To be clear from the start, I want to tell anyone reading this that I am not going to be unduly diplomatic in this piece. I am going to cut like a knife and hit the nail with as much precision as I can. I can assure you that at this point, we have gone past being economical with the truth to assuage frayed nerves. When two feuding brothers go into a room for a truce and come out smiling, they have merely papered the cracks and did not hit the nail on the head. I do not intend US to leave “this room” smiling or unscathed.
That said, a simple dig into the genesis of LAUTECH crisis will tell any honest observer that crowd-funding is a witless way to solve the standoff. In fact, putting ‘crowd-funding’ and ‘solution’ in the same sentence as it relates to this case indicates lack of depth or dearth of details of the problem at hand. Crowd-funding in LAUTECH’s case is at best, cosmetic.
Amongst a mirage of causes that led to the shutdown of the institution, ASUU strike is one major reason why the students are at home. And among many reasons given by ASUU for their industrial action, owed salaries to staff is one that is of vital importance. The funding state governments are indebted to the university to the tune of N7.1 billion in outstanding salaries and allowances. This is however not undermining the other causes highlighted by ASUU for their industrial action. Because even the LAUTECH chairman of ASUU, Mr Biodun Olaniran, said;
“Salary is not the real issue. Our major demand borders most on the funding of the institution.”
But since the fundLAUTECH initiative is hinged on raising funds, let us pander to the issue of owed salaries and allowances.
The Chief Wole Olanipekun’s visitation panel recommended the audit of the university’s account; and that for activities to resume in the university, they also recommended on page 89 of their report that the funding states should release N1.7bn.
So, the fundLAUTECH team is hoping to raise 1bn to facilitate reopening of the school or solve the strike crisis? If I recall correctly, the News Agency of Nigeria NAN, reported that the owner state governments of Oyo and Osun paid a sum of N584 million to offset TWO MONTHS OUTSTANDING SALARIES on January 23 and 27 this year. If N584 million from two bodies (states) that have regular monthly flow of revenues, was only sufficient to pay just two months BACKLOG of salaries and could not precipitate a suspension of the strike, your guess is as good as mine of what will become of a 1bn raised by a “begi-begi” body with no concrete means of sustaining the flow of money. Recall that one of the conditions that ASUU gave for them to call off their strike action was for the government of the two funding states “to clearly state a plan of sustainable funding pattern or framework for the university.” Can fundLAUTECH do this? Definitely not! And how much has been raised from this initiative two months into the three months target? Just about 8 million!
So if crowd funding is not the solution, why fundLAUTECH? Is it an honest mistake? Will it be right to say that all the parties involved in this initiative are not intelligent enough to see these obvious pitfalls? Are their abilities overrated? If you ask me, I do not think the answers to all the above questions are yes. But the real answers to these questions may never be known, because history is replete with a lot of people that were larger than life, and whose abilities and achievements were blown out of proportion.
But then again, like the title of this piece indicates, fundLAUTECH is either a product of a poorly thought out initiative or a Machiavellian manoeuvre to reach an end. While I think it might be a little of the former for some members of the initiative, I kind of favour that it is more of the later for others.
Was the initiative a public stunt then? Maybe, maybe not. But I do know for certain that there are actors on this team that crave the limelight. People who are literally obsessed with image and how people perceive them. There are members of this group of initiators that thrive on cheap publicity and romance ego-massaging. People who hug the limelight like their life depend on it, and are intolerant to dissenting voices or alternate views. To these people, and especially when you combine this trait with ambition and an over-bloated ego, I will not put it pass them to orchestrate this kind of white elephant publicity-scheme.
Novel as it may sound, the idea of crowd-funding is dead on arrival as it relates to the problem of LAUTECH.
That said, there is always this silly question people ask anytime you try to point out the errors in an initiative like this; “What are you doing to solve the problem?” I called it silly because it always presupposes that everything being done are right and that everyone that is not in a position to do something are bad or evil or have no right to point out the foibles in an action plan even when you can see them. Some will even extend this position to; “If you can’t do anything, then don’t criticise those that are doing something.”
This is a display of dreadful acquiescence and very defeatist to be mild. Some of us will not submit to this act of subtle blackmail or fatalism. Let me burst your bubble if you happen to be one of those hinging your position on the above, fundLAUTECH initiative is as good as not doing anything. Or let me rephrase that, the initiative is not doing anything that will eventually help to reopen LAUTECH, but maybe (just maybe) doing something to help fuel some ulterior motives. So it cannot be said to be doing something. Therefore, with respect to the overall aim of getting the students back to class, “it’s a fail.”
The problem of funding in LAUTECH did not just start today, it is an age old problem. When I got admitted into the school, my admission letter read; Oyo State University of Technology (OSUTECH). When the creation of Osun State led to the changing of the name to Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), the student body protested then and part of our demands then was for the Federal Government to take ownership of the institution.
The eventual two states that were carved of the old Oyo State then insisted they will jointly fund the school and that the running of the institution will not be an issue. Since then till date, funding has been an issue. It has been a major cause of friction between both states governments. When the two states were under different political parties, a lot of people thought the imbroglio will be sorted out when they both operates under the same aegis. But precedence has shown that whether they are both under the same umbrella or sweep with the same broom, the hydra-headed problem of funding has refused to go away. This was aptly summarised by the ASUU chairman when he said in an interview with the Punch Newspaper;
“The main cause of incessant strikes of the unions in LAUTECH, and especially ASUU, is the chronic under-funding of the university. That is where the problem started from. The funding pattern of the university is not sustainable and that has led to a series of crises on campus.”
What is therefore the solution to the problem of funding? In the short run, I will implore the government to implement the Chief Wole Olanipekun’s visitation panel recommendations. And on the long run, I have two simple solutions; made simple only by the mere act of conceptualising it and typing it on my computer keyboard.
One, let one of the states take full ownership of the institution while the other forego all its investment in it or be adequately compensated. In this case, Oyo State will be the state in prime position to take ownership because the location of the main campus is in its domain. This way, the Oyo State government will have a full sense of ownership and responsibility. This will confer on them a sense of belonging and commitment instead of half-hearted obligation they may have held hitherto. The other alternative is for us to go back to the old option of the Federal Government taking over the school.
Either way, any other solutions like fundLAUTECH, in my sincere opinion, will amount to a wild goose chase, a jamboree of some sort and merely cosmetics.
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