This article is a product of my encounter and experiences with incidents and events of today. Most critiques of my writings have often complained of my reluctance in soft landing sensitive issues that bother on the pride and ego of settings (groups or institutions) that I even belong to. In my university days, a course mate once confronted me at the popular IMSU political village then and described a critique on the developments in the Faculty as written and posted at the then famous Periscope board by me as unpatriotic of a student of that Faculty. My friend accused me then of exposing the Faculty to ridicule and shame before the entire university community, an accusation some interest coloured readers will readily give me over this piece. But the prodigious question here is like that asked in the Bible in Romans 6.1-2 “what shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”. Developmental studies have shown that only objective and non interest protectionist criticisms have been able to lead to positive changes in social development.
As an alumnus of Imo state University I intend not to bring the citadel which was once adjudged the best State University in the country both in fees and quality of education to disrepute but to bring to the fore the rot going on in that institution. The rot emphasized here is not in any way peculiar to IMSU but a general virus eating away the glory of our intellectual towers in this country.
It all started this morning when the Senate opened up a debate on the abuse of the use of expatriates by foreign companies operating in Nigeria. Some Senators alleged that most of these companies use Nigerian graduate employees for menial jobs while skilled jobs that attract better pay are given to foreign nationals. While this argument raged, a Senator threw up a critical question on the competence and ability of the Nigerian graduate to handle such skilled jobs. It was this question that first cast my mind to the churn outs christened graduation going on in our citadels of learning even before my encounter later that afternoon in a cab with a female undergraduate student of Imo State University.
Her phone conversation was what attracted my attention to this young lady. She radiated frustration as she lamented to her caller whom I presume to be a helping relation, on the harsh conditions in which they are studying. Of all her dirge, one remarkable issue is the fact that they were given two weeks to write their project work. As if that is not disturbing enough, the H.O.D of their department, one of the physical science departments grouped them into groups of four and mandatorily channeled them to his contracted project writer/mercenary. According to the student this mercenary who is in a collect and share deal with the H.O.D will charge them and construct their project materials and in her case the young man has charged her group a whopping N120,000 (Hundred and twenty thousand Naira). The general feeling which is not far from the truth is that this money charged by this H.O.D prescribed helper/mercenary is collected and shared 50.50 with the former. Outside this charge the students on their own are expected to do a PR of not less than N10,000 (Ten thousand Naira ) each to the same H.O.D.
The girl was thus telling her friend in her own language “my head is turning brass because I don’t know where to get money and my parents are tired”. Since my graduation in 2001, I have continuously heard of the bizarrely unethical conducts of some lecturers in that University but have always expected those at the helm of affairs both in the University and in the government to purge it of bad eggs yet it gets more chronic day by day. The last state government instituted a probe which exposed some of the decay in the institution, yet it was not enough going by stories that flow out from there every day. In further discussions with two other undergraduate students in the same cab came more shocking revelations of the sex and money for mark trade by some lecturers in the school. They particularly referred to a certain H.O.D of a department in the Humanities Faculty who ensures he sleeps with every nice looking girl in his department. They alleged that this sex predator H.O.D whom I later discovered his department was gravely indicted in the Ohakim probe goes to the extent of asking his female preys to rent hotels where he sexually dehumanize them while his libido has no mercy even for married women.
Outside the individual actions of lecturers is that of the university as an individual vis a vis her authorities. The university has been turned to a money making factory for both the lecturers and the school management. The Okorocha led government during his campaign promised a downward review of the fees paid in that school, a promise I never believed in its fulfillment immediately Prof. Anwukah became appointed as the SSG. I was skeptical of this promise because I knew Anwukah who came in our exit days in IMSU was the Vice Chancellor who ran the university as an Emperor with the introduction of fee increment and other forms of unstatutory payments in the university without recourse to the plight of students then. He was known then by his Prof. Baaf Fafunwah doctrine which he often echoed to the students that education is never free and is costly everywhere in the world. Today, the reality of that promise is not only the payment of the same fees charged during Ohakim’s era and the introduction of new smaller fees but the introduction of no payment no exam policy.
The students who are at the receiving end of these exploitations and abuses within the school, also come out to grapple with the challenges of the non residential policy of the institution. As a student leader at my time, we had engaged the university management and the government of Udenwa then over the plight of the students in the hands of private hostel landlords whom we discovered to be House of Assembly members and other top government functionaries, and he agreed to build those abandoned hostel projects around the University today.
Recently I listened to a program in Hot Fm Owerri where the issue of student prostitution in IMSU under the code name “RUNS” was treated. The students were interviewed by the station’s correspondent inside the school and all the students that were interviewed including the female students rated the prevalence of this practice amongst the female students to be well above 80%. While my co-listeners expressed utmost shock at this rating, I reacted differently because I know that the harsh studying environment has made the students vulnerable to different vices in other to survive, though some may argue that such cannot be an option for any disciplined mind. Moreso, the issue of secret cult in the institution has now changed its flow course towards the school to a more dangerous direction which is now the villages and the streets. People are now openly dispossessed of their belongings such as phones in broad day light around and within the town by suspected street cultists who are initiated and coordinated by the school cult groups. Within the villages, it is now very clear that every village has a predominant cult group of village boys who are initiated and coordinated by school cult groups of IMSU. Sometimes they have rivalries which result in clashed that leave people dead and properties destroyed in the villages. Records have shown that it is the members of these cult groups who eventually grow to become die hard robbers and kidnappers who terrorize our society. The Students’ Union Government I understand has been hijacked and made a puppet of the management and does not even know it’s right from its left. The tales of woes and rots in IMSU cannot be exhausted in one piece but it is only for the stake holders to commence the sanitization process now.
Prof. B.E.B Nwoke apart from his religious fanaticism is known to be a man of principle and discipline who has zero tolerance for corruption when we were there and taught with human face but things change rapidly in Nigeria amazingly. It is true that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but he is expected to uphold those virtues that made him a favourite of the students by launching an inquiry into these allegations so as to reposition that University by removing the bad eggs amongst the lecturers such as the sex maniac H.O.D in the humanities, the collect and share H.O.D in the physical sciences and many more others that we may not know know. The students have to rise to the occasion to rediscover the struggle for quality education in a free and conducive environment. They have to bring back to life the Dead Aluta in that institution for it to Continua and ascertain victory for them in this hopeless situation. The Alumni should grow beyond a Facebook group to engage itself with more practical initiatives on how to improve the academic standard of that school rather than the quest for political relevance and recognition that I see in most of her activities on Facebook. The government should carry out a comprehensive probe of the activities of lecturers in Imo State University to fish out these morally bankrupt lecturers who should have no business in that school. The abandoned hostel projects should be completed and landlords engaged on the reduction of the cost of accommodation to ease the accommodation sufferings of students. The monthly subvention of the university should be increased significantly since this government sees free and quality education as one its major focus.
Let us not allow this star that once shone as the brightest in the academic galaxy of Nigeria to dim out of reckon.
Comr. Aku Obidinma (Abdul)