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Still On The RSUST Crisis: The Way Forward

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The current leadership crisis rocking the Rivers State University of Science and technology (RSUST), from all indications, appears to have degenerated into a life-threatening dimension, as virtually all the disputing parties and personalities involved are sticking to their guns despite appeals from well-meaning individuals and groups for amicable resolution.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities  (ASUU), RSUST Chapter kick-started the industrial dispute with a proclamation of an indefinite strike following the re-appointment of Prof. Barineme Beke. Fakae as the institution’s Vice Chancellor at the expiration of his first tenure. ASUU accused Governor Chibuike Amaechi, the visitor to the institution of “not following due process” in the re-appointment of Fakae as enshrined in the enabling law which established the University.

As if the RSUST Chapter of ASUU’s strike was not enough, the national body of the union similarly declared a one –day warning strike in all government –owned universities in the country in solidarity with the lecturers in RSUST. The union at federal level also demanded for the reversal of Fakae’s re-appointment by the State governor.

Contrary to ASUU’s view on the issue, Governor Amaechi who re-appointed Fakae for a second term defended his decision for the re-appointment, stating that he followed” due process in the re-appointment and challenged ASUU to seek redress in the law court if aggrieved.

In same vein, the Chairman of the institution’s governing council, Justice Adolphus Karibi-Whyte who was also the Chairman of the Joint Selection Committee for the appointment of a new Vice Chancellor defended Fakae’s re-appointment stating that the body followed the rules and regulations guiding the process of getting a new Vice-chancellor.

Justice Karibi-Whyte said in an interview that out of the five candidates who were short-listed for screening, three of them were disqualified for engaging in sharp practices tailored towards getting the RSUST’s topmost position.

He explained that Professors ben Onuegbu, M. Ahiakwo, Ndu Lale, C. Enyinda and Barineme Fakae were all screened and interviewed by the panel which disqualified three of them and recommended Fakae and Enyinda to the Visitor who exercised discretion; and re-appointed Fakae.

For him, therefore, the re-appointment of prof. Fakae is entirely the discretion of governor Amaechi who exercised his powers as the visitor to the institution on choosing fakae among the two candidates that were recommended by the selection panel.

However, in another development, Professors Onuegbu, Lale and Ahiakwo who were accused of sharp practices by the Justice Karibi-Whyte panel addressed a press conference in Port Harcourt alleging that Karibi-Whyte merely executed a script authored by the powers-that-be.

The University dons challenged the panel’s Chairman to make public the alleged sharp practices by them, if he has the facts right. They faulted the entire selection process and described it as fraudulent as the result released by Karibi- Whyte is a departure from the one with the institution’s registrar.

For them, the Karibi-Whyte-led panel was merely feeding the public with lies tailored to justify Fakae’s re-appointment.

The trio affirmed that their disqualification was “fraudulent” and based on thrump-up charges”. He challenged Karibi-Whyte on why he could not recommend Prof. Enyinda having, in his wisdom, disqualified the other three candidates.

The scenario is indeed confusing and curious for those of us wishing the institution well. While the school’s governing council and perhaps, the visitor to the school share similar point of view, ASUU and the contending candidates are of the same position which runs at parallel with the earlier contention.

Fakae on his part had consistently maintained that his reappointment followed all due processes in line with the guidelines for the appointment of a new Vice Chancellor.

While all these are going on, the state government, as justification for Fakae’s re-appointment confirmed the re-appointment stating, among others, that the Visitor to the RSUST used his discretionary powers and affirmed that Onuegbu, Lale and Ahiakwo who were candidates in the selection process were involved in the nomination of members of the Joint Selection Committee.

In a press release signed by the Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Mr. George D.N. Feyii explained that Onuegbu and Ahiakwo nominated Professors Ogburia and S. Amadi as members of the panel, while, Profs Lale and Ahiakwo nominated Amabipi Martins and Mrs Matilda Nnodim, Chief Nemi Adoki, Deacon Abigo and Chief Wike into the same committee.

Feyii contended that as candidates for the Vice Chancellorship position they were barred morally and legally from participating in the selection process to determine the suitability of the Vice-Chancellor, hence their substantive disqualification and disability.

For the SSG, and by extension, the Rivers State Government, the claims by ASUU and other elements were deliberate attempts to misform and mislead the public on “due process” for Fakae’s re-appointment.

He also recalled that ASUU had earlier in 2008 challenged in court Fakae’s appointment and had that case struck out, for lack of merit and wondered why the same union is still hell-bent on removing Fakae without clearly disputing his towering achievements in RSUST

Happily, well-meaning indigenes of Rivers State and beyond feel strongly about the ugly developing scenario in our dear RSUST; the nation’s premier University of a Science and technology, and are exploring avenues for harmonisation of views by the disputing parties.

That is why one would hail the institution’s alumni association’s initiative to bringing sanity back to the school as a welcome development, not just for the students of the school alone, but for parents who had laboured so much for the well-being of their children and wards.

The Dr. Lawson Woka-led association must therefore ensure that all the disputing parties should come to the negotiating table with facts and figures (evidences) in order to amicably resolve the impasse.

Under the auspices of RSUST Alumni Association, Woka and other well-meaning members of the group must strive to ensure that UST does not degenerate further. The union must provide the necessary panacea for the resolution of the stalemate.

Methinks that other well-meaning persons in the state should join forces with the association in resolving the matter in the shortest possible time so that the vision of the founding fathers of the school is not allowed to die pre-maturedly. ASUU must be open to dialogue and not close its doors to negotiation.

The Rivers State government, the governing council of the institution, ASUU, of RSUST should be more circumspect and respect one another’s feelings so as to reach a compromise. This is the only way forward.

Without doubt, students of the school have, indeed, suffered so much set-back in their academic pursuits giving the impression in some quarters that RSUST is always in crisis. This,  must, stop now.

The era of senseless strikes in our tertiary institutions, especially in RSUST should be considered old-fashioned and thrown to the trashcan while, dialogue and give-and-take spirit should  be adopted in resolving all matters in Nigerian Universities so as to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Vision 20:2020. ASUU should please embrace dialogue and peace now for RSUST to move forward.

 

Goodluck Ukwe

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Flooding And Environmental Sustainability

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Last week, on the 27th of May, 2021, the people of Rivers State celebrated the 54th anniversary of the creation of Rivers State. The state has achieved so much in terms of infrastructure and human capital development. It has achieved good governance and not so much good governance in some dispensations. The present dispensation has given the people more hope to celebrate the dividends of statehood.
However, the common failure of many societies across the globe is the failure to conquer their environment as God commanded. What we see is the ravaging of the environment which has made it more vulnerable to environmental disasters, which include flooding and desertification. Rivers State has 60 percent of its 10,500 square miles and beyond covered by water, and large areas of mangrove and rainforest. Its flora and fauna are of enormous natural resources. The struggle to sustain this God-given environment has been a great task.
The Niger Delta environment has endemic challenges which require scientific and deliberate consciousness of the inhabitants to mitigate. It also requires immediate solutions as the people in the region who are ravaged by flooding cannot wait for medium and long term plans to mature. There is the need to start from what can be dealt with immediately to provide shelter to the people, what can give the people safe home, on dry lands in the face of drowning floods. Enough consciousness has been created to the world at large by the United Nations.
On the 5th day of December, 1972, the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 2997 in Stockholm, Sweden created the World Environment Day celebration to sensitise all member-nations on the need to ensure environmental safety and sustainability. The environment is the only human habitation known to man. This will remain the case until the superpowers find another solar system habitable.

(more…)
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Trust Deficit And Governance

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Trust deficit has come to be a common refrain in the polity used to explain lack of trust in government pronouncements and programmes. Its foundation is rooted in political party soap box promises and manifestoes that are never kept. Sir Walter Scott (1808) wrote “Oh, what a tangled web we leave, when first we practice to deceive”.
Reflecting on this truism, it is clear that those who prevaricate in their speech or actions cannot be trusted. Their social capital budget will be fraught with deficit.
They are persons or institutions whose words or actions are of double standards.
They who betray the common trust, thrust upon them by Nigerians are many and varied.
If trust in Nigeria were a national budget, it’s deficit profile would be more than 90 per cent.
We often hear social commentators in Nigeria say, “you can’t trust anybody in power”. This may be in the context of Frayed political relationships among and between those in power and the people they govern. It is about mutual distrust.
It is important to state that trust is a two way traffic; those who govern must be trusted and the governed must trust the system for it to work and generate positive impact.
Stephen Covey placed trust as an important ingredient in any relationship, be it political, social or economic, when he said “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It is the fundamental principle that holds all relationships.
Sadly, the political ecosystem in Nigeria has eroded these values. Can Nigerians as a people continue to dwell on the pessimism expressed by William Shakespear when he said “Don’t trust the person who has broken faith once”?
Will this perception not create a web of complex social relations and a complexity of failures and retrogression in the polity, if strictly adhered to? What can a people do without trust?
Frank Grane a social Psychologist gave an ambivalent view when he said “you may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment unless you trust enough”. Trust deficit simply refers to a degree of lack of trust.
The term deficit in this context implies that there is trust but not enough trust because of broken promises in the system. People now choose who and what to trust.
In political relations which talks about social contract, huge promises are made to the people. The people on their part often bask in the euphoria of expectations, which are broken. So they make choices or effect a change of leadership based on those expectations.
Lady Gaga on trust, said “Trust is a mirror, you can fix it, if its broken, but you can still see the crack in that …reflection”. This explicates the danger in trust deficit in a polity where a people are afraid to trust in their government and functionaries.When trust deficit becomes systemic, it becomes a dangerous phenomenon in governance.
How can a people trust the harvest unless they see it sown.
There is trust deficit in police relations with the people of Nigeria.
Bail is free means bail is not free. Police is your friend means police is your enemy. Election will be free and fair means it will be rigged.
Boko Haram has become inevitable and the military cannot contend with it. When the spokesman of the Federal Government of Nigeria says “I do not lie”, many evidence will point to the contrary; he lies most of the time. The promise of Federal Government to mend the East West road has beccome an unending wait and only when MEND strikes that a portion will be white washed with alsphat. The Military Prevarication on the Lekki Toll Gate debacle is a source of distrust. How can a civilized group claim that no one died in that protest?
Poor ethnic relations in Nigeria is another source of distrust. An Ijaw man does not believe that an Hausa Fulani man at the helm of affairs can protect his interest.
In a similar view an Igbo man can hardly accept that a Yoruba politician is out to protect his political interest.
Among the minorities the story is the same, mutual distrust prevails. Political distrust among the ethnic groups in Nigeria is rooted in the nature of the colonial administration where the country stood on a tripod of centrifugal polity.
There were three regions in Nigeria. The East was dominated by the Igbo, West Yoruba and North Hausa Fulani. Unfortunately every region/ethnic group was inclined to fight for their interest rather than national interest. The interest of the minorities are also not taken into consideration.
Bad governance and military coups have further created distrust in the system where the struggle to govern by different geographical regions took over the merits of democratic values.
Class distrust has heightened as a result of growing poverty in Nigeria.
This has even take a demographic dimension. The youths do not believe that the class of persons they refer to as ancestors because of their age can governor this country well any longer.
This mutual distrust can also be seen in the stereotyping of youths as a bunch of irresponsibles. The fallacies above are unfortunate, because age has nothing to do with leadership. This type of distrust is retrogressive.
The growing spate of infrastructural deficit is a function of distrust and a result of rivalry among groups and the political class. A leader emerges and concentrates in the development of his clime rather than spreading the joy. He does so with the conviction that if he does not do it the next leader will abandon his people.
When trust and sincerity of purpose exist, true spirit of governance will unfold to allow development take a foothold in Nigeria. Many believe that restructuring will mitigate mutual distrust in Nigeria.

 

By: Bon Woke

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At A Time Like This…

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At a time like this when Nigeria is drifting off the radar, like a ship without compass, something needs to be done. A time when multitude of voices are resonating in different directions, some too distant to make much sense, others raising valid arguments and near solutions.
In all Nigerians need clear messages and solutions to the myriads of conundrum that confront the survival of the nation. The caliber of the purveyors of these timely calls-to-order is important. We Nigerians need mass action, but the nation needs voices too.
Every change begins with conscientization. Between the states and the federal government, the state is in a better place to call for an effective and meaningful structural changes in the country. This is why the present apprehension being expressed by the leadership of the National Assembly over the 12 point communiqué raised by the Southern Governors in their meeting in Asaba, should be scrutinized and taken with a pinch of salt.
The Governors have important roles to play in the Nigeria question because they are closer to the people. They have raised the bar by coming out despite their respective political party affiliations, to speak the minds of Nigerians. The Governors did not speak _tongue in cheek. They did not exonerate themselves while talking about the failure of government because the business of government is not restricted to the Federal Government alone. They have only declared the obvious position that leadership starts from the top. If the right thing is done from the top it will trickle down to the grass root.
They have called the Federal Government to order and they speak the truth. This is the message the leadership of the National Assembly should take home. The fact that the state Governments need to begin the restructuring from their backyards by looking at the independence of the judiciary and local Government Administration does not and cannot detract from the axiomatic fact that there is convolution of powers at the center which must devolve to the states and local government. According to Henry Adams “chaos was the law of nature and order was the law of man”.
The above refers to the tendency of society to jump into anarchy while it is incumbent on men at a certain time and space to realize the need to bring law and order to bear. If this is the time that 17 Governors of Southern Nigeria have woken up to call the country to order, so be it. Let the leadership of the national assembly come down from their high horses and work with the governors to legitimize their call through legislation and the follow up legal frame work. The intendment of any grand norm is that all the arms and segments of government should work in synergy for the good of the people. The governors’ call for total ban on open grazing by herdsmen in the country which has generated more heat than light is timely. The addendum that efforts should be put in place to encourage ranching will go a long way in encouraging the optimization of the diary and meat industry in Nigeria. The ban will go a long way in deescalating the current violence in the country. The leadership of the National Assembly should realize the fact that this is a timely call as the herdsmen conflict is the most volatile issue in Nigeria today. It is responsible for the replication of violence across Nigeria.
Every section of the country especially in the south and middle belt seems to be copying and pasting the licentious savagery due to the latitude given to the herdsmen. They seek self-help in different legitimate and illegitimate means.
Today the country sits on a keg of gun powder. The call for state police by the Governors has become very important. The various states of the federation have now seen the need to set up quasi community policing structures with different names and apparatus of operations. These vigilante groups have proven to be very potent in supporting effective policing operations in the various states. They therefore make the call for state police plausible. In Rivers State a local vigilante group which started in Omoku and spread to different parts of the state has proven that the involvement of the local populations in policing is a very effective tool for crime prevention and control. OSPAC, as it is originally called in Omoku has diminished the invincibility of cult groups and kidnappers in many parts of Rivers State. These vigilante groups can be seen manning security posts at police stations in Rivers State to defend them against the invading “unknown gun men” who recently had an unfortunate hunting spree at police and J.T.F installations in Ikwerre, Emohua, Abua and Obio/Akpo local government areas.
A state police structure will surely be more effective. Devolution of powers to the Federating units of Nigeria is surely the way to go, but Nigeria needs a constitutional process to realize this dream.
Politics and Governance involve the equitable allocation of resources and it defines who gets what and how.
The call for fiscal federalism by the governors must be taken seriously .Most importantly, the President needs to address the nation on these issues and set the pace for a jaw jaw among the various interest groups in Nigeria.
There is a dire need for a radical review of the current revenue formula; many have called for a return to the first Republic era where states or regions enjoyed the bounty from their resources. However, there is a current and recurring agitation for resource control where states will have control and utilization of their resources and pay tax to the centre. If this happens states will be forced to look in wards rather than go for handouts at the center every month.
The President has kept quiet enough. His silence could be misconstrued as an endorsement of the conflagration engulfing the country, especially as it concerns the ills perpetrated by herdsmen who are his Fulani kinsmen.

 

By: Bon Woke

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