Kemi Olaitan writes on steps by the administration of Governor Seyi Makinde to change the narrative about the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, bedevilled by multiple crises
In the recent past, the Ladoke Akintpola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso was always in the news no thanks to the various crises bedeviling the institution, established in 1990 under the administration of late Colonel Sasaeniyan Oresanya as military Governor of old Oyo State.
Indeed the institution was encountering among others set back on matters relating to its ownership with successive governments in Oyo and Osun (created out of the former in 1991) States, at each other’s neck over issues of the university’s leadership, staff salaries and location of new campuses, among other matters.
The instability in the school which affected its academic calendar and made students to be at home for period ranging between six months and one year at a time got the attention of the regulatory body of universities in the country, the National Universities Commission (NUC), with the Executive Secretary, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, during a visit to the institution, pledging to assist in bringing it back on track.
The crisis may have become a thing of the past given the commitment by Governor Seyi Makinde to turn around the fortune of the 30-year-old institution. The first step he took towards salvaging the school from collapse was the termination of its joint ownership between the Oyo and Osun State governments.
The governor while speaking on the development in Ibadan, the state capital, said the state now has the opportunity to restore the lost glory of the university, maintaining that the real work to reposition the university and take it back to the glorious days when it was adjudged the best state-run university has now begun.
Makinde stated that with the amicable ending of the joint ownership, a situation that has bogged down the university for years, he was ready to reposition the institution in line with his campaign promise. He added that Oyo State under his watch will readily reposition the school for excellence, noting that his administration’s drive to industrialise the state will get the much needed boost with an effectively run technology university like LAUTECH.
“So, we give God all the glory. Now, the real work starts because we have to ensure that the university is properly funded so that it will be contributing to the economy of Ogbomoso in particular and Oyo State in general. If we are saying we want to industrialise the state and we have a university of technology adding value in Ogbomoso, the industrialisation effort can proceed very quickly,” the governor said.
He maintained that a lot of people had been reading wrong meaning into the dissolution of the joint ownership of LAUTECH, describing it as being against the spirit of regional cooperation. He however said the decision by Oyo and Osun States to have a divorce over LAUTECH ownership would pay off in the long run. “To the naysayers, they should look for other things that will divide us. Politics has not divided us. Party affiliations did not do that. LAUTECH did not do it. And we will continue to cooperate for the progress and prosperity of both states, our zone and our country.”
The governor further maintained that the state is ready to fully shoulder the financial responsibilities of LAUTECH, as it has been doing since the beginning of 2020, disclosing that the state government has appropriated enough funds to the institution in the 2021 budget and will continue to discharge its responsibilities on the institution.
“The arrangement that we met when we came in May 2019, was that Oyo State usually will fund the University from January to June and then Osun State will fund it from July to December. We had to intervene a couple of times last year and between May and December, we had to intervene to get the university running. I already indicated that we wanted to take it over and because of that, Osun felt why should they be putting their money and negotiation was still on? So, for 2020, Oyo State has been funding LAUTECH alone. After our January to June, from July, we have been funding LAUTECH alone basically and we appropriated enough money in the 2021 budget to continue doing that. So, we anticipated that we were going to get to this position and we are putting our money where our mouth is.
“Well, the only victor now are the students and the stakeholders of the university because they can now get a stable university environment that is conducive for learning and research. So, they can go ahead and do it but between Governor Isiaka Oyetola and I, there is no victor, no vanquished. We just want our children to be able to go to school and also contribute their own quota to the development of the state and our country. It is a win-win for everybody; for the students, lecturers and stakeholders. Now, the major issue has been removed. So, they do not have any reason not to excel anymore.
“I will also use this opportunity to thank my brother, Governor of Osun State, for his cooperation and for being a statesman. When we were campaigning, I remember that my opponent then said that higher education should not be something you won’t pay for and that it should be commercialised. It was a major point of disagreement between us then and we maintained and we are still of the view to date – that higher education should be affordable. So when we came in on May 29, 2019, we found out that LAUTECH students, instead of spending four or five years for a programme, they had spent almost double of that and it was not the students’ fault but because of some people who benefit from a bad system. I appealed to Oyetola and told him that we need to resolve this problem. Let us keep our egos aside. University is from the name universal; I told him that we need to let the institution live up to its name. He saw reasons with me and we were able to come together and resolve it,” he said.
Makinde took the repositioning of the university further with the inauguration of its governing council, charging the members to provide leadership that will take the institution to the acme of excellence in the world.
The governor in his remarks while inaugurating the council members, urged them to, within a short while, ensure that the institution is ranked among the top 10 universities in the world, imploring them also to oversee and ensure accountability on the part of the institution’s direct administrators.
He also called on the members, headed by Prof. Deji Omole, to see their positions as a call to duty and service, adding that “this is not a job one gets and goes to sleep.” Makinde insisted that the mandate given to the council was to take necessary and strategic measures that will make LAUTECH one of the 10 top universities in the world and the first in Africa.
On the specific mandate being given to the new council, he said, “we want you to take the necessary measures and pursue vigorously all strategies and tactics that will make LAUTECH a world-class university. That is the mandate.
What you are getting is an opportunity to shape this school for future generations. We no longer have the excuse to say one state or the other is holding back the school’s progress. So, I encourage you to get the job done and I am sure you will get it done.”
The governor explained that though the governing council is almost invisible, its impact is always felt in the direction the school is headed, stating that the appointment of the council members is a call to service and duty that must be heeded with every sense of responsibility.
According to him, “the role of the Governing Council is almost invisible, still its impact is undoubtedly felt in the direction that the school is headed. Its position is very strategic and one of the core duties of members is overseeing and ensuring accountability on the part of the school’s direct administrators. It is definitely not a position that one takes up and goes to sleep. It is a special call to duty and service. If we are looking at the calibre of people on this board, I am convinced that you are up to the task.
“It was not a mistake that two of the members today – Professor Ayodeji Omole and Mr. Adeosun Idowu – were both the Chairman and Secretary of the Oyo State Negotiation Team on the Sole Ownership of LAUTECH, which assisted the Oyo State Government to get LAUTECH back. I gave the initial committee a mandate to go out there and get a divorce. When I gave the assignment, I knew it was going to be tough, especially where there is no halfway point for them, but they came back and delivered 100 per cent on that mandate. So, I am giving you another mandate today and I am sure you will still deliver 100 per cent.”
Makinde further assured the council of the continuous support of his government, noting that the state government is ready to work hard to help it deliver its mandate of turning the institution into a centre of excellence.
“Be assured of the continuous support of the government in this regard. Let it be that the next news we will hear in the future is that because of the work you did, LAUTECH has broken into the list of top 10 universities in the world. I challenge you to key into this vision. We are not talking about the top 10 universities in Nigeria, but in the world. You should already know that we want you to take us from the 13th position to the first position. I know it is a big task but that is why your mandate is to mould and make LAUTECH into a world-class institution.
“I want to assure you that the Oyo State Government is ready to work with you to make that happen. Well, in the case of LAUTECH, as we inaugurate this governing council, we can rightly say that the first phase of acquiring this school and setting things up for success has ended in praise. The next phase of rebuilding, which is what this governing council is supposed to do, is a surgical operation. And I know that the next phase will also end in praise.”
The Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council, Prof. Omole said the governor has promised to give the institution all the necessary support to transform and rebuild the university, stating that the committee knew the challenges ahead of it, especially that of a crop of staff that are not motivated; with an assurance that the council will face the job squarely. He explained that the institution has a lot of potential but that, unfortunately, somewhere along the line, there was a crisis and the university could no longer focus on its core mandate.
“I am sure that you have heard that the governor has promised to give the institution all the necessary support to transform and rebuild the university. We know there are a lot of challenges, especially some crops of staff that are not motivated. You cannot owe somebody eight-10 months salary and expect such a person to put in the best.
So, we know we are going to have a lot of challenges but we will overcome them and the university will be put on a proper footing to face the challenges of development desired of a university that is really worthy of its name.
“On the first position that the governor wants us to move the university to, there is nothing impossible. The staff in LAUTECH don’t have inferior brains to those people in the first 10 universities in the world. Our staff have competed favourably with those scholars and we know that with adequate motivation, incentive and good working environment, all those things can be achieved.”
Other members of the governing council include Mr. Adeosun Olukunle Idowu, Secretary; Hon. Adekunle Bankole; Prof. Lanre Olaniyan; and Mrs. Titilayomi Ahmadu.