The governor of Ogun State promised to reduce the tuition fees of the school in his election campaign.
The current face-off between the students of the state-owned Olabisi Onabanjo University and the Ibikunle Amosun led Ogun State Government over the payment of the back-log of school fees owed by the students and the policy by the government that only those who have paid their fees up to date will be eligible to write the harmattan semester examination of the 2012/2013 academic session is one that has been overshadowed by the propaganda of the state, hence the need to put the records straight.
The institution’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Saburi Adesanya, in reaction to the protest by the students over the crisis on Monday, 20th May, 2013 had said that the regularization was in line with the Federal Government’s directive through the National Universities Commission, NUC, requesting all universities to provide a comprehensive students ‘audit within the next six weeks.
Adesanya added that the only way to achieve this was to compile the list of bonafide students who had been dully registered through payment of school fees.
He said: “The protesting students were those who failed to meet the deadline of Friday, May 17 to comply with the instruction before the commencement of 500 level Law students”.
But what he failed to mention was the fact that the school’s portal was only open for student’s to pay the current session’s school fees while those who were owing more than one session have been barred from payment since last session.
Another issue which the Vice Chancellor has not clarified is the fact that the said regularization exercise in OOU had been undertaken by his predecessors as part of the statutory guidelines as required by the NUC without students having to repeat sessions as per extra years or being barred from writing examinations as he is proposing.
Also on the purported on-going reforms in the university, he has also subtly covered the fact that the state government has turned its eyes on the university as a potential cash-cow taking advantage of the huge population of students in the university which is estimated to be over 15,000 in its various campuses spread across the state.
To perfect its scheme, the state government had introduced point-of-sale machines across the various faculties of OOU for the collection of all revenues. This was executed under the guise of pioneering a technology-driven process to ensure that all funds accruing to the university was paid directly to the state government’s coffers.
But from available records, only a meagre percentage of this funds is being disbursed to the university’s management which is already cash-strapped, owing to the poor allocation from the government for the development of infrastructure in the university as well as to meet the wage demands of its huge staff population, leaving nothing for research which is one of the core mandates of the university.
The background to this crisis was laid by the state governor, Ibikunle Amosun, who had promised to reduce the school fees of all students in the university by 50 per cent as part of his electoral promises if elected into office in 2011.
The governor had taken advantage of the stance by the students not to vote for any candidate who will not reduce the fees of the institution following the year-on-year increase of over 100 per cent by the administration of the former governor of the state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel.
Some students in Olabisi Onabanjo University, OOU, who were unable to cope with the high fees at the time which had increased from N15, 000 as at the 2005/2006 academic session to N150, 000 during the 2008/2009 session, a whopping 1,000 per cent increase over a period of 4 academic sessions had protested and demanded the reduction as a pre-requisite for voting for any candidate in the 2011 gubernatorial elections in the state.
As if that was not enough, the Amosun administration still jerked the fees in OOU again to a record N270, 000 in the 2012/2013 academic session, making some students who hoped to get a qualitative but affordable education in the state owned university to drop out at the point of entry over the lack of the school fees as it was too exorbitant for the common man.
Majority of the students stayed back in the school during the electoral process and registered and voted him into power despite being bribed by the opposition party with cash rewards and the promise of reduction of the same fees by the same percentage.
Zoom to 2013, the same self-acclaimed ‘people’s governor’ had won the elections courtesy of the majority of votes from the students in various institutions owned by the state and failed to reduce the fees but rather increases it every year.
Can you believe that some of these students in disciplines like Law, Medicine, Engineering, Pharmacy etc. now pay as high as N275, 000 per session? Now parents of these students are farmers in the agrarian economy of the state or minimum wage earners on the state government’s payroll. Some of these families have as much as three children across these departments and now have to pay for about three sessions for each of them; particularly for those in 500/600 level whom they hoped upon graduation will come and help the family. Now, these children are being asked to repeat a session or even three sessions as touted by the state government through the school management.
How does the state government expect such parents to cough out N275, 000 [two hundred and seventy five thousand naira] for three students in a family for about three sessions which amounts to N2, 475,000 [Two million four hundred and seventy five thousand naira] in an agrarian economy where over 70 per cent of the residents are farmers while another 20 per cent are minimum wage earners of N18, 000 on the payroll of the state government?
This will be catastrophic for the family. In fact an aged mother of one of the students affected by this policy was said to have gone into a coma for days and was said to have developed stroke and heart complications after being taken to the hospital. The woman is yet to recover from the shock after being told that that her two children who had studied in the school through her toil were to repeat the sessions which they had not paid for by the school when they had both spent five years each in the university.
The Presidency, the Action Congress of Nigeria, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the ACN national leader, civil society group, labour leaders, pro-democracy activists, the Nigerian Bar Association, traditional rulers, national assembly leaders, the Ogun State House of Assembly, the National Universities Commission [NUC] and other citizens must join hands and prevail on the Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, who is also the architect of the entire crisis to allow students to continue with their academic activities without hindrance and be given the grace to pay their fees before the end of the academic session or preferably before being cleared for graduation.
“Evil prevails only when good men keep quiet”, Nigerians and the international community must speak up with one voice and save the country’s young brains in Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State, some who are the future chief executives of conglomerates and leaders in government as well as other sectors, from being frustrated into the streets.
The legacies of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, premier of the old Western Nigeria who provided free education for all the people of the region which His Excellency, Ibikunle Amosun, must have been a beneficiary, is about to be eroded by this evil machination and the time to speak up is now. The future of a generation is in your hands; do not crash them to the streets as University drop outs.
While other state governors like Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State and Rochas Okorocha of Imo State have followed in the footsteps of Chief Obafemi Awolowo by providing free education up to University level, the award of scholarships to indigent students, payment of bursary to students of higher education, development of facilities in state-owned institutions, prompt release of funds to institutions of higher learning, sponsorship of students to Ivy league schools abroad and donation of new academic lecture halls to schools even outside its ownership among others; the governor of the home state of the late sage is bent on destroying the pillars upon which the icon built, by sending students, who are self-sponsored or from poor families but struggling to get good education to better their lives, out of the school. Amosun, in essence, denies them of one of the fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which he swore to uphold on May, 29, 2011.
A golden opportunity presents itself for the governor to make amends by reversing the repetition of session and no school fees, no examination order in Olabisi Onabanjo University, OOU as the state chief executive on the occasion of Nigeria’s democracy day which marks his 2nd year in office, failure of which he may never be able to return to the government house in 2015 as this will serve as a bad precedent for him in the race for the Oke Mosan seat of government among the youth who constitute an estimated 70 per cent of the state’s population, majority of which are students.
David Chris is a student of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State.