Saturday, 2 September 2017

The LAUTECH Crisis; Setting the records straight

A Rebuttal by

Prof. Akinbode A. Adedeji

I am shocked that Tribune has become a political trumpet that will allow its platform to be used to support politics that toys with the future of thousands of students and livelihood of thousands of Lautech staff who have been without salary for 11 months now.

I called this the height of wickedness that no one in South Western Nigeria has seen before - not even the ASUU-Abacha 9 months' strike of 1996 degenerates to this level.

Awolowo, who founded Tribune will be turning in his grave that his legacy could accommodate such a poorly written and baseless article that is on weak facts.

Akeem Adebiyi, the author of this piece spent most of the time attacking a nameless politician and then concluded by blaming the past and present management of Lautech for not making the University solvent and self-sustaining.

I think Akeem needs to advise the governors of Oyo and Osun on the issue of self-sustaining before asking the management of a state university that supposed to provide subsidized education to create an opportunity for our wards.

I watched these heartless governors raise their hands in the air on state TV, claiming they could not pay salary in their respective states because  Federal subvention had reduced, this was between 2014 - 2016.

The question I asked both governors was that did the people of Oyo and Osun elect them to wait for free money from Abuja, or they elected them to turn Osun and Oyo’s desert into a land flowing with milk and honey without Federal subvention.

If all governors do is to wait for free money, “who cannot spend free money then” – we all can and would contest for offices.

Governors were not elected in 2014, 2015 to spend free money, they were elected to make their states solvent, independent of Federal cake.

At least we know of states in Nigeria who could sustain themselves without a dime from the Federal government.

Aregbe and Ajimobi are asking Lautech management to do what they have not demonstrated with access to billions of naira every month – shame on them.

Akeem, if you know the inner working of Lautech, you will not mention that Lautech management has failed to manage its resources well.

I challenge you to provide Nigerians and the people of Oyo-Osun with evidence that there is a state university in Nigeria that is charging the type of tuition Lautech is charging that has been able to sustain itself without government support – mention one state or federal university.

Osun state university that Aregbe claims is self-sustain operates like a private university, and the size is incomparable to Lautech.

I am so sure Aregbe is not telling all the truth about the support the university gets from the state. If we consider Lautech, with salary and pension wage bill of about N300 million a month.

The money that accrues from student tuition in a year is about N2.1 billion (at N70,000 per student with a population of 30,000).

This can only pay 7 months’ salary, without anything remaining to run the school (purchase office & lab materials, maintain University vehicle, purchase petrol to run the generators – among many re-current expenditures).

Even, if Lautech generates up to N1 billion from university ventures like the bakery, press, guest house, etc. This money is not sufficient to run a university of Lautech’s magnitude.

Is there corruption within Lautech management, maybe yes; of what proportion, maybe minimal, else the university would not self-sustain itself for months when Osun state first failed in its responsibility toward the school.

Nobody said the owners should not curb mismanagement at Lautech, do they have to do it on the life and future of over 30,000 Lautech students? Would we say because bathing water is dirty we will throw the baby away with the water?

Aregbe and Ajimobi have so far thrown away the baby with the dirty water at Lautech, and the retrogression and lives lost as a result of this type of wickedness can never be recovered.

If they truly want to sanitize the financial management at Lautech, they need to ensure the school resumes by paying few months’ salary of the staff who have been living in penury since this problem started, institute a panel that will find a lasting solution to the funding problem at Lautech.

The dual ownership had been a blessing until Ajimobi and Aregbe became the governor of both states. There is no public institution anywhere in the world that can sustain itself on the tuition of students or IGR, except it charges a high fee, which makes it a private enterprise.

Lautech is supposed to subsidize higher education for the people of Oyo and Osun. I work in a public institution in the US, the resources to sustain all public and private institutions come partly from the government.

Private institutions in the US like Harvard, MIT, Yale, etc, all enjoy the support of US Federal government (and state) through competitive research grant money, even more than some public institutions because they are more competitive than public universities in grant application.

Public, as well as private institutions enjoy tremendous support from the private sector and alumni association through scholarships and endowment fund in the West.

That is why #FundLautech effort being championed by Bayo Adeyinka and some other Lautech alumni should be encouraged beyond this current situation.

Curbing corruption and wasteful spending of the public fund should not be restricted to Lautech, it should be extended to every arm of governance especially at the state and local government levels, where we see the most corruption under the current Federal administration.

We all know because of lack of oversight at the state level, the corruption going on is unprecedented. I challenge Aregbe and Ajimobi to open their state account books to independent auditors to help them plug places where the states are being bled by corrupt politicians and government officials.

This will allow the state to spend more money on education, agricultural production, and food processing. The best and most fertile land to invest in is the human mind – our people need qualitative and undiluted education, the type that Lautech has been dishing out for more than 2 decades now.

What these governors refused to acknowledge is that Lautech was once the best university in Nigeria. Its graduates are doing wonders all over the nation and around the world.

The institution that created people like me is being destroyed before our very eyes. A lot of Lautech talented professors have left to other institutions, many will never return because of fear of future instability.

How can any leader justify this type of handling of Lautech issue? Ajimobi was imploring the hungry Lautech staff to return to work on an empty stomach as if they are the reason for the problem of the institution.

Ajimobi and Aregbe ran as progressive policy and ideology, they claim to be on a progressive platform (APC). The question they should ask themselves with a claim of being an Awoite is – “what will Awolowo or Bola Ige do in this type of situation”.

I can boldly say that neither Bola Ige nor Awolowo will watch while thousands of children’s life wastes at home for 11 months.

I heard Lautech has not completed a session since 2015, many of its graduates who wanted to go to postgraduate schools, home and abroad, have not been able to do so because they could not obtain their transcripts, especially the later – many Lautech alumni have lost juicy scholarship opportunity because they could not produce original transcript.

I cannot count how many of my former colleagues at Lautech who have I had to send money to when their plea of “e ma je ki ebi oh pa wa ku” (please do not let us die of hunger) filled my hears. Oba to je l’ana ti won se daadaa, ilu o ni gbagbe won, ati eyi tio se daadaa naa; gbogbo won ni o wa ninu iwe aigbagbe, boya fun rere tabi fun biburu (the king who ruled with empathy and fairness today will not be forgotten nor will posterity forget those who ruled with iron fist).

Aregbe and Ajimobi have by their own hands written their legacy on the issue of Lautech, and we will not forget of the evil they did – generations in Oyo and Osun will not forget this evil era of lack of leadership by these two governors.

Their children go to school in Cuba, UK and America, and the children of Oyo and Osun people that helped them actualize their political career are wasting away.

Akeem Adebiyi, Lautech’s situation transcends this weak write-up you wrote. I wrote a rebuttal as someone with inside knowledge of Lautech’s operation, having worked there for more than 13 years and having graduated as one of Lautech’s first set.

I am a proud Ladokite and I have written this rebuttal to your article from my heart, not for political gain but because the truth must be told and our people must be rightly educated on this subject.

Your article has done dis-service to the current problem at Lautech, and it completely omitted common facts deliberately.

Lautech’s issue can only be solved when the two owner states pay some salary arrears, commit to future support of the institution, reorganize the financial management of the school without transferring the burden to the poor parents who may lose access to the school if tuition is increased beyond what they could afford, fire or prosecute anybody found guilty of financial misappropriation (old or current), embrace the alumni association and corner the private sector for support.

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