BY: RAJI AYOOLA, Ibadan.
Oyo State Governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, on Wednesday inaugurated a 5-member Committee to work with a similar Committee from Osun State to deliberate on the ownership of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH).
He maintained that though Osun and Oyo states would continue to remain brothers in other areas, the Committee’s mandate is to resolve the perennial challenges facing the University due to ownership crisis, by securing a divorce.
A statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, quoted Governor Makinde as saying that the Oyo State Government was ready to shoulder the responsibility of sole ownership of the institution in order to ensure its smooth running in the interest of the over 30,000 students population, 1,200 workforce and the economy of Ogbomoso in particular and Oyo State in general.
The Committee, which was inaugurated by the Governor at the Executive Chamber of the Governor’s Office, Secretariat, Agodi, Ibadan, had as its chairman Professor Deji Omole of the University of Ibadan.
Other members include a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Oloye Jumoke Akinjide; Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN); Oyo State’s Commissioner for Education, Professor Dahud Shangodoyin and his counterpart in the Ministry of Justice, Professor Oyelowo Oyewo.
Speaking during the inauguration, the Governor said: “I was at LAUTECH yesterday to assess things in the institution with over 30,000 students and more than 1,200 staff members. There are hundreds of thousands of naira in daily income of dependent businesses. So, each time the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, shuts down due to non-payment of salaries or any other issues faces the institution, everyone suffers.
“This is because LAUTECH is not just a centre of academic activity in Ogbomosho, Oyo State. Most commercial activities in this town revolve around the institution, and since anything that affects the socio-economic dynamics of any setting of Oyo State affects us all, we must give these challenges due attention.
“It is for this reason that we are inaugurating this five-persons committee today. And why do we need a committee to take charge of the LAUTECH delegations? For some of us that read the Bible, you will recall a dispute and I’m sure there will be something similar in the Holy Quran as well. There was a dispute that took place between Abraham and Lot’s servant; they quarreled over a well. The patriarch and his nephew came up with a solution that worked for both of them, no doubt each had their grievances yet sought a workable solution. So, this solution involved parting of ways.
“You will also recall that while on the campaign trail, I made it clear that I have come across information that I believed may have misled the Supreme Court into co-joining Oyo State and Osun State as owners of LAUTECH. I have also always advocated that the issues affecting the institution will be better managed if only one of the two states is in charge of this school.
“It is obvious that this alliance is not working. In the last couple of years, epileptic strike action of lecturers has led to students spending more time in the university than they originally bargained for. More so, there is a strike ongoing right now which is going into the second week. I personally think that it is unfair to the students, the lecturers and the ancillary businesses domiciled in Ogbomosho that depend on the university.
“Well, to the members of this committee, your one job is to, in a manner of discipline, secure a divorce for us. We are ready and able to shoulder the responsibility of sole ownership of LAUTECH. In the Oyo State 2020 budget, we have already structured overhead and capital expenditure for the University. At a budgetary proposal of about N2.09 billion. We will fund any other additional expenditure which may arise from sole ownership with the supplementary budget if necessary.
“My dream is that LAUTECH becomes the University of Technology that people from across Africa and, indeed, the world aspire to attend. Tertiary education can become a revenue generator in Oyo State, but we cannot accomplish this in joint ownership. Let me say that we are not declaring war on Osun State or the State of Osun as the case may be. We do not begrudge them, just as in the story, Abraham and Lot held no grudges against one another after they separated. So, we shall continue to collaborate with the good people of Osun State on other matters but, on this, we have to put our interest and the interest of the economy of Oyo State first.
“Therefore, I urge you to put your heart into this work and bring us results in the shortest possible time. And to ensure that the work is done in a candid manner, we want to see what can be achieved in the initial four weeks. We have set a preliminary report in the four weeks and please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly.
“The Commissioner of Education, Science and Technology, Professor Daud Sangondoyin, is a member of this committee. So, I am sure he will be a nice bridge between the establishment here and the committee but I am also available day or night.
“If you need to reach out to any other member of this team, feel free. Whatever it is that you require, we will make it available. So, in the course of this work, I expect that our brothers in Osun State may reach out to you. I also believe several generations of Oyo State will be glad because you have been able to do this for them.”
Responding on behalf of the Committee, its chairman, Prof. Omole, appreciated the Governor for the opportunity offered them, promising that the Committee would take the assignment given to it with integrity and courage.
He added that the committee’s submissions will be based on facts and figure.
Omole said: “We know the job given to us looks very simple but it is difficult. I want to, on behalf of this committee, promise that we will discharge our responsibility with integrity and courage. Yes, it is the Governor of Oyo State who is inaugurating this committee but the job of this committee is not about Oyo State alone. The University itself is a universal entity. The Engineering course being taught in LAUTECH is the same Engineering that is being taught in Manchester University.
“We cannot afford to lower the standard. So, this job is a service to the nation and I promise that we will discharge it within the level of our activity, once again, with integrity and courage. “You can rest assured that by the time we will be making our submission, it will be based on facts and figures and verifiable data will be presented.
“I am not a lawyer but a scholar and I know the implication of having two fathers. Let me also correct an impression, I am here as Deji Omole because when you say Chairman of ASUU, people will begin to think that this assignment is given to ASUU. This assignment is given to Deji Omole. So, I promise to do my best.”