairman, Board of Trustees (BOT) of PDP, Oyo State was said to have ordered the withdrawal of official vehicles of Osun natives, who are principal officers of the institution at Ogbomoso campus of the university.

The development, it was learnt, forced the Osun State governor to call Obasanjo and told him of the need to cancel the planned meeting.

Since then, the crisis continued to deepen daily. In the last two weeks, it has been one issue to the other.

On July 23, Osun government had come out to say it was informed by the authorities of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) that a post-UTME examination fixed for July 24 by the institution, should be cancelled pending the resolution of the crisis at hand.

Although, the university authorities went ahead to conduct the examination, Daily sun gathered that it had a poor turn-out by the prospective students of the institution.

Three days later, precisely July 26, Governor Oyinlola announced the dissolution of the governing board and the appointment of the incumbent Deputy vice-Chancellor, Professor J.O. Ojediran, a native of Oyo State as the Acting Vice-Chancellor.

Oyinlola hinged his action on the exercise of his powers as the Visitor to the university with effect from July 1, claiming that Alao-Akala's Vistorship ended on June 30.

But in a swift reaction, Oyo State governor, through his Media Adviser, Prince Dotun Oyelade said the tenureship of the university visitor was on yearly basis and not on six-month basis as claimed by Oyinlola.

The confusion generated by Oyinlola's action had not abated when the academic staff of the institution announced an indefinite strike over their agitation for the payment of new salary structure by the university management.

A week earlier, the non-academic staff had also embarked on industrial action for the same purpose.

It was in the thick of this plethora of crisis that university management directed the students to embark on two weeks semester break for them to address issues at stake.

The crisis took a new twist on Wednesday as the VC appointed by Oyinlola, Prof. Oyediran, rejected the offer. In a letter to the governor, Oyediran thanked the governor for considering him worthy of the appointment. He said he rejected it for personal reasons even as he said the process appeared irregular.

The NUC has threatened to withdraw its licence if the crisis is not resolved within the next two weeks. Executive Secretary of the Commission, Prof. Julius Okogie handed down the warning in Abuja on Wednesday. Last Friday, the two governors met to resolve the crisis. A statement by Prince Oyelade, Special Adviser to Governor Alao-Akala on Public Communications said, 'The crisis between Oyo and Osun States over ownership of LAUTECH has been amicably resolved.'

Speaking with newsmen after the 30 minutes meeting, Governor Alao-Akala in company of Governor Oyinlola said that negative media pronouncements by the two States have ceased while the status quo at the university remains.