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Still On Osun Poly Rector And The Consequence Of A Quandary Leadership



Dr Tajudeen Odetayo

By Kehinde Ayantunji

Two weeks ago, I chronicled my encounter with a university teacher, where the don could not withhold his derogatory remark on Osun State on account of the unending farcical approach to statecraft adopted by Governor Ademola Adeleke adminstration. Under the current leadership with bagages of controversies renging from appointments, award of contract to debasing Executive Orders, it is no longer news that Osun has become a laughing stock because laws and convention guiding governance are daily flouted with no caution.

The brazen disregard to the rule of law is commonplace in virtually all the departments and institutions in the state, but my focus will be on the clownish suspension of the Rector of Oṣun State Polytechnic Iree, Dr Tajudeen Odetayo and let me make it clear that am writing this as a sense of responsibility to my alma mater without any iota of political or party sentiment.

Odetayo last week became the victim of the hollowed executive order of the state governor. His removal, according to the state government, borders on financial recklessness and abuse of office. And in replacement, an Ede-born Kehinde Alabi was drafted in acting capacity. Since that time, falcons have refused to harken to the falconers as all academic activities in the institution have been suspended. Both the academic and non-academic staff unions have come in stout defence of the suspended Odetayo, stressing that due process was not followed in suspension and replacement of the rector.

The unions, who protested the new ugly development in the institution posited that apart from the fact that the institution has a subtansive Deputy Rector who can step in, Mr Alabi Kehinde was not qualified to become the rector having not met the requirements enshrined in the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) Polytechnic Act. According to them, a candidate for the position of a rector must possess 5 years post Chief Lecturer experience, must have graduated a National Diploma or Higher National Diploma student, must hold a doctoral degree, among other things, which the newly installed head does not posesss. I share the sentiment of the union members. As someone who has followed the progression of the polytechnic in the last 25 years ( as a student union leader, alumnus, Senior Special Assistant on Student Affairs and Social Mobilisation to a former governor and a Non-Executive Director, Osun State Public Procurement Agency), I have sufficient knowledge of how the system works and I make bold to say that the state government’s involvement in the saga is unhealthy, unhelpful and sheer abuse of power.

From all indications, the removal of Odetayo was stage-managed to give room for the governor’s kinsman from Ede to take over the headship of the institution to further sustain the Edenisation drive of the state government. Two events have taken place in the last few days to validate the Edenisation concern shared by critical stakeholders. One, the said acting rector was smuggled to the office by non-state actors on Monday to assume duty. Two, the governor’s spokesperson, Mr Rasheed Olawale, visited almost all the radio stations in the state same Monday to rationalize the action of the state government and deconstruct the prevailing Edenisation syndrome.

When Olawale appeared on Rave FM on Monday, for example, he was unable to adduce strong argument to justify that the state government acted in line with the extant laws regarding its intervention in the institution. Are the allegations against Dr Odetayo strong enough to excuse him from the office? Was the appointment of Kehinde Alabi as the acting rector in order or not? Can the Governing Council of the Osun State Polytechnic Iree, as currently constituted, do justice to the matter as suggested by the state government?

According to Olawale, there was a petition against the rector and the fair decision was for him to step aside to forestall interference with the investigation. He also insisted that the government was at liberty to appoint whomever it deemed suitable since the Polytechnic Act being cited by the staff unions in the institution was not binding on them as the law was yet to be domesticated in the state.

Nothing could be so unfortunate than the argument that a guideline by a polytechnic regulatory body is not binding on the state polytechnic. This position of the government has again reinforced the fear of the sensible members of the public as to the inability of the handlers of the state government to rise beyond their bottomless pitiable level. Osun should be pitied that these perverted minds are the characters advising Mr governor on how to manage tertiary education. We should be worried for this open lack of decency, it could spell doom for the state because when purveyors of anything-goes mantra are allowed to manage state policies, government institutions are bound to collapse.

For clarity, NBTE regulation is statutory. It is like that of the National University Commission (NUC). Its regulations and policy directions are not subject to whims and caprices of a state executive as Mr Olawale wanted us to believe. The regulations are to be obeyed hundred percent, not cherry-picked.

However, the reference made by Olawale to the appointment of late Mr T. A Ibitoye, who was the former rector, as a precedence to explain the current charade, is not relevant in this instance because Mr T. A Ibitoye was already a deputy rector when Professor Benjamin Adeleke was the rector, so succeeding him as acting rector attracted no controversy as we have in the current situation.

Mr Olawale further gave himself out as a character without consistency when he drew an example from similar irregularity that purportedly took place at the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, to justify the illegal action of the state government. I am not familiar with the fact of Ilaro’ s case but the logical question is that, If we had bad precedence somewhere, must we also have it here? Why emulating bad precedence and not good antecedent?

Regarding the petition againt the removed rector, I hold that the principle of fear hearing was on holiday. I reason that the rector should have been served a query so as for him to state his side of the story. He was not offered such a basic administrative privilege to prove his innocence. If the short-cut adopted by the government were to be the standard, the emergency acting rector from Ede, Kehinde Alabi too would have lost his job when he suffered similar fate in 2021 when he was in the spotlight for increasing handout price and imposing such hand-outs on the students, against the direction set by the management. The story was published in October 2021 on NAMACOS Editorial Board website, one of the most reputable campus news outfits in that polytechnic, for readers interested in fact-checking the foregoing claim. Would Alabi have got the opportunity to aspire to become the institution’s head if he had been axed down in 2021 over mere allegation?

Can the state government sustain its claim that Dr Odetayo procured an official vehicle with N21 Million without the needed approvals? If yes, it must right the wrong by toeing the path of due process. Allow the victim to defend himself in accordance with the polytechnic service regulations. However, drawing from my experience in the state procurement agency, I doubt if the allegation could be proven because the highest approval limit for a rector is N1 Million; so where does he derive the power to approve such amount for the purchase of official vehicle ? In fact the available information indicated that the rector got the approval of the Finance and General Purpose Committee for the purchase of the vehicle. This committee comprises all the principal officers of the institution, the representatives of ministries of finance, education, budget and economic planning, ministry of justice among others. In the absence of the governing council and Commissioner for Education, the committee has power to consider such request before release of fund for such procurement. Dr Odetayo was said to have also secured the approval of the procurement office. So if truly he obtained these approvals, where did he err then?

Aside this, I am bold to say that as a former student of that Polytechnic, Odetayo might have his shortcomings, but not academic or financial impropriety. If you conduct a perception study among the anumnus of the institution, I am confident that the response would be overwhelming that Odetayo is a model of academic and financial integrity.

There was a period Odetayo was a Director of Examination, he insisted that lectures who were on exam invigilation must sign for refreshment provided by the management, many felt insulted, but he insisted that he has responsibility to account for every expences and that collecting the refreshment is not compulsory, but if you show interest in the biscuit and soft drink, you must sign for it. That is Odetayo for you and with my findings, the man has not changed.

It is obvious some forces around the corridors of power were only out to call dog a bad name in order to hang it. But while trying to perfect their plot, they have rammed the institution into avoidable crises that would take months to resolve, particularly now that the governing council of the institution, which statutorily should give leadership in this tumultuous period, is not yet properly constituted, or how can you constitue a council with the announcement and inauguration of only the Chairman without members, where is that quorum to take a valid decision, in real sense of it, there is no council yet except if they have appointmented members through the back door.

So what is the way forward? The way forward is for the government to reverse the decision and put the appropriate machinery in place to determine Odetayo’s culpability. The illegal succession perpetrated last week should not be further tolerated because it is capable of disrupting smooth academic operation in the institution. Governor Adeleke should rise above this petty and quandary leadership. It is time to act statesmanly.