by Okike Samuel
After a long Thursday filled with uncertainty of what was going on in LAUTECH, the students had retired to their hostels holding onto a glimmer of hope that whatever storm was developing would soon be resolved. Examination season was just weeks away, yet, everyone could sense a tension in air, signs of a storm approaching.
Unfortunately, all hopes were dashed when at exactly 9:45 PM an email came in from the Registrar, J. A. Agboola, informing the entire institution of an impromptu semester break that would take effect the following Monday, June 13, 2016.
A semester break without a semester examination, shocking but not unheard of in this university.
It has now been, officially, 162 days since Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, shut its gates to all academic activities. With hardly any student, motorcyclist or street traders in sight, the once lively campus can now be aptly described as ‘desolate’
What brought about this drastic decision?
Non-payment of five months salaries and 23-months subvention owed to Lautech by the two owner-state governments, Oyo and Osun.
According to Daily Trust, Osun State government reportedly owed about 15 months while Oyo state owed 8 months.
The Lecturers had threatened to strike on several occasions but were pacified by the school management. However, this time they meant business.
They reportedly refused to submit examination questions to the examination committee until their requests were met and their money paid, forcing the management to end to semester abruptly.
Whether they knew it or not, this singular act was going to spark a chain of events as we have now seen.
The Lautech Drama
What started out as a mild protest by the lecturers threatening to delay the semester examinations because of owed salaries and subventions has steadily unfolded into something that now seems out of anyone’s control.
First, the Non-academic staff stopped work and embarked on an indefinite strike. The situation still seemed curtailable then.
Months later, the academic staff, under the umbrella of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), joined in, embarking on their own indefinite strike, laying out very strict terms for their resumption.
These actions were preceded by series of protests: students appealing to the government for the school to be reopened so that they could complete their prematurely truncated semester; Oyo state indigenes requesting all Osun state staff to return to their state, and that sole ownership of the university be given to Oyo state because Oyo state government had been more consistent with its payments of subventions and salaries than Osun state government; and so on.
Shortly after the academic staff officially embarked on their industrial strike, things took an even uglier turn. LAUTECH was thrown into pandemonium; reports were coming in that an unnamed group mobilized hoodlums to comb the school for Osun state workers and inflict harm on them.
This is the current situation of LAUTECH. All these reprehensible drama unfolding, yet no one appears to be doing anything to salvage the twenty-six-year-old institution from this impending doom.
Over the months, there were several reports that either the school management or the owner-state governments were holding one meeting or another.
Meetings upon meeting, 2 days (5 months) have breezed past, almost unnoticeably, with neither a temporary or lasting solution.
In fact, the future of LAUTECH appears even bleaker.
In what seems a rather counter-intuitive decision, the governor of Oyo state, one of the owner-states of the institution, Abiola Ajimobi, released a statement saying that he intends to reduce all future payment of subventions to all the tertiary institutions under his jurisdiction to 25%, and that these institutions should find other ways to sustain themselves.
To worsen the matter, he added that the institutions should no longer expect the arrears that they are being owed.
“Outrageous“, “silly“, “a big joke” These are few words that were used to describe his decision.
As expected, Lautech lecturers reacted to his statement, showing their displeasure, considering that the issue of owed subvention was the cause of the strike in the first place.
To most of the students, it is as though nobody is doing anything to their favor.
Upon analysis, one would discover that there are three major parties in this situation; LAUTECH staff, the owner-state governments, and the students.
Obviously, each party in this scenario has their own best interest at heart. The lecturers want their money, the owner-state governments want to manage their limited funds (and neither of them is will to give up their ownership rights to the university), and the students simply want to resume, write their examinations, and have a seamless academic course.
With all these conflicting interests, one can only ponder if a common ground would be found anytime soon.
Taking matters into their own hands, some students started ‘#ReopenLautech’, a social media campaign aimed at getting the attention and possibly the intervention of the Federal government in the situation.
So far little progress was made in that regard as very few student participated in the campaign, hence, it did not gain traction.
Strike upon strike
As the nationwide Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on a one-week warning strike on Wednesday, 16th November 2016, which was described as ‘strike on top of strike’ for Lautech.
While some say this development worsens Lautech situation, others argue that it will draw more attention to Lautech in particular, and put them at par with other universities.
A possible solution
Against all odds, the spirits of some Lautech students remain unshaken. Still looking for ways to hasten a resolution to the situation in the institution, the #ReopenLautech’ campaign team are sending out a message to all Lautech students.
“Now that the fact has been established that we are on our own, we then do we do? How can we save ourselves, and our university?
“Should we sit, fold our hands and watch? No!
“The glaring solution is to not keep quiet. We need to let the nation know of our plight. We need to get the attention of the federal government so that they can intervene.
“Some efforts were made in the past via the #ReopenLAUTECH initiative, but we must not relent.
“This is our future we are talking about. It’s in our hands, so we can’t afford to keep quiet and suffer from the actions of those who are already living their future.
“I believe that if we join our voice in one accord, we cannot be ignored.
“Let us continue making use of the #ReopenLAUTECH hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media channels at our disposal.
“We can send out, at least, three tweets per day informing the public of our plight, in these tweets, we’ll mention/tag the president, govt. bodies, activists and other public figures that can add their voices by retweeting. If we do this persistently, trust me, we cannot be ignored for so long.
“If 100 of us send out 3 tweets,each, in one day, all of them mentioning @Mbuhari, that will add up to 300 tweets. This means Aso rock will receive 300 tweets talking about the same thing. Now imagine if we do this every day for one week, that will be 2,100 tweets. I don’t see how they can claim ignorance of our plight or ignore us after that.
“All that this requires is for everyone to be actively involved and for us to present a united front.
“Just remember, the goal is to get the Federal government to intervene. OAU was able to do it, so why shouldn’t we?”
I am a proud LAUTECH student and I won’t sit, fold my hands and watch my school and future go down the drain. Not in my time.
Creative mind. Enthusiast. Learner. Multipotentialite. And here, an assistant editor.