By Ropo Egbeleke
Mr Egbeleke writes on the potential of community of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso (LAUTECH) determining the outcome of the Oyo State Gubernatorial Election holding on Saturday, 9th March, 2019.
For the first time in the recent history of Oyo State, if not the whole of Nigeria, a university, LAUTECH has become a potential determinant of who becomes the next Executive Governor, as well as a possible anticlimax to the survival of a feeble political dynasty.
For the past few days, I have been bombarded with thousands of messages and phone calls from difference folks in the wake of the hasty decision taken by Ex-Governor Alao Akala to abandon his Governorship aspiration after a purported meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, and party chiefs, Ashiwaju Bola Tinubu and Adams Oshiomole to support the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Guber candidate, Bayo Adelabu as the next Governor of Oyo State.
The Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi was in Ibadan a few days ago to meet with Alao Akala. Ashiwaju Tinubu and the APC crème de la crème have also been running up and down to salvage the situation in the face of another imminent loss by APC in Oyo State like it was during the February 23 Presidential election.
Since the two frontline candidates, Adelabu of the APC) and Seyi Makinde of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are from Ibadan and their deputies are both from the Oke-Ogun zone of the state, it directly implies that the two camps will split Ibadan and Oke-Ogun zone votes including Oyo and Ibarapa. Therefore, the fate of either Adelabu or Makinde becoming Governor depends on how they perform in scooping the famous bloc votes from the Ogbomoso zone.
For Ogbomoso, a zone with over 400,000 possible votes to grab across 5 local governments, LAUTECH is the main economic trigger. The university has over the years boosted economic activities such as Real Estate, Banking, Hospitality, Transportation, SME, Agribusiness and Trading. The community thrives on the daily transactions of the 35,000+ students’ population that were shut out of Ogbomoso for almost 23 months.
Unfortunately, the outgoing Abiola Ajimobi led APC administration in Oyo State practically saw to the near extinction of LAUTECH within the last 8 years resulting in the unprecedented economic collapse of the town.
Today, the severe economic situation in the town is one major reasons why the people of Ogbomoso and its environ loathe anything that has to do with Ajimobi so much to the extent that the people are ready to punish Bayo Adelabu of the APC, and particularly Bola Tinubu who incidentally is still the Chancellor of LAUTECH.
It will take a miracle for the APC to corner the block votes from Ogbomoso in this election. As far as Ogbomoso is concerned, the APC is a goner. The block votes in Ogbomoso will go the way of any party apart from the APC. It will be up for the candidate that has a well marshaled plan to restore the glory of LAUTECH and place education generally as top on their agenda for governance.
Alao Akala’s ambition under the now abandoned Action Democratic Party (ADP) rode on this sentiment. Being an Ogbomoso man, the popular understanding was that he will bring back the lost glory of LAUTECH with efficacy.
Unfortunately, these are also trying times for the budding Alao Akala political school of thought as his dynasty in Ogbomoso zone might be approaching an end in 2019 owing to the mismanagement of the news of his negotiation with President Buhari and the mysterious rumour of collecting a few millions of dollars from Tinubu; the slot of SSG, two State Commissioners, and the immediate reinstatement of his son that was suspended as Ogbomoso North local Government Chairman by Ajimobi a week before the meeting.
According to Alao Akala, the LAUTECH issue was the first item he bought to the negotiation table before the President. This, he claimed was followed by the completion of the Ogbomoso–Oyo dual carriageway.
However, his claims have not gone well with the majority of Ogbomoso voters and at this juncture, it is better to be a servant in heaven than to be a master in hell. The narrative from Alao Akala camp that we need both Osun and Oyo to be APC in tandem with APC led Federal government before the salvation of LAUTECH can happen is not only shallow but a narrative from the pit of Hell.
Moreover, the argument about the ownership status is also divisive and shallow. This is because between 1999 and 2011 during the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and PDP era in both Oyo and Osun States, LAUTECH witnessed massive development and ranked among the best Universities in the Africa, regardless of the party at the Federal level.
Sadly, it was within the last 8 years, when we had the supposedly progressive APC governments in both Oyo and Osun, and the last 4 years of the APC at the federal level, as well as having the National Leader of the APC as Chancellor, that LAUTECH was not only deliberately destroyed but almost sentenced into extinction with reckless abandonment.
It was this same period under review that we had the worst outing in education generally. This can be easily seen in the WAEC ranking of both states, Oyo state in particular.
In June 2017, less than 5 months after I returned back to Nigeria from The Hague, I joined four other guys to birth the fundLAUTECH campaign to bring the LAUTECH issue to the court of public discourse. As at the time we launched the campaign, LAUTECH had been shut down and students have spent almost 18 months for a semester.
It was like a joke when we aimed at raising 1 Billion naira for the University via crowd funding asking the public to donate so that we can reopen the school in the short term not knowing that Ashiwaju Tinubu, the Chancellor, had so much billions of naira to throw around now like peanut in Ogbomoso to secure the seat of the Governor by forming a political alliance.
All the billions of naira flowing like river in Ogbomoso and Oyo State at this hour would have cleared a pathway for the APC without resistance, regardless of what the outgoing Governor Ajimobi has done wrong if it had been used to salvage LAUTECH two years ago.
In all modesty, a newspaper headline like, “Tinubu and Friends Bailout LAUTECH with 3.5 Billion Naira” would have given him unconditional respect and conveniently swayed Ogbomoso votes for his party, the APC.
While a lot of people from all works of life donated and helped mount pressure on the government, virtually all APC elements were mobilizing against our intervention initiative (fundLAUTECH) because they believed we are embarrassing the two governors, particularly Ajimobi. They opted to be masters in hell rather than servants in heaven.
Despite all odds, including life threats by calls and spurious verbal character assassination by those who called us scammers (and recognition seekers), we were able to raise 9.4 million naira after 100 days of campaign. The #fundLAUTECH was so loud that within a short while, the LAUTECH stakeholders got an invitation to meet with the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki and the Senate Committee on Education.
The PDP Guber Candidate, Engr. Seyi Makinde, when nobody thought that LAUTECH issue will be one of the determinants of the outcome of the 9th March election, donated 2.5 million naira to the fundLAUTECH initiative in 2017, making him the highest single donor to the campaign.
We also had donations from Senator Adewolu Ladoja, a group of Accord Party members in the OYHA, Parents and from the general public that range from 1million naira, 500,000, 100,000, 10,000, 5,000 and even 500 naira which is the lowest from the public.
Both Ladoja and Makinde were on different radio programs on multiple occasions to address the issue of LAUTECH during the #fundLAUTECH campaign.
Unfortunately, Bayo Adelabu of the APC, that prides himself as a first-class university graduate with respect for education stood aloof and silent because it is convenient for him to be a master in hell than to be servant in heaven at that point in time.
Forget about donation, there are thousands of people that did not donate to #fundLAUTECH but contributed by mounting pressure on the Visitors via tweeting, raising conversations in the media, mobilizing protests, praying in organized vigils e.t.c.
The APC elements in the state ensured that they demonized ASUU, SSANU, JAC and the University management for mismanagement of funds. More than a year after the forensic audit, no single member of LAUTECH management was indicted, arrested, or sacked for mismanagement of funds.
Rather, the government that claimed that there was no money for LAUTECH began to build another University, the Technical University, Ibadan (TECH-U) meant for the children of the rich (at 1 million naira tuition) at the expense of LAUTECH, which is now a community university reserved for children of civil servants and the poor.
Without being grandiloquent, I need to make it clear that, the donation made by Engr. Seyi Makinde and that of hundreds of others cannot and will not solve the problem of LAUTECH. What matters is their heart of giving and demonstration of genuine concern about the predicament of the over 35,000 young people that the APC government selfishly placed on the path danger.
The damage done to LAUTECH by the APC will take years to repair even though the stability might improve the economy of Ogbomoso. LAUTECH that parents annually compete to bring their children to enroll with over 25,000 applicants coming through JAMB is now a school that cannot boast of 2,000 applicants, both as first and second choice in JAMB.
I doubt if any of those reading this will choose LAUTECH as first choice or second choice for your siblings or children when filling a JAMB form.
The big lesson for those that choose to be masters in hell than servants in heaven is that the seed that Makinde and others sowed in 2017, has germinated in 2019, which was evident in the way he was welcomed and received as a hero by free minded people without the influence of the Presidency or the Tinubu billions as inducement.
The duel online now is Adelabu APC Governorship candidate (zero concern about LAUTECH during the crisis in 2017 plus zero donation to fundLAUTECH) versus Makinde PDP Governorship candidate (demonstration of serious concern during the crisis in 2017 plus 2.5 million naira donation to fundLAUTECH). This is the narrative that is trending in the Oyo State governorship race and political space.
During the time of crisis, every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor. We know the cowards and traitors in the LAUTECH crisis and we know the heroes as they have a reference point today. Regardless of who emerges on 9th March since we know there is massive plan of rigging with state machinery coupled with the Tinubu billions flowing like Odo Oba river, I refuse to be a master in hell.
I will rather be a servant in heaven with the poor disenfranchised masses that were, and are still victims of an insensitive APC government and Tinubu in Oyo state.
At this juncture, I am calling on all lovers of education, most importantly, parents, young professionals, students, civil servants, traders, the good people of Ogbomoso and Oyo state in general to be a servant in Heaven with Engr Seyi Makinde as Oyo State Governor than reign in Hell with the Bayo Adelabu, Akala, and the Tinubu billions in Hell.
Ropo Egbeleke is a former President of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Students’ Union Government (SUG) – 2001/2002 and 2004/2005. He is also the Co-Initiator of #fundLAUTECH