In 2018, on the campaign trail, Governor Seyi Makinde stated that he would resolve the ownership of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso. Many regarded his words as one of those bogus unachievable campaign promises which politicians make just to win votes. The LAUTECH crisis had been ongoing for about thirteen years.
However, a few months after assuming office on the 27th of November, 2019, Makinde set up the committee to negotiate the ‘divorce’ from Osun state. A staunch critic of the governor who probably thought the task was impossible to execute, promised to campaign for the governor’s re-election if he succeeded in securing sole ownership of LAUTECH.
About a year later, on Friday, the 20th of November, 2020, the National Universities Commission (NUC) announced the dissolution of the joint ownership of LAUTECH. According to the executive secretary of NUC, Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, the governors of both states had signed a memorandum of understanding a week earlier agreeing to the dissolution. The LAUTECH campus in Ogbomoso was ceded to Oyo State while the College of Health Sciences in Osogbo went Osun state.
The accolades began to pour in. As expected, the news generated a lot of positive comments, both online and offline by those directly impacted by the fate of the university and political watchers. For many, it was welcome news as the joint ownership of the university was negatively affecting the progress of the institution. Many applauded Governor Makinde for fulfilling another campaign promise.
Governor Makinde would later reveal that throughout negotiations, Oyo state had to put their money where their mouth is. He said that in 2020, the Oyo State Government had funded the university for the entire year. This is contrary to the usual norm of funding for the university where the Oyo State Government supports the university from January to June, while the Osun State Government handles the other half of the year. Makinde said his administration had done this to show both their commitment and capability to finance the university when they become the sole owner.
While Governor Makinde was deservedly applauded for the resolution of the LAUTECH ownership issue, there were mixed reactions towards the role played by Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State. In some quarters, he was ignored, some others felt he deserved praise for working with the Oyo State Governor. Another group criticised him for ‘losing’ LAUTECH. Yet Governor Oyetola deserves to be lauded for his cooperation which facilitated the resolution of the ownership crisis.
To be clear, it was the pragmatic thing to do, but Nigerian political leaders are not known for being practical. Osun State had struggled with the financial responsibilities of funding LAUTECH for years. The funding formula outlined above where they were responsible for funding the university for half of the year wasn’t feasible. For years, the government was behind on payments leading to disruption of the school’s calendar due to unpaid wages and subventions. In 2019, the Oyo State Government had to intervene to pay salaries in December.
Furthermore, unlike Oyo state, Osun state already has another state-owned university. With the crippling debt left by the previous administration of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the state was scarcely in a position to fund one state-owned university let alone two. So ceding ownership LAUTECH to Oyo state and keeping the College of Health Sciences in Osogbo which will become a part of Osun State University (UNIOSUN), was a step in the right direction.
As earlier stated, this ‘divorce’ had been in the works for years. It was kickstarted when Otunba Christopher Alao-Akala was governor of Oyo State, and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola was governor of Osun State. In fact, Alao-Akala built a teaching hospital in Ogbomoso in anticipation of this dissolution. The plan was that after the ceding, Oyo State would have a teaching hospital since the original LAUTECH Teaching Hospital was based in Osogbo, Osun State. Unfortunately, Oyinlola was ousted as governor by the appeal court. The process was never completed and his successor, Aregbesola made the misguided decision to continue to retain joint ownership of the university.
LAUTECH suffered its worst years during the eight-year tenures of former governors Rauf Aregbesola of Osun state and Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo state. In fact, the moniker, ‘Constituted Authority’ ascribed to Ajimobi was as a result of his statement to angry LAUTECH students who were protesting the shutdown of the university for years. It must be noted that the Chancellor of the University during that period was Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. All three of these people were in the same political party. Still, they supervised the deterioration of the standard of the university for nearly eight years.
It is therefore laughable that Tinubu is seeking accolades for the just concluded resolution when, in fact, he should be hiding in shame for his role in the crisis.
In conclusion, Governor Seyi Makinde deserves accolades for daring to believe the impossible could be achieved and going all out to achieve it. Governor Gboyega Oyetola deserves to be commended for putting the interest of his state and the university stakeholders first. Also, everyone who worked, on the Osun and Oyo state teams, and the NUC, deserves to be applauded for a job well done!
Here’s hoping both states honour the terms of the MOU and that LAUTECH can finally achieve its potential as a leading citadel of knowledge. Let us only give honour to whom it is due and not be found to be rewriting history to gratify some political actors.