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INTERVIEW

Imo State Polytechnic: My story, my journey (1)

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World Communications Day: Stop spreading fake news - Fr. Wence Madu warns

Interview with Rev. Fr.  Dr. Wencenslaus Madu – Rector, Imo State Polytechnic Umuagwo

Rev. Fr.  Dr. Wencenslaus Madu (Rector)

Rev. Fr. Dr. Wencenslaus Madu (Rector)

There have been visible changes and eloquent innovations at the Imo State Polytechnic  Umuagwo. The Editor of The Leader newspaper was granted an exclusive interview recently by the Rector of the institution Rev. Fr. Dr. Wence Madu . where  he spoke extensively  about his vision, challenges and dreams for the polytechnic.

Q.      How did you feel when you were appointed as rector of Imo State Polytechnic?

A.      It was in November 2011. So it was at the instance of His Excellency, Governor Rochas Okoro to appoint me, surprisingly, as an acting Rector of Imo State Polytechnic. Prior to that time there were a couple of issues including students’ protests, so as he ran into the protests in his usual characteristic manner the students were chorusing a particular name and that happened to be my name and he went home thought about it and decided to appoint a priest. So it was an act of God, unexpected, coming from no where but at the same time that was exactly what happened.

The New administrative block built with TET Fund.

The New administrative block built with TET Fund.

Q.Given your knowledge of the problems and challenges of this institution, when you were appointed, how did you feel?

A.      Since I have been here already doubling as chaplain and lecturer / Dean School of Science at the time and partly Student Affairs, I already knew the challenges were daunting and enormous and so when this appointment came I saw it as God’s invitation to participate in rescuing the situation that was very chaotic and the challenges are still there not abating but we are grappling with them one by one.

 Q.      Were you surprised when the appointment came?

I was surprised because in history I don’t know of any priest running a public institution and this happened to be the first in this part of the world. The closest was Bishop Okafor that was at the College of Education Awka, but nothing of this magnitude in this day and age and in a state where there are so many angling and looking for such positions. So it was a bit of a surprise. It is really difficult to explain because for Government to decide to appoint a priest who they may not  be able to control is something of faith because as a priest His Excellency might think how can I talk to a priest?  When he comes I give him communion and forgive his sins and make him a better person, now he is appointing me. So those kinds of conflicts are there and actually am sure it is an act of God that he did what he did.

 Q.      What are your visions for the school knowing the background? 

A. The vision I have is captured in the polytechnic mandate itself. You see in the country today, over 80% of our graduates are not employed in spite of their qualifications and they are not employable anyway because the education institutions focus on paper qualification and so our graduates are coming out without basic skills.  They lack basic skills that can make them employable and at the same time self-reliant. So the challenge we have here which is part of the polytechnic mandate is to see that we address this shortage and be able to produce graduates who will be able to use their hands in productive activities, in self employment and be able to match the certificates they have with the skills they are able to acquire. Even where there is no job, they should be able to take care of themselves and engage in more productive activities.

One of the new  class room & resource blocks

One of the new class room & resource blocks

Q. What have been your challenges and problems for nearly two years now?

A. Yes, two years in Sept.  The challenges in 2010/2011 was stiff,  the situation was really bad because I have to deal with lack of water, lack of facilities, classrooms, laboratory, lack of stable workforce to be able to deliver the academic learning and research and the programmes that were in various degrees of losing their accreditation, which was a major challenge.  So all these we have been trying to grapple within the last two years.

 Q. Has the government been supportive?  And what support do you receive from the government?

A. Yes,  the Imo State government has been very supportive.  Without the government, nothing would have been possible here; the infrastructural development.  They have not only invested in the infrastructural development of the institution, they have also provided a whopping sum of N200,000,000 to pursue accreditation of programmes of this institution and from ground 6 HND approved institution  we are now cruising at Ground 18 HND accredited institution and this happened within the last two years.  So, I don’t think any other government would have funded the institution the way His Excellency has done and this brings an important info for the public.

Sometimes, they continue to question “he said, he has given free education and you don’t have free education; it is a hoax.”  Those kind of things are coming from positions of ignorance because the free education has nothing to do with provision of facilities and I will talk about it sometime but the government has really sponsored this institution to be able to see/achieve the change that you can see going on in this place.

 Q. In which areas are you focusing in your reform and reconstruction efforts?

A. We are focusing on technological education.  We want to develop properly speaking, an engineering faculty that will be able to restore the skills that have gone off shore: skills in building, skills in mechanical appliances and repairs, skills in ICT, skills in … even in public administration we have to find a skill.  The kind of education we do here is if you are studying public administration, we can help you to acquire a skill in public administration not just the certificate but by exposing you to our retail and consumer areas for training and so you can now tailor your public administration into an aspect of skill.  We can also teach you things you can begin to do while you are looking for white collar job on public administration.  So our emphasis is mainly on skills development and that is why you can see new laboratory, we have one of the best chemical engineering laboratories, we already have a school of science, a very imposing building over there, office of the Rector and we cannot do all these losing sight of what this place was known for as the former and first College of Agric, the Imo State Polytechnic stands a noble ground to be able to be the food basket for Imo State in terms of food production and of agro-allied skills for those who will engage in agricultural production, processing and utilization.

 

(To be continued)

 

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How ENTRACO agents ambush motorists in Owerri

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How ENTRACO agents ambush motorists in Owerri
By Emeka Ani

Motorists in Owerri have raised the alarm over constant harassment by officials of the Imo State Environmental Transformation Commission – ENTRACO.

The drivers claim that the officials of the Commission ambush them at various deplorable points of roads in the capital city, waiting for them to contravene either the “One-Way” drive or to drive against traffic by using the wrong lane.

A victim of the commission told The Leader, “You know that some portions of the dual carriage roads in Owerri are so deplorable that only tippers and lorries can access the flooded portions. So, in order to avoid the damaged portion, those of us with small cars drive against traffic to avoid getting stuck in the flood. And as soon as you try to avoid the flood, the ENTRACO officials, who know the travails of motorists and lay ambush will swoop on you, arrest you and drag you to their office where you are made to pay a certain amount of fine.”

“The ENTRACO boss and his team are aware that some roads in Owerri, especially in New Owerri are in very bad shape and no sensible driver will use them. The only solution is to use the section of the road that is manageable, and which the Commission says is an offence. What exactly do they want motorists to do in that circumstance?. Carry our vehicles on the head? So, let the State Government address the state of roads, make them motorable instead of ambushing motorists who try to save their vehicles from the deplorable roads.”

A caller on Ozisa Radio Fm Owerri on Wednesday confirmed the above claim, as she too was a victim. According to her, she was trying to avoid a bad portion along the West End Axis of Owerri when she was encountered by ENTRACO officials who dragged her and her vehicle to ENTRACO office at Owerri Municipal for disobedience to one-way drive. They deflated the four tyres of her car. To retrieve the car, she had to pay N20,000, which surprisingly was not receipted.

Another complaint during the radio programme was lack of uniform payment for a particular offence. According to a contributor to the interactive session, the official fine for driving against traffic is said to be N5,000. But officials of ENTRACO demand as much as N15,000 and N20,000 for the same offence.

The Commission was therefore asked to make public official fines for various traffic offences and illegal parking etc, to avoid disagreement.

Responding, the ENTRACO General Manager, Hon Macdonald Ebere apologized for the overzealousness of some of his staff and asked victims to contact his office if they felt aggrieved by the actions of his staff. He also reeled out various phone numbers to be contacted if victims were not satisfied by the actions of his commission.

Hon. Ebere noted instances where he had to sack some overzealous staff who dainted the image of his commission.

However, the issue of payment of N20,000 by a victim which was not receipted and the official fine for various offences so as to guide motorists and reduce confusion and conflicts, were yet to be addressed.

Hon. Ebere warned motorists, street traders and owners of illegal structures to obey ENTRACO directives, adding that the three weeks notice given to them had elapsed.

In answer to another question, the ENTRACO boss said his commission would soon address various illegal motor parks in Owerri Municipal.

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INTERVIEW

Odenigbo has helped Ndigbo to appreciate the beauty, richness of Igbo Language – Archbishop Obinna

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Odenigbo has helped Ndigbo to appreciate the beauty, richness of Igbo Language – Archbishop Obinna

The Leader publishes the last part of our exclusive interview with Archbishop Obinna on the Silver Jubilee of the inauguration of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province and his Installation as Metropolitan of the Province.

Excerpts:

Your Grace, you established Odenigbo lecture series in 1996. Do you think it has achieved the purpose for which it was established?

The issue is that at some stage the Igbos who were learned, felt that because you spoke English that meant that you were learned, forgetting that even through the Igbo language you are also learned and that our ancestors had used this language to bring us all up before the white man came. If we had to depend on English for our survival, all along Igbo would not have existed. So Odenigbo has helped our people to appreciate the beauty and richness of the Igbo language and it is also helping the church to spread the good news using the Igbo language. There has been a flowering of even publications in the Igbo language. Music in Igbo language is better appreciated than music in English, especially from the cultural point of view and even from the church/spiritual point of view.

When I think of such songs as “Ihe nke okwukwe abiala,” well, I am sure there are English songs that talk about light, but this one touches the way the Igbo language penetrates better into the Igbo soul, into the Igbo heart than English.

Those who teach Igbo have continued to appreciate what I have done for them because there was a time those who did or taught Igbo were considered low class but with the Odenigbo lecture series those studying Igbo Linguistics feel a great sense of belonging to the academic world too and those who studied Christianity or Religion also recognize that these are fields of study that are also valued not necessarily monitarily but spiritually and culturally. So, a lot of people, even among my co-workers, who used to speak English so much, they now address issues using the Igbo language and when I go on pastoral visits, addresses are also presented to me in Igbo language.

It’s not only about the language, we have been able to touch some traditions, like the ofo. I have been able to go or send priests to now look at the ofo, the symbol of authority in families and compounds. We have been able to translate the ofo into the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, because “Obe Jesu Kristi” is the ultimate ofo, the ultimate ogu; only Christ could have carried the sins of the world.

So, by studying the symbols, we also discover the meanings embedded in them and how they co-relate with higher meanings, the universal meanings that are embedded in the Christian symbols. Likewise, the issue of “ikwa ala.” I have handled that. The issue of incest, having to use Nnabe, Okuko ayaniriya etc, instead of using those symbols and going through an ordeal that is embedded in arusi, we now have created a process or some ordeal but is not anchored in arusi. So we are able to do the purification and reconciling of the people without resort to traditional symbols. We take the meanings and elevate them to a more dignified position.

As we celebrate the silver jubilee of the province and your installation as the Archbishop, what is your message to the province on this occasion?

When the bishops of this province agreed that we celebrate this moment, it was considered a spiritual moment, a moment to deepen further, the light of faith that has reached us, which is also the good news of salvation. So my message is that we all use this moment to deepen our faith, our knowledge of God in Christ, to welcome this good news into the intimacy of our mind, our spirits, our bodies, our families, of our communities.

The prayer we are offering “Ekpere inye ekele na ncheta iri afo abuo na ise nke province owere,” captures the trust of the celebration, which is evangelization intent. So, both the prayer and the mbem (anthem), the provincial anthem which was taken from the Centenary, we are using it to deepen, to purify our lives and make the faith more solid among our people. It is also a challenge to every Catholic to proclaim the good news wherever he or she is. So, it’s not just our coming together to eat and drink, it is a challenge to become more committed Catholics, more committed devotees. That has been really behind whatever we are doing.

The catechetical quiz has already taken place among the children and also among all of us. We already had the symposium earlier, on the unity and integrity of the Catholic faith which took place at the Seat of Wisdom Seminary, then the music fiesta that we had a few days ago, is also part of using music to glorify God and to spread the good news of salvation. So, I see every aspect of it as an illustration of our faith or an expression of missionary trust.

When we feed the poor on the 2nd of September, it is also part of our duty and mission to continue to care for the poor and the needy among us. Yes, we do that quite regularly, we want them to be part and parcel of this celebration. The colloquium we have on Catholic Missioning across the world and Catholic missioning in our province, is a direct invitation for all of us to become missionaries of the faith and in the faith.

So, my message is deepen your faith in the light of the Silver jubilee celebration, which echoes into our hearts, into our land, the good news of salvation and may we become more committed Catholic missionaries in the villages, the parishes, work places, every community, along the streets, in our fields, in our offices, on the roads, cars, aeroplanes, wherever you are, be a missionary. Thank you.

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Ban on armed cattle herders: Chief Finbar Ogunta gives kudos to South East governors, calls for more joint ventures

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Ban on armed cattle herders: Chief Finbar Ogunta gives kudos to South East governors, calls for more joint ventures

By John Agbakwuru

South East governors have been commended for their recent ban on the movement of armed cattle-rearers in their various communities.

They have also received a pat on the back for the decision to henceforth monitor from the air, the security conditions of the forests in the region.

An Owerri-based, business man and community leader from Ideato North, Chief Sir Finbar Ogunta, gave the commendations at the weekend while chatting with The Leader.

He also proffered solutions to the perennial insecurity challenges in the country, assessed the adequacy of current measures being applied by the federal and state governments to this nagging issue.

Chief Ogunta spoke on the role religious leaders should play in influencing their members and sanitizing their communities, so as to nip insecurity in the bud as well as check youth unemployment and restiveness and government’s attitude to the “Revolution now” activists.

Below are excerpts of the answers to the questions fielded:

The South East governors ban on armed cattle herdsmen is a welcome development. We have been waiting for such decision for a very long time. Our governors should know that we do not expect too much from them. This is a simple way of protection of our mothers in the villages. The decision did not harm the Igbos, fulanis or the herdsmen because Igbos are also doing business in Hausaland and they have never destroyed any life or property there.

The Hausas /Fulani have been doing business with us since ever we knew them. There has never been a time they destroyed any life or crop till recently. But since it looks as if they have support from powers that be, things have gone bad. The impunity with which they act has worsened things. From their behaviours, you will know that they are not afraid at all.

On his solution to the widespread insecurity in the country, Chief Ogunta said: First and foremost, we should be sincere to ourselves about the security agencies that we have in this country. They are created by the law of the land to protect the citizens, but certain issues militate against their efforts to do so. They are not better equipped than the aggressors/criminals. Their welfare should be improved upon in terms of good salaries, health allowance, housing and family welfare.

The government should improve on their welfare and allow them to co-ordinate and work together to curb insecurity.

Asked how effective government measures have been, in fighting insecurity, he replied. In my opinion, the measures that the federal and state governments have been applying so far are like one step forward, five steps backward. The insecurity in the system has been politicized, tribalized, regionized and used to waste tax payers money.

To this effect, the government at all levels should be pro-active and sincere in fighting insecurity in Nigeria.

Speaking on how religious leaders (Christian and Islam) can help nip insecurity in the bud, he said: As a Knight of the Catholic Church, I feel leaders from all religions have so much to contribute to curb insecurity in Nigeria. Their followers listen and practice what they hear from them, therefore they should preach peace. Our religious leaders in this country with the amount of wealth they control can create jobs and employ so many youths to reduce idle hands who are being used as tools to fuel insecurity in the country. The religious leaders should start to educate and enlighten their followers, especially the youth on the implications of being used to put wrong people in position of authority in Nigeria. They should also condemn all actions and inactions perpetrated by the tools of insecurity in all parts of the nation. In other words, all killings and other vices should be condemned in totality.

On how to put an end to youth restiveness, Chief Ogunta said: Regarding youth restiveness, In our culture, we used to pick our young ones and freely train them in different lines of business and at the end help them start up their own.

History has shown that the most successful men in Igbo land went through that process. So, I still feel that people should be encouraged to help train our young ones through that culture to help curb the restiveness of youths in Nigeria. Religious leaders should also put pressure on the government both state and federal to create jobs to engage at least from 1000 to 2000 youths every year in each state. Such meaningful jobs, especially setting up of industries or institutions should be based on skills acquisition. This must be fought for collectively by all religious leaders in various states.

Discussing how Governor Emeka Ihedioha can achieve his “Rebuild Imo Agenda”, Sir Ogunta replied: Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha has been in government as a Federal Legislator in this country for many years, making laws for the good running of Nigeria. Therefore, he has the capacity of knowing what the people want. He should remember that PDP has been out of power for some years. It is good, he came up with the Rebuild Imo Agenda. To make rebuild Imo agenda a reality, I will advice that he should use only people who have integrity. Governor Ihedioha should try as much as he can to avoid those who want to make all their fortune in a night, meaning, desperate wealth-seekers, sycophants and unqualified persons in various ministries and departments.

Any other burning issue?

The only burning issue I have in this country is the rate of killings, destructions of villages and families, burning, maiming, kidnapping without sufficient condemnation from official quarters and religious leaders.

Before the victory of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and PDP in Imo State, we the indigenes and members of PDP in particular have been searching for solutions and alternatives to the bad governance of past administration of APC. Among all the contestants, we found Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha of PDP qualified to handle the ruined state. We also, realized that there will be a huge task ahead to take away power from a man who believed that the mantle belongs to him and his family. We now decided on a house-to-house campaign, mostly in Ideato North to unsit APC in Imo State. All the leaders of PDP in Ideato North LGA, including my humble self volunteered to be the polling booth agents to make sure that the results were not tampered with and for a free and fair election for every polling booth. Despite all odds, we succeeded in protecting the votes and results from being altered and Governor Emeka Ihedioha rightly won the election.

He had this to say about the, “Revolution Now” activists:
“Revolution now” is an ideology propounded by a group headed by Sowore, who was supported by different interests. I see it as a wake-up call on the government to sit up. I however feel there is another way to channel that ideology to have more positive effects on the society. The ideology should be enforced at different arms of leadership, the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature.

You cannot attempt to change Nigeria from up down and succeed. If you try that, two things will happen, either you go left or you will be corrupted by the system.
My own approach is that, they should start from the legislators in various constituencies. All constituencies should investigate how their constituency allowances are being used. If not properly used or not even used at all, revolution now starts from that point. Those up will be hearing the message from those down, while the governors would hear that people are revolting . You will now see that the Presidency will adjust itself to satisfy the yearnings of Nigerians.

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