New universities in Imo State:Where is Okigwe’s share?

Amidst the virtual overthrow of Governor Rochas Okorocha from power in the local government administration of Imo State via an Appeal Court ruling reinstating the PDP local government chairmen and councilors who were fraudulently selected (sorry, elected) during former Governor Ohakim’s administration, Okorocha returned from a recent overseas economic tour.

Dwelling on that verdict briefly, it came at a bad time for the powerful People’s Democratic Party (PDP) when it was still licking its wound from the humiliating electoral pummeling in the Edo State gubernatorial election despite the party’s desperate efforts that brought even the president of Nigeria into the fray. The party’s dreaded machinery which has been crushing all opposition at elections since the Third Republic was rendered immobile by the share will of the electorate to ensure that their verdict prevailed.

Understandably, the demoralized PDP was resolute in making up for her battered image in Edo State though the favourable Appeal Court verdict. Thus, in what seemed a questionable haste, the Attorney General of Nigeria, a party stalwart, got himself partisanly involved by issuing an order to the security agencies to enforce the ruling even when the court did not issue such an order. Besides, the losing party had filed a petition in the supreme Court against the lower court’s judgement.

Without doubt, PDP has demonstrated they call the shots in Nigeria; that they are indeed the re-incarnation of the discredited National Party of  Nigeria (NPN) in the Second Republic which claimed to be super power!

Such was the tense and dicey atmosphere Governor Okorocha met in Imo State when he returned  from that overseas economic trip.

An eternal optimist, the governor played down the unfavourable court verdict and proceeded to make the cheering announcement in a broadcast to the people of a plan to establish two new universities in the state and to re-locate the government – owned Imo State University (IMSU) to a permanent, spacious site.

The two universities are to be located in Ngor-Okpala (Owerri Zone) and Ogboko (Orlu zone) while the Imo state University would be transferred to a permanent site in Owerri zone.

Predictably and expectedly, Okigwe zone was not slated to share in  this windfall, meaning that the announcement was cheering only to Owerri and Orlu zones.

Within the period, the Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, Barr. Uwajumogu literally appropriated  a proposed Imo College of Education about which many were hearing for the first time. He announced to a meeting of stake-holders in his immediate constituency that the institution would be located at Madona High School, Isinweke, the first campus of the old Imo State University during the tenure of the founder, late Sam Onunaka Mbakwe, Ph.D.

When and if the planned Imo College of Education materialises and is sited at Isinweke in Ihite/Uboma axis it would be counted as fulfilling Okigwe zone’s share. In the same manner the futile governorship tenure of Ikedi Ohakim and that of the inemitable late Mbakwe were credited to have served out tenures due to Okigwe zone.

But a striking fact is that all those who have served out Okigwe’s turn in important political positions hail from geographical Okigwe south. Naturally, they use their positions to locate institutions meant for the zone in their localities. The bottom line is that Okigwe, the ancient headquarters of the zone, is spitefully neglected.

For instance and to underscore the level of the neglect, on many occasions zonal events or meetings that ought to hold at zonal headquarters are held either at Anara or Umuelemai apparently on the basis of centrality. Since when has geographical centrality become the ultimate criterion for locating administrative and political headquarters?

Instructively, zonal events or meetings in the two other zones of Orlu and Owerri are held at the zonal headquarters. Yet Okigwe was the headquarters of the Old Okigwe Division during the colonial administration from which the present Orlu zone in Imo State and Awgu local government in Enugu state were carved out.

There is no doubt that Governor Okorocha’s distribution of universities was a tactical move to mainly placated Owerri zone which indigenes have been vehemently protesting against a suspected plan to re-locate IMSU to the governor’s home town, Ogboko in Orlu zone.

With over seven institutions of higher learning, Owerri zone must rank as one of the areas with the highest concentration of higher educational institutions in Nigeria. That they should so vigorously resist any attempt to take away IMSU from the zone goes to confirm that in the contest and quest for political advantage and power, little thought is given to equity.

On the otherhand, Orlu zone has a total of three institutions of higher learning although one of the reasons for which Owerri Zone spear-headed the opposition against a possible re-location of IMSU to the zone is the fear that the zone could be ceded to another state in the impending state-creation exercise.

As noted earlier, not even one such institution, whether federally or state-owned exists in Okigwe zone. There is this joke among indigenes of Okigwe Township that the only federal presence in the area are the Prisons, Police and Federal Government College (Girls).

This anomaly calls for immediate rectification and such an institution meant for Okigwe zone has to be sited at the headquarters to partially make up for decades of spiteful neglect of Okigwe metropolis.

It is just fair to recognize the unprecedented effort of Governor Okorocha to give Okigwe a facelift. But it is a policy from which other zonal headquarters, especially Orlu, have benefited.

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Christian Voice