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Much Ado About Relocation Of Faculties In Delta

By Francis Ewherido

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During the week, much politics and ethnic undertones greeted the announcement by the governing council of the Delta State University, Ozoro, in Delta South Senatorial District of Delta State, on the planned relocation of Faculty of Management Sciences from Ozoro to Orerokpe, the headquarters of Okpe Local Government Area in Delta Central Senatorial District.

The Delta State Governor, Elder Sheriff Oborevwori, is from Osubi in Okpe Local Government.  Though the announcement was made by the Chairman of the governing council of the university, Ambassador Godswill Echiejile, some Isoko people saw the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob.

Before this planned relocation, the law and engineering faculties of Delta State University, Abraka, in Delta Central Senatorial District, were relocated to Oleh, a neighbouring city to Ozoro and headquarters of Isoko South LGA. The faculties of agriculture and management sciences were also moved to Anwai, Asaba, in Delta North. There was no protest during these previous relocations, so what changed? It is an “existing state policy to spread the university campuses around.”

I have personal issues with the mushrooming of campuses and universities in Delta State, but I will come to that shortly. Before then a little background so that you will know where I am coming from.

I am Urhobo from Delta Central Senatorial District, but like many other Deltans, especially from Delta Central and Delta South Senatorial District, which made the old Delta Province, I have roots in Isoko. My great grandmother is from Enhwe in Isoko South LGA. Some of my father’s relatives migrated from Olomu in Ughelli South, Delta Central to Olomoro, in Isoko South, where they live till date as Isoko people.

I lived in Ozoro from 1973 to 1980. For me Ozoro is home. I was the general secretary of Isoko Students Union at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1986- 87. I read minutes in both English and Isoko during meetings. I have nephews and nieces who are partly Ijaw and Itsekiri. I also have first cousins who are Isoko. I factor in all these relationships in my actions and what I say.

The Delta State Governor’s wife is Isoko. The founders of some Isoko towns migrated from Urhobo and vice versa. In fact, the Isoko Nation used to be called Urhobo Eastern Province. The Urhobo and Isoko cultures (food, attire, language, marriage, etc) are similar. Oleh benefitted massively from the relocation of some faculties from Abraka in Delta Central some years ago. Now that Orerokpe will enjoy the benefit of such a relocation of faculties, what is the problem now? I consider these protests as unnecessary, myopic, hasty and selfish. I am talking now as someone who also has Isoko blood.

Let us be realistic. If you are a politician in Nigeria, your people expect you to develop the area you came from. It has been so since independence, if not before. In the old Bendel (BEN for Benin and DEL for Delta) State, people from Delta clamoured for the state university to be sited in Abraka, Delta, which already had a renowned college of education. In spite of all the agitations, the then governor, Prof Ambrose Alli, sited it in his home town, Ekpoma which is in BEN. During the campaigns leading to the 1983 election in Bendel, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) released videos of scarcely-used tarred roads in Prof Ambrose Alli part of Bendel State.

Meanwhile many roads in major towns of DEL were untarred. The areas where the tarred roads were located were so remote that the villagers spread their farm produce on the roads because vehicles scarcely plied those roads. Today, all those areas have been opened up, thanks the university Alli sited in Ekpoma. Higher institutions bring development and many people in positions want to do that for their towns.

In the run up to the last governorship election, some opposition politicians attacked the former Deputy President of the Senate, HE Ovie Omo-Agege, for siting the federal polytechnic in Orogun, his home town. I was one of those who defended his action. I saw nothing wrong in it. I will develop my town, not necessarily with a university, if have the same opportunity.

Today, I also defend Governor Oborevwori for moving a faculty to Orerokpe, but that is not necessarily because the governor comes from that local government. Orerokpe has always been a major town and local government headquarters from the time of Midwest Region. Orerokpe should be far more developed by now. It is the headquarters of Okpe, the biggest Kingdom in Urhoboland, if not Delta State. The governor could have set up a new university in Orerokpe and nothing go happen.

The noise about the relocation is much ado over nothing. I studied at the University of Nigeria and we had two campuses in Nsukka and Enugu. All the degree certificates bear: “University of Nigeria, Nsukka.” The degree certificates will bear Delta State University, Ozoro!  “Aw’Ozo, eme (Ozoro people, what is it)?” My real concern is not the where the schools are sited, but whether they are meeting our needs and helping to solve our problems in Delta State. Currently, Delta has problems of youth unemployment, internet fraud, prostitution, moral decadence, amongst others.

What problems are these universities solving? We have a University of Agriculture, Anwai, Asaba. Is the university taking advantage of our enormous opportunities in agriculture? What kind of graduates does the university produce? Are they part of a bigger plan to make Delta self-sufficient in food production? Do the government and the university have an arrangement where there will be credit scheme or cooperative to enable the graduates to access cheap loans to go into farming after youth service? If they go looking for jobs after graduation, there is a problem.

The state government should also go into partnership with the private sector to set up technology hubs in places like Ughelli and Warri, where internet fraud is rife. These youngsters already have the computer skills which have been wrongly utilised. What they need is reorientation. They must know the value of delayed gratification and spend their time and talents on positive endeavours. Why would a 20-year-old want to drive a vehicle worth 40m without first of all legitimately creating the wealth?

Delta State has an untapped multibillion dollar maritime business and industry. We have Warri Port, Sapele Port, Koko Port, Burutu Port, etc. The Maritime industry chain is heavy with opportunities and can substantially reduce unemployment and generate wealth.

The biggest asset Delta has are the people. We are hardworking, resilient, achievers, tops in sports, entertainment and academics, etc. We must go back to where we went wrong and re-discover ourselves and the universities need to be part of the journey of rediscovery.

My final word is for my Isoko people in general and my Ozoro people, in particular. As one of you, I tell you boldly that this agitation is selfish and misplaced. Focus on the bigger picture beyond the economic benefits the university brings to Ozoro. Ozoro is growing in leaps and bounds; nothing can stop it. I was in Ozoro a few years ago. At Ala Square, I miscalculated and entered Etevie Quarters, instead of Erovie Quarters. I wanted to see the “bungalow” where I grew up. I had gone far into Etevie before I retraced my steps. Everything had changed. I saw a market, which I suspected, the traders refused to relocate to 40 years ago because it was far from the town, while I was still living there. It is now a busy cattle market. It enabled me to link up with Erovie Quarters and locate our “bungalow.” Ozoro is blessed. As far back as 1973 when I went there for the first time, Ozoro already had three post primary schools, pipe borne water and a general hospital, etc. The only thing missing then was electricity. Do not destroy important relationships that will come handy in future over nothing.

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