The Vice Chancellor of the Osun State University, Prof. Olabode Popoola, speaks on the crisis in the institution and allegations of financial mismanagement levelled against him by some staff unions, AKEEM LASISI writes
Part of the grouse the unions have against you is that they say you are corrupt. What do you have to say on this?
Allegations remain allegations. My worry about the media is that some of these things are not verified before they are published. I have never been corrupt. I fight corruption, so we have a case of corruption fighting back. All their allegations are false, blatant lies.
What about the issue of N3bn you are said to have inherited but mismanaged?
I didn’t inherit N3bn. What I had in the papers handed over to me was N1.8bn, including TETFUND money and grants for some researchers within the varsity. You can’t even touch the funds. They don’t belong to the university. Indeed, the university was bankrupt when I assumed office.
We found out later that there were debts close to a billion naira, and the Council knows about it. So, if some people under the guise of unionism would raise such allegations because they have issues with the vice chancellor, then something must be wrong somewhere. But I also need to add that, since I came here, I have made close to a billion naira through blocking of leakages, and insisting that fees must be paid. So, maybe they are also referring to the money that I made. We have managed whatever resources we have prudently.
No university pays salary ahead of me. Here is a state university that is not funded by government. We barely receive 25 per cent of our salary bill from government; yet for 18 months that I have been here, I have been paying salaries on the 26th of every month. We pay full salaries, not part payment.
So, if you are talking about N3bn, I have done simple arithmetic: I have been here for 18 months. If truly there was any N3bn, divide it by N166m, which is my wage bill. That means that in 18 months, I have stolen N166m every month. That is what it means.
The most important thing is this: I have never been a corrupt person, I swear. I speak about it anywhere I go. You can’t bribe me. I have never taken and I have never given bribe. But I have suffered for it. Go to the University of Ibadan where I came from, it is the same problem that people have with me. They say I am too rigid. So, there is nothing like stealing N3bn.
What then is the bone of contention between your management and the workers?
I always want to make it clear that when you say ‘between management and workers’, that, to me, is too generic. At UNIOSUN, we have a group of people well entrenched with interest – very few. And they operate under the guise of unionism. They are not even up to 20. They were in charge of administration before I came. They were controlling the administration. And I think I am beyond that, I am not being immodest. I’m responsible to Council. It is not possible for a group of people for any reason to control me.
So, it is just about vested interest. It’s no longer business as usual. We have blocked leakages. We are entrenching discipline. I know people don’t like change, particularly when it affects their interest. That is what we are dealing with. It is not about workers. In a state where workers are being owed, and here is a sub-set where workers are being paid, tell me why workers will fight the person in charge there.
You spoke about blocking leakages. Can you substantiate this?
When I came here we had a relationship with one of the telecom networks. We were paying about N9m per quarter. And I thought it was too high. I invited them here and told them that there were other options. Then the amount came down to N6m. The amount we saved doesn’t come into my purse. In a year we are saving about N12m. I don’t know why a university has to pay higher than the market rate.
To conduct exams every semester, when I came here, it cost the university of N10m to 12m, per semester. I felt that, look, I came from UI, I am not sure it costs as much as that there. I discussed with my principal officers, particularly the DVC Academics; we are on the same page on this matter. Now, last semester, we spent less than N5m. I have another example.
I was handed a bill of N158m for the accreditation of 19 programmes. And I felt, we don’t spend as much as that in UI. And we did our analysis, we ended up spending N54m and all the 19 programmes were accredited