For the past eight months, the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso in Oyo State has been shut down, the reason being that the staff were not being paid their salaries for up to 13 months because the two states that own the university, Oyo and Osun States were not providing the required funds for the running of the school.
It was in the light of this that some students of the institution organized a protest march few days ago round Ibadan, the Oyo State capital as a way of exerting pressure on the Oyo State Government to act expeditiously on the matter. They were successful in seeking an audience with the governor, Abiola Ajimobi. However, some of the statements of the governor, as seen in this video clip, were quite shameful of a man holding his office.
Governor Ajimobi’s statements at the students where he dared them to do their worse and even asked if it was the first time the school had been shut down for such a long period reeked of a complete lack of empathy and arrogance that is too often associated with Nigerian public office holders.
We have seen such behavior from persons like Ajimobi before: whether it was former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s “I don’t have to be here” to victims of the 2001 Ikeja Cantonment bomb blast to former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomole’s “go and die” statement to a street hawker – dismissive of the feelings of the people, completely showing in arrogance and pomposity, and expecting to be treated as though they were deities.
It does not matter what the behavior of the protesting students was – after all, after being at home for eight months, it is expected that there will be pent-up frustration. As long as the students were being law-abiding as all evidence showed, no matter how raucous they were, the governor should have used better statements in addressing the situation.
Rather, he acted as though he was doing them a favor, especially by saying that the students ought to have pleaded with him to ask the management to reopen the school. With that, he portrayed the education of the students in the university not as a right, but as a privilege and one he bestows.
In the midst of Governor Ajimobi’s ranting and vituperations, his perfectly sensible explanation of how the university is underfunded because Oyo State, and indeed, all other states are facing a cash crunch has gone unheard. He has succeeded instead in making his misguided statements the focus of discussions and in the end, likely worsened the situations.
Governor Ajimobi will need to come down from his high horse and issue an apology for his unwarranted statements at the students.
He must apologize for insensitivity, for bullying, for desecrating his office, for a lack of empathy and wisdom. For being unworthy of his office.
PR spin will not work. Bravado will fall flat. Even the apology will not be enough.
But it will be a good start for us to recover from this shock.