By Gabriel Dike
On Monday, November 31, 2020, members of the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), of the premier University of Ibadan, gave the former Vice Chancellor, Prof. Idowu Olayinka VC an unusual send forth. They symbolically swept his footprints out of the campus, singing and dancing in celebration of his exit after a five-year tenure.
The workers converged at the NISER Garden early in the morning. They sang and danced to the office of the VC. They swept the floor from the VC’s office to the main gate of the university.
Branch chairman of SSA- NU, Mr. Wale Akinremi, said: “Why we are here today is not to dissipate energy or make nose, but to appreciate Almighty God for seeing us through the tenure of Prof. Olayinka. We suffered untold hardship under his watch as the VC. We pray that never again will any VC put the workers and students through such a tortuous journey.”
NASU branch chairman, Mr. Malachy Etim, lamented the experience the workers went through under Olayinka: “We are here by God’s grace to celebrate the exit of Prof. Olayinka.”
Before his exit, Prof. Olayinka and some council members were held hostage for over four hours during the aborted selection process for a new VC. Following the crisis, he Federal Government asked him to step aside from the appointment of a VC.
Following the footsteps of UI, on Tuesday, December 1, 2020, academic and administrative activities at the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), Ikorodu, were put on hold for six hours. Workers abandoned their offices and lecture halls to celebrate the inauguration of the new Rector, Dr. Oluremi Olaleye. They also used the opportunity to sweep clean the footprints of the immediate past Rector, Dr. Samuel Sogunro and acting Rector, Mr. Olusola Metilelu, as a form of send forth.
For over three hours with brooms they swept the footprints Sogunro and Metilelu, out of the campus. At 10:32am, the workers made up of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Polytechnics (SSANIP) and NASU started the exercise from the Sports Complex right to the main gate.
The workers, who wore Asoebi, were joined at the second gate by staff school workers and three ex-staff disengaged by the former rector. At the staff school gate, they sang and danced, thanking God for the exit of Sogunro from the 42-year-old institution.
Branch chairman of SSANIP, Mr. Oluseye Ero-Phillips: “We had series of bad leaders imposed on LASPOTECH. At the end of the day, workers suffered, some even died in the course of the struggle. The former rector ordered the arrest of workers for demanding their rights. Because of his bad administration, the three unions decided to sweep his footprints out the campus”.
Among LASPOTECH workers who took part in the symbolic sweeping, is 73-year-old Mr. Oladipupo Alimi. He was among the 38 workers arrested on the order of Sogunro on July 10, 2019, and sent to Ikoyi Prisons, Lagos. He spent six days for being part of staff demanding for their rights during the seven-month crisis that rocked the institution.
He told The Education Re- port: “I was among the 38 workers sent to prison by Sogunro. Our heads were shaved with razor blade, beaten and dragged to court. I am happy to see his exit and that is why I am participating in sweeping out his footprints from the campus.”
Another worker, Adeyemi Yusuf, described the sweeping out the footprints of Sogunro as one of his happiest days. He was among the 38 workers arrested and sent to prison. He recalled that when his colleagues visited Ikoyi Prison, they did not recognize him because of the torture and forcefully shaving of his head with razor blade.
The workers said one of those sent to prison, Sunday Owolabi, died two days after returning from prison. Others, they said died as a result of lack of funds to take care of their health challenges while one died from the shock of demotion by the former administration.
Inauguration of new Rector
After symbolically sweeping former rector out of the cam- pus, workers stormed the venue of the inauguration of Olaleye as the 11th Rector of LASPOTECH. They booed the acting rector, Metilelu and the Registrar, Mr. Shakirudeen Bello, several times.
Metilelu described the occasion as “a great moment for the entire polytechnic community witnessing the inauguration of the 11th rector of the polytechnic.” He said the institution can only thrive in an atmosphere of peace and that only motivated workforce can contribute meaningfully towards the development of LASPOTECH.
Said he: “We have made efforts to lay a good foundation for peace and reconciliation and it is my hope that we will all continue to work as a team for the good of the polytechnic.”
Chairman, Governing Council of LASPOTECH, Prof. Rasheed Ojikutu, disclosed that the new rector would be a good leader to the community, a great mentor to his subordinates and lover of people. He acknowledged that LASPOTECH had in the past few years deviated from its set goals of promotion of scholarship and leadership in technology to a community where chaos, rancour and avoidable crisis precipitated by largely false and unfounded rumour mongering allowed to rule the daily conduct of the institution.
He urged the polytechnic community to bury the corpse of the past and midwife a new baby for the benefit of generations yet unborn. Ojikutu assured the workers that the governing council will implement the visitation panel’s report as soon as it is released.
In his acceptance speech, Olaleye, said: “I thank God for making today a reality. The journey to this day has been challenging and highly demanding. But I thank God that we are able to wade through and surmount all odds.”
He Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, chairman of council, Prof. Ojikutu and members for standing by their promise and ensuring justice in the process of choosing the 11th rector: “They promised to be just and select on merit the next rector.
“Today, they have done just that. The ovation that greeted the announcement by the government is a testimony. No approval of this action can be greater than the joy and spontaneous jubilation of the stake- holders in the institution.
“Today marks the beginning of a new era in our polytechnic. The journey to change the narratives has just begun. Today is the beginning of the 1,825 days of this administration. The countdown starts today. And to start with, this administration will priorities staff welfare, academic excellence and employability and entrepreneurship skills for our students.
‘’The polytechnic is as great as the strength, the sacrifice and the free contributions of its human capital. Invariably too, our students are as good as the quality of our lecturers. A highly motivated workforce will almost probably deliver on its expectation. Therefore, our administration will invest heavily in human capital development.”
The new rector said LASPOTECH was established as centre of fountain of knowledge, bedrock of technology where education dexterity meet, where staff and students engage in research and teaching in an environment of peace: “There is no doubt that this vision has suffered some setbacks in recent years.”
Four staff unions of the Lagos State University (LASU), Oojo, might have started the unusual send forth as they in November 2015, swept the footprints of the former VC, Prof. John Obafunwa. The workers also wore Aso ebi to celebrate his exit and even fried Akara.
Just recently, workers of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, swept the footprints of its former chairman, Governing Council, Dr. Wale Babalakin, after the Federal Government dissolved the council and reinstated the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe.