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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Southwest: The Return Of Locust



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By Lere Olayinka

The legacy bequeathed to the Yoruba race by late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group (AG) and later, Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) was Education. Courtesy of Awolowo’s party, education was not only made affordable but also available in the entire Southwest States. But can it be said today that those who have used Papa Awolowo’s name and trade-marked cap to canvass for votes have done well in terms of promoting and sustaining this legacy?

Before the advent of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) government in the South Western States of Ondo, Oyo, Ogun and Lagos in 1979, there was only one secondary school in Okemesi-Ekiti, my hometown. However,
between 1979 and 1980, two more secondary schools, Okemesi Community
High School and Fabunmi Memorial Grammar School were established by the late Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin-led government of the old Ondo State. I attended one of them and I am sure many of the existing secondary schools in Ekiti State were established during that period.

Also, in the old Ondo State, the then Ondo State University, Ado-Ekiti and Ondo State Polytechnic, Owo were established within the four years and three months that Chief Ajasin spent in office. Ondo State Polytechnic, which was established by Edict in 1979 with the name The Polytechnic, Owo by the then Military Governor, Sunday Tuoyo became operational in 1980, almost immediately Chief Ajasin took office. He (Ajasin) only changed the name to Ondo State Polytechnic.

Apart from the old Ondo State, all the States that the late sage,
Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s party, the UPN governed, including the old Bendel State witnessed establishment of new schools (primary, secondary and tertiary institutions). It was then that the Edo State University (Now Ambrose Alli University), Ekpoma, Lagos State University, Ojo, Osun State College of Education, Ila-Orangun, Esa-Oke and Iree Satellite Campuses of The Polytechnic, Ibadan (now Osun State College of Technology and Osun State Polytechnic respectively), among others were established.
However, from the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to Action Congress (AC) and now Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), has a single new school, especially tertiary institution been created by these self-appointed Awolowo disciples?

Between 1999 and 2003 that the AD held sway in the Southwest, only Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko was established and this was done as a result of the squabble between Ondo and Ekiti States over the ownership of the then Ondo State University, Ado-Ekiti (now Ekiti State University).

It was only when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took over the Southwest States of Ekiti, Ondo, Osun and Ogun that numbers of tertiary institutions in the States were increased to cater for the yearnings of the teeming admission seekers in the States.

In Ekiti State for instance, within the three and half years of the Segun Oni-led administration, four new Technical Colleges, University of Science and Technology and University of Education were created. Oni was also on the verge of establishing a College of Agriculture before he was removed from office.
Apart from establishment of new tertiary institutions, the Oni-led government also created Scholarship Scheme in which over 2,000 students benefited, Digital Education Programme under which 1,650 free laptops (connected to the internet) were provided for SSS1 students, School Feeding Programme under which school pupils were fed with eggs and chocolate was also established. All these laudable initiatives aimed at advancing education in Ekiti have been abolished by the Dr. Kayode Fayemi-led government.

In Ogun, the Otunba Gbenga Daniel-led administration upgraded the then Tai Solarin College of Education to a University of Education, and established a new College of Education at Omu-Ijebu, four Information Communications and Technology (ICT) Polytechnics.

Also in Osun State, the Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola administration established the Osun State Universit (UNIOSUN) with multi-campus concept while in Ondo State; the Dr. Olusegun Agagu-led government established a University of Technology.

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Today, the PDP governors, who are not seen as disciples of Awolowo are no longer in power in the Southwest. Those running the affairs of States in the region are the self professed Awoists. But what do we have in the States? Legacies built over the years are being destroyed.

Governor Fayemi of Ekiti State led the onslaught on tertiary institutions in the Southwest States and other ACN governors have followed suit. In spite of the difficulties being faced by Ekiti youths in securing admission into universities, Fayemi merged the three state owned universities, University of Ado-Ekiti (UNAD), University of Science and Technology, Ifaki-Ekiti (USTI) and The
University of Education, Ikere-Ekiti (TUNEDIK) into one. The new sole University is known as the Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti (EKSU).

Even with the merger, no increment has been made to the fund allocated to EKSU as the university still gets the same amount it received when it was UNAD. Instead of increased funding of EKSU, the sole University, monthly grant has been reduced by fifty percent and. Most importantly, Fayemi, who annouced to the whole world on December 3, 2010 that no student would pay more that N50,000 in the State University has now increased tuition fees in EKSU to as much as N190,000!

As a result of this merger, a trip to South Korea by 34 students of USTI for a one-year Exchange Programme with the Semyung University, Jecheon City, Chungbuk, South-Korea was cancelled. The one-year
programme would have enabled the students to obtain dual degree certificates.

Also, out of vendetta, Fayemi declined the request of the 74 year-old Semyung University to take over the funding of USTI. When Fayemi said he was scrapping USTI because the State cannot fund more than one university, top functionaries of the Semyung University visited him to signify their interest to take the burden of funding USTI off the State Government, but the governor refused to acede to this request that would have saved USTI from being scarpped!

After it appeared that Fayemi had successfully carried out his own agenda of scrapping tertiary institutions established by his predecessor, Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State commenced his.

In one fell sweep, TASUED and the four ICT based Polytechnics
established by the Gbenga Daniel government were gone!

Like Fayemi in Ekiti, reason adduced for scrapping TASUED and the four ICT polytechnics was that Ogun State could no longer fund them.

However, unlike Fayemi’s Ekiti, people of Ogun State, including
leaders of Governor Amosun’s party, the ACN are not flowing with the governor. They have told him in clear terms that he cannot scrap the institutions. Even Senator Gbenga Kaka, representing Ogun East
Senatorial District went to the extent of dragging the governor to Court. Also, leaders of the ACN in Ogun East Senatorial District have told the governor to exercise restrain over the matter.

ACN leaders like Alhaji Rafiu O.Ogunleye, Senator Sefiu Adegbenga Kaka, Alhaji S. Abimbola Awofeso, Otunba Oluremi Onasanya, Mr F.A.
Sabitu, Alhaji F.G.O. Elias, Hon. Samson O. Onademuren, Mr Obafemi Adegboyega, Hon.(Engr.) Afolabi Odusote, Otunba T. Olu Adebanjo and Hon. Bukonla Taofeek Buraimo have told Governor Amosun his decision to scrap the institutions had created ominous problems and dangers in academic communities in the state.

“The meeting believes in expansion of the scope and scale of education and hence does not support the scrapping or merging of the tertiary
institutions in the State. Consequently, all tertiary institutions in Ogun State at present should be allowed to exist independently,” the
ACN leaders resolved after a meeting in Idowa on February 26.

While the Ogun debacle is yet to be resolved, rumour mill became agog that Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State has also concluded plans
to scrap some of the tertiary institutions in the State.

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On Monday, February 27, teaching and non-teaching staff members of the Osun State College of Education, Ilesa stormed the palace of the Owa Obokun of Ijesaland, Oba Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran, protesting the alleged plan of Governor Aregbesola to scrap and merge the institution with another in the state.

The workers and students vowed to resist such a move especially now that the institution is already looking forward to the time it would become a full-fledged degree awarding one.

The protesters displayed placards with inscriptions such as “Aregbesola, don’t play with fire”, “Osun Government be warned”, “Aregbesola, we are ripe to be a university, don’t destroy a growing institution”, “Aregbesola, stop deceiving the people of Osun State.”
Apart from the Osun State College of Education, Ilesha, other tertiary institutions in Osun State are Osun State College of Technology, Esa-Oke (OSCOTECH), Osun State Polytechnic, Iree (OSPOLY), Osun State College of Education, Ila-Orangun, Osun State University, among others. OSPOTECH and OSPOLY were established in 1992 (20 years ago). Osun State College of Education, Ila-Orangun was established in 1979 (33 years ago) as a Campus of Oyo State College of Education (now Osun State College of Education, Ilesa. It became autonomous in 1981 (31 years ago). Osun State College of Education, Ilesa was established in 1978 (34 years ago).

Several governors, including Chief Bisi Akande, the current ACN National Chairman, have ruled Osun State and funded the Schools before Rauf Aregbesola.

Besides, when Osun State College of Education, Ilesa was established in 1978, Aregbesola was just 21 year old. He was 24 when Osun State College of Education, Ila-Orangun was established in 1981.

Therefore, if truly Governor Aregbesola intends to scrap any of these institutions, it will simply mean that he (Aregbesola) is the only person who knows best how to govern Osun State among those who had governed Osun State before, including Chief Bisi Akande and had allowed these institutions to exist?

Interestingly, these same ACN governors that are scrapping schools on the excuse that there is no money to fund them are finding it more convenient to increase their Secuty Vote by as much as 200 percent. They are running government with over bloated cabinet members and aides, with increased salaries and allowances.
Painfully, the situation that the Southwest States is being confronted with is like that of the invasion of a cassava farm by locusts. The locusts will never plant, they will destroy. The level of destruction will also be determined by how long the farmer allows the locusts to have a field day in the farm.

In other words, the locusts that are now on rampage in the cassava farms of the Southwest States have just started the destruction of the plantation. They have started with scrapping of educational institutions, increment of school fees, revocation of duly issued Certificates of Occupancy, introduction of obnoxious taxes, demolition of churches, houses and shops.

Most importantly, the locusts are discouraging private investors from investing in the States by revoking all business agreements entered into by their predecessors. They are even demolishing structures already put in place by these investors as was done to water concessionaires in Ekiti and the multi-billion naira Abeokuta Golf Resort Hotel, among others in Ogun State.

Soon, very soon, they will begin to destroy the people themselves, and by then, there will be no option for everyone than to run for cover. Reason is that, the locusts will not likely be patient enough to look at party identity cards. In fact, there will be no room for discrimination.

Olayinka, a journalist writes from Okemesi-Ekiti

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