By Akunna Odii-Kelechi
| Orji Uzo Kalu
In my work environment, people pride themselves with the university they attended. Some people who graduated from prestigious schools abroad do not hide their contempt for Nigerian universities; and their reasons are obvious. It is believed that the quality of the university one attended translates in the quality of the degree he or she carries; and invariably translates in the quality of the individual. To improve people’s perception of the name of their institutions, administrators go the whole way to champion academic and moral courses to the credit of the schools.
Most Nigerian universities are still struggling to build a good reputation; a name which would be synonymous with the institution. Some universities go against all odds to have a good name. The name is neither in the interest of the students alone nor in the interest of the school management.
A school with good academic, moral and social standing is a pride to the undergraduate students, the post graduate students, the graduates of the institution, the academic and non-academic staff, the school administration, the host community, the state and federal government and even the future students, administrators and friends of the institutions.
When the name of any university is mentioned among the educated class, there is a feeling that follows. Whether we like or not, the general public are very keen and dedicated to knowing what is happening in the schools.
That will determine whether they will ever send their children or wards to the school or even advise anybody to do so. When the names of some schools are mentioned, what comes to mind are cultism, indiscipline, bribery and corruption, tribalism, prostitution and other negative vices.
Others are however known for academic excellence and discipline. Such schools with a dint of good repute try to protect it while others who are still tottering on the brink sacrifice all resources to make a good name.
But it is unfortunate that some of our universities, like the Abia State University, do not think of reputation. They do not mind the legacy they leave behind. They do not mind the feeling of the numerous people who carry degree certificates of that institution.
I was shocked to the marrows when I saw the press release of Abia State University, Uturu, on the cancellation of the degree they awarded to former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzo Kalu, which was proudly sponsored with millions of Naira and published in several national dailies.
In fact I was shocked that such maladministration could be championed by a university we call our own; an institution which we have collectively endeavored to build to serve our present and future quest for education and good living.
My pain with the press release is neither on the withdrawal of Kalu’s certificate nor on the discredit they did Kalu; my pain lies on the fact that the administration of Abia State University has crashed every dint of effort to build a good reputation for the school. We can no longer trust the institution any longer.
Abia State University claimed that they manufactured a degree certificate for Kalu despite all the shortcomings they mentioned in their press release and kept quiet over it for many years, only to come up with the dirty facts when political conflicts are built-up. This shows us that there are several cases of manipulations in the school. Many unqualified persons may have been awarded different classes of degrees from the institution and nobody is talking about them now.
In the press release, Abia State University alleged that Kalu breached Academic Regulations on Admission-by-Transfer; that Kalu did not complete mandatory 6 semesters before he was awarded the degree, he spent only two semesters in all. Then, I beg to ask, who signed Kalu’s degree certificate? Who was the Dean of the Faculty and the Head of the Department under whose watch Kalu studied and graduated?
What reason can the Kalu’s lecturers, departmental, faculty administrators adduce for not taking their responsibilities? Does that not indicate that anything can happen in the Abia State University? I hardly expect any cogent reason why Abia State University should renege on its responsibilities when they matter most.
The deed has been done. Many unqualified people would have been offered admission in Abia State University and conversely, many qualified people would have been denied admission; yet, nobody is talking about that.
Many people who did not complete their academic requirements would have been graduated from Abia State University, Uturu and conversely, many people who have studied very hard, who have been law abiding and God-fearing would have been denied graduation for one paltry reason or the other.
I feel that many people who did not even get admissions into the Abia State University have been decorated with different classes of prestigious degrees in the expense of people who deserve the degrees and who have worked hard to earn them. I feel that Abia State University has done a lot of disservice to the people who have worked so hard to build the institution.
What does the Management of Abia State University want us to believe? That the purported case of Orji Uzo Kalu is the only case of corruption in the school? That the case of Orji Uzo Kalu is not politically or ill-motivated? That the school administration has not raped the honour of the Abia State University and that of the people who have anything in connection with the school?
Where is the honour in the degrees awarded by Abia State University? What message is the management of Abia State sending to the general public on the academic businesses going on in the state university? If my ward or son or daughter opts to go to Abia State University, what do you want me to advise? In fact, Abia State University has killed our pride and dragged everyone of us to mud.
Our universities have a problem with building a reputation. After about 22 years, (since 1991), of its existence as Abia State University, the institution is still tottering on the threshold of history; and worst-still, instead of moving up, our dear Abia State University is going down. So, when do we start building the institution? This also applies to other universities and higher institutions.
The Abia State government should rise up to its responsibility of properly checking what goes on in Abia State University. By that press release, a hard blow has been dealt on the institution and on everyone that parades any decoration from Abia State University.
The only thing we can do now is to begin the reconstruction effort and see how far we can in correcting the bad image of Abia State University. If we hesitate in doing the right things at the right times, time is coming when employers of labour and the general public will begin to downgrade anybody wielding Abia State University certificates; it can even degenerate to a condition where carriers of Abia State University results will be hiding the papers in shame. God help Abia State. God help Nigeria.
Akunna Odii-Kelechi is a medical student of Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki.
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