Imo Poly Multi-Campus And The “Douglas House” Statement

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Few months ago, I raised alarm on plans to balkanize Imo State Polytechnic, Umuagwo-Ohaji, using multi-campus system in the write up “The balkanization of Imo State Polytechnic”, which was followed by, “I weep for Imo Oil Producing Communities,”. It elicited spontaneous reactions from stakeholders in the area who went on protest march to show resentment against the rumoured plan. Weeks after the fears of the group known as Imo Poly Stakeholders Forum were calmed following a re-assuming comment from Governor Rochas Okorocha during an interactive session in Government House, Owerri, fresh agitation is trailing the already concluded plot to relocate vital courses from Imo Poly, Umuagwo, to other areas using the so called multi-campus tactics.
Instead of telling the story of the present debacle again, I will allow the host community, who is an integral part of the Stakeholders Forum to air their views and make their stand known for record purposes.
But before their views are made public, let me apologize regular readers of Agwo-di-nuju accept my sincere apologies for the small character of last week’s column.
It was very unfortunate that I unknowingly stressed readers to go extra mile in concluding part of the column in next page. Please forgive me. And now the sorry tale of Imo Poly host community begins;
Ordinarily, the good people of Umuagwo in Ohaji/Egbema LGA of Imo State, would not have bothered themselves or react to the multi-campus system being introduced for the Imo State Polytechnic where the institution is located, as the community has an enviable record of respecting constituted authorities and all organs of government from time in memorial. The establishment of a higher institution in the area which has passed several stages before metamorphosis to a state Polytechnic has further proven the hospitality attributes of the Umuagwo people, as no unwarranted developments have disrupted peace and tranquility reigning in the Polytechnic community.
However, recent developments concerning the planned relocation of vital courses from the Umuagwo campus to other areas under the guise of multi-campus system, by the present administration of His Excellency Owelle Rochas Okorocha, ably piloted by incumbent Rector, Rev Fr Dr Wence Madu has forced us to cry out and kick against a well mapped out agenda and orchestrated plot to not only balkanize the school but surreptitiously take away the vital courses to other places, thereby returning whatever that is left in Umuagwo to its College of Agriculture days, which we experienced twelve years ago.
Suffice it to note that the present Imo State Polytechnic, Umuagwo was established in the 70’s as College of Agriculture when the landlords graciously donated a whooping 360 hectares of land for that purpose without adequate compensation.
It is worthy to state that previous military administrations improved on what they met in the school until our nascent democracy debuted in 1999 when the Chief Achike Udenwa government gave the school a face lift by adding some non-agric related courses and renamed it Michael Okpara College of Agriculture and Technology (MOCATECH). Noticing the inherent potentials capable of boosting technological education and fill the gap created by absence of a state owned Polytechnic, the Chief Ikedi Ohakim regime raised the bar by converting the institution to a full blown Polytechnic with the attendant status. The frayed nerves of the land owners, who have been lamenting that not less than ten percent of their 368 hectares of land remained untouched thirty years after the school came into existence, were calmed, as the people of Ohaji/Egbema were thrown into jubilant mood by that singular action. Six years after, it has turned a pyrrhic joy for the people, courtesy of the present administration.
There is no gain saying in the fact that nothing but only political interest of some key players of the present administration may be the driving force for the relocation of courses under the multi-campus system. In contrast to the reasons being bandied about by the Rector that getting accreditation for some of the departments in the so called new campuses prompted the relocation of courses, it’s pertinent to state that zonal jingoism and political interest is leading to Imo Poly balkanization. For the avoidance of doubt, His Excellency, Owelle Rochas Okorocha was not briefed by Imo Poly Management on the accreditation problem when he stopped at Technological Skills Acquisition Centre, TSAC, Orlu last year August, during an inspection tour, to pronounce that the place will serve as Imo Poly Campus. When Governor was informed that certain government verbal comments are not effective actions as it requires a law to authentic his decision, a Bill was purportedly sent to the Imo State House of Assembly for that purpose. The leadership of the House with somebody from Okigwe zone at the top considered it abnormal to allow the TSAC Orlu campus for Imo Poly when the Umuagwo Ohaji/Egbema original site is also in Orlu Senatorial Zone. Therefore, a campus was given to Okigwe zone, and Cooperative College, in Ehime Mbano was considered for political reasons. At that juncture, aggrieved Owerri zone lawmakers who felt that they will not be the “biblical Aaron” in the “scramble and partition” of Imo Poly, made a strong case and were favoured with a campus to be sited at St Columbus premises, Obodo Amaimo, Ikeduru LGA, where the Member representing the state constituency, Hon SamDaddy Anyanwu hails from.
While the Imo Poly loot is being shared by interested bidders, proper funding to the institution was ignored by concerned government bodies leading to decay in the academic sector and present quagmire. The issue of going to the affected new campuses for accreditation purposes is therefore a defeatist tendency and tactical decoy employed by the protagonists to justify their peculiar interests of having a fair share of the Polytechnic.
Based on the foregoing, an aggrieved group comprising landlords under Imo Poly Stakeholders’ Forum staged a peaceful demonstration in line with their civic responsibilities obtainable in democracy. For three days, women, youths and the aged ones embarked on protest at the Poly gate premises where activities in the school were shut down. The state government, ably represented by the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Jude Ejiogu vehemently denied any plan by the Government to take away courses to other campuses, adding that such rumours were skewed imagination of Rescue Mission opponents wanting to cause civil unrest using such falsehood. Dissatisfied by Chief Ejiogu’s comments, they protest continued until Governor Okorocha sought audience with stakeholders. At an interactive session, Governor Okorocha did not mince words in informing anybody who cared to listen that there is no such plan to remove any course or relocate Imo Poly departments to other places. In his words the Governor said, “There is no way it can happen. Who told you people that Imo poly will be relocated? Ana ebu ala ebu. Onye gwara unu?” He went further to request the angry protesters to disregard such falsehood. The position of the government was widely reported in the media even when the Governor added that the new campuses would be mere affiliated campus running courses that would have Imo Poly certificates. His Excellency used ALVAN and UNN as classical examples.
Regrettably, latest developments in Imo Poly are at variance with the earlier position of the state government, where all existing Engineering and some Management courses have been relocated to Orlu and Ehime Mbano respectively. The courses originally studied in Umuagwo will from next academic session cease to exist there as they have been earmarked for the respective new campuses.
Worse still, the Rector, who we expected to use his priestly disposition to be sincere and upright in handling this sensitive matter, by his utterances and action is fanning embers of discord and perpetuating disaffection between us and Imo Poly Management/Imo state government. Despite repeated assurances the Rector extended to our people who met him on this issue on several occasions that no course or discipline will leave Imo Poly, Umuagwo to any other place, Fr Madu who was also a living witness during our mutual talks with the Governor seems to be the agent provocateur of the relocation programe. Against his words, vital items and equipment in the engineering departments were recently whisked to complement TSAC, Orlu obsolete equipment, for NBTE Resource Inspection, which the outcome is yet to be made public. The Imo Poly community, especially the lecturers and students, who witnessed the transfer of the resource materials, after they “Orlu show” raised alarm and expressed dismay that the TSAC Orlu arrangement for accreditation of Engineering courses was a hoax and unwarranted ruse to deceive the people into taking out the vital disciplines to the place.
If the state government and Imo Poly management are sincere in its approach to the accreditation issue, why did it not move any of the so called engineering equipment from Orlu to Umuagwo or better still procure new equipment for that purpose? Ohaji/Egbema is one of the two major oil producing areas that generate 13% oil derivation to Imo State. A month allocation due to the state from the 13% oil derivation fund is enough to put the required Engineering facilities in Imo Poly Umuagwo for NBTE resource inspection and accreditation. More so, is it not ironical that a higher institution in the oil producing area is suffering from infrastructural and academic kwashiorkor when the Governor recently doled out N500m for youth empowerment in the area and toying with the idea of establishing a capital intensive Marine University in nearby Oguta LGA?
The recent NBTE visit has again cast doubt about the accreditation factor argued in favour of the relocation of courses to the so called new campuses as contrary to expectations; the NBTE team was no where near Ehime Mbano or Amaimo Ikeduru for any accreditation or resource inspection, thereby exposing the insincerity concerning the entire relocation plot. Furthermore, the sites for the Orlu and Ehime Mbano campuses are not bigger than the entire play field in Imo Poly Umuagwo, which gives credence to high level insensitivity on the part of the relocation crusaders. Therefore, it is not only a known fact but illegal for any institution to operate a course at an unapproved campus which the management of Imo Poly is attempting to do with the Ehime Mbano campus. The NBTE no doubt will be aware of this anomaly which may likely ridicule the integrity of the management and tarnish the image of the school.
The community rejects in its totality any attempt to make real the balkanization of courses as all interested stakeholders will adopt lawful means and civil procedures to reject the monstrous plot.
We are astonished that a fledging institution still at pedestrian level would attract a cost effective multi-campus system, when the age long and most sought after Imo State University School of Engineering and the promised College of Education, meant for Okigwe Zone have not been realized. What has stopped the three universities Governor Okorocha promised people of the state last year? Has Imo Poly been converted to the promised three universities to assuage the minds of Imolites? We had expected proper funding of the institution and prompt payment of salaries and allowances of the workforce for maximum output than the undesired multi-campus macabre dance.
If political interest were not the forces behind the balkanization of the institution, why move it from Ohaji/Egbema that is part of Orlu Zone to Orlu town, which is also part of the zone as some of the political gladiators from the areas who were instrumental to the multi campus system are adding the balkanization of the courses as part of their achievements in office and democracy dividends? Invariably, it goes a long way to justify the incontrovertible belief that Ohaji/Egbema people are still “political orphans” suffering untold hardship, marginalization and humiliation in the hands of modern day imperialists masquerading as democrats and rescue missionaries.
Except the people of Umuagwo and indeed Ohaji/Egbema have been confirmed the “unwanted outcasts” in the Imo community, the institution management and Imo state government should have a rethink about the proposed relocation of existing courses from Imo Poly Umuagwo to the so called multi-campuses.
In line with the famous agreement of the Biafrans preceding the Nigerian Civil War that states “On Aburi We Stand” For us as the host community, “On Douglas House Agreement We Stand” which Governor Okorocha affirmed that no course shall leave Imo Poly Umuagwo to any other place.
In other words, we shall not hesitate to use the last drop of our blood to peacefully object to the planned balkanization of the institution.
We rest our case..
The people have spoken.