MOUAU: The tyranny of the vocal minority with access to the media again.

By John Okiyi Kalu on

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On a trip yesterday I tuned to my favourite Rhythm 93.7 radio station to catch up on recent news and was stunned by the leading news item for their "news at noon". The screaming news anchor opened with "ASUU petition Buhari over fraud and corruption at Michael Okpara University Umudike".

God punish Satan!!

The first thing that came to my mind was they are at it again: evil people fighting the good using the media to sell lies and distortions.

If you are familiar with the true story behind that headline you will probably feel worse than I felt, especially if you love positive change, innovation and progress. Of course I don't blame the radio station because they obviously reported what was planted by those with negative vested interest in the fastest growing university in the South of  Nigeria. The ASUU clique responsible for that ugly and desperate show of shame are in the minority and less than 20 in number.

Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike was created in 1992 by the administration of IBB as largely an off shoot of the national root crop research institute Umudike, Umuahia. Until the current Vice Chancellor ascended in 2011 it was largely a "village secondary school" pretending to be a University. As God will have it, Professor Hillary Edeoga from Enugu state was tapped to become the VC in March 2011 and things changed in such a rapid way within such a relatively short time that the institution can now compete in all spheres with much older equivalents and even beat them. Not only are graduates from the school some of the best in the country, the structural transformation of the school is second to non.

The changes in the school under the watch of the current VC are so profound that if you were at MOUAU a few years ago you will need help today to navigate the school. When I visited the school early February I couldn't believe what I saw. From the auditorium named after Senator Anyim Pius Anyim to the new senate building and beautiful classrooms with nice landscaping, you can feel the transformation. On that particular trip I met many lecturers I knew by reputation and learning. Knowing what it takes to attract high quality academics to a new university I wondered privately how the VC and his Governing Council managed to achieve that feat. I sat briefly with the Dean of one of the schools and later the amiable Public relation Officer of the school and satisfied my curiosity. Both ladies were full of kind words for the current VC and his team and I left the school feeling that we need more of men like Professor Edeoga to really move things forward. I tried to see if I can meet the transformation leader himself, Hilary Edeoga, but was told he was outside the office. Till date we are yet to meet but I feel a sense of kinship with him, as I feel towards genuine achievers.

My young friends with me on that trip who are students of the school regaled me with stories of over 90 projects done under the watch of their VC. Their brilliance bear eloquent testimony to the high academic standard of the institution. It was later that I found out that the VC has in place an excellent academic staff recruitment and training policy. Do you know the insitution has despatched over 300 lecturers abroad to learn one thing or another? All of them go under the sponsorship of the school and then return to continue work in the school. Added to that, he searches foreign universities to identify high flying PHD Nigerian students in Agriculture related areas and offer them good placement at the school to bring them back home in a novel reverse brain drain policy. A good friend of mine, a highly intelligent chap I met online benefited from this unique head hunting style. He returned in May with postgraduate degrees from Japan and Canada. There are 2 other younger friends with foreign universities masters degrees that returned from Europe and are currently teaching at MOUAU because of the recruitment policy of Edeoga.

Recently, the newly inaugurated Abia State House of Assembly approved a motion calling on the Federal Government to make MOUAU a regular university that will offer courses like Medicine and law. If that is not a vote of confidence and recognition of the good work the leadership of the institution is doing I wonder what else is. I have also heard gossips that the same house is gearing to recognize the soon to retire Professor Edeoga in an unprecedented special session.

If you understand the Nigerian system you will naturally cough when institutions like the local ASUU are openly fighting the Vice Chancellor. I make bold to state that if you are doing the right thing within the Nigerian academic system (and the general work environment) you will be marked for demolition by the forces of evil. If in doubt, tell me please, why will ASUU be publicly fighting a VC whose tenure ends in February 2016? Why will about 20 odd lecturers constitute themselves into ASUU with the sole aim of pulling down a man who has achieved so much at the instutition? Why are the other lecturers who are also ASUU members yet to march against the rogue ASUU clique?

All I can read into the situation at the university named after the man who developed the rubber and palm plantations in the East, Dr M. I. Okpara, is parochial personal interest that is unsatisfied. I have heard stories of the current local ASUU Chairman being suspended by the university authorities for awarding his girl friend 40 over 30. (Yes, I mean exactly what you read, 40 over 30).

It is also within public domain that the leading lights of that union are not happy with the influx of young "foreign" brains into the institution. One ASUU source even jokingly told me that Edeoga is "chopping alone and forgot that we were here before him". Of course I know the ASUU folks have pushed several petitions against Edeoga to EFCC and the authorities at the Federal Ministry of Education. Investigations by the relevant authorities always end with praise for the managerial abilities of the VC. Yet the forces of evil are determined to humiliate the man using the usually conditioned public opinion procured through media manipulation.

Make no mistake about this: I will never ask President Buhari not to investigate Edeoga's tenure as Vice Chancellor of MOUAU. I firmly believe he should defend himself and his tenure if called upon to do so. But as usual, I hate media lynching of people. Especially when we continue to have a gullible population that will most likely run off with "Edeoga is corrupt" tomorrow. Even without verifiable evidence. I want the world to know that the man has done many great things at the University and I challenge students and workers of that institution to confront my assertion with facts.

Is it true that Prof Edeoga within a space of 4 years executed more than 90 physical projects and attracted the best brains to the institution? Does such a man deserve humiliation or praise?

What is really the interest of the evil clique in the local ASUU in this fight, beyond proxy war for their suspended Chairman? I suspect that the subtheme of this fight might be to ensure that Edeoga does not have a say on who succeeds him thereby allowing the forces of retrogression the space to install one of their proxy as VC ostensibly to "share the money". If that is the case, permit me to warn the conspirators that it won't happen.

The people of Abia State are also interested in who succeeds Edeoga because the university is located in our state. If Enugu and Anambra people insisted and produced the Vice Chancellors of UNN and Unizik respectively, then we see no reason an Abian should not succeed Prof Edeoga. More so when we have many erudite and experienced no nonsense Professors in that institution.

By convention Edeoga cannot succeed himself, otherwise most of us would have said "carry go" Prof. But we know that as a good manager of men and materials he should have a say in who succeed him. We are therefore serving him and the Governing Council a notice to look towards Abia State in their search for the new Vice Chancellor. That is an irreducible minimum for us because we know that many astute Abia born Professors are in that school. They will most likely follow Edeoga's footprints and grow the institution further as President Buhari will naturally desire. If you impose an ASUU sponsored candidate on the school.............we shall see.

Happy week and new month.


Posted on November, 2 2015

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