Govt owns LAUTECH. Why is relocation of its agric faculty in contention?
An unnamed disraught 200 level student of the faculty of agriculture Ladoke Aknitola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, Oyo state, had via a SMS message last week, wrote, “We beg you in the Name of God return us back to Ogbomoso, we are suffering here in Iseyin. Majority of our mates are not here. Prof Adewale is really threatening us, we were admitted to Study in Ogbomoso not Iseyin. Some of us are sleeping in unsafe classroom, this is abuse of fundamental human right.”
This is aftermath reporting at Iseyin, where a new facility for the faculty has been built, in abidance with the directive for the 200 level students to resume there for the second semester of the ongoing academic session.
The view expressed represents the general perception of most students according to findings. Thus, out of the 1, 533 students expected to have continued their academic pursuit in Iseyin, which is proposed to be the new home of the faculty, only about 20 percent has hearkened to the directive, meaning less than 300 students have reported, despite the “intimidation, coercive measures, threats, series of tests,” unleashed against both students and lecturers. The new campus has no doubt taken off on a wobbly note underscoring the unpopularity of the proposal.
No doubt, students of the faculty (from 100 to 500 levels) are against the move bearing it in mind that by next session when the present 200 level students would transit to 300 level the present 100 level students will resume there signifying a gradual phase out of the faculty from its original home where it has thrived for almost 34 years as a foundation faculty.
So also, parents and lecturers (though mute their opposition for obvious reasons), residents of Ogbomoso and ex-students are all fiercely resisting the move. This has culminated in a suit filed against the government by students and parents, praying for determination of the court on its appropriateness.
Meanwhile, the state government has remained unyielding dragging the matter with the students and parents who see themselves as being at the receiving end on the strength of its financial implications, comfort, convenience, and being tools of an “illegal” action. .
This ensuing ding-dong fight is confounding. So, what really is the situation? What is the bone of contention?
WHAT IS GOVERNMENT’S STAND?
The Oyo state governor Engr. Seyi Makinde unveiled his good intention to ensure spread of developments across the state, and one way he felt this can be achieved is through establishments of educational institutions. Hence, he moved to make LAUTECH a multi-campus university though it has gone almost thirty four years as a mono-campus institution. He therefore caused the edict establishing the institution to be amended so his fancy could be accommodated. He also succeeded in getting the approval of the National Universities Commission (NUC) in turning the university into a conventional one, after he got the Osun state government to pull out of the ownership structure. Consequently, a campus tagged faculty of agricultural sciences and renewable energy resources was built in Iseyin commissioned recently. A provost, Prof Jacob Olugbenga Adewale, was appointed way back in 2021, to facilitate the take off of the new faculty.
However, since the resistance arose the state governor has not uttered a word even after students sent representatives to appeal to him last month indicating everything is evolving the way he envisages it, moreover when the process is being overseen by the state’s commissioner for education Prof Waheed Adelabu and the acting vice chancellor Prof Olatunde Kalilu.
WHAT DO STUDENTS SAY?
The message in the opening paragraph gives insight into the thought most students. In addition, the students have seen Ogbomoso as their “comfort zone,” having willingly chosen the place for their studies. “We were admitted to Study in Ogbomoso not Iseyin.” “Our admission letters bore Ogbomoso and not Iseyin.” Those are some of their appeal slogans. They are offended that the relocation would put them under acute financial stress, will expose them to danger, make them live in squalor and so on. They claim there are acute shortage of accommodation in Iseyin that it is a town not prepared for such large number of students and academic and non-academic staffs.
“If the less than 300 students who had reported could not secure accommodation and so are sleeping in classrooms in a bush how will 1,533 students live comfortably?” A student asks Ogbomoso Insight.
Another student, Kayode Adefila, says, “I went to Iseyin but what I discovered is not favourable. The school is far from the town, it is in the outskirt. The Iseyin community is not prepared for the institution. There is no accommodation even in the town centre. The facilities at the campus are obviously inadequate, no laboratory, no experimental farms, nothing.”
Another declares, “Many of us are even considering withdrawing from the school. We cannot cope with the harsh reality of relocating to Iseyin.They have not put us into consideration.There is also the problem of insecurity. It is an open secret that Iseyin and all Oke-Ogun zone are in the grips of kidnappers, why expose us to such danger? Many have said they will rather withdraw and write UTME again and choose other universities.”
WHAT DO PARENTS SAY?
Alhaji Kamoru, a parent, points out, “I paid for my child’s accommodation three months ago, I paid a rent of N100, 000 for a year. Now, I had gone to Iseyin to find out the situation of things, what we came back with is perplexing. Accommodation at Iseyin we discovered ranged from between N120, 000 and N180, 000. And these are mostly mud houses very far from the campus thus students will spend a fortune daily to get to school. Where is the money in the face of the current economic hardship!”
Kamoru further laments, “Aside that, many landlords want to take the rent to complete their building promising if we pay they will quickly complete the housing project. So, they want to take money from us and start looking for way to complete the building. During that time where will the students live? This arrangement of moving students to Iseyin cannot work. It is ill-thought. In Ogbomoso, many students squat and siblings live together thereby cutting costs. It cannot just work, the governor should have a rethink.”
Mr. Adekambi Kehinde, also a parent fumes, “Iseyin cannot accommodate such number of students, 1, 533 students. Even LAUTECH when it started had only about 430 students. It is archaic to move students from one place to another in that manner when there are several alternatives. We learnt the original plan was to start new programmes at the Iseyin campus.
“Programmes like forestry, aquaculture, renewable natural resources and so on are not presently available in the faculty of agriculture in Ogbomoso and so new students should have been admitted as pioneers for these new courses and new lecturers employed or any of the present lecturers willing to go there be allowed to go there. Or let them begin an institute of agricultural research and training or livestock research there.
“Why are some people bent on disrupting the smooth running of the faculty? We heard it is the provost, Prof Adewale and a few people who are behind this plan for selfish interests. We heard he wants to be vice chancellor of LAUTECH and he has been promised by some interests who want to shortchange Ogbomoso that he will be given the exalted post if he succeeds in bringing the faculty to Iseyin. That is preposterous.
“Why make young children pawns in his game of chess! Go and find out, 99 percent of the lecturers and non-academic staff are against the move.”
WHAT DO LECTURERS SAY?
A don in the faculty speaking anonymously says, “Two weeks have passed now, wasted, without students being taught because they have refused to go to Iseyin. If lecturers, students and parents cannot be convinced or cajoled to move to Iseyin then something fundamentally is wrong with the implementation.
“How will lecturers go there when there is no accommodation? Many of us teach 200 level students and other levels, so, how convenient will it be for us to teach at two campuses 76kms apart? It is like frittering away resources, and endangering us through constant travelings and being exposed to risk of kidnapping. We have investments here, I mean farming, experimental farms, we have built houses in Ogbomoso, and so, a lot of things will be adversely affected. It is ill-conceived.
“For goodness sake the plan should be aborted. They should allow new programmes to commence at Iseyin and facilities both within and without the campus will grow gradually, at commensurate pace. New lecturers will be recruited there.”
Other lecturers similarly note the plan is ill-advised. They say many facilities, equipment and research farms from partners, nationally and internationally, will suffer one way of the other, stressing, “It is like starting all over again what was built in over 33 years. So, they are saying all those buildings, structures, experimental facilities including those donated like the Ghana House donated by an Ogbomoso indigene in Ghana, Luther King, all built to suit the peculiarities of the faculty of agriculture will be abandoned or more resources committed to adapt them for new use?”
Furthermore they note, “There is an outstation of the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN) facilitated also by an Ogbomoso son, Professor Adeshola Adepoju, immediate past director general of FRIN, meant to benefit students of the faculty, that will also lose one of its purposes. This proposal is fraught with humongous disadvantages greater than the envisaged benefits.
“Why don’t new programmes start there? The proposed new faculties why are they not established there starting from 100 level? Why must it be an existing thriving faculty that will be harmed? There is more than meet the eye! It is as if the insinuation that some people are out to deal with Ogbomoso is true.”
WHAT DO THE OGBOMOSO PEOPLE SAY?
The claims of the students, lecturers and parents crystallize into the views of the people of the university’s host community. In their opinion it is an assault on them, a plot to devalue their community.
“It is an unwarranted assault on Ogbomoso,” a resident, Adekunle Afonja, notes in a telephone call with ogbomosoinsightonline.com. “This is a university that has survived thirty-three years as a mono-entity spanning both military and civilian governments.
“Yes, it is commendable if it becomes a conventional university and the governor has done a yeoman’s job getting Osun state to drop out of the joint ownership thing but it is a step forward and three backwards now from our own perspective.
“It is said new faculties will be started such as law, humanities and so on, wouldn’t it better if such are taken to Iseyin or any other mini-campus instead of tearing off a vibrant faculty that is one of those that make the university sustainable and help the Ogbomoso economy?”
Sola Adeseun also states, “As a patriotic Ogbomoso person I cannot support such thing. It is against our collective interest. We do not own the university alone, true, but it got sited in our land after a strenuous competition. And our people have nurtured it for years. The faculty has about 15, 000 students and staff and you want us to clap for whoever is scheming to take those out of our enclave!
“That will definitely engender a serious toll on our economy; artisans, transporters, estate developers, house owners, market operators and so on will be affected. That will be loss of millions in naira from our economy on daily basis. That is not what we deserve. That is robbing us of our efforts in contributing to making the university what it is. Our sons and daughters sweated in making the university and the faculty of agriculture what they are, with donations of various facilities. Someone is now saying he is moving the faculty. And you want us to clap.
“We are not against Iseyin having its development, not at all, we are all equally partners in Oyo state. But Iseyin should not be made to rob another community of its heritage. Every community has one heritage or the other from the common wealth, Ogbomoso has LAUTECH. Iseyin has its own too and as it also needs an institution of higher learning give it its own, and not take from what the great forefathers gave us.
“If, let us say, it is a new faculty like law that is being taken there we have no justification to have contrary opinion, or new agricultural courses are started in Iseyin or an agricultural institute is established with affiliation to LAUTECH, it would have been widely applauded..But what is being done assaults our sensibility.If it were to be the other way round I am sure Iseyin wouldn’t take such too.In fact, no community in the world will take kindly to that except mega cities. I am not even sure of that, why will Ibadan with its many institutions and institutes still corner the Oyo state Technical University and not allow it to be sited elsewhere?
“The greater danger is that if an existing faculty is severed now, it will open door for more in the future, 5, 10 years’ time, another governor will succumb, on the altar of political patronage, to pressure to take another faculty to another community and because it succeeds the first time it will succeed again and there will be no end to it. Is it then that all the (passive) leaders and indigenes of Ogbomoso will start to cry wolf or will they continue to play ‘Big Brother Pacesetter?’”
He now advises, “We should be wary of a bad precedence. That someone is governor does not confer infallibility on him or her. It is the duty of the citizens to talk when they feel something is not right. But in Nigeria we perceive governors as people whose views and decisions cannot be controverted. For what? They are nor god for goodness sake. I am sure if our leaders have sought out the governor and have heart to heart discussion with him he would have listened but they are sold out to the dummy that they will bring other things to cover their we-don;t-care attitude.”
Professor Timothy Olagbemiro probably the longest serving vice chancellor in Nigeria having served two terms each, at Bowen University, Iwo, Osun state and Edwin Clark University, Kaigbodo, Delta state, submits, “It’s not ideal. If you need a university create a new one, you have the money, resources to do it, create a new one. Why will the students have to be bundled to a place where they never chose to come; they came to LAUTECH in Ogbomoso, now you want to take them there because they are in that faculty. How do you take them to another enclave? “This is not fair, a student coming here to Ogbomoso for his university education, you now ask him to go to another place, how is that fair?”
He additionally offers a piece of advice, “The government should be sensitive to the people. These are your citizens. Don’t say because you have the power in your hand you can move the school there or do whatever you like, no, no, no. Give them a choice, do you love to go to that place? Be guided by what the majority says.”
Many Ogbomoso people might not voice out but they have a lot of misgivings towards the move and its proponents and especially against their community leaders who many see as “compromisers and collaborators for fear and for selfish reasons.”
Professor Lagbemiro airs his opinion on the silence of the Ogbomoso leaders, “They are politicians, they will not say the truth. That is the problem of Nigeria. People should forget what will happen and speak the truth. Be honest.”
WHAT AN ANALYST SAYS
A commentator, Benjamin Ogundele observes, “It is all a joke, the move will fall through. Whatever is conceived in dishonesty will definitely fail. Isn’t it obvious it is jinxed already? A major proponent and supporter of the plan in Ogbomoso, a member of the ruling party in the state (name withheld) shortly after sabotaging a planned peaceful protest in May lost face and lost out in his party as he faced mockery. Then, remember the commissioning ceremony of the Iseyin facility, what happened, Obas in the state were put to ridicule by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.”
Ogundele adds, “What’s more, the first set of students that received lecture at Iseyin were rented to give the impression that activities have commenced there. Then query letters are being issued to lecturers who innocently tell the world the true situation of things via video footage. So, why have students refused and teachers refused to move there in happiness? It is all because it is conceived in conspiracy and built on lies.
“Do you think such will stand? History tells us pioneers are always happy about the role history thrusts on them but why are these set of pioneers in depression? It would have been a different story of fulfillment and not of sabotage if a new faculty or new agricultural departments are the ones being set up with new 100 level students with manageable number. LAUTECH started with about five faculties at inception with some 430 pioneer students. But you want to start this with over 1, 500 students without adequate facilities, it is reckless, it is heartless.
“The Federal Polytechnic, Ayede, this year admitted a little over 200 students as pioneers, it is always like that and you would see joy written all over everyone. But this time around it is sadness and sorrow exuding from staff, students and parents and from a large chunk of the Oyo state populace represented by Ogbomoso people. This is the first time I will see a newly established citadel taking off on a sour, disputed note. Why will students for that matter drag the state governor and other stakeholders to court if they don’t feel their sensibility is under attack? The governor should make the final stand that will stand him on the good side of history. This charade should be aborted.”