Agwodinuju Column; Okorocha’s New Varsity, Host Community And The Untold Truth


Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

By *Kelechi Mejuobi*

After devoting enormous time in the past discussing several impishness of Governor Rochas Okorocha in his eight-year reign, I tried to relax and allow for his inglorious exit with the election of a successor that was not his making.

But it appears the outgoing governor does not want to pass out excellently from office without quantum of knavery which has indeed become part of his trademark.

Part of his final chicanery which he is about to bequeath Imo State is the reported establishment of more higher institutions in the state. According to the media unit of Government House, Owerri, Okorocha within 30 days left to pack out his belongings from the Governor’s office set up two Universities, four Polytechnics and two Colleges of Education at a swoop.
Among the so-called Universities is the controversial Imo State University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, its establishment is generating ripples among the populace.

A signal that an “American Wonder” model of University is underway in Imo was an advertisement placed by the state government announcing positions for employment for office of the Vice-Chancellor, and Registrar for the Imo State University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences alongside Rectors and Registrars for the Polytechnics. Requests for Provosts for Colleges of Education were not spared in the public notice.

Before the dust raised by the pronouncement could rest, Okorocha announced new management of the so called fresh institutions. Before the staff and students of the Imo State Polytechnic in Umuagwo could be acquainted with the latest development, they were directed to make haste and leave the premises to the new location at Ehime Mbano, whereas new staff for the so-called University was yet to be recruited.

A notification was passed asking students and staff to quit the school immediately.
Sensing insincerely on the part of the state government on the whole arrangement, the people of Umuagwo in Ohaji/Egbema LGA of the state, the host community marched out to protest against the planned relocation of the Imo State Polytechnic and establishment of University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
The community took over the gates of the school in peaceful manner to register their grievances.

An uninformed Chief Press Secretary, CPS, to the governor, Sam Onwuemedo who in his usual poor media management skills delved into the matter without professional finesse and necessary tactical know-how to show that he remains an arch apostle of “Iberberism”. Onwuemedo lacking in required manners expected of a public office holder, in his reaction to the protest, used uncomplimentary words to address the people entitled to expression of their fundamental rights in a democratic set up. Instead of tackling issues raised by the host community for their grievances, a petulant Onwuemedo went on wild goose chase to further expose his raspy dispositions to actions in contrast to the desires of his paymasters.

I may not dwell much on Onwuemeodo’s taciturn remarks and traditional foolhardy posturing. But in due course. I will set out and edition to discuss his habitual harum-scarum, as he begins to join his paymasters to vamoose from Govt House after an uneventful escapade in unethical machinations.

However, while I reserve another space to take him on in next or subsequent editions, there is need to make certain clarifications concerning reasons why the host community took to the streets to protest over the recent development.

Ordinarily, a free thinker, oblivious of the reasons behind the protest of the host community would develop indifferent attitude to their plight. It would appear as a sheer expression of stupidity on the part of the people to reject a University for Polytechnic. Yes, it amounts to sheer stupidity to an uninformed mind unaware of the travails of the community. Since Okorocha came on board in 2011 and brought in the Rector, Rev Fr Wence Madu, who is being accused to have over stayed his welcome in Umuagwo considering the eight years he spent that is beyond the limits the law establishing Imo Poly allowed for the head of the institution, it has not been well for the landowners.

The misfortune brought in by those mentioned above started in 2013 when the insensitive balkanization and creation of multi campus system commenced. For unjust reasons, a duplication of courses offered by the institution was witnessed in three campuses under the multiple campus system. The host community protested the unwarranted balkanization but were mercilessly dribbled by the state government and cohorts. Unfortunately, the school management could not keep to their words of beginning fresh disciplines in the new campuses. Instead, the existing ones were carted away to the new locations. In the new dawn, the Host community again discovered another grand design to finally dismember the institution through subtle means. It was discovered that the legal instrument, the outgoing administration is relying to remove Imo Poly for the Agric Varsity does not concern Umuagwo campus. In the preliminary title of the Imo State of Nigeria 2019 law No 4, it states “A law to establish the University of Agriculture and Environmental Studies Aboh/Okpala and other related matters” . The name of Umuagwo or a law asking for the removal of Imo State Polytechnic, Umuagwo was not contained in the acclaimed Bill for the law.

Worthy of note in the theatre of absurdity is an the injunction of the word “campus” which further states “a campus of the University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Aboh/Okpala established pursuant to this law.
The Host community has to wake up to struggle against this misnomer since the law does not concern Imo State Polytechnic, Umuagwo. They became surprised why the sudden call for evacuation of items and materials from Umuagwo to other places when nothing was brought in for a University.
More disturbing to the Host community warranting the alarm of decent from the outgoing government and utter resistance is another word enshrined in the law which brought in Public Private Partnership agreement into the whole scene.Paragraph three of the same Imo State of Nigeria, 2019 Law No 4 states “Agreement” means the public private partnership agreement between the Imo State Government and the private investors as it relates to the ownership of the University”

Going by the words of governor Okorocha and the latter spirit of the law, the so-called Agric Varsity is a PPP venture where yet to be identified investors have 90% interest whereas the government has only 10%. The fate of Host community unknown in the whole arrangement.

Now, the host community has to protest when it was discovered that the land government acquired from them for public purpose is now being traded away to unknown private investors without their knowledge and consultation as landowners.

The people are also worried about the unknown identity of the so called PPP investors and the real intent of the operators considering the quick manner materials and men were asked to vacate the premises since the pronouncement of a varsity.

Further worries came up when the Rector, Madu who had frosty relationship with the host community because of his unbridled hatred to the people was named chairman of the Governing Board of the new varsity.

Apparently scared of the continued presence of Madu in the institution after history of deprivation from him, the Host Community, unwilling to experience more of his vindictiveness and vengeance had to go on protest. The question on the lips of many of the protesters judging from the placards was if “Madu was sent to finish them again” after 8 years in office?
The bottom-line of their grouse is that the law for the establishment of the agric varsity does not concern Imo Poly Umuagwo campus and the land owners not aware or consulted over the taking over of the structures by unknown PPP investors.

It is for these reasons that the people will address the press on the matter further stated thus;
“Our attention has been drawn to the purported removal of Imo State Polytechnic Umuagwo and establishment of Imo State University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at the complex. In all intent and purposes, the action is a grand deceit and high level subterfuge by the outgoing administration, in connivance with the over stayed Rector of the institution, who claims to be a Priest, Fr. Wence Madu to completely destroy the institution and deal decisively with the host community”.
“Recall that in the eight years of Gov. Rochas Okorocha, this administration only considered it necessary to remove Imo State Polytechnic Umuagwo and changed it to Imo State University of Agric and environmental sciences, 34 days to its exit, showing that it was an action done in bad faith which cannot stand. More so, the Rector, Fr. Wence Madu who had over spent his stay as head of the institution was ridiculously appointed chancellor and chairman of the board. Fr. Wence came in as Rector in 2011 and his tenure ended 2017, yet he has been in charge till date. His qualification is doubt to be a Rector”.
“The host community, Umuagwo has it on good note that the said Fr. Madu’s mission to the institution in Umuagwo was to destroy Imo State Polytechnic Umuagwo. Earlier sign of his mischief started immediately he was appointed Rector, when the selfish balkanization of the courses and creation of multi campus system commenced. The action led to the removal of several courses out of Imo State Polytechnic Umuagwo. He also stated the utter anihilation of host communities by denying them rights and privileges in the institution as well as the alleged mismanagement of the resources meant for the development of the school.”
“Unfortunately after his five years tenure expired, two years ago, the Rector purportedly claimed that his tenure was extended for two years which is against the Edit establishing the Polytechnic and NBTE rules governing the Polytechnic. As at today, staff Members of Imo State Polytechnic are owed backlog of salaries even as it was at an unacceptable 80%. The appointment of Fr. Madu as chancellor and Chairman of the board of the so called Imo State University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences is not acceptable to the host community and won’t stand.”
“It has also been discovered that the so called University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences is a sham private partnership arrangement orchestrated by Rector and acolytes to subtly remove Imo State Polytechnic from Umuagwo and take over our land for the selfish gains.”
“It has also been observed that the plot to remove Imo State Polytechnic Umuagwo for the University is another design to deny Umuagwo the host community status of Imo State Polytechnic considering that Imo State government has no capacity to fund the newly established varsities. So, after Imo State’ Polytechnic has been removed, the so called University will die a natural death.”
“In view of the non consideration of the interest of the Host community and continued stay of the Rector whose tenure had expired years ago, the host community is saying No to the attempt to give its land to Fr. Wence Madu and co under the University arrangement.”
“The host community is also not comfortable with this dying minute policy of the Okorocha Government.”
“We say No to the fake University; leave our Imo State Polytechnic for us in Umuagwo. Let Fr. Wence Madu Go.”

Kelechi Mejuobi is Owerri based journalist and social commentatoroga-kcc2