Notwithstanding the current strike which was embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Nigeria (ASUP) which combines of polytechnic lecturers, and even if the 2014 ASUP STRIKE get called off, peace would still elude the Federal Polytechnic, Oko.
At the time of compiling this post, the Federal Polytechnic, which is situated in Oko, Anambra State. Lecturers of the institution, alongside others in the nation’s public polytechnic, have been on strike since October 4 last year.
The ASUP union are currently fighting against the poor funding which the government is paying the polytechnics, and not only that, but also the very appointment of persons who are unqualified as rectors, as well as the review of the IPPIS scheme in polytechnics and the funding of the CONTISS 15 Migration, among other problems which is developing in the polytechnics.
However, as for the Federal Polytechnics, Oko, the industrial action has virtually crippled the operations of the academic institution, as students who would have graduated since last year are still in left in school, and the worst part of it, is that they have not YET written their final examinations or completed their respective exams.
Likewise, there’s are thousands of newly admitted students who have been offered provisional admission, and so, after they must have 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 academic institution.
But you won’t blame the school, or even the school current rector, Prof. Godwin Onu, whose aspiration and sole desire to change the face of the polytechnic for good, is facing serious challenges.
Having rector the school for four years now, Professor Onu has been able to establish relationships with some good universities in educated countries like India and the United Kingdom.
In particular, the cooperation of the federal polytechnics Oko 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 and disrupt everything that was going on smoothly in the school.
If you have been in the school last year, you’ll certainly notice that the Okopoly, could not hold its convocation ceremony last year, and the institution 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, more than 120 hundred of women from the host community, Oko, had last Tuesday, stormed the Okopoly with placards, sticks and green leaves, calling for the removal of the rector, giving different opinion as to why the rector should be removed.
The women did not come alone, as some young men came alone with them and since we’re in the digital age, proceed to record the proceedings with video cameras. However, some security personnel around the school, including policemen, 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 with these placards, sticks and even the big green leaves.
The women, who also alleged that members of the Oko Town Union had urged the Federal Government to fire the rector from office, promising that they will certainly continue with the protest until the authorities meet their request and remove Onu from been a rector.
According to them, the rector is causing more harm than good to the academic 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.”
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.
However, 2 years ago, the federal polytechnic OKO, was shut down for more than five months after a clash between some students of the institution and the youths of the community, which led to the destruction of school property in the polytechnic.
We hope that everything gets resolved soon, and we get the best result.