Even with the ongoing strike embarked upon by polytechnic lecturers, peace still eludes the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, EMMANUEL OBE writes
These are not the best of times for the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, Anambra State. Lecturers of the institution, alongside others in the nation’s public polytechnic, have been on strike since October 4 last year.
They are kicking against the poor funding of polytechnics, appointment of unqualified persons as rectors, as well as the review of the IPPIS scheme in polytechnics and the funding of the CONTISS 15 Migration, among others.
For FEDPOLY, Oko, the industrial action has virtually crippled the operations of the school as students who would have graduated since last year are still in limbo, having not written their final examinations or completed their respective theses.
Also, thousands of its fresh students who have been offered provisional admission, having scaled through the last Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations and the post-UTME, cannot take up their placements because “nothing is just going on” in the institution.
But the times have been particularly very trying for the school rector, Prof. Godwin Onu, whose aspiration to change the face of the polytechnic for good is facing serious challenges.
In the last four years he has been in the saddle, Onu has been able to establish relationships with some universities in India and the United Kingdom. In particular, the cooperation with Sharda University, India on Nanotechnology and the Chinese Studies exchange programme with the Confucius Institute, China are two areas that seemed paying off before the strike started.
The polytechnic, which could not hold its convocation last year, is also facing the problems of shortfall in funding and erosion menace.
As if these were not enough to give the self-styled “Digital Rector” nightmares, hundreds of women from the host community, Oko, last Tuesday stormed the polytechnic with placards, sticks and green leaves, calling for the removal of the rector.
In company with the women were some young men, who were recording the proceedings with video cameras. Security personnel, including policemen, however, did not allow the protest to go beyond the institution’s gate.
In spite of barring them from entering the school, the women remained at the gate for more than two hours, carrying placards and singing mournful songs.
Some of the inscriptions on their placards read, “Onu must go.” “We are tired of Onu.” “Appoint new Rector for FEDPOLY Oko.” “Onu has destroyed the Polytechnic, Oko.” “Stop molesting us.”
They also marched around the community.
The women, who alleged that members of the Oko Town Union had urged the Federal Government to fire the rector from office, promised to continue with the protest until the authorities meet their request.
According to them, the rector is causing more harm than good to the institution.
In a related development, the Oko Peoples Union has dissociated itself from a purported award given to the rector by some youths of the town on March 3, 2014.
The leader of the protesting women, Mrs. Caro Okeke, and the President, Umuada Oko, Mrs. Maureen Uzoegbunam, alleged that the rector deliberately shut the school, a development that has caused a lull in business in the community.
But the most outstanding accusation preferred against the rector is that he has concluded plans to relocate the polytechnic to his hometown, Ezira, a few kilometres from Oko.
Incidentally, only a few days before the women took to the streets, the youth wing of Oko Town Union had conferred a meritorious award on Onu.
Perhaps in an effort to rubbish the award, the women summoned one of the award’s facilitators, Ebuka Okoli, on the day of the protest and made him to recant the honour.
The women also summoned two senior officials of the polytechnic who they alleged were working against the interest of the community. Interestingly, the two are from the host community.
But the polytechnic’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Obini Onuchukwu, has denied many of the allegations against his principal.
According to him, there is a law that established the institution and it is only a change of that law that can result in its relocation.
He also dismissed as untrue the allegation that the rector deliberately shut down the institution.
Onuchukwu said, “It is a well known fact that the lecturers have been on strike on account of a national industrial action. It is not the rector that is responsible for the strike.”
He said it was understandable that the absence of students had adversely affected business in the community, but it was important for the people to know that the rector was not behind the closure.
The Registrar of the polytechnic, Mr. Olih Nwokolobia, who received the award on behalf of the rector from the youth group, also denied the relocation plan.
Meanwhile, the Oko Peoples Union, another union in the community, while reacting to the award, levelled other allegations against the management of the polytechnic.
In a statement by President-General Oko Peoples Union, Mr. Cyprian Nwanmuo, and the Vice-President, Mr. Clement Udoye, on March 4, the union also kicked against the renewal of the tenure of the rector.
The OPU also said it had formally notified the Supervising Minister of Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, of the community’s rejection of Onu as the rector of the institution.
Our correspondent gathered that this, however, is not the first time that the polytechnic has had issues with the host community.
Two years ago, the polytechnic was shut for more than five months after a clash between some students and youths of the community led to the destruction of property in the polytechnic. (PUNCH)