Interview with Rev. Fr. Dr. Wenceslaus Madu – Rector, Imo State Polytechnic Umuagwo
Q. Since the focus is on skills and technology, is there any synergy between you and FUTO since this is the only University of Technology around here?
A. Yes, we have collaboration Memorandum of Understanding MOU with the Federal University of Technology Owerri. In fact, in one of our products that could hit the market very soon, which is the collaboration between the Imo State Polytechnic, the Federal University of Technology Owerri on the one side and the Technical University of Munich Germany. We are going to get involved on the production of the first African car (11:24) that will run on electricity, well battery-operated car. Our students are collaborating with students of Technical University of Munich and FUTO. The students recently returned from Germany on a trip of it and the part one are going back in March. By May, the FUTO Vice-Chancellor and Imo State Polytechnic Rector and others will be in Germany in the Frankfurt Trade Fair to showcase this project. Also we collaborate with other institutions. In our hospitality care management and culinary arts we are collaborating with a Miami College of Florida and as we speak we have opened up a relationship with the Institute of Technical Education of Singapore and they will be arriving on 23rd of February for an exploratory visit that will centre on developing accurate skills in building technology from planning to construction, to execution and ICT skills that will also make our graduates/students able to take international exams, to be able to fit in, in sister academy, Microsoft certification etc, all those kinds of examinations will be happening here. We are already an accredited center for them so Singapore is known for these skills and they have shown interest as the faculty is willing to come here for one week and after that we sign the MOU 13:33 and we hope that this will be a revolution in Imo State and Nigeria where Imo will now become the hub for the training of skilled manpower for the economy and the political life of the country.
Q. Do you have the staff and academic strength to cope with this vision?
A. Yea, the academic staff is coming along with this challenge. It is not easy to get skilled people. We have people who are certificated already but we are not just relying on the certificates they parade. Over the last two years, we have invested in training and re-training. We have sent about 4 people to UK for post-graduate studies. We sent another 4 to India for ICT related and back home, we have 5 members of staff pursuing Ph.D and 25 others running different Masters Degree programme in order to get the first level qualification for these kind of technological education but after that we will now be partnering with mentoring institutions that we find in Singapore, whereby staff from here will go for about 2-3 months in a kind of engineering or technological incubation, exchange programme. They will get the needed skills and since we already have the equipment here, it will just be easy to transfer a lot of technology from Asia, from US, from UK into Nigeria. So we are investing a lot in the skills development of our staff who already have some kinds of degrees.
Q. Now, let’s go over to gossips. Gossips are part of life any way. It’s only one who has the privilege of coming near you or being here or working here directly who will know what is going on here? So what do people say about you? I know you hear quite a lot?
A. In administration, you should have ears that are as large as that of the elephant but you have a mouth that is as small as that of a chicken. So you hear more than you speak. Certainly people have several views about things. In the first place they even worry about the qualification of the priest. How can this priest be a Rector in a technological school when he studied only theology and philosophy, why is he here? But this happens to be also a different case scenario. So again from the position of ignorance they think that every priest is only studying philosophy and theology. They don’t know that there are molecular biologists who are priests like me. I’m an expert in biochemistry and biotechnology up to the Ph.D level. So in that way they are, you pity them for holding such views but on the other side you also will find the sayings “what is in Umuagwo, nothing is there, nothing is happening there” and so whatever you do they say wao. Is Umuagwo among the institutions? Is one of those backyard places so you can hear things from that point? You can also get all the media talk. Recently, we have been in the news for the wrong reason of accreditation and youth corp. Our students were deported and recently one Owerri based newspaper called Trumpeter made a big banner headline – Imo State Polytechnic “banned” until 2015. Yeah! All these things are happening but they are far from the truth.
The issue is, for avoidance of doubt and to keep 18.22 rights, the Imo State Poly has accredited programmes to run HND. It is one of the oldest institutions that received accreditation from the National Board for Technical Education and so over the years, those accreditations will lapse and you renew them. And because of the massive funding we got from government and the way things happened, we were able to accredit so many programmes in 2 years and unfortunately for us, most of those programmes did not enter NYSC database on time due to one administrative lapses or the other and so naturally if they don’t find your name, they think you are not bona-fide and so our students for National Youth Service, some of them were asked to go and get proper qualification. But the National Board for Technical Education NBTE which is a regulatory body for all the polytechnics in Nigeria, stood behind Imo Polytechnic that the moment they concluded that some of our graduates were re-mobilized within a week but no media captured that one and as we speak, the NBTE has written to the NYSC. They have also been communicating with us and with NYSC to verify that Imo State Polytechnic wasn’t just making up the story, that we don’t have programmes that were not properly inspected and accredited by them. And so very soon at the next mobilization time which will be batch A of 2014, Imo State Polytechnic like any other approved institution will be mobilizing its graduates for national service. So the stories abound, it depends from which side you are looking at it. But we still like to apologise to the students who were embarrassed and their parents because it wasn’t their fault that their names, and their institution were not captured in the NYSC database at the time but I believe we are properly captured now and they will be on their way back to their states of mobilization. They won’t have to repeat that orientation, they will go straight and continue and pass out like their set. The media pictured it as accreditation but it is not.
Q. What response do you have regarding gossips and assumptions about you?
A. I don’t have any response. I don’t join issues with politicians and the media, because they do important jobs like yourself, so they are free. The only thing I say is that sometimes it would be nice to take extra pain to verify some facts. In this country people don’t verify, people want to get cheap political points and run with it. In that way also some print media journalists are able to sell their paper. My response is: Verify these facts. The management at Imo State Polytechnic means to do well and we are going to do it based on two dimensions. One coming from the faith that the Rector professes, we want to do what is right for the future generations of this country and we will not allow anybody to short change that. Two, we want to be sure that we are keeping to the rules guiding public institutions in the country so that we don’t cut corners. If we need a laboratory, let us get a laboratory; if we need a workshop let us get a workshop. What I want to say is that verification of facts would be a way to go, to build a better nation.
Q. Where are you getting all the money, I can see a lot of building construction work going on in the school?
A. It is publicly sponsored institution, tax payers, so we get support from the tax fund. Tax fund has been very good to Imo State Polytechnic and am happy to use your medium to thank the Chairman of the Board, Alhaji Babayo and the Executive Secretary, Naya and all the service heads and particularly the member of board representing South-East, Chinedu, who is recently coming on board and we do hope that he will continue to sustain the work that NTE has been doing at Imo Polytechnic but far and beyond that, Imo State Government is doing a whole lot – constructing hostel for students and you know, a campus that does not have hostels facility is still a day campus and it does not work. So it’s embarking on building hostels and even a housing estate for staff in this place apart from provision of funds for accreditation of our programme, the government has really shown a lot of interest in developing technological education in the polytechnic.
Q. Lets talk about ASUP, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics. ASUP has been on strike for a long time now. As one in the academic system, what do you think should be done as a way forward?
A. The strike is not just ASUP, it is also non-academic staff. They are all on strike. All the polytechnics; those are national strikes. And I like to identify with their cause but I don’t think that their procedure is the best one. Their course is that there is decay in infrastructures for effective academic delivery in the institution and you can see it everywhere. There is massive decay, the libraries are not working, the laboratories, there is no water, and there is no light. Students live in a jungle. And so they see all these things and they are not happy and they have the right to present these. But now the thing has been so presented that everybody is aware of the problem but nobody is doing enough to proffer solution. So my advice is yes, you have made this point but let us also put into consideration the welfare of the students and their parents. If a programame is supposed to be for 2 years, they can now do it for ad infinitum (3-4 years) and there is no time; you don’t know when they will graduate. So it is important for the union to really look into it while they are pressing for this, if there are certain benchmarks that they can agree with the government then they need to call it off. In a situation where those who are quarrelling cannot have some constants – as a scientist we have constants and variables. If you don’t have constants in your negotiation and everything is variable there will never be a solution. So ASUP should try to establish some constants and with those constants they can create a formulae that will deal with the variables but it is not happening yet. Everything seems to be in a state of flux “we no go gree, we no go gree”. So it is time if government has made one concession here, it is important that they also say ok, this one is outstanding now let us spread the one that is outstanding and be able to find a solution that will be sustainable over the years, they have reached agreement but agreements are not kept because they are not sustainable.
Education sector is not the only sector that government worries about. The government has to deal with the issue of poverty, issue of corpers and issue of health…. So many issues and so when you absolutise education, which is important because without education, you cannot have all that but is not in such a way that you make little of other aspects. So if in negotiations you have some constants you will be able to deal with the grey areas I consider as variables. So my advice to them is that if it’s in a law court you have proved your point beyond all reasonable doubt, it is now time to change the strategy and find a way to achieving sustainable result. If you achieve it and it’s not sustainable, tomorrow you will still go back. And this is very important. So while appealing to ASUP and NASU to consider calling off the nation wide strike. Also I’m calling on the government to continue. Incidentally, our own government has done everything that is in dispute concerning this national strike. Imo State Polytechnic is not liable. The government approved all that we need, but somehow we are still in it because of club and union mentality. You have to have the spirit of collaboration among the different unions. So, it is very critical that they call it off. When there is national strike, you are arguing as a nation and you know the conditions for employment, the federal condition is different from the state condition, different from private or church employment and when all of us are arguing at the end of the day, the federal government will single out the ones they employed and treat their case and the state institutions will be a new strike because they now have to battle with their own state governments to be able to achieve it. So this is where it becomes real challenge. So, because we are a state sponsored institution, let me also extend the invitation I have given to the government to the unions. While you are pressing the national issues please remember to negotiate with your local government so when you finish with the national one, you will still continue to do what is right for your institution. Otherwise the strike will be endless.
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.
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.
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.
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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