(Speech At The Unveiling Of #fundLautech Initiative)
By Bayo Adeyinka
When I got an admission to study Mechanical Engineering in late 1992, I was overjoyed. I had the choice of studying at other Universities around the country but my choice was LAUTECH simply because it represented a new vista of hope in the country’s educational landscape. It was the first State University of Technology in the entire South West. We were also told that the master plan was a copy of that of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. It was gratifying to see the dedication of the first set of lecturers who were willing to sacrifice in order to set a glorious standard for a University they were passionate about:
The late Professor Reuben Olafenwa Ayeni who was a former President of the Mathematical Association of Nigeria and who also chaired the panel set up by the National Educational Research and Development Council to provide curriculum on Mathematics for primary and secondary schools which was later transformed into syllabus presently being used by both WAEC and NECO.
The late Professor John Ono Edewor who was a first class graduate of Chemical Engineering and set up the Chemical Engineering Department of Lautech. A researcher of high repute, he created Ladoke AKINTOLA Distillery, which had a retail outlet in Ibadan at a time.
Professor Emmanuel Babajide Lucas, a Professor of Agricultural Engineering and one of the pioneers of the profession in Nigeria strutted the engineering landscape in Lautech like a colossus. He holds a BSc in Mechanical Engineering, a MSc in Civil Engineering and he is a Professor of Agricultural Engineering.
The late Professor Teslim Raji, a professor of Electronics and Electrical Engineering who was one of the foundation teachers at the University of Ife and was a Visiting Professor at the Trieste Research Institute, Italy.
These men and many more gave birth to a University whose products are acclaimed worldwide due to the rigours of academic work.
According to techpoint.ng, a reputable online IT website, 4 out of 10 technology-oriented professionals in Nigeria that passed through traditional universities are Lautech alumni. The University was noted as one of the 3 universities with the most influential tech communities in Nigeria. And for three consecutive sessions in 2003, 2004 and 2005, Lautech was adjudged by the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) as the best State University in Nigeria. At that time, it seemed Lautech was unstoppable. But alas!
Lautech is now a shadow of itself going by perennial strikes which have crippled the University and seriously diminished the progress of the fledgling institution. More worrisome is the current ongoing strike which has gone on for more than 8 months now. The owner states, Oyo and Osun governments have not been able to honour their obligations by releasing funds for payment of salaries to the Lautech staff.
Consequently, the destinies of 26,360 undergraduates, 2,000 part-time undergraduates, 1,561 post-graduates and 2,601 professional post-graduate students hang in the balance. According to Oluseun David Onigbinde of Budgit, ‘a student of Lautech is at the same level he/she was in 2015. That’s the same level for 2 years. That’s the same period a student in private University is half way through, a PhD student will be done in a year and even those who did Masters in UK are back’.
But it’s worse than that. If you were 25 years in 2015 and stranded in Lautech as a final year student, chances are that your employment prospects are now dim as you would soon be past the 27 years that most organizations hire as new employees. The last time Lautech mobilized students for NYSC was in 2014. Consequently, there are graduates who have been sitting at home for almost 3 years. Several have lost job opportunities due to the strike as they couldn’t get academic references. Many have lost scholarship opportunities due to inability to submit their academic transcripts when required. The local economy has suffered greatly due to this strike. Hotels, restaurants, traders and other micro enterprises have experienced recession not seen in many years. I even understand that there has been no electricity on Lautech campus for weeks because the University can’t pay IBEDC power bills.
Alas, there was a University!
The day a lecturer friend of mine begged for N1,000 was the day I knew we could no longer fold our hands. Together with the #fundlautech team, we decided to do something. The easiest thing in the world is to do nothing but criticize. But we were determined to put our money where our mouth is.
This unveiling today is the result of that determination to contribute our quota towards solving this problem. After weeks of consultation and serious brainstorming, the initiators of the #FundLautech team decided to adopt the crowd funding model where alumni members and friends of Lautech can send in their donations. This donation will be used to pay the salaries and obligations of the staff of Lautech. Our aim is to raise N1b within 90 days. The current wage bill of Lautech is N350m monthly. If we succeed in raising this sum from the general public, we would have a foot in the door which will enable the University open while negotiations and auditing as recommended by the visitation panel can continue.
Our strategy is both short term and long term. Short term in the sense of getting the University opened very quickly so that academic work can resume in earnest. To achieve this, we shall also run a social media campaign called My Lautech Story where those affected by the strike will shoot 30 seconds video to highlight their predicament and post same on social media with the hash tag fundlautech. Our aim is to sustain the conversation around Lautech both through the traditional and social media. Our long term strategy involves visits to high profile citizens in a bid to resolve this impasse once and for all.
It is ironic that in 1989, a Higher Education Appeal Fund realized the sum of N19m in cash and pledges from the launching of the new University then called Oyo State University of Technology (OSUTECH). Tragically, twenty eight years after, we have to raise money again from the general public to fund the salaries of the institution. On that day in 1989, Chief MKO Abiola who was the Chief Launcher donated the sum of N2,050,000 in Ibadan. He would eventually become the first Chancellor of the University in 1991. It is in honour of the memory of his name that we decided to unveil the fundlautech initiative in Ibadan and also on June 12- a day dedicated to the memory of Abiola’s sacrifice. For us, we are matching history with legacy.
To this end, we appeal to all alumni members and all friends and well wishers to please contribute generously to this project. Your gifts will enable the students go back to school. Your gifts will save some jobs. Your gifts will help some people to move on in life. No amount is too small or too big to come to the aid of a once reputable university. Lautech must not die.
We assure you of transparency and accountability in the management of the fund as a consortium of alumni will oversee the fund. We are also engaging ASUU and SSANU to join us in managing the fund. We have made plans for a Board comprising reputable citizens to also superintend over the fund as a second level check. Daily updates will be given on the website www.fundlautech.com on amounts received. Permit me to pray on behalf of the #fundlautech project team that God’s judgment will fall on us and our generations if we embezzle or misappropriate the monies raised in Jesus Name.
We do not pretend to have all the solutions to this problem. But we decided we will not sit on the fence either. We are tired of just being mere critics. We are not afraid of failing. We will rather try and fail than do nothing and succeed. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I wish to state that history is also being made today. This is the first time a crowd funding of this magnitude is taking place in Nigeria. It is also unique that we are employing technology to save a University of Technology from extinction.
Finally, I will like to specially recognize and thank our very first donor, Mr Ijaya Opeyemi Babatunde.
God bless you all.
June 12, 2017