THE ABIA SHOW
“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”—Mark Anthony in Julius Caesar by Williams Shakespeare. These days, the evil we do lives with us. It does not wait for us to die; it catches up with us in our lifetime. You reap what you sow.
Abia State has been in the news for a week now. This time it is another episode in the “seasonal movie'' of the ongoing battle between godfather and godson, which is fought on all fronts. And in this battle, nothing is spared, all arsenals are used in the arena by the gladiators. This time around, it shifted to ABSU where the degree certificate of former governor, Orji Kalu obtained in the school was revoked by the people who helped him arrange it when the going was good. What happened is the climax of a long soap opera, which started years ago. Hon Eziuche Ubani, a renowned journalist actually predicted the end. In the second paragraph of his article written in 2002 and entitled “Orji Kalu and his degree”. He wrote thus “In Abia State, everything is possible. The most unthinkable of situations can be made real by a stroke of the governor's red ink. One of such bizarre happenings is that Governor Orji Kalu, has manipulated the system, and caused the Abia state University (ABSU) Uturu to award him a degree. Ordinarily, I would not have bothered, since I know that whatever the Governor got can be reversed in the near future.”
There is however an outcry by some section of the public against the withdrawal of the certificate. They feel the ex governor is been rubbished because of his political stand in the state. They say that governor T.A.Orji should deliver good governance and stop pursuing shadows. They say there are more important issues to address like the lack of proper public infrastructure, good roads etc. They argue that the action would have carried much weight and this administration would have been rated high on moral grounds if the certificate had been revoked at the inception of this regime when the actors had not quarreled. It is true that political vendetta cannot be divorced from the withdrawal of the certificate. This is buttressed by the fact that it took a political conflict and 10 long years for them to conclude that the degree was illegally acquired. The argument is that the information used in stripping the ex-governor of his degree has always been there. It did not just surface out of the blues. It was just conveniently unearthed to cut Orji kalu down to size. Furthermore, the university administrators did not bother to set up a panel to look into the alleged petition they received at least to give it a semblance of due process. And, the ex-governor was not invited to defend himself and the method through which he acquired the certificate. Instead, the senate body of the university was summoned for its 69th Extra-Ordinary meeting on Friday, the 1st of March 2013 to nullify the degree it willingly awarded the ex-governor when he was at the helm of affairs. On this score, all the people involved in the degree cancellation and certificate revocation shot themselves in the leg. In trying to correct an aberration, they did not take the expected process, which is now trying to make the culprit a hero. They cannot vouch that the exercise was carried out in good faith and in the interest of the long-suffering citizens of Abia State. The whole issue shows a clear application of executive powers to settle personal scores.
On the other hand, the information out in the public domain shows that the process of obtaining the degree was not legit. After reading the materials available on the saga, you will concur that it was fraudulently obtained through arm-twisting tactics. Eziuche Ubani in his article written in 2002 entitled ''Orji and his degree'' wrote ''ABSU regulation does not allow students who left their university for more than three years to reapply to the university. This student left the “up-country” university in 1984.'' Not only that, the student was the governor of the state and the visitor of that particular state owned institution. As the governor, he controlled the subventions of the school, paid the salaries of the staff, and determined who was employed there. He also invariably decides and plays a big factor in who will be the Vice-Chancellor of that institution. The piper dictates the tune of the music. The Prof Ogwo E Ogwo, led administration obviously played along and granted his request to avoid victimization even though as scholars, they knew it was wrong. Only one man wrote his name honourably in the sands of time at that period. It is noted that Prof Anthony Nwabuogu vehemently opposed the scheme and it cost him the opportunity of becoming the Vice-Chancellor of the citadel.
The problem with our own brand of democracy is that it gives our rulers excessive powers (especially those in executive positions) to do as they wish. Once in power, they become mini gods with power over life and death. They unfortunately do not have power to create life. But they do have powers to take life which they cannot create when it suits them. They get away with anything they wish and we cheer them as they do so.
Some fans of the ex governor opine that he should challenge the act in a law court. I hope he has the courage to make the move because it will give us the opportunity of having more information than those the actors have given to us. We will be able to know all the individuals who participated in the scheme at every stage. Any of them in positions of trust should be made to resign and should face prosecution. More importantly, we will get to hear from the authorities of University of Maiduguri on the issue at hand. They have a duty to explain to the public if the transcript actually emanated from them. If it did not? Then all who participated in obtaining it through foul means should face disciplinary action. They also have an important role to play by telling the public at what level the ex governor abandoned his studies there and what actually transpired.
Funny enough, Orji Kalu brought this upon himself because as at the time he became governor, the senior school certificate, which he had, was the minimum certificate for anybody seeking for political power in Nigeria. There was just no excuse in going through the backdoor to get the certificate. Furthermore, nothing stopped him from waiting until he left power to enroll back into school to get his degree. He can still do it comfortably in any tertiary institution anywhere in the world. But at the zenith of his rule in Abia State he thought he could do anything and get away with it. He chose to play politics with the educational system in Nigeria. The result he is getting now. That the corrupt system we practice allowed it stay that long does not make it right. In some other sane climes, leaders resign for just plagiarizing other people's thesis. It is a matter of priorities or standards of leaders we have in a particular society. In our own case, everything goes and we have become so dehumanized that serious issues are now seen as very trivial.
Be it as it may, this whole saga rubs off negatively on the reputation of ABSU. For a school administration to openly acknowledge that it deliberately admitted and graduated a student and a prominent one in the society for that matter, knowing that he had shortcomings and kept quiet about it for many years tells much about the credibility of those in charge. One now wonders how the public perception of graduates, post graduate and undergraduate students of ABSU would be like. There are people who have earned their degrees legitimately from that institution whose reputation are been dragged in the mud by this incidence. There is also the tendency to believe that Orji Kalu's case is not an isolated one, that there are more related cases of unqualified people been offered admission in the school.
One good thing about the political battle in Abia State is that certain things which we have long known were wrong are now been exposed by the actors who did the cover up in the first instance. It is the house rat that shows the rat in the bush where the fish in the house is hidden. In my own view, what is happening now is good because without the fallout, most of these revelations would not have come up and I am sure in the coming months each camp would struggle to outdo the other in exposing their dirty secrets. At a certain point in time, another government will come up to open the chronicles and met out appropriate sanctions at the principal actors. That time will not be long in coming. It is just a matter of time. Meanwhile, get your popcorns or whatever refreshments you have and relax as we wait for the next episode in this long seasonal movie titled “the Abia show”.