RELOCATION OF IMSU: What is Gov. Okorocha up to?

Imo State University (IMSU) was originally modeled after the famous University of Nebraska in the United States of America.
Accordingly, the Imo State Law No. 4 of 1981 provided for five temporary campuses for the university to be located at the existing five senatorial zones in the old Imo State.

College of Business Administration and Legal Studies was sited in Ngwa High School Aba for the then  Aba Senatorial Zone, Engineering and Environmental Studies at Comprehensive
Secondary School Awomama for Orlu Zone and Arts and Social Sciences at Mbaise Secondary School Aboh Mbaise for Owerri Zone while the College of Agiculture  and Vetenary Medicine was to be in Uzoakoli Methodist College for the then Umuahia Zone.

Madonna High School in Etiti was the site for Okigwe Zone. It had the College of Medicine and Health Sciences and was also used as the university’s temporary headquarters. Therefore,
the school operated accordingly until 1985 when Senator Ike Nwachukwu as the then Military Administrator of the old Imo State vide the Imo State University Edict of 1985, relocated the school to a lone campus at Uturu-Okigwe.

However, during the creation of Abia State, Ike Nwachukwu made sure that Uturu was severed from Okigwe to form part of Abia State. Consequently, Imo State lost the location and all the structures of Imo State University to Abia State and the latter used them in establishing its own state university today known as Abia State University (ABSU).

Fortunately, Imo State did not lose the legal instrument establishing the school. Therefore, in 1992, Late Senator Evan
Enwerem’s administration, through a legislative enactment, relocated the university to Alvan Ikoku College of Education in Owerri and later moved the school to its present administrative headquarters also in Owerri metropolis. This site was supposed to be a temporary site which originally belongs to Federal Government Girls’ Secondary School Owerri. Reports also have it that Enwerem proposed to relocate the school to an acquired site in Ogbaku Owerri West LGA of the state but did not actualize this before he was booted out of office by the military.

Interestingly, Ex-Governor Achike Udenwa restored the multi-campus system of the university by establishing the university’s Teaching Hospital in Orlu and School of Engineering in Okigwe.

During Ohakim’s regime, reports had it that the nature of the soil where the School of Engineering was sited in Okigwe was not conducive for a school of engineering. However, at the twilight of that administration, the then Governor announced the relocation of the university to a site owned by Aboh Mbaise and Ngor Okpala. It is being alleged that this site was where late Sam Mbakwe had earlier proposed to site the institution.

Nevertheless, it is no longer a rumour now that Governor Rochas Okorocha has concluded plans to permanently
relocate the entire university to his home town in Ideato South Local Government of Imo State. Previously, the Governor’s Commissioner for Information Dr. Obinna Duruji, had said that the Governor’s reason for this was to decongest Owerri metropolis. But recently, the commissioner clearly stated
the Governor’s real reason for the policy. Briefing journalist at the NUJ Press Center in Owerri recently, the commissioner was bold enough to tell journalists that Governor Okorocha’s reason for relocating the institution to Ideato was as a result of what he described as the ‘politics of location of state universities by governors in Nigeria’. He cited the instance of the location of Ambrose Ali University to Ekpoma by a former Governor of old Bendel and concluded that it was the right of Governor Okorocha to relocate the university to a place of his choice.

But in his 2012 budget proposal, the Governor contradicted his commissioner and said that his own reason for the relocation of the university was as a result of the directive from the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC). To actualize the relocation, reports confirmed that the Governor has also been speedily erecting multi-million structures in his place for the institution. He has also provided jumbo allocation for the relocation in the said budget proposal recently presented to the Imo House of Assembly.

Also, in a recent press interview, one Eze (Prof) Chuka Okonkwo an acclaimed leader from Orlu Zone, let the cat out of the bag when he said that the Governor’s move to relocate the university to his zone had been a secret Orlu agenda which was first mooted to Ex-Governor Achike Udenwa during his regime but that he (Udenwa) did not have the political will to do it. The former university don claims that the agenda was sold to Rochas by the people of Orlu Zone whom the zone thinks has the political will to do it.

From the above that the decision for this policy was unilaterally taken by the Governor without any strong agitation from any community in Ideato South LGA, committee report, consultation with Imo stakeholders and opinion leaders, members of the Imo State Executive Council or the state legislature. Also from the above reasons given by both the Governor and his Commissioner for Information, it is clear
that the Governor’s real reasons for the policy are hinged on selfishness, callosity, high-handedness, sectional sentiments and opportunism.

That is why his reason for the policy and that given by his Information Commissioner are inconsistent. Nevertheless, in his usual manner, I know that very soon, the Governor will direct the state legislature which he has already rendered impotent to pass the bill for the said relocation.

Unfortunately, this relocation has already started causing a lot of anxieties and has attracted a very wide condemnation from Imolites especially from the people of Owerri and Okigwe senatorial zones.

First of all, I wish to state that Commissioner Duruji’s example for justifying the relocation is very unprofessional, careless and uncivilized for an information manager in a democratic setting. Assuming the Governor’s real intention is to toe the line of Governors who forcefully relocated state universities to their home town, must the commissioner put it that way to the public? That is impunity, insult to democracy and lawlessness of the highest order.

Nevertheless, I want to join issues with the Governor’s claim that his reason for relocating the school was in compliance with NUC directive. Recent findings show that there was no such directive from the commission.

It was also discovered that NUC is only concerned with a minimum size of land required when an application for the establishment of a university is made which the spaces in Owerri campus and that of the teaching hospital have superseded. If the Governor’s claim is justified, then why has NUC not directed for the relocation of institutions like RSUST, UNICAL, UNEC, UNIUYO, UNIJOS, UNIBEN, UNILAG etc that are all located at the heart of metropolises in the country have not been relocated.

Therefore, it is pure fallacy and abject deceit to lay the above claim because even abroad why my Governor has traveled to, universities are even located in streets of busy cities.

The next issue is that presently, the only tertiary institutions owned by Imo State are the Imo State Polytechnic Umuagwo (IMOPOLY) and IMSU. FUTO, Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education and Nekede Federal Polytechnics are all owned by
the Federal Government. Incidentally, IMOPOLY is already in Orlu Zone and the IMSU Teaching Hospital where the highest amount of money in the university has been spent is also in same zone. Ironically, there is no move by the Governor to relocate these institutions outside the zone.

Therefore, if the Governor succeeds in relocating what remains of the university to Ideato, it then means that no state owned high institution will be in both Okigwe and Owerri zones.

However, among other things, many people have already stared saying that one of the Governor’s reasons for relocating the entire university to his zone now is in preparation for the creation of a new state that will include the present Orlu Senatorial Zone. This they say, will automatically cede the university to the new state just like what happened to the institution during Ike Nwachukwu era.

Incidentally, Imo State produces the highest number of JAMB candidates in the country every year. Therefore, it needs more universities than any part of the country. After loosing ABSU to our sister state, it took a lot of sweat for IMSU to come to its present level. I remember when I entered the school in 1997, people where calling the university a ‘glorified secondary school’.

Today, it has become a treasure and an object for politics. However, the Governor should know that every Imo son or daughter has a stake in that school. It is not property of Rochas Foundation that should be appropriated any how. Sometime in the past, I know the Governor had applied to the federal government for license to run a private university. He built secondary schools all over the federation and one had expected him to use his present position to build a private university in his place if need be. Atiku Abubakar did it in Adamawa State, Gabriel Igbinedion did it in Edo State, Father Ede did it both in Okija and Elele etc and Imo sons and daughters are many in these universities. I also heard that the General Overseer of Living Christ Mission Daddy Hezekiah is currently building one at Umudi Nkwere. There are many other options. If the Governor is sincere, he can involve his so called private or foreign investors to build a university in his home town. In this era of increased federal allocations and commercialization of government agencies, he can also build a model university for the state that can even go full commercial.

Therefore, I do not think that this move is a sincere and fair one to the people of Owerri and Okigwe Senatorial zones. It is worse to Owerri Zone in particular who decided the Governor’s fate during the last election. If his reason is truly to decongest Owerri, one would have expected him to relocate the Owerri campus of the university to the sites provided by Mbakwe’s administration at Uvuru-Mbaise/ Ngor-okpala or the Ogbaku site by Late Evan Enwerem.

Also, it could have been more equitable to choose any other site in Owerri Zone and then actualize the School of Engineering in Okigwe. Why carrying everything to his zone just as Ike Nwachukwu did in 1985? Madness!

This is a great insult to the people of Owerri and Okigwe zones. It is not fair for a section of Imo State to be selfishly appropriating the state to herself every time it holds on power. For now, the state belongs to all of us and we are all stakeholders in it. Therefore, things should not be done with impunity and unscrupulously. Before now, many people have been hailing the Governor over some projects he is embarking in the state.

Therefore, it will be a great political suicide for him to dare the people of Okigwe and Owerri with this obnoxious policy. Therefore, the people should be ready for a mass protest like the recent one against the removal of petrol subsidy to stop this evil plan by the Governor Okorocha as his cohorts.

In the present political dispensation, Okigwe and Owerri zones have men and women of timber and caliber. They have the likes of the senator representing Owerri Zone Senator Chris Anyanwu, the Deputy Speaker of the Federation Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, Dep Governor Jude Agbaso and his brother Martin Agbaso, Sen. Nwagwu, Speaker Ben Uwajumogu, Special Adviser to the Imo Governor on Education Prof Fabian Osuji his counterpart for Political Nze P. C. Onuoha,  Chief of Staff to the Governor Prince Eze Madumere etc. This is the time to speak out and
condemn this act. Your positions must be known to all now or you loose your political relevance in your zones.

I also call on Owerri and Okigwe people to mandate all their representatives in the Imo State House of Assembly to oppose
the bill for the relocation of the school to Ideato when it finally comes to the House and to recall any member that assents to it. There should also be a very wide sensitization of the masses by opinion leaders to stop this wicked act. ‘It is good to look for a black goat in the day time’. The time to act is now. Tomorrow may be too late.

Written and Submitted by:

Barr. Emperor Iwuala Ksc.
Legal/Media Practitioner writing from Owerri

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