By Kelechi Mejuobi
Men of God, especially Catholic Priests are trained Evangelists. The implication is that they are associated with sermons as a means to reach out to the congregation. It was not surprising that the outgoing Rector of Imo State Polytechnic, Wence Madu, a Reverend Father of the Claretian priesthood order of the Catholic Church chose to do his Sunday sermon of this week on The Leader Newspaper.
The Leader newspaper is a weekly publishing outfit of the Owerri Catholic Archdiocese. Taking the center spread of the Sunday May 12, 2019 edition, Madu labored in vain to ventilate reasons behind the controversial relocation of the Imo State Polytechnic, Umuagwo to Ehime Mbano for the establishment of the Imo State University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences by the outgoing government of Rochas Okorocha.
Madu’s fruitless effort in the “arrangee” question and answer pullout in The Leader ended up in the hallowed cozenage to further market the grand deceit called Imo State University of Agriculture and Environmental Science.
Apart from taking his time to react on areas of interest that would please readers on why the new institution should be, critical areas not only shrouded in secrecy but also demanded clarifications were avoided even as most of his submissions in the interview are half baked truths and twisted facts to suit his claims.
The incriminating silence Madu maintained on some critical questions trailing the establishment of the higher institution and unfounded claims entrenched in the unholy sermon may have warranted this piece.
While answering questions on the establishment of the so called University of Agriculture, Madu said “so in 2017, the same Governing council under Sir Emeka Offor as chairman went back to the governor to present another request for the upgrading of the polytechnic to full fledged University with the name University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
And the governor, having accepted the request sent an Executive Bill to the House of Assembly.
It is left for Madu to inform the public if what was planned and being executed is “upgrading” or “Relocation” of Imo State Polytechnic, Umuagwo considering the latest development in the institution. Frankly speaking, the Host community wont dispitate energy for resistance if it was “upgrading” as submitted. Rather the “upgrading” is sheer semantics to win public support when the real deal is “Relocation”. To hoodwink unsuspecting readers and Imo populace unaware of this underhand practice being employed in the whole new University deal, Madu consistently expressed that what was planned was upgrading, but in practical implementation, what is being executed is relocation.
The implication of upgrading in ordinary parlance is to raise the standard of existing structures including human materials from Polytechnic to University level. But same can’t be said of the Madu style going by his approach since the government pronouncement was aired.
The obnoxious style of the Rector since the new dispensation commenced prompted the protest by the host community.
It is on record that moments after government announced it has established Imo State University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Madu was reported to have asked all the students to move to Ehime and Orlu campuses of Imo State Polytechnic to herald other movements of materials and items.
A clinical example of the “relocation” agenda against the acclaimed upgrading was witnessed last weekend. Apparently acting under Madu’s authority, a senior management staff in charge of works department masterminded the removal of computer items and office equipment from Imo Poly Umuagwo to unknown destination. A truck loaded with the items was intercepted by youths of the host community who called the attention of the police to arrest the perpetuators after the lead top management staff fled for his dear life to avoid arrest. Why didn’t Madu in the Leader interview explain reasons for the removal of items that were meant for upgrading?
Madu is also expected to explain why the order on students of Umuagwo Poly to move immediately to other places before office and computer items are lifted? Madu also failed to inform the public that while he is yet to bring in a pin to upgrade, the existing ones are being carted away to unknown destination.
The outgoing Rector owes the public the duty to point out that his claims of upgrading is seriously in contrast to the law establishing Imo State University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. In the said Law there was no where upgrading of the institution from Polytechnic to University was captured, rather what was written is Imo State University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Aboh/Ngor Okpala and not Umuagwo.
Again, if it was the desire of the institution to request upgrading, why did government keep quiet about it and chose to establish the desired University in Aboh/ Ngor Okpala instead of Umuagwo, Madu claimed the governing council advocated? And why would even be at the tail end of his administration when a new government with a governor elect is about to come on board ?
One vital aspect of deceit in the whole package the Rector failed to highlight about securing NUC licence for the University was the location issue. While Aboh/Ngor Okpala was on paper deposed to NUC for the Imo State University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Umuagwo location was ironically used to secure the operating license.
It is saddening that in all the said disgusting sermon Madu gave about the new University in Umuagwo in The Leader interview, he carefully avoided the crux of the matter; the Public Private Partnership, PPP, status of the institution. Part of what irked the land owners to march on the streets for the protest was the PPP caveat, the state government acting under NUC guideline considered before establishing the so-called University. The host community would not have cared much to challenge the establishment and relocation but for the PPP arrangement where the unknown operators have 90% while the state government is left with 10% according to what Okorocha said. When the host community parleyed with the outgoing governor after the protest, the governor was emphatic to state that NUC permitted operation because of the PPP. The same PPP caveat was included in the law establishing the Imo State University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences but Madu kept mute and decided to bury the vexatious factor while granting the interview.
Instead of revealing who the PPP operators are, Madu went into a fairy tale story of how to use the allocation of Old Imo Poly to run a University and two state Polytechnics.
If it is not an “American wonder” type of University he is planning to bequeath the state, how does Madu think he could use allocation for a single State Polytechnic to run a state University and two Polytechnics at the same time? Madu failed to tell his audience that even the existing Imo Poly he was in charge as Rector is in kawshiokor state and suffering paucity of fund due to poor allocation. He failed to reveal that his regime still owe the workers more than three months salary arrears even as it is at 80% payment instead of 100%.
Madu also failed to reveal that the state government couldn’t erect any administrative structure due to lack of funds, because buildings in Imo Poly Umuagwo are courtesy of ETC and other federal government agencies. Therefore, how can it upgrade an institution from Polytechnic to University when it couldn’t finance it in the past.
In trying to adduce reasons why the new university should come on board, the outgoing Rector in the interview came up with conflicting expressions meant to deceive unsuspecting Imolites. His position on funding is at variance with what the state Chief executive officer told the host community in Govt House, Owerri, during the peace parley. Okorocha told the people that NUC kicks against states sponsoring more than one state University because of funding, hence the coming of PPP. But Madu in the interview is claiming that the three higher institutions; University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Umuagwo Imo Poly Ehime and Bishop Shanahan Polytechnic Orlu will still run on the existing budget of old Imo State Poly when the said budget was not enough to run the Polytechnic alone.
On his tenure as Rector, again, Madu was economical with the truth about the number of years he has spent and how it was secured. It would be recalled that since 2011 he came on board, his tenureship has made a mess of the law establishing Imo Poly. What the law stipulates for a Rector is single 5 years, but Madu has rubbished the law on tenure by exceeding 5 years. This year will be Madu’s 8 years as Rector; an aberration that is only permissible in a lawless society.
From 2012, all Heads of institutions were entitled to one single tenure of 5 years. Despite enjoying a year that started counting in 2011, Madu would have left Imo Poly in 2016, but managed to undermine the laws of the institution to sit-tight till date.
Again, Madu may have engaged in wishful thinking when he came up with the notion that the land owners were aware of the development. The only opportunity the host community had with him was fruitless as he failed to give enough background information about the new development. Even when the people raised the issue, Madu merely parried the question on the agric varsity.
It is important Madu knows that the Host community can’t be against upgrading of Imo Poly to a University. But the people are strongly opposed to relocation of students and items existing in the Umuagwo campus. The community is also opposed to a situation where unknown persons hiding under guise of the PPP arrangement move in to take over move than 500 hectares of land for private agricultural purposes in the name of running a University of Agriculture.
Already, reports have it that the Madu regime allowed a big time investor in agric who has taken part of the land for the purpose. The proposed University may be the final onslaught to take hold of the community land.
Madu should also be reminded that the law granting the establishment of Imo State University did not involve Umuagwo, rather Aboh/Ngor Okpala. He is expected to have taken the new institution to the location and allow Imo Poly Umuagwo be after eight years he was in charge.
Kelechi Mejuobi is Owerri based journalist and regular commentator on contemporary issues.