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UNN Troubles: Okolo, Please Find another Defence; Your Nsukka-Agenda Tantrum is Diversionary

Source: pointblanknews.com
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By Akobundu Uwabunkonye
There is an anecdote in my own part of the Igbo society told about a woman

who farted upon attempting to lift a heavy object in public. Thereupon, to

clear off the shame, she continued, using her mouth, to make a sound that

resembled the fart. An elder in the gathering then said to her, “You

cannot deceive us; we know the difference between the sound made with the

mouth and that made by the anus.” Just follow me. The university is a

citadel of the highest order of learning. To attain professorship in a

foremost university, such as the University of Nigeria, is to be (or so it

seems) an academic of the highest order. An academic of the highest order

should be discerning enough not to take recourse in the fallacy of

spurious allegation. That two things exist concurrently does not

necessarily mean that one has caused the other. But such a fallacy, it

seems, has been Prof Bartho Okolo's most formidable line of defence in the

troubles that have attended his VCship of the University of Nigeria, my

alma mater, since late 2013. Prof Okolo, who became Vice Chancellor in

2009, was allegedly running the institution outrageously badly. My

inquiries revealed that it was only coincidental that Dr Emeka Enejere,

the man whom President Goodluck Jonathan appointed to chair the 14th UNN

Council in the period when Okolo began to be exposed, is from the Nsukka

area. But how Okolo cherishes this coincidence! For it has provided him

with the alibi he so badly needs to divert attention from multifarious

revelations made about his graft and malfeasance as Vice Chancellor of

UNN.
First, one writer said in the Leadership newspaper of 4 February 2014:

“The University (of Nigeria) has become a centre of sleaze, impunity,

arbitrariness, and sundry acts of corruption.” The Verbatim magazine

reporters, quoting the Governing Council's official document, said: “The

reality is that the administration is Okolo and Okolo is the

administration. He is the Bursar and decides what contract to award

without a budget. Under the Fiscal Responsibility Act, this is a criminal

offence.” However, Okolo's defence came in the Vanguard of 13 March:

“Their (all who objected to his style of administration in the UNN)

primary objective was to put their kinsman from Nsukka as vice-chancellor

of UNN. To actualize the plan, they have to remove me from office,

claiming that I am stubborn. That was the reason for those lies they told

against me.” Prof Okolo's defences in other platforms are more or less in

similar lines. But it is easy to determine whether the voices that have

arisen against him have all been motivated by no other desire than to

replace him with an Nsukka person as Vice Chancellor of UNN.

I live in Abuja. But, as an alumnus passionate about my alma mater, I have

gone down to Nsukka to make my own enquiries after having read and heard

so much going on in UNN. All said and done, on the balance, Prof Okolo has

several billions of naira to account for. Although on-going projects are

scattered in the UNN, many of them that are on record as having been

almost fully paid for are still in early stages of construction; some have

not even been started at all. In any case, I was particularly interested

in whether those who have insisted that Prof Okolo be held to account

could be pursuing an Nsukka agenda.
First, recall that Mr Ebenezer Fayemi, Deputy Director, Tertiary

Education, who represented the Education Ministry in the 14th UNN Council,

was the first to get mad at Prof Okolo for the level of dilapidation he

saw in the UNN despite the billions of naira he knew was at Okolo's

disposal. After having gone round to inspect the UNN, Fayemi had got angry

with the VC. Convinced that UNN had no hope under Prof Okolo, he

remonstrated with his council colleagues on the need to suspend him to

forestall further damage to the university. Indeed, it was Dr Enejere, the

Nsukka man, who had insisted that Prof Okolo be investigated first before

a decision would be made about suspension. However, Mr Fayemi was confused

when, days later, he got a letter from his ministry withdrawing him from

the UNN Council. Meanwhile, I can see that Fayemi is Yoruba, and not

Nsukka.
While Dr Enejere insisted on taking it easy with Prof Okolo, findings on

his malfeasance continued to grow too egregious to ignore. Council

submitted the report of their findings on Prof Okolo to Nyesom Wike, the

Supervising Minister for Education here in Abuja. Members of Council were

still thinking about what would become of Prof Okolo when an announcement

came on air from the Education Ministry suspending, not Prof Okolo whose

graft was being exposed, but Dr Enejere himself, perhaps for daring to

expose the minister's friend. As the Leadership newspaper of 4 February

2014 put it, “The general perception … is that the removal of Dr Enejere

was because the Enejere-led Governing Council refused to back-pedal from

its resolve to release the report of the Petitions Committee set up to

look into the over 450 petitions lodged against the Vice Chancellor by

various persons and groups.” People were then left in no doubt that there

were forces in the Education Ministry whose primary objective was that the

UNN should not be saved but be allowed to be destroyed.

Those who protested Dr Enejere's removal included all the unions in the

institution as well as the Alumni Association. Majority of the members of

these bodies are not from Nsukka. The UNN Alumni are still in court

challenging Dr Enejere's precipitate removal. They insist that besides the

fact that no reason was yet given for the Council Chair's removal, only

the president of Nigeria, and not a minister, was empowered by law to

either appoint or remove a chairman of a federal university council. In

any case, I find that none of the Alumni executive members is from Nsukka.

On January 23, Vanguard reported a petition by the Civil Liberties

Organisation (CLO) to the EFCC, asking it to investigate allegations of

embezzlement and corruption against Prof Okolo. The CLO had wondered: “It

is unheard of anywhere in the world that a vice chancellor of a

university will award contracts running into billions of naira to

non-existent companies. They listed the companies to include Enwerem and

Sons Enterprises, Ottamo Trading Company, Ozetech Metal Construction,

Noble Tech Aluminium Industry and Chronicle Computers and Communications,

whereupon they said, “Our findings at the Corporate Affairs Commission

shows that these five companies are not registered companies in Nigeria.”

The CLO demanded an urgent and thorough investigation and urged the EFCC

to ensure that justice was done. Again, I can see that Mr Olu Omotayo, CLO

Zonal Coordinator (South East) who signed that petition, is not from

Nsukka.
Details of the phantom contracts through which Prof Okolo and friends

plundered the UNN, as well as other cases of his malfeasance, are no

longer news. They are contained in the Council's report that ran into 27

pages. The crux of it was served the public in the Verbatim magazine of 17

February, 2014. Several other writers have also exposed as much as their

investigations revealed. A Google search will serve anyone who wishes to

see more.
Having been inundated with petitions from group- and

individual-stakeholders in the university against Prof Okolo's

administration, the Governing Council could not help an investigation. And

their inquiries showed that Prof Okolo had awarded 113 contracts. What was

shocking was not just that the awarding processes did not follow the rules

but that most of them were almost fully paid for even when they were still

at less than 20% completion. Some have not even been done at all. In all

the releases that have emanated from Prof Okolo, nowhere has he defended

all the revelations of graft, contract splitting and money laundering made

about his administration. All he labours to do is to divert attention away

from such reports. And he does this by suggesting that he is being fought

by those who want an Nsukka person to become the next UNN Vice Chancellor.

One does not deny ethnic and locality sentiments in Nigeria. But in this

particular case, the facts of Prof Okolo's malfeasance are there for

anyone to see and have nothing whatsoever to do with an imagined Nsukka

agenda. I found it to be only a coincidence that an Nsukka man chaired the

14th UNN Governing Council that investigated Prof Okolo. Did Okolo expect

Enejere to look away from his (Okolo's) graft just to avoid being accused

of pursuing an Nsukka agenda? Okay, will it then follow to allege that

President Jonathan who appointed Dr Enejere to chair The UNN Council was

also working towards an imagined Nsukka agenda? That reminds me: Dear

President Jonathan, what have you done since you learnt that a minister

under you, without a query or explanation, arbitrarily removed a

university council chairman that you personally appointed, and whom you

alone have the direct authority to remove? Or haven't you heard that Wike

did it?.
Back to you Prof Okolo, please find another defence, unless you want to

also convince us that the Nsukka agenda pushed you to plunder the UNN. Mr

Vice chancellor, do not deceive us; we can discern between the sound made

by the anus and that made with the mouth.
I weep for my alma mater. No wonder the world famous UNN is now lost on

the world map. It did not even feature in the first 2600 universities in

the latest world rankings. With people like Okolo at the helm, no one

should be surprised that UNN has kept sliding down the drain. I hope to be

alive to see how Okolo will end up.