From all indications, Imo people are all ears, waiting to be told where the Imo State University (IMSU) would take its permanent rest and allow academics to run its normal course.
Recently, the governor of the state, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, set up a committee to determine a permanent site within Owerri Zone for the university. This was after an uproar that followed the governor’s announcement that he was moving the state’s only university to his home town, Ogboko, in Ideato South, a local government situated at the Imo/Anambra border.
The governor’s volte face, commendable as it is, came as a result of wise counseling rather than cowardice, as he is known to have done exploits that portray him differently.
Indeed, uncertainty had continued to trail IMSU since it was set up by the Sam Mbakwe administration in the old Imo State comprising the present day Abia and some parts of Ebonyi. The good news, however, is that in spite of its travails, the premier institution has consistently turned out top-rated graduates who have been performing feats around the world.
It was the military government of Rtd. Gen Ike Nwachukwu that changed the multi-campus structure of the university when he moved it to Uturu Okigwe. At the creation of Abia State, Uturu fell into the new state and the university subsequently changed ownership. Imo sulked at apparent loss of the university until the late Chief Evan Enwerem who was at the helm of affairs as governor reminded them that the university was still in existence. Only the structures change hands.
He quickly transferred it to its present site where it has operated for more than two decades. This site which was intended to be temporary was built to accommodate a secondary school. With the movement of the state secretariat to its permanent site build by the Achike Udenwa administration, IMSU acquired more space.
It is pertinent at this stage to examine whether the university truly needs to move from its present location. A discerning mind would not fail to perceive that the various communities clamouring to play host to IMSU, all of which qualify though, have purely parochial interests rather than objective reasoning. Even in Owerri zone where the governor finally chose to allow the university to stay, proposed communities had presented feeble arguments why they should host IMSU, only having at the back of their minds, the seeming economic boom theywould experience in hiring private hostels out to students at cutthroat prices. The tug-of-war over IMSU is unhealthy for both the institution and the Imo people as it is potentially divisive to favour one community over the other.
Some have advanced space as a reason to press for the removal of the school from the Lake Nwebere campus. Modern trends, we must realize, have taught us that a university no longer requires excessive land mass to function as one. In a new world such as the one we live today, where everything is miniaturized, where some carry their own universities in a portfolio, where the talk of a global village is almost a cliché, it takes more of adequate facilities and motivation of quality staff than land for a university to turn out desired manpower.
We may, therefore, do ourselves a world of good to save the virgin land being considered in the rural setting for more production-oriented ventures such as agriculture and industrialization, just to prepare the ground that would soak up our already saturated labour market.
Let us consider the enormous funds required to begin fresh structures to house the university in a virgin land. Would it not be better to invest the money in the provision of needed facilities for effective teaching and learning? This would save the Imo workers from the current 10 per cent education tax being imposed on them to fund the free education scheme in the state.
If the university moves, what will become of the structures already built in the present campus? Will the other campus such as the colleges of medicine and engineering in Orlu and Okigwe, respectively, move with it?
Some have argued that the present environment is not conducive to teaching and learning, that the urban setting corrupts students morally and does not permit concentration required for reading. But deep thinking members of the society also know that it is the university that corrupts the environment instead. Besides, what would we say of University of Lagos, University of Ibadan, Yaba College of Technology and others that operate in the centre of the city? Going by their argument, assuming urbanization catches up with IMSU wherever it is moved to in future, would the authorities be required to move it further away to another nearby suburb? Was the University of London, for instance, moved from its present site because of urbanization, or did it lose its credibility because of its location? I believe the committee would consider all these and decide to allow IMSU to stay in its present campus. Imo has more pressing problems to worry about than the relocation of a university.