Governor Rotimi Akeredolu has hired disgruntled students’ union leaders in some Ondo State owned tertiary institutions to stage a pro-government protest against the students of Adekunle Ajasin University who have been campaigning for a reversal in the recent astronomical hike in their tuition, Sahara Reporters can report.
It was authoritatively learnt on Tuesday night that some of the hired students' leaders have been asked to mobilize other groups from different campuses to support the state government against the Adekunle Ajasin University students.
Students of Adekunle Ajasin University had on Monday begun a massive protest over the hike in their tuition fee from N35, 000 to N180, 000.
The protests by the students on Monday crippled business and commercial activities in the state capital.
Many of the students who spoke during the protest said the new fee was unacceptable and not affordable.
They also accused Governor Akeredolu led government of commercializing the educational institutions in the state.
Local traders and market women who are parents had already shown solidarity with the protesting students and called on government to urgently reverse the hike in the tuition.
Meanwhile, an impeccable government source that spoke to our correspondent exclusively disclosed that Mr. Akeredolu hired the pro-government student union leaders with the sum of five hundred thousand naira to support his government on the hike in the tuition.
The source revealed that the students leaders are being hired to carry out a counter-protest against the students of the Adekunle Ajasin University.
He added that Governor Akeredolu has also instructed his Special Assistant on Student’s Affairs, Banji Adewumi to carry out the "hatchet job" of mobilizing the pro-government protests by some students to support the hike in the tuition fee.
According to same source, the state Commissioner of Education, Femi Agagu and Commissioner of Information, Mr. Yemi Olowolabi have also been asked to begin a propaganda campaign in the media against the protesting AAUA Students.
“The governor (Rotimi Akeredolu) held a meeting with his political aides and the Commissioners for information, and that of the Education with a plan to counter all the protests of the Adekunle Ajasin University Students.
“And shortly after the meeting, it was concluded that some students should be mobilized through some former students union leaders to carry out a pro-government protest that would support the hike in the tuition of the institution.
“The Governor is already in touch with his aide on Students' Affairs to mobilize the students with half a million naira to protest and support the government over the hike in the school fee.
"The plan is to mobilize the students of the Ondo State University of Science and Technology (OSUSTECH) and some from the University of Medical Sciences who are paying the large sum of over N150, 000 and N180, 000 to justify the action of the government in increasing the fee of that of Adekunle Ajasin University".
Sahara Reporters reliably gathered that Governor Akeredolu was embarrassed by the massive protests of the Adekunle Ajasin University students.
“When the students started the protest on Monday, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu ran to Lagos where he went to attend the book launch of his younger brother.
“The Governor was very embarrassed by the protest of the students, especially as the news went viral that businesses and commercial activities have been shut down in the state due to the protest.
“He (Akeredolu) wasn’t comfortable as he started receiving calls from some his close friends who were asking what was really happening in the state, following the protests by the aggrieved students.
"In fact, at a time he had to shout on one of his political aides on the phone to do the needful when the pictures emerged on the social media (facebook) of the students shutting down everywhere in protest over the hike in their tuition.
"That was exactly why you see mobile and anti-riot policemen shooting directly to disperse the protesting students from the streets because it was the Governor who gave the order through the Police Commissioner, Mr. Gbenga Adeyanju".
Our correspondent learnt that one of the former students leaders identified as Ifeoluwa Philip, who was a former Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Students Union Government (SUG) at the Ondo State University of Science and Technology (OSUSTECH) was hired by the government to address the press in kicking against the students protesting.
Sources also revealed that Philip was paid to mobilize some students to a press conference to support the state government and justify the increment in the AAAU school fee.
One of the sources hinted that the press conference was coordinated by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Segun Ajiboye, who hurriedly mobilized some broadcast journalists to the Helena hotel in Akure where the "paid students leaders" addressed the media to justify the increment in the AAUA tuition fee.
While addressing reporters, Philip said that the students’ union leaders were in support of the increase in tuition.
He noted that the increment in the fee of the institution was justifiable since other state government owned universities had been paying higher in the past years.
He further accused the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) of bias in the ongoing protest against the government.
"Our position is that if the state government should revert to the old tuition at Akungba, our tuition at OSUSTECH would have to be reduced to between N23,000 and N37,000 per session as well. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander.
“When the fees for OSUSTECH was increased, where was NANS? Why did they not interfere? But now that AAUA has increased fees, they have interfered, which is biased.
“Before now, OSUSTECH new students have been paying between N120,000 and N150,000 as tuition per session. Our counterparts at UNIMED, Ondo pay between N200,000 and N450,000 per session. We are not complaining because the tuition is realistic in the spirit of the economic realities and academic excellence.
“On a realistic note, placing AAUA on one hand and OSUSTECH and UNIMED on the other, one would see that Akungba, which has been receiving government attention in terms of infrastructure development deserves to pay more than the other state-owned institutions,” he said.
But reacting, Kingsley Oladunmoye, the SUG President of OSUSTECH disclosed that Ifeoluwa Philip was no longer a student of the school and has no right to speak on behalf of the entire students.
Mr. Oladunmoye noted that the press Conference addressed by him (Philip) was political motivated by the state government to cause division among the students over the hike in AAUA fee.
He explained that OSUSTECH students were in support of the AAUA protest, and called on the government to urgently reverse its decision on the hike in the institution fee.
"We were at the protest ground and we stood our ground for both our citadel of learning (OSUSTECH) and our sister university (AAUA) that the tuition fee should be reduced.
"The orientation has been re-engineered and the level of thinking has changed drastically which has given us the willingness to fight for Nigeria students as justice is our priority.
"We are totally in support of the protest as we want a better life for all and education must be affordable by all.
"There should not be any reason to commercialize education as even the government officials are products of free education.
"On this note I am glad to inform the general public that OSUSTECH students and union leaders never went against the protest but we stood gallantly till a compromise was reached" he said.
Already, members of the Ondo State House of Assembly have directed members of the governing board and the management of the institution to appear before them today over the tuition hike.
Bamidele Oloyelogun, Speaker of Ondo State House of Assembly gave the directive during a plenary session.
The Assembly had earlier disassociated itself from the hike in the school fee of the Adekunle Ajasin University, noting that the increment was unjustifiable.