As the strike action embarked upon by the staff of Imo State University (IMSU) enters its 9 weeks today, there are very strong indications that the Vice Chancellor who is also an Aunt to the Executive Governor of Imo, Prof. Adaobi Obasi, may be sacked or resign anytime from now. That will bring the number to 4 of those Professors that were unceremoniously sacked and booted out of office by Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha since he assumed office on 29th May, 2011.
The first victim of the Governor’s preference for “hire and fire” was Prof. Ossy Nwebo who was planted by Governor Ikedi Ohakim against the court ruling that Prof. Chuba Okonkwo be reinstated. At the exit of erstwhile Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Nwebo, the Governor displayed gross nepotism or favoritism when he unilaterally imposed Prof. B.E.B. Nwoke as Vice- Chancellor said to have cited assistance he got from the Nwoke’s family with whom he lived in Jos. It was also through the Nwokes that Okorocha probably secured admission for a Diploma in Law at the UNIJOS. Next in line was Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie who was used to replace Prof. BEB Nwoke as Vice Chancellor, at a time the ovation for his innovative ideas, managerial ingenuity and restructuring policies at IMSU, was loudest except for his deficiency in public relations. Nwoke’s sack came at a time many including most members of the State House of Assembly led by Hon. Benjamin Uwajumogu had passed a resolution and adopted a motion calling and urging the Governor to appoint Prof. BEB Nwoke as substantive Vice Chancellor. That was after he had served for more than 2 years in office as acting Vice Chancellor. Rather than confirming his Jos friend and benefactors appointment, Okorocha sacked him with ignominy leaving the erudite Professor of Biological sciences demoralized, humiliated, bruised and dejected. “It is still not very clear why he was so maltreated and embarrassed, beyond the well known claim of the Governor that he does not like intelligent people”, a source opined.
Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, a former President of ASUU who led “the strike of all strikes” against the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan and to whose credit today, is the unrivaled and historically improved funding and remuneration of universities especially by TETFUND had to be drafted to replace Prof. BEB Nwoke. Those who were aware that Awuzie who did not possess a Ph.D in Architecture or any Ph.D at all, had called on the Governor to withdraw the appointment, stressing that Awuzie’s lack of a Ph.D disqualified him from the office, but the governor remained defiant; such advices were better for the dogs. Worst still, whereas the former ASUU President while in office had passed a resolution that such appointments which negate the independence of the citadel of intellectualism be promptly rejected, instead celebrated his elevation as V.C in preference for the “Orlu for Orlu conundrum”. He even organized a special convocation ceremony where Okorocha was ‘singularly honoured during an investiture with an honorary Doctorate award.
However, like everything else, the romance did not last following Awuzie’s refusal to be led by the nose. It was learnt that smarting out as an “indispensable and favoured son of Orlu”, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie refused a number of orders and directives handed down to him by Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha. Some of them were according to sources at the university, viewed as anti-establishment, anti workers welfare and absurd. It was also learnt that Okorocha’s sole aim of appointing Awuzie as IMSU V.C was to perfect and perpetuate his personal interest above all other considerations. At a point when he became very much overbearing, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie shunned some of his sponsored contractors from exclusively executing TETFUND approved projects or accounting to him on the generation, disbursement and management of TETFUND funds, released to the University for Infrastructural Facilities. A totally befuddled Governor Rochas Okorocha could not take any more of it and thus sacked Awuzie citing the decision of IMSU staff to embark on strike action soon after his re-election victory, and while he was junketing abroad in chartered executive jets.
Okorocha had led hundreds of newly elected Imo House of Assembly members and friends to Singapore, Turkey etc. Though the visit was dubbed “economic trip” no single investor or investment has been attracted to the state despite the Billions of hard earned Naira that had gone down the drain in the wild goose search yet they were believed to be economic trips. Least was the appointment of Prof. Adaobi Obasi, a maternal aunt of the Okorochas as a possible replacement for Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie. Despite the fact that many Imolites viewed such appointment as an attempt to willfully appropriate and hijack the management of the university and advance only the “Orlu for Orlu syndrome”. Following her meticulous and passionate approach to management with a human face, she has been generally accepted and applauded for bringing unity to the university.
Since then, there have been accelerated developments of infrastructure in the university’s Lake Nwaebere Campus all sponsored by TETFUND but not without the foundation laid by Prof Awuzie.
In addition, the university scored 85% in the just concluded NUC accreditation exercise to the shock of those who wished that the new found university “Eastern Palm Ogboko” should be the beneficiary. Out of 55 departments surveyed, 49 of them got full accreditation to the appreciation of all. It was kudos for Prof. Obasi. This followed Prof. Adaobi Obasi’s decision to retain and re-absorb some of the previously sacked workers which she inherited from Profs. Awuzie and BEB Nwoke, against the position of the government. It is of note too that part of Prof. Awuzie’s problems with Okorocha, was when the former Vice-Chancellor Awuzie challenged the governor’s assertions that he was lavishing the Vice-Chancellor with huge sums of money. Okorocha who brooks no challenge or opposition was bitter that Awuzie could refute his allegations straight to his face.A government house source was quoted as saying, “Prof. Adaobi Obasi who was brought in to massage governor’s ego and implement his preferred bizarre or draconian policies has since deviated from protecting the Governor. She equally avoided being manipulated to favour the special interest of the Governor and his lackeys. For instance, the governor wants his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu to be the one issuing orders from government house, Owerri on how the university should be managed or run. Part of this preference was the directives on a staff audit which was immediately followed by another order demanding a drastic reduction in the workforce, whereas the former was implemented to the letter with no record of ghost workers, the later was ignored.
Another was the order asking the university to pay only 70% of the workers monthly salaries and emoluments. However, Prof. Adaobi Obasi had approached these orders as a passionate mother, preferring instead to mitigate on behalf of the workers. She had pleaded for understanding of the Governor and his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, persuading them to accept or realize that the university system is a universal institution where salaries and allowances are uniform and also lectured them on the implications or consequences of paying lower salaries at IMSU. She reminded them that some of the lecturers were persuaded to leave their lucrative jobs elsewhere to come home and assist their home state in grooming future leaders.
She cautioned against the implementation of the 70% payment of salaries to university workers as presently obtained in the state civil service, and pleaded with the duo of Okorocha and Nwosu into accepting that the university should be allowed to introduce sundry fees to make up the shortfall from what the Governor gives as monthly subvention. All these special references cited by Prof. Adaobi Obasi were not considered”, he stated.
At a meeting with the Governor, the staff recalled an earlier agreement and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed on behalf of Okorocha by the then Accountant General of the state, Mr. Godwin Etche, to the effect that the outstanding N1.2 Billion owed IMSU workers which accrued from what the ASUU described as “Connual contus” must be paid. Whereas all other universities had paid this money to their staff, IMSU is said to be the only one that has not paid. The Governor had since then refused entreaties and persuasions to authorize release of the money.
The staff had even pleaded with the Governor to implement the payment of N1.2 Billion arrears piece meal or out rightly pay one third of the entire sum of money so that they can shelve their plan to go or continue on strike. As usual, Okorocha bluntly refused to buckle or compromise. The situation has since degenerated into the nine weeks old strike action with the students engaging in a sympathy protest to draw the Governor’s attention to their plight. Instead of addressing these salient issues, Okorocha accused the lecturers of forcing him to reintroduce school fees against his “free education mantra”. It is also said that the Government is aggrieved that Prof. Adaobi Obasi had consistently opposed his order to downsize the staff strength and offload those he would wants to come cap-in-hand, begging to be employed at “Ogboko Eastern Palm University”. He then vowed never to acquiesce to their demands.
Despite the advice by Prof. Adapbi Obasi that cutting university staff salaries by as much as 30% monthly by Okorocha is not obtainable, realistic, and justifiable, the Governor is said to have felt highly embittered that his own Aunt, who should be doing his personal bidding has proved a hard nut to crack. A source at the university said that following the strike action, an aggrieved Okorocha ordered Prof. Adaobi Obasi to sack the workers so that he can replace them with beneficiaries of his “20,000 Imo Youths Must Work Scheme” who he had also arbitrarily disengaged. Adaobi Obiasi according to the same source now is in state of confusion, had incurred the Governor’s wrath for rehabilitating some of the staff who were victims of “vendetta and the high handedness”. The source had argued that like in the days of Awuzie, Prof. Adaobi Obasi hearkened to Okorocha’s order and sacked the workers; NUC would not have accredited IMSU as much. A development that would have been to the advantage of Owelle Rochas Okorocha who is willing to re-absorb them at his Eastern Palm University Ogboko.
Faced by this confrontation, a bitter and fuming governor is not only between the devil and the deep Sea, he is helpless of what to do with his Aunty. He has since shifted everything relating to the problems of IMSU to his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu who was accused of not using his position as alumni to address the university’s myriads of financial predicaments especially when he administered the multibillion Naira bail-out funds. The same source has it that the Governor’s son-in-law and Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu has since keyed into the cold war between the Governor and the university authorities by out rightly refusing to intervene or address crucial issues in the IMSU imbroglio. Several calls put across to him by some of the close Principal Officers of the University were allegedly not picked by Uche Nwosu who is said to now seeing the Acting Vice Chancellor and his former lecturers as “enemies”, detractors and opponents who must be treated as saboteurs.
It was also gathered that while the debacle at IMSU is raging and subsisting, the Governor who is very determined is doing everything possible to put finishing touches to the Eastern Palm University at Ogboko so as to meet the target deadline. Already, a Vice Chancellor, Prof. Chima B. Nwuchukwu has been appointed for the top job. The pioneer Vice-Chancellor at Ogboko and his team have been given an ultimatum to ensure that admissions are concluded and that the university takes off by September 2016.
Keen observers of the new development are however shocked to find Prof. Nwuchukwu accepted the new job as against his substantive position of Vice-Chancellor at the Catholic owned Tasian University, where he is presently on a monthly salary of N800,000. “Can Okorocha pay a Professor as much as N800,000 a month?” That is the question on the lips of many. If the answer is yes, then how come he is unable to pay IMSU Professors a paltry N400,000 monthly salaries? Does it therefore mean that there is a hidden agenda or sinister motive to undermine IMSU and coerce these lecturers to abandon IMSU for Eastern Palm University Ogboko? Only time according to IMSU sources, will tell.
Courtesy: Community Watchdog News