In fairness I must start this treatise by giving kudos to Gov. Okorocha for his efforts so far to move Imo forward. I was home last Xmas and I liked what I saw and heard about him. The governor has accomplished in about half a year what his predecessor could not do in twelve, and the people are visibly happy and grateful. This is why this writer is particularly distressed by what I am about to delineate in this write-up. Thanks Governor!
However, what is at stake with Imo State University relocation is justice and fairness. This university modeled after University of Nebraska USA was conceived a long time ago as a multi campus institution by the first executive governor of Imo State the Late Sam Mbakwe. Aba was to have the Law and business school, Umuahia Agriculture, Okigwe Engineering, Orlu Health, Owerri Art and Sciernce and of course the administration of the university, being the state capital. As a result of similar selfishness, our brother from Umuahia zone took the whole university to Uturu and made sure that the university was carved in to the newly created Abia state. Before we knew it the entire Imo state university became Abia state university to the chagrin of Imo indigenes.
This forced the former governor Evan Enwerem to start a new Imo State University, still intended as a multi-campus institution. In light of this Gov. Udenwa took the medical school to Orlu. Some wondered why he quickly took the medical school to Orlu since is it clear that the bulk of Imo population is now resident in Owerri which now has the greatest need for specialized medical facility as could be provided by a teaching hospital. We should recall that that is why UNTH is in Enugu even though the University us at Nsukka.
Nonetheless, Owerri people and others conceded in light of the earlier government intention. It was now assumed that what was left of the university would be shared between Owerri and Okigwe zones for even development, and especially, in case of eventuality since new states are still being demanded. Everyone knows that our Orlu compatriots are making all efforts to secure an Orlu state, which they are entitled to at least to restore the balance for Ndiigbo in the skewed Nigerian federation. But by taking the whole university to Orlu they are doing the same thing to their brothers who would be left of Imo what our Abia brothers did with the original Imo State University and this would not be fair at all. The proposed relocation of the entire Imo State University to Orlu zone after the former governor Udenwa took the medical school tells you of the heinous hidden agenda of our Orlu brothers in Imo State. This is marginalization and nepotism at their worst.
Decongesting Owerri is not an argument at all, after all Owerri zone is not just Owerri metropolis. Ngor-Okpala where the original Owerri campus was proposed does not have a single state infrastructure. Mbaise is Owerri zone, and so are Mbaitolu and Ikeduru areas. The fact is that if a governor of Owerri zone was in charge the argument of taking Imo University campus meant for Owerri zone to another zone in order to decongest Owerri would never have arisen and vice versa. This is how our leaders deliberately or inadvertently put discord among the people. This is why our politics remain a do or die affairs.
I am an Igbo patriot and I want vital infrastructure everywhere in Igbo land. Hence what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. This winner-take-all in our politics can be destabilizing. It also breeds unnecessary animosity among the people. If not checked, the future portends something ugly for the relationship of Orlu and Owerri zones, even after the new Orlu state is created. There will still be Orlu indigenes in Owerri given the magnitude of investments and property they now command around Owerri. Memories of real or perceived oppression last a long time, ask our riverine brothers.
Governor Okorocha if he must take the university to his village, should be considerate enough to leave a remnant campus of Imo State university in both Owerri and Okigwe zones, as they could be the start up campuses for a new state university when it becomes necessary given the vociferous agitation for Orlu state which the governor himself is one of the principal proponents. Our Orlu brothers who are blindly supporting this move must recall that Owerri and Okigwe zone trusted them by allowing them to govern Imo now for twelve years in a sixteen-year period. This is not because they are stupid but because they believe in the fair-mindedness of one Igbo towards another. It must be recalled that Owerri zone and especially Ngor-Okpala ensured the election of Gov. Okorocha. They did not see him as an Orlu champion but as Imo patriot.
Furthermore, the other argument that FUTO, POLY, ALVAN are in Owerri does not make sense to anyone who is fair and aware of the allocation culture in the country because those are federal institutions and Orlu state would rightly demand those as soon as their new state is created. But Imo would be forced again to start a new state university from the scratch as was the case when Abia took the first one. At least they governor should leave a major campus anywhere in Owerri zone for future expansion if and when the need arises. That would only be fair and I find it difficult to doubt that a leader of Governor Okorocha’s pedigree who is building bridges for the future of Ndiigbo and Nigeria would not make every effort to be fair to the people who trusted him and fought assiduously for his ascendency in Imo, while rejecting and, some would say, disgracing a powerful incumbent governor seeking reelection.
Written by: Chievan