By Adewuyi Adegbite
The turn of events at the Bowen University, Iwo, where about 120 workers of the institution were sacked by the authority leaves much to be desired. The idea of Bowen University was conceived by the leadership of the Baptist Convention in the 60s due to limited spaces in the public universities and upsurge in the number of Baptist students in need of university education. The idea when sold to the Baptist churches was accepted and since the late 1960s, Baptist members in all churches have been contributing funds to the Baptist University Endowment Fund. As a matter of fact, I have the receipts of my grandfather as well as my father’s at home. The idea was not realized until 2002. The campus of the Baptist College, Iwo was converted to the university. Since then, it has been a success story for the university, the leadership of the Baptist Convention and the members alike.
However, an irony is that due to high cost of running a private university, majority of the children of members, dead or alive, who toiled to make the university a reality, could not send their wards to the institution. Nonetheless, many were relieved because many Baptist members are members of staff of the school both as academic and non-academic staffs. Till today, many churches are still contributing to Bowen University Endowment Fund including the sacked members and their families. This is why sacking of workers, majority of who are Baptist members by the authority and with the backing of the leadership of the Baptist Convention has been causing ripples among the Baptist members nationwide and unless the exercise is reverted, it can lead to crisis in our churches. It is heartwarming that unlike the 2018 sacking exercise, victims of the latest retrenchment have embarked on protest to sensitize the whole world about the evil being perpetrated at Bowen.
While termination of appointments by corporate organizations and the likes due to reorganization of what have you is a routine exercise and within the ambience of the law of the organizations in order to improve services among other reasons. However, the timing of the sacking of Bowen University workers is wrong. The action is inhuman, wicked and above all thoughtless. It is a common knowledge that the raging Covid-19 pandemic has laid prostrate economies of the nations of the world, corporate organizations and institutions have been adversely affected by the lockdown occasioned by the pandemic. As a result, many organizations and institutions have resorted to payment of half salary of workers to be able to remain afloat instead of laying-off workers. Fortunately, the authority of Bowen University did not include Covid-19 among the reasons why 120 workers were sacked on one fell swoop! As a matter of fact, the authority reiterated that Covid-19 did not affect the institution financially. This is realized from the press release of the institution dated June 24, 2020 and signed by the Head, Information Unit of the university, “… the University is not in any way distressed as salaries of staff members are paid as and when due even during the lockdown when other institutions or establishments could not do so”. Then, why has the authority of Bowen University embarked on sacking workers at this period of uncertainty worldwide?
It is evident that Ogunwole is out to mould the university after his own image. He is said to abhor opposition or dissent opinion save those of the leadership of the Baptist apex body. From the press release mentioned above, his ambition is understood. First is to rubbish the legacies of his predecessors ”…when the present administration of Professor Joshua Ogunwole came on board in August, 2018 the University was already at an inflection point which calls for urgent actions from key stakeholders”. This is nothing but an indictment of his predecessors, Okedera, Olagbenmiro and Ojo whose tenures witnessed the ranking of the university as one of the best private universities in Nigeria. The inflection point which Ogunwole said that the institution reached before his coming is defined by offline Advanced English Dictionary as “deviation from a straight or normal course”. This is more explained in his press release thus “it was discovered that public institution model run by the University may not be sustainable”. Consequently, he is embarking on “leverage on technology for more efficient service delivery”, which necessitated the sacking of workers that were responsible for the lofty heights the school has reached in less than two decades of its establishment. In remoulding the school after his image, which is elitist, Ogunwole is out to execute class cleansing agenda where the old workers many who are children of the downtrodden in the Baptist churches would be gotten rid off to be replaced by the children of the haves and influential members of the church. The sacking exercise of August 28, 2018 and the present exercise are the tip of the iceberg and the beginning of the process of becoming the lord of the Bowen University.
This is a reason why the protest embarked upon by the sacked workers is a welcome development. Docility of our people in the face of injustice is a contributory factor for the perpetuation of injustice in our land. Beside protest, they need to sensitize Baptist members nationwide about the turn of events at Bowen within two years of the coming of Ogunwole and the evil it portends for the church and the institution. They should take their case to leading Baptist members who have not been cowed and Baptist pastors who have not sold their minds to the devil. They must not rest on their oars until the illegal sacking is upturned and dictatorship stopped at Bowen.
By Adewuyi Adegbite