With the passing into law of the bill seeking to affirm the sole management of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, by the Oyo State government with provision for multi-campus design, by the Oyo State House of Assembly during its plenary on Monday. December 21, 2020, the process for the balkanization of the once best state university in Nigeria is sealed. Despite intense protestations from Ogbomoso, the host community, the Engineer Seyi Makinde-led administration dispatched the process to amend the law of the university with uncommon alacrity. However, the nature of the multi-campus system proposed for the school is not well-defined thus it is wrapped in ambiguity. An institution can be multi-campus in many senses – what form will LAUTECH’s multi-campus proposal take? Will it be a microcosm of the main campus with faculties, colleges and departments existing in the main campus replicated in branch campuses or will faculties already on ground in the main campus be torn off and be relocated to other areas? Or is it encapsulated in the idea of founding entirely new faculties and colleges in new locations? Or perhaps is it a move towards conventional status with additional faculties started in branch campuses? Some of the grounds for satellite campuses’ initiative are to spur economic activity in new locations, to beat lack of space in the main campus and encourage university enrolment. The format the one proposed for Oyo isn’t yet unveiled giving room for wild guesses and anxiety in the host community. This coming in the wake of disengagement of Osun state from the ownership structure of the institution with its accompanied rapturous feelings was appalling to majority of the people in Ogbomoso, who took the lead in the struggle to extricate Osun state.
The fear and opposition from Ogbomoso is understandable. The incalculable damage that it will cost the economy of Ogbomoso if existing faculties are to be moved out can better be imagined. One of the faculties being touted for relocation is Faculty of Agriculture, a development that will engender taking away of about 10,000 people from Ogbomoso, which has played a good host for 30 years and has availed itself of the several opportunities inherent in it. The corollary of that will even be beyond human population. But more importantly, the instability and the distraction the policy will provoke in the running of the institution will be enormous and detract from administrative effectiveness. This was the experience at the turn of this century when NUC directed universities to shut down satellite campuses when it became obvious that the motivation for them was profit. The policy is fraught with many other problems such as destabilizing families of lecturers/management staff who will have to relocate to the branch campuses or constantly having to shuttle between the main and branch campuses leading to inefficiency in the discharge of their primary duty of teaching and research. Poor management, corruption, exploitation, power tussle and whatnots are other problems associated with the system. What’s more, the price in cost will be humongous which Oyo state can least afford. When we juxtapose this with the almost N200b loan alleged to have been taken by the Makinde-led administration in less than 20 months of being in the saddle then committing such resources to building structures already on ground at the main campus in other locations is ill-advised.
In truth, the cost cannot justify the anticipated gains unless new faculties are established in new locations particularly if the university can migrate to a conventional status. These are what the government should weigh properly before proceeding with the plan as well as crucially considering the cost it will impose on Ogbomoso that is disadvantaged economically, educationally and what have you. Ogbomoso has not enjoyed much government presence and that explains partly why emotion runs high over the matter when it broke. The governor should resist the temptation to embark on policies that can be injurious to the health of Ogbomoso. Ogbomoso Descendants Development Association (ODDA) describes the proposal as a calculated “onslaught” against the city. Makinde enjoys high rating as a performing governor and is daily endearing himself to the people in view of his laudable achievements. But an idea that is inimical to the progress of the city may later haunt him even as people are starting to list a litany of inauspicious actions against the town by his administration. He removed a cabinet member of Ogbomoso origin, Professor Raphael Afonja, who was his Commissioner for Works, and replaced him with someone from Oke-Ogun zone. 20 months into his administration no (physical) project has been completely executed in Ogbomoso, the only one being done is the 3km road between Oke-Ado Akintola and LAUTECH Under-G. Thus, rather than adding value to the community he could be accused of seeking to devalue it.
Ogbomoso has paid its dues in the evolution of the state with quality human resources and other accomplishments at the national level and should be rewarded and not be treated with disdain just as it should be realized that she is too resourceful to be toyed with by anyone no matter how highly placed the person is. Government position is ephemeral. Life itself is short lived, what is of value is what we do with the opportunity thrust to us as this will rankle till eternity.