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Opinion: Ambode And Silent Screams From LASPOTECH By Dele Owolabi

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In Nigeria, people are internally displaced for many
reasons amongst which are: terrorism, militancy, natural disaster,
territory conflicts, civil war, etc. Whatever reason that may be
responsible for internal displacement, the situations at all settlement
camps remain the same. Neglect, malnutrition, mental and physical abuse,
vulnerability, diversion of funds/aids from donors, even intermittent
external aggression. In some cases, the persons prefer the enemies’
camp to the IDP camp if given the opportunity to choose.

This
situation in any typical IDP camps is not different from the harrowing
experience that has plagued the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH)
students. The 40-year-old institution has witnessed up to four strike
actions in the last 40 weeks for numerous faulty reasons. Hence
disrupting and prolonging the academic years of the innocent students.
The
industrial dispute that was said to have started in July 2016 had led
to total shut down of the polytechnic on different occasions, starting
from Thursday 20th -31st October, 2016; 20th April – 15th May, 2017; 5th
-21st June, 2017 and 1st August – 15th. At different periods, the
strike actions  featured demonstrations, press conferences, media
appearances, visits to the Lagos State House of Assembly, visits to the
Governor’s office, letters to the Governor and even invasion of the
campus by armed military men which attracted public outrage. In all of
these, the students languish in pains while the governor seems to enjoy
the rhythm of their silent screams. Till today, nothing has been done to
investigate the bestial treatment of the students by the soldiers who
earn their living through the taxes paid by parents.

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No
doubt, there is a structure put in place by the Governor to mitigate in
situation like this. The structure starts from the Rector, who believes
that the staff unions cannot force him into the payment that is yet to
be domesticated. In such situation, one would have expected the
Governing Council which is to serve as the representative of the
Governor to mediate between the warring parties, but got enmeshed in the
dirty mud. 
Next is the
Special Adviser on Education to the Governor whose intervention has
fallen below average and yielded more confusion. The latest wrong move
of the SAE was the court summon from an industrial court to the Unions,
which is a clear reflection of his bad handling of the protracted
industrial disharmony. As at today, all parties are at limbo and waiting
endlessly for the final sound of the gavel. 
The
Permanent Secretary in Lagos Ministry of Education and his counterpart
in Ministry of Establishment could not salvage the situation as their
interpretations of policy continue to somersault in their faces. The
House Committee on Education’s intervention looks promising but has only
handed the students another row of strike action.
One
year after, if the structures put in place to see to the smooth running
of the institution fail, the Governor needs to start questioning the
competence of his men and complicity in the seemingly unending drama.
The students and their parents did not vote for their Lecturers, Rector,
Governing Council members, SAE or Permanent Secretaries. Guardians and
parents don’t also pay their taxes to the same set of people, but to
Lagos State Government under the leadership of Governor Akinwumi Ambode.
Another electioneering starts in earnest, ‘Ambo lee kan si’ and we can
not afford to close our eyes to the harvests of votes that could come
from any angle. The students pay and they deserve quality service
delivery. After all, when the strike actions were called off, the rector
and the staff still received their pay packs. Who pays for the wasted
years of the innocent students? 

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Enough
of this conspiracy of silence by the powers that be. The students
should be treated as future of Nigeria not as IDPs that are mentally
wounded and physically brutalized. It may interest his Excellency to
know that, the Ikorodu medical centre of the polytechnic at the just
concluded 2016/2017 second semester examination in the month of
September recorded highest number of casualties in the history of the
Polytechnic – no thanks to the examinations that were cramped into eight
days to forestall possible fresh industrial strike by the staff unions.
Avoidance and denial do not work in a matter of this importance, the
Governor just need to face it and rest the matter finally. 
From
all indications, the Governor seems to trust his boys, but it won’t be
out of place if he raises an independent panel of inquiry to look
critically and holistically into the issues affecting the polytechnic.
What if the issues go beyond arrears? What if there is an issue of
integrity deficit on the part of the stakeholders? What if the Governor
has been fed with wrong information? What if the only thing that staff,
students and pensioners want is an assuring words from the amiable
Governor? What if this is an opportunity for the staff unions to learn a
better approach to conflict resolution without ‘placards’? What if the
managers of the polytechnic need the ongoing crisis to learn modern
business intelligence and better handling of men, machine, money? What
if the staff and their unions meant good for the polytechnic? What if it
is time for the Governor to reposition the polytechnic as the hub and
bedrock of technological excellence in Africa? What if?

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Taking
your employee to court is not a strength sir, it is a weakness in
conflict resolution because all internal avenues have not been
exhausted. You have only succeeded in creating more disgruntled
elements, recalcitrant, and vulnerable victims of the IDP camp. Unless
there is a miracle, getting injunction on “no work, no pay” won’t stop
further agitation and industrial disharmony. No good father transfers
his domestic affairs to his neighbour or village chief and earn the
respects of his children after settlements.
Yes,
the staff unions goofed by not trusting her Excellency, the Deputy
Governor and the House Committee on Education’s efforts to mitigate in
the crisis. The unions and all other actors in this avoidable crisis
deserve corrective spanks and not destructive spites. As there is no
alternative to peaceful co-existence, I also believe it is not too late
for the father of all in person of Governor Akinwumi Ambode to restore
permanent peace to the polytechnic of excellence. 
As
the polytechnic clocks forty this year, all hands must be on deck to
move the Institution to a lofty height and not the current palpable
animosity that envelopes the bedrock of technology. 
The products of a peaceful family are always the harbinger of progress in every society.
Owolabi, a public commentator, lives in Ikorodu

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