The Commissioner for Information in Oyo State, Dr Wasiu Olatunbosun, cleared the air on the position of the state government on the ownership crisis bedevilling Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso in an interview with WALE OYEWALE
At what point did the relationship between Osun and Oyo get strained?
From our own end, we don’t have anything against Osun but what really disturbed us was the attitude of Osun to fulfilling its financial commitment to LAUTECH. At a point in time, they agreed that from January to June, Oyo State would pay the LAUTECH staff while the salary of LAUTECH Teaching Hospital from July to December would be paid by the Osun State Government. We have a teaching hospital in Osogbo and we have one in Ogbomoso. At a point in time, the Osun State House of Assembly passed a law during the time of Rauf Aregbesola that henceforth, they should not pay to LAUTECH Ogbomoso, but that they should be giving subvention to their teaching hospital in Osogbo while Oyo should be paying for the teaching hospital in Ogbomoso. That was when they started reneging. That brought about accumulated arrears to be paid to LAUTECH (university), Ogbomoso. So, at one point we felt that if they were no longer interested let us sit down and discuss. In fact, the National Universities Commission sent a team to look at the possibility of asset sharing and NUC agreed that anybody that is no longer interested should be allowed to go. That is the situation. We have been paying as and when due. We said if you are no longer interested, let us sit down and talk. They inaugurated their own committee and we did the same thing as well. What we are waiting for is the outcome of the two committees for us to know which way forward.
You said the Seyi Makinde administration has not owed LAUTECH but past governments in the state did?
We are not disputing that. During the recession, the state government under the last administration reviewed subvention to tertiary institutions in the state. That has been counted as backlog which we believe is the responsibility of Oyo State Government to bear. We have been forthcoming on the payment of the backlog but the Osun State has not been forthcoming. That is the issue.
Can you give us an idea of the amount the Oyo State government is owing?
I don’t have it now and I would not like to quote a figure that is not authentic.
What actually is the cause of the strain?
LAUTECH started having issues when Osun State established its state university. I think Osun State has come clear to say that they are ready to part ways if Oyo is ready to meet the conditions. I think the issue of if Osun is not ready does not arise at this point unless Osun State is talking from both sides of the mouth. With what we heard about two weeks ago, they said they were interested in the negotiation. Initially, they didn’t cooperate but I think now they have realised that they would find it difficult to continue giving subvention to LAUTECH.
But since the advent of Makinde’s administration, he had been clear on his interest to let Oyo State take over the ownership of the school fully. Why?
If you are in partnership with someone and the person is not forthcoming it behoves on Governor Seyi Makinde to take a proactive step. They should let us know so that we can severe the relationship. That was what the governor said then. It is not as if he made up his mind to do that from the beginning.
Is it true that problem started when former governor Adebayo Alao-Akala built another teaching hospital in Ogbomoso, which many said it was a plan by Oyo State to take over the university fully?
I think that the issue started from Governor Rashidi Ladoja when he said if people from the Ogbomoso zone are sick, it would be difficult for them to go to Osogbo for treatment. For instance, consider somebody coming from Kishi. So, why can’t we have a hospital here in Ogbomoso, too?
Get in touch with the university community, get in touch with the chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities as well as the chairman of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities in, they would give you the exact situation. If you ask again, my stand would not change. That is how you can know the truth about the whole thing. They would say the truth. With that, you will be able to know who is lying between Osun and Oyo state.
Would the fate of LAUTECH not be better if the two states give it better funding?
You cannot force two parties into a relationship. The body language of Osun State has shown clearly that they are not willing and ready to finance the institution. We are running a populist government in Oyo State, they (Osun State) are not running the same. Go and check how much they pay at the Osun State University. You will marvel at those who call themselves progressives. Osun State University is out of the reach of the poor. If you are saying that they should go and increase the Internally Generated Revenue, indirectly what you are saying is that the university should go and increase the tuition fees. That will be a burden to indigent students who are coming from poor homes. There is nothing bad in us coming together, but the body language of Osun State Government has shown that they are not interested.
What you are saying is that by the time LAUTECH is fully owned by Oyo State, the tuition and other fees would still be kept low?
It will now depend on the policy of any government in power. If the government in power is a populist government, it would not have cause to increase the fees. For instance, check how much they are paying at The Polytechnic, Ibadan now and compare with that of Iree Polytechnic or Esa Oke Polytechnic both in Osun State, you will see the difference and you will understand what I am saying. It is a matter of ideology and principle of the two partners.
Osun and Oyo states are at the round-table fine-tuning the process on whether or not to cede the University to Oyo?
We have set up our committee. They have set up theirs as well for us to negotiate. So they are still negotiating. What comes out from the negotiation will determine which way we are going.
If the deal goes fine and Oyo is able to pay off, what would be the fate of the Osun State indigenes working at LAUTECH?
I don’t see anything happening there. I think it would be part of what they are going to discuss. When we get to the river, we would know how to cross it.
While in office, former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala said that he would not sack anybody from Osun if the university was ceded to Oyo State. Has this changed?
That is what I am saying that when we get there we would know what to do. I don’t want to be quoted as saying that they would do this or not. I don’t want a situation where what I would say would run contrary to the committee’s decision. So, it depends on their negotiation and the outcome of their meeting.
Notwithstanding where the pendulum swings, how would the owner states ensure students of the institution don’t suffer the bad fate as a result of closure or interrupted academic calendar again?
Let’s wait for them. Definitely, if the joint ownership continues, they are going to fashion out how there would be a harmonious relationship. But for now, I don’t want to pre-empt their actions.
Can we say that LAUTECH has one teaching hospital or two as things stand?
LAUTECH has two teaching hospitals of course. While one is in Ogbomoso, another one is in Osogbo. Therefore, we have two teaching hospitals.