Understanding the complexity of the ongoing strike action in LAUTECH

As the national Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), suspended its one-month-and-six days-long strike on Monday, the reaction from thousands of students across the country was surprisingly unenthusiastic. Students took to social media to express their reluctance to return to school. Why? For some, because of the heavy workload and examinations awaiting them upon resumption, and for others, its just sheer laziness.

The story is, however, different for another set of students. While their colleagues begrudgingly prepared to return to school after the month-long strike, they still sat home in apprehension, waiting for a second, more important, confirmation before they begin packing their bags.

These ‘special’ set of students are none other than the students of the infamous Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, who have been stuck at home for over one year.

One may wonder, since the national ASUU, which oversees the majority of universities in Nigeria — LAUTECH inclusive –, has suspended its strike, why is the case still different for LAUTECH?

Here’s why: Although the national academic staff union has agreed to resume, the local union which covers the academic staff of LAUTECH has remained dogged and vowed not to resume. Besides the demands made to the federal government by the national union, ASUU LAUTECH also made some peculiar demands to the two state governments, Oyo and Osun state, which own the university.

These demands by LAUTECH academic staff union had been made several times months ago, if not bordering into years. And the demands do not seem out of place. Their major requests were the twelve months of salaries and subventions owed them by the government, and proper funding for sustainability of the university.

Getting these fundamental things right is what has put the institution on a standstill for over a year.

During the past four months, meetings were held, whitepapers were produced, auditing firms were consulted, money was crowdfunded, and promises were made. And just recently, the school management announced that LAUTECH had been reopened for resumption – an announcement which the school’s staff union publicly berated.

A similar scenario happened in February, when the school management tactically asked students to resume, only for them to hurry back to school and still meet the academic staff union on strike. Days soon became weeks without any academic activity, and the management did everything they could to micromanage and lobby the lecturers into resuming – even without a solid long-term plan.

As expected, the strategy fell flat, as shortly after the students finished their semester exams, the union resumed its industrial action – which it has vowed not to call off. At least, not until their demands are fully met this time.

Now it’s understandable why there’s so much apprehension by the academic staff union and the students to return back to LAUTECH campus.

On the part of the owner-state governors, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun and his Oyo counterpart, Abiola Ajimobi, many seem to have lost hope in them. Ever since an excruciatingly embarrassing video went viral on social media in January, showing Oyo state governor, Ajimobi, daring some LAUTECH students protesting the closure of the university to “do their worst,” adding that the lockdown of the university is “not the first time a higher institution will be closed.”

His statement drew major criticism, sparking a debate over a renegotiation of the ownership of the university, since two governors, both of the same party – All Progressive Congress (APC), could not efficiently manage the institution.

At a point in July, Senate President Bukola Saraki – also of the APC party – stepped in, making a grandiose promise to release a massive N4 billion funding through the federal government and ensuring a permanent solution by also asking the federal government to look into taking over the institution.

Saraki and the APC-led presidency have remained mum on the issue since then.

Also mute on the crisis in the university is its very own Chancellor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu aka Jagaban – arguably the most influential member of the APC.

Series of aggrieved open letters and opinion pieces have been written to draw his attention to the fire in his own house. One article by Busari Azeezat, a LAUTECH student, went ahead to highlight an excerpt from his 16-pages baronial address during his investiture as Chancellor of the university:

“Today, we vow to return LAUTECH to its best self, we can make it better because we are committed to its goals. We shall write a new chapter by elevating this school to where its name is mentioned anytime technological education is discussed.”

But for whatever reason, Tinubu has chosen to remain silent on the LAUTECH issue.

Now, Oyo and Osun state governments have come with a new proposition to pay half of the 12 months salaries it owes the lecturers, while the school management, through restructuring, would ensure the payment the other half in the shortest possible time.

This development is one that would, ordinarily, have excited both the staff and students of LAUTECH, but time and experience has reformed and hardened their resilience. They are bent on proving that they are longer gullible.

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