By Ebere Uzoukwa
The outgoing governor of Imo State and his penchant for learning has a history. The charity-driven proliferated Rochas Foundation College largely mirrors Governor Rochas Okorocha's love for learning and curriculum.
Just recently, shortly after the 2019 elections, Okorocha, after a rancorous but failed bid to transit power to his former chief of staff and son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, shocked the entire state with the inauguration of what he called an “Implementation Committee” for new six universities, four polytechnics and two colleges of education.
The governor appointed Prof Chima Iwuchukwu as chairman while Prof JMB Nnadozie, Mrs Ugochi Nnanna Okoro, a lawyer; Chief (Dr) Lawrence Mbadiwe, Prof Florence Emenalo and Sir Ken Ejiogu were to serve as members.
The names of the new tertiary institutions pronounced and established by the governor were reportedly given as the Imo State Polytechnic-turned-University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences with a campus in Aboh/Ngor-Okpala; Mbonu Ojike Polytechnic, Arondizogu; Ahiara Polytechnic, Ahiazu-Mbaise; Ehime Polytechnic, Ehime Mbano; Bishop Shanahan Polytechnic, Orlu; University of Science and Technology, Onuimo; University of Creative Technology, Omuma Isiaku/Nkwerre; University of Medical Sciences, Ogboko; Imo Marine University, Oguta and Imo State College of Education, Ihitte Uboma.
The last minute universities and polytechnic legacies the governor is bequeathing to the state and the incoming administration has contentiously ignited a raging controversy and disagreement over the timing and intent. While Emeka Ihedioha, the governor-elect and his camp perceive Okorocha's new tertiary institutions as deliberate land-mines laid to derail the incoming government, apparently considering the financial implications and the attendant burden to the state, the outgoing governor and his handlers have insisted that the massively proposed tertiary institutions presupposes a positive achievement and sustainable legacy. They outgoing government also dismisses the issue of timing with a wave of hand, hence Okorocha is constitutionally-bound to exercise the functions of his office anytime within the timeframe of his tenure as Governor of Imo State.
But, the coordinator, PDP Good Governance Situation Room, Kissinger Ikokwu, did not take the development lightly with the outgoing governor. He lambasted Okorocha and accused of deliberately plotting to scuttle a possible smooth take-off of the Ihedioha-led administration upon swearing-in.
Ikokwu, who also served as the spokesman in Ihedioha's campaign organisation, chronicled Okorocha's misdemeanor in the education sector, and emphatically declared:
“It is clear that Governor Okorocha’s eight years as governor of the state did not make serious impact in terms of governance and prudence to know how many institutions of higher learning Imo State can financially operate.
“This was a governor who could not fund Imo State University to optimum capacity in eight years. This was a governor that left Imo State University Teaching Hospital (IMSUTH) Orlu in its worst state since he became governor in eight years. No wonder he sunk Imo funds in building a dubious 27 hospitals, which after eight years as governor he shamefully ended up with a record of not delivering a single built, well-staffed and equipped public hospital for enjoyment of Imo people in eight years as governor. His claim that the universities would be public-private partnership (PPP) driven is bizarre, as he has no record of establishing a single PPP project in his eight years as governor of Imo State.
“Recall that in the early part of this same Okorocha’s first term, he announced the establishment of three campuses of Imo State University in line with the law of the institution, which made it to be a multi-campus university. He stated in 2012 that the move was to help decongest Owerri city and to create a better learning environment as the current IMSU location was no longer conducive for learning. The Governor took off with the building of Imo State University campuses in Umuna for Okigwe zone, Ogboko, and Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala. It was on that premise that the governor began putting up structures for the IMSU campuses in Ogboko, Umuna and Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala.
“During the Iri-Ji Mbaise Festival in August, 2014, Okorocha told Mbaise people that he had concluded work at the Aboh/Ngor Okpala Campus of the Imo State University, to house the Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine. He made it categorically clear that the campus would commence academic activities in eight months’ time. Eight years after, the governor has nothing to show than another bogus voodoo claim of establishing newly-built university in the same Aboh/Ngor Okpala, with just a name change.
“Sometime in his first term, the same Okorocha announced the building of four new universities in Imo State. He mentioned their names as, Imo European University, Ogboko; Imo Turkish University, Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala; Imo Marine University, Oguta and Imo Caritas University, Umuna. He later in the same period announced the said the institutions as campuses of Imo State University. The site at Umuna was for the relocation of the IMSU Faculty of Engineering and Environmental Studies; Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala was to house the IMSU Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine. Eight years down the line, Okorocha could not deliver the Faculty of Engineering and Environmental Studies campus of the Imo State University in Umuna. He could not deliver the Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences, Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala. The Imo Marine University Ossemotto remained a white elephant project, after huge funds released and appropriated from the Imo 13 per cent derivation fund. The earlier proposed Imo State University Campus at Ogboko has been changed from Imo European University to Eastern Palm University, all in the desperate bid by the governor to convert the project commenced and built with Imo public funds to his private property.
“Upon the declaration of Hon Emeka Ihedioha as governor-(elect), the same Rochas Okorocha, who could not deliver any of the four IMSU campuses he spent Imo funds on, is bandying to have established 12 higher institutions. Indeed, Okorocha sees Imo people as fools he can play with their brains. This was the same way the governor hoodwinked the people of Ihitte Uboma Local Government Area with a promise of building Imo College of Education project in the area. After eight years, the governor has nothing to show for the Imo State College of education beyond the building projects/contracts which has benefited only his friends and cronies.
“It is a shame that a governor who failed to deliver any new institution in eight years is bandying establishing 12 new higher institutions less than two months to his hand-over date. To successfully perpetuate his illegality, the governor purports to have inaugurated an implementation committee on the new tertiary institutions. The implementation committee and heads of the institutions were set up as conduit pipes to release last-minute funds in the name of feasibility studies and field work, in this late minute of the administration.
“We wish to urge the good people of Imo State to ignore the governor in his new dance of shame of building 12 new tertiary institutions in two months, when he barely funded the few institutions he inherited from his predecessors. Imo people should ignore the outgoing governor whose only aim is to mock Ndi Imo for giving him the opportunity to manage their affairs for eight years. Is it not an irony that an administration that killed IMSUTH Orlu, and denied IMSU medical students accreditation, is promising establishment of Imo University of Medicine to be cited in Ogboko? What a shame!
“If the governor is so sincere, the minimum he should have done was to come clean and address Imo people regarding the status of the Imo State University Campus, Ogboko, which was commenced and built with Imo people’s funds and now criminally converted to his privately-owned Eastern Palm University, Ogboko. There is no gainsaying that the hurried establishment of 12 new universities and polytechnics are all deliberate ploys to divert Imo people’s attention towards asking relevant questions about the Imo State University Campus in Ogboko, which enjoyed greater funding from Imo State coffers under Okorocha, but now removed from the list of the bandied 12 new institutions.”
However, the outgoing governor appeared undaunted in his desire to surround the state with tertiary institutions. A few days ago, Okorocha, again, celebrated new operational licences reportedly issued by the National Universities Commission (NUC), legally injecting life into three of the newly-established universities. The licenced universities, according to reports emanating from government house, are University of Creative Technology, Nkwerre, University of Science and Technology, Umuna and University of Medical Sciences, Ogboko, Ideato South. Okorocha had earlier announced the licencing of University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences in Aboh/Ngor-Okpala/Umuagwo by the NUC. The governor, given his audacious claim, has so far institutionalised and licenced four from the six pronounced universities.
Okorocha's questionable drive to establish, licence and hand-over new universities and polytechnics to the governor-elect Ihedioha, seems not to have factually addressed salient and controversial issues raised by Ikokwu, which incontrovertibly query directly Okorocha's patriotism, and even morality.
The concerns spontaneously expressed in some quarters logically align with the fact that state-owned tertiary institutions under the government of Okorocha have struggled to survive. The yet-to-be resolved issues relating to staff welfare have naggingly elicited disagreements between unions and the outgoing administration. For instance, the non-academic staff of Imo State University, sometime last year, crippled administrative activities of the institution via a long strike action that lasted for about six months, over issues of welfare.
The Imo Polytechnic, Umuagwo, is equally burdened with backlog of unpaid salaries. This is even as the institution pays its workers 70 per cent of their monthly emoluments, which Okorocha initiated and implemented in the state. The Rector of the Polytechnic, Rev (Dr) Wence Madu, is pitied by many as he never found pleasure since assuming the position.
The newly-established universities and polytechnics, according to statistics on ground, are mere buildings. Given Okorocha's penchant for block-work and building construction, it wasn't surprising to many that empty carcasses (buildings) erected within this period could be hurriedly converted to public institutions. The fact, however, remain that relevant equipment, office fixtures and furniture and other requisite materials that scholarly define university and polytechnic environment are still lacking in the newly-established tertiary institutions.
It is very easy to believe that Okorocha's new tertiary institutions are badly conceived with deceitful intent. It is grossly erroneous to conclude that Imo has the financial clout to operate and sustain the multiplicity of universities of tertiary institutions.
The expectation, therefore, is that the Ihedioha may react on assumption of duties as the governor. Certain circumstances may lure or expose the incoming governor to think differently. The dismantling of land-mines allegedly laid by the outgoing governor and his team may lead to the reversal of some of the newly established tertiary institutions.
However, the bitter truth is that Ihedioha and his team must patiently wait till May 29 to, among other things, allow Okorocha conclude on his parting gifts to Ndi Imo, which include the 12 new tertiary institutions.
Uzoukwa, a seasoned journalist and PR practitioner, is currently pursuing his Doctorate Degree on Mass Communication in Imo State University (IMSU), Owerri.
Source News Express