Education is the largest sector that has given Ogun State the competitive edge it has over many states the country. Among its peers, the state parades the highest number of outstanding scholars, pioneer lawyers, seasoned technocrats as well as leading political icons. These include the late Obafemi Awolowo, premier of the defunct western region, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the late MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Ernest Shonekan, one time head of interim government, Akintola Sapara-Williams, the first Nigerian lawyer, Justice Olumuyiwa Jibowu, the first Nigerian judge to sit on the Supreme Court bench, among others.
But of late, the education sector in the state has been on a gradual decline as the performance of students both in internal and external examinations have been underwhelming. This challenge was addressed by Governor Dapo Abiodun shortly after his inauguration and he promised to address the issue. According to him, Ogun State currently has the highest number of tertiary and primary institutions in the country but there weren’t commensurate efforts by successive administrations to ensure quality assurance. “I said in my inaugural speech that we will declare an emergency on education. We have the largest number of tertiary and primary education in this country. We are what we call, as I described in my speech, what Boston is to the United States. However, the results of our students in both internal and external examinations have been on a decline. We have to do something about it.
“Our approach is not going to be haphazard. We have the benefit of the best of Ogun State brains where we put together our education committee. Their report has been submitted and I have been going through it. We are going to have an education submit and we will have an education master plan, be rest-assured that beyond having a befitting primary school in each ward as I promised, we are indeed going to have an education master plan that will allow us to plan exactly how we are going to deal with this trend we have seen in the last few years and make sure Ogun State restore back its glory as the number one state in terms of education in this country.”
Not long after Abiodun’s public declaration of an overhaul of the education sector, he announced that his administration has decided to revert the Moshood Abiola University of Technology (MAUSTECH) to its previous polytechnic status. The immediate past administration of Senator Ibikunle Amosun had upgraded the school to a degree awarding university and then established a polytechnic at Ipokia, a development Governor Abiodun considered to be ill-conceived and ill-informed.
Consequently, the government set up a committee headed by Professor Segun Awonusi to look into the policy reversal and the implications for the two institutions. The mandate of the committee is to, among others, ascertain the current operational status of the institutions; identify issues and challenges related to the establishment and operation of the two institutions; determine the viability and sustainability of the institutions on a long-term basis; and identify any other issue(s) related to the objectives of the assignment; and make recommendations for the consideration of the government. The committee is yet to conclude its assignment.
While the outcome of the committee is still being awaited, there is already disquiet in some quarters by those who accuse the governor of nursing a ‘hidden agenda’ against the interest of the Egba people. The Abeokuta Club, had through its president, Tokunbo Odebunmi, kicked against the governor’s request to the House of Assembly to amend the law establishing MAUSTECH, saying it was filled with ‘hidden agenda’ against the interest of the Egba people.
But the Special Adviser on Information to the governor, Modele Sarafa-Yusuf, dismissed the allegation as an unfair assessment. While explaining the motive behind the action of the governor, she said: “For the avoidance of doubt, the following clarification on the action taken so far on Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology (MAUSTECH) and Ogun State Polytechnic Ipokia needs to be made:
“This government inherited a protracted crisis at the MAPOLY over its status that had been changed to MAUSTECH by the last administration. Even MAUSTECH which was so established has nothing on ground over a year after its creation. There were no facilities to accommodate its upgrade to a degree-awarding institution. The last administration neither appointed a Governing Council to oversee its effective take-off nor put in place requisite academic and non-academic structures to run or administer the institution. There is also no record that efforts were made to source for students for the institution. In truth, MAUSTECH, from what we inherited from the last administration, only exists in name.
“But all this while, academic activities had stalled at MAPOLY. The staff and students were in limbo as the law establishing it had been reviewed to pave the way for the emergence of MAUSTECH. Therefore, for the recent directive of the government that academic activities be returned to MAPOLY to be effective, the law establishing it has to be re-enforced”.
In order to give legitimacy to the reform policy, a bill seeking for approval of the reversal of the status of MAUSTECH has been submitted to the state House of Assembly for consideration. The governor in his request letter said: “I forward herewith a bill for a law to amend the Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology law, 2017 for the kind consideration and passage of the House of Assembly.”
So far, the amendment has scaled through the first reading before the House of Assembly. Similarly, the government has set up a visitation panel headed by Prof Kamarudeen Balogun to proffer lasting solutions to the protracted crisis facing the state-owned Tai Solarin College of Education (TASCE), Omu-Ijebu, which has been bogged down for almost six years.
Meanwhile, a leading voice in the agitation for the establishment of a university in Yewa, Ambassador Adesola Abolurin, told Daily Sun in a telephone interview that their clamour was to correct the imbalance in the education sector in the state, arguing that out of the three senatorial districts, only Yewa could not boast of a public higher institution.
He said: “I am on the same page with Yewa people. Last Friday, we held a press conference and I was there. What we are saying is that rather than a polytechnic, Yewa people want a university of science and technology. First and foremost, of all the three senatorial districts we have, it is only Yewa that does not have any public higher institution owned by either federal or state.
“We are clamoring for a university to correct the imbalance in the education sector in Ogun State. MAPOLY has made a name. It has become a brand. Why do you want to abolish an institution that has made a name? What we suggested to the committee was that MAPOLY could be upgraded to a degree-awarding institution just like Yaba College of Tech.”
He maintained that it would be cheaper to establish a university than to found a polytechnic. “Polytechnic is going out of fashion. As we told the committee set up by the governor, it cheaper to establish a university than a polytechnic because what you need to do practical in the university is not as intensive as what you need in the polytechnic,” he posited.
In his counter reaction, Bode Mustapha, a close associate of Governor Abiodun, decried politicisation of education, noting the negative implication of it on the quality of education in the state. “The Governor has said it several times that he has no objection to Moshood Abiola University. But what we must not forget is that the previous administration messed up the whole system to the extent that many students lost one or two semesters in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic because of all this rubbish that he started. These are people’s children. We should not politicise education, instead, we should try and face certain realities. The important thing is to deliver quality education so the children can come out with solid education. There is so much crying over unnecessary issue.”
He further noted that Ogun State already has more than enough public higher institutions it could adequately cater for; stressing that proliferation of university would not serve the best interest of the students as well as the education sector.
His words: “Talking about degree awarding institutions, we have many degree awarding institutions in Ogun State already. We have in Abeokuta. It is not about the quantum of degree-awarding institutions, it is about the quality of education. The former governor who started this idea went to Moshood Abiola Polytechnic. He had his HND from there and then went on to quality as chartered accountant. I don’t believe that one should play politics with education. It is not fair on education; it is not fair on the students. In the ranking of the first 100 universities in Africa, I don’t think any university in Nigeria made it. Isn’t that enough to worry us. What we should worry about now is how to shore up the quality of education for our children. The level of education in Ogun State has dropped dramatically in the last eight years. We should bother ourselves about 20 or 26 so-called model schools that are not worth a dime with massive investment in them. ”
Responding to allegations of bias leveled against him, Governor Abiodun said: “The Ogun State government is focused on making the next four years the best for the people of the state. Our goal is to partner with the stakeholders, both in the public and private sectors so as to give our people the best in the areas of education, agriculture, productivity, security, infrastructural development, investment drives and business promotion.”