By Abubakar OLADEJI
Findings suggest that the technical university, Ibadan, was established at almost a zero cost to the state government since it is largely on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. The state government has already expressed its readiness to release 90 percent of the university’s shares to private investors while it would retain only 10 percent. Already, private investors have been indicating interest in partnering with state government of the noble venture. For instance, Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha has said that the university would be readily available for students of the Okorocha Foundation-owned secondary school in Ibadan.
Prospects of employment creation. The main objective for establishing the university, according to Governor Ajimobi, is to produce professionals that are technically competent and imbued with requisite entrepreneurial skills, and graduates that can solve numerous societal problems using science, technology and engineering. At inception, twelve programmes will be offered all of which will be geared towards tackling unemployment in the state.
Criticisms against the establishment of the University are: Location of the university: Perhaps, the loudest criticism of the establishment of the university is from Oyo State chapter of Accord Party (AP), which has criticised the location, not the merit of establishing the university. The AP wants the state government to be sensitive to the geographical composition of the state by siting the newly created Technical University Ibadan (TUI) in Oke-Ogun zone, which has 40 per cent of the state’s landmass; 10 Local Government Areas and population next to Ibadan, the state capital. In truth, Oyo state is made up of five geo-political zones, namely Ibadan (11 LGAs), Oke-Ogun (10 LGAs), Ogbomoso (5 LGAs), Oyo (4 LGAs) and Ibarapa (3 LGAs).
The party had argued that Ibadan and other towns jointly owned the state, hence there is need for fair and equitable distribution of projects in the state.
In countering this argument it is noteworthy that Oyo state is not the only state that has established its University at the state capital. Osun state university is located in Osogbo, the state capital, while the newly approved university of science and tehcnology in Ogun state is located at Abeokuta. Besides, does it conform to the principle of fairness that the only technical university, the state’s first ever, be established at a zone which does not have the largest population?
Again, is it in the principle of fair play that Ibadan should be neglected for Oke-Ogun in this sense? Be that as it may, one may suggest that satellite campuses of the Technical University Ibadan be sited at other zones of the states, including Oke-Ogun in a bid to extend access to higher education to Oyo state students in these areas.
LAUTECH Palaver: Another argument against the establishment of the Technical University Ibadan by some critics is the unresolved issue of LAUTECH. It was argued that given the protracted crisis in LAUTECH, Oyo state government should have put more energy and resources in reviving LAUTECH, instead of allegedly investing millions of naira in the newly established TUI.
This argument is at best, lame and incoherent in that the unresolved crisis in LAUTECH should not be a yardstick for determining the exigency of establishing another university, especially one belonging to Oyo state exclusively. LAUTECH is jointly owned by Oyo and Osun states and both are responsible for how to resolve the crises the institution is currently facing. In addition, Oyo state government is apparently mindful of the challenges of financing tertiary institutions by the government in Nigeria today due to the current economic reality. As a result the TUI has been conceived as a public-private initiative where self-sufficiency through partnership, subscriptions and stakeholder contributions, locally and internationally shall be entrenched. Beyond this PPP argument, how sensible is such a statement that the TUI is not a priority until the LAUTECH’s lingering crises is resolved? One may also ask if LAUTECH is the only state university owned by Osun state, compared with the situation in Oyo State.
In a matter like this, the expectation is that people should analyse issues objectively, especially matters that border on public goods like provision of higher education services.
It is my sincere wish that all stakeholders and lovers of Oyo state will have the necessary political will to rise above partisan politics and support the noble effort of Governor Ajimobi in the task of repositioning and restoring the lost glory of the pacesetter state.
I am deeply convinced that what Nigeria needs at this time are institutions which could offer career development to the middle level needs in the field of technical knowledge. Such middle level technical know-how is necessary for the country to achieve inclusive development, tackle unemployment and conquer poverty. Nigeria can no longer totally depend on the traditional system of University education. It has served a good purpose, and it is still serving a purpose. But, in my view the immediate need is to diversify the tertiary education system with an emphasis on technical and vocational education, which is the focus of technical university Ibadan. At a minimum, this effort should be supported by all and sundry.
Technical education, like University education, should become an integral aspect of the development process in the country. Only an Institute of this nature, with varied products of highly skilled labour, can respond to labour market demands in a country like ours. The reason is that such Institution can operate multi-disciplinary programmes in various technical fields and the TUI promises exactly that. I want to end this piece by quoting from Albert Einstein to wit: “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything learnt in school.”
Oladeji, PhD, a Senior Research Fellow, writes from NISER, Ibadan.