ABSU AND POLITICS OF VENDETTA
Nigerian politicians often play dirty and for them the profane and the sacred are interwoven so long as their (politicians) permanent selfish interest are served.
Abia state under the administration of governor Theodore Orji is perhaps one place whereby politics of the dirtiest dimension are played so long as the perceived opponents of the current powers-that-be are at the receiving end of this vindictive brand of politics to the detriment of speedy infrastructural developement and transformation.
For thirteen months and still counting, appointees of the Abia State governor have gone berserk with consistent media attacks against the person of the immediate past governor of Abia -Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, known simply as OUK.
These vicious attackers have become so paranoid that observers have been made to believe that the only job they were hired to do is to pour unrestrained tirades at the person of the former Abia state governor-OUK.
These career trouble makers have in the past thirteen months embarked on a regime of attacks against the man who was responsible for bringing to power his then Chief of Staff Theodore Orji who was detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over Sundry allegations of financial indiscretion but who through the magnanimity and ingenuity of OUK gained judicial reprieve just so that he can take the oath of office to succeed his boss.
The latest of these series of organized and well orchestrated attacks was the charade that played out at the ivory tower called the Abia state University, Uturu, whereby the so-called senate of that university descended to the dirty arena of Abia state politics to announce that it has withdrawn a university degree the school awarded to Chief Orji Uzor Kalu years back when he (Orji Uzor Kalu) defied the comfort of his cosy office to enroll as a mere student of that university and validly completed his course of training which culminated in the award of the said degree.
The reasons offered by the senate of the Abia state University for this obscene infamy is as bizarre as it is absurd and laughable.
What the senate of the Abia state university has achieved through this act of profound infamy is to publicly ridicule that beautify Ivory tower that has produced several egg heads like professor Chidi Odinkalu of the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission; Peter Esele of the Trade Union Congress and big heavyweight politician Mr. Anyim Pius Anyim.
For the benefit of my readers I hereby reproduce the incoherent press statement reportedly signed by Registrar of ABSU Mr. Ernest Onuoha and issued by the Abia state university in which it stated that the university degree awarded to Chief Orji Uzor Kalu is withdrawn.
He said in the statement: “On the strength of the findings and recommendations of an investigative panel into allegations of breach of the extant Academic Regulations of Abia State University, in the admission process of the admission and graduation of Kalu, Orji Uzor in the discipline of Government and Public Administration, of matriculation number 00/42226, the Senate of Abia State University at its resumed 69th Extra-Ordinary meeting of Friday 1st March 2013 and by a vote of eighty-eight (88) against three (3) dissenting voices only, approved the cancellation and withdrawal of the degree result and certificate awarded to him."
Onuoha said the decision of Senate was based on the following grounds among others; the violation of the Academic Regulations of the university on Admission-by-Transfer, which rendered the offer irregular, ab initio; the non-completion of the mandatory six (6) semesters (i.e. three academic years of study), before he was awarded a degree of the university.
According to Mr Onuoha, OUK spent only two semesters in all.
My first reaction on reading this story is to say that the National University Commission (NUC) must immediately commence a probe of this university because if indeed it awarded a degree to a student and years after discovered some “irregularities” it goes to show that there are a lot more of such cases which must be uncovered and lot more of the school's lecturers and top flight management staff have serious credibility question and must be fished out, prosecuted and sanctioned for allowing irregularities to mar the admission and/or degree awarding mechanism of that university.
The next thing is to task the National university commission to also probe if the current visitor to the University and the governor of Abia state has a hand remotely in this whole politically- motivated withdrawal of the degree awarded to his now political rival (OUK) and if the answer is in the affirmative, the Abia state university must be made to purge itself of partisan/dirty politics for the sake of the credibility of academic training in that school.
The National University Commission is clothed with the powers to grant approval for all academic programmes run in Nigeria universities; grant, approval for the establishment of all higher educational institutions offering degree programmes in Nigerian universities; ensure quality assurance of all academic programmes offered in Nigerian universities and Channel for all external support to the Nigerian universities.
Pure and simple, what played out at the Abia state university is the extension of the political warfare between the erstwhile political godson-Theodore Orji and his former political godfather-OUK.
The question is why will a purely academic institution allow itself to be drawn into the murky water of politics? Why will the school authority order the arrest of students who protested this gross abuse of power by the school authority?
The muzzling of protest and democratic exercise of free speech in Abia state University reminds me of the authoritarian tendencies of the British colonial oppressors who were however stridently challenged by the ordinary people as captured in the book; "The evolution of the Nigerian State" by the Historian Professor T.N. Tamuno.
Professor Tamuno had written thus; "The intensity and duration of opposition to Brtish rule in parts of the protectorate can be further explained by the effects of punitive expeditions and patrols...despite the overwhelming odds, several people mounted desperate resistance in their attempts to protect their cheerished pre-colonial values and institutions".
In the same vein, the students of Abia state University will most certainly resist the current attempt to emasculate their democratic freedoms and fundamental human rights emshrined in chapter four of the constitution to oppose the emerging authoritarianism and gradual involvement of the school authority in the murky water of partisan politics.
Why will the Abia state university so reduce itself from the sacred position of an independent Ivory tower to the profane terrain of Nigeria's dirty politics? Why has it taken this lazy senate of ABSU all these years to set up a kangaroo investigative panel for the purpose of fishing for phantom evidence for use in carrying out a poorly executed political witchunt against the immediate past governor at a time that the relationship between him (OUK) and the governor has deteriorated due largely to the bellicose attitudes of sycophants who parade around as political appointees of the Abia state governor?
OUK has in his first reaction to the story that his degree certificate was annulled blamed Abia state governor for this latest absurdity.
In the statement signed by his Special Adviser, Oyekunle Oyewumi, said the move has only put to test the pedigree of the men and women who make up the Senate of the university, the credibility of the certificate issued by the school and brought to fore the warped nature of Orji.
Oyewumi said in the statement: “What the Senate of ABSU has done amounts to shifting the goal post after the goal has been scored. No one can deny the fact that His Excellency (OUK) was in ABSU for lectures and examinations".
The management of the ABSU must be told in clear terms that we are no longer under military dictatorship during which time the autonomy of the university suffered serious battering with the appointment of some gun-wielding military generals as sole administrators especially during the dictatorship of the late General Sani Abacha.
NUC should immediately restore respectability to the Nigerian university system by probing the immediate and remote circumstances surrounding the involvement of the Senate of Abia State University in Abia state petty but vicious politics before a dangerous precedent would be set.
Section 36(5) of the constitution provides for fair hearing in all matters involving any citizen. How come that this ABSU's Kangaroo panel never invited Orji Uzor Kalu to defend himself before rushing to the public to announce the withdrawal of his certificate alongside those of others who were cleverly added to the number to make the action of the senate look transparent? On his part, OUK should rush to the competent court of law to seek immediate redress.
* Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS' ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA [email protected]