The Ogun State House of Assembly, last Thursday, finally waded into the face-off between students of Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED) and the state government over the latter’s decision to scrap the University.
The state government had announced its decision to convert the university to an institute of education to be merged with Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU).
However, the Assembly has ordered Senator Ibikunle Amosun-led administration to stay action on the matter until all the issues involved are fully sorted out, including repeal and amendment of the extant law, establishing the university and other institutions to be merged.
It will be recalled that the House of Assembly had earlier, on Monday, last week, summoned Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, John Odubela, and Commissioner of Information and Orientation, Yusuf Olaniyonu, to appear before it to explain the reason behind the decision that has kept the state on the boil since it was announced publicly.
They kept that appointment on Thursday. Although they tried very hard to convince the House of the rightness of their decision, the members led by its Speaker, Suraj Adekunbi, were, however, of the view that even though the decision was borne out of good intentions, it ought to have been subjected to a thorough public debate before it was taken. It also faulted announcement of the decision when the laws establishing the institutions to be scrapped or merged had not been repealed. The House, therefore, asked the executive to stay action on the matter until all the issues involved were fully trashed out.
Investigation by Daily Sun shows that the House was concerned that the political colouration being given by the students and stakeholders with vested interests to the decision might make things difficult for the administration if the matter was left to play into the hands of political opponents. Hence their decision to ask the government to stay action on the matter and revert to status quo. Many have hailed the House of Assembly’s decision as a wise one.
Before the intervention, all has not been well between the state government and the Students Union Government (SUG) of the Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ijegun-Ijebu Ode over the decision of the former to scrap and convert the nation’s premier university of education into an Institute of Education under the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU).
The State Commissioner of Education, Science and Technology, Barrister Segun Odubela, had announced the decision which he said was taken in the best interest of the state. He also announced the merger into one, the four state-owned Information, Communication Technology (ICT) Polytechnics scattered in Saapade-Remo, Ijebu Igbo and Itori areas of the state.
The erstwhile governor of the state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel established TASUED as the nation’s premier university of education and the second in Africa as well as established four ICT Polytechnics in the three Senatorial Districts of the state. Although the state government had insisted that the TASUED had lost focus by offering courses that were not purely education-related, the SUG of the scrapped university had been up in arms against the state government threatening to make the state ungovernable if it refuses to rescind its decision.
Odubela, who was accompanied by the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Alhaji Yusuf Olaniyonu, to a press conference, stated that the action of the state government was as a result of the recommendations of the Visitation Panel which investigated the activities of the state-owned tertiary institutions. The Commissioners expressed dismay that TASUED had derailed from the dream and vision of its founding fathers, alleging that it runs courses that were not related to education.
His words: “The decision to do that was in the overall interest of people of Ogun State. Even presently now, if you go to the university, I can even give you the percentage of those courses being offered on education. Most of the courses being offered in that university are completely outside the vision and purpose of setting up that university which was mainly a university of education. I have the figures here which will clearly show that they’ve actually lost it out. As government, we want to ensure that what we have are clearly things that would benefit the people of Ogun State.”
The Commissioners disclosed that although the current set of students at TASUED would complete their programme, he added that the state government had already ordered the management of (TASUED) to stop admission process for the current academic session. Among the decision of the government was that TASUED which has been renamed, Institute of Education and affiliated to the OOU, would now have its permanent campus at Omu, while Tai Solarin College of Education (TASCE) which is currently located at Omu would be relocated to its former site at Ijegun.
As part of its Rebuild Mission, the state government also renamed the Egbado Teachers’ Training College at Ilaro after Senator Ayodeji Otegbola. Henceforth, it will be known as Ayodeji Otegbola Teachers’ Training College, Ilaro. The only surviving ICT Polytechnic among four of such in the state, located at Igbesa, has also been renamed as Ogun State Institute of Technology, while three others at Saapade, Ijebu Igbo and Itori would now serve as satellite campuses for the new ICT School.
Although many indigenes and residents of the state commended the government’s, there had been waves of protest by the students, one of which led to an accident that claimed the life of one of the students, Fashina Olatunji, last Tuesday.
The students were travelling in their bus when it somersaulted several times along Abeokuta/Shagamu Expressway, following the bursting of one of its front tyres while the bus was in motion. While others had minor injuries, three of the 18 students involved in the accident sustained serious injuries and were later rushed to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Idi Aba, for treatment. Among those injured are members of the Students’ Executive Council.
The President of the SUG, Comrade Oyekanmi Abdullah, said the students would not give up the struggle despite the accident until the state government rescinded its decision to merge TASUED with OOU. The students were so much determined to seeing through their agitation for the revocation of the conversion of the university into an Institute of Education that they also canvassed for the removal of the state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Barrister Segun Odubela. In a statement they issued in Abeokuta, they gave a 48-hour ultimatum for the sack of the commissioner.
They also accused the state Deputy Governor, Prince Segun Adesegun of complicity in the plan to relocate their institution to the OOU, Ago-Iwoye where he hails from. Warning the administration of Senator Ibikunle Amosun of the danger of politicizing “the location of our university to appeal to the emotional sentiment of either of the tribes and towns in Ogun State, specifically indigenes of Ago, Omu Ijebu et al in order not to cause ethnic chaos in the state,” the students appealed to Amosun to rescind the decision which they described as autocratic, retrogressive and capable of pushing backward the progress made by the university over the years. They also threatened to mobilize voters to vote against the party during the forthcoming local government elections.
In the statement signed by Abdullahi Oyekanmi and Azeen Agboola, S.U.G. President and Public Relations Officer respectively, the students said the merger of TASUED with OOU lacked adequate consultation from relevant stakeholders in the state educational sector. According to the students, Odubela should no longer stay in office having allegedly derailed and lost focus from his constitutional role. “We want to make the entire public know the reason behind the vicious merging of TASUED by the Commissioner for Education and his cohorts.
“Barrister Segun Odubela is a graduate of the then glorious OOU, Ago-Iwoye. While he was in OOU, he was the General Secretary of the Students Union. With this conjunction in clear terms, he solely wants to resuscitate and glorify his sick institution with the purported merger of TASUED with OOU.
“TASUED is a flagship in helping to make Ogun State have a first class university. There are 117 universities (federal, state and private) in Nigeria today and in the latest ranking done by the world acclaimed and Europe-based International Webomatrics Centre, which ranks all world universities every year and which NUC also relies on, the seven-year-old TASUED was ranked 30th position, unlike OOU which was ranked 56th and which government wants to merge TASUED with.
“While it is true that tertiary education is not cheap, however, the state is not spending too much on it or on TASUED. Ogun is the only state that has a formula of 70:30 ratio for paying salaries. That is, government pays 70 per cent and the universities pay 30 per cent, which they must source from their internally generated revenues (IGR).
“Using this formula, government pays TASUED N61m every month (unlike UNAAB where FGN pays N354m, UNILAG N621m and UI N752m or state-owned DELSU N358m just increased to N500m in 2012). In spite of this, through prudent management of IGR, TASUED has been able to pay salaries up to December 2011, even when the salary bill had claimed up to N130m a month (because of approved ASUU salary structure of 2010).”
Reacting to the students’ position, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Alhaji Yusuph Olaniyonu, restated the fact that government’s action on TASUED was in the best interest of the state and her people. “I just want them to know that it is in the best interest of education in this state and the country in general. Contrary to the speculations, TASUED will remain until the present set of students are done with their academics, then it will be an institute under OOU.” He added: “We need to enlighten these students and that is why the Commissioner for Education met with the Students Union; the only thing we have not done is to go to the school.
“The governor is a father and he wants to leave behind a legacy that all and sundry can be proud of. Parents, students, teaching and non-teaching staff will be part of the implementation committee.’’ In one of their several protests, the students stormed the Iwe-Iroyin Press Centre to register their displeasure. Armed with placards bearing different inscriptions like: “Amosun fight OGD, leave education.” “Amosun stop being a dictator,” the TASUED students urged the state government not to merge the school which they reasoned would jeopardize their future. According to the students, the decision of the state government was not only ill-timed, but not in their best interest and reasoned that it would retard their academic progress.
But it is not only students of the institution who condemned the action of the state government; parents were not left out too. “I want to believe that it is uncalled for in the sense that the institution is known to be a formidable institution especially when you compare it with other universities in the state. You will agree with me that the decision is uncalled for,’’ Mrs. Adelakun Margaret told Daily Sun.
Another parent, Chief Odunuga Samuel, lamented the action of the government saying, “I never expected the state government to embark on this action which to me is irrational.” According to him, the action of government would equally affect the morale of the majority of the students. “I think it is unfair and not proper at this stage particularly when it is on record that the institution is well-known and well-recognized by National Universities Commission (NUC).”