© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
QUESTION: Why didn’t FG name the poly in Ekwueme’s hometown after him?
On Friday, the remains of Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President, were interred after a state burial ceremony attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; and to immortalise the deceased elder statesman, he announced the Federal Government’s decision to rename the Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ikwo( FUNAI) in Ebonyi State as Alex Ekwueme Federal University.
While the decision to etch Ekwueme’s name into the annals of history is quite laudable, many are questioning the rationale behind the choice of a university in faraway Ebonyi when there is a historic and fairly-prestigious federal tertiary education institution right in Oko, Ekwueme’s hometown.
What is today known as the Federal Polytechnic Oko (FEDPOKO) was created by the Anambra State government in 1979 as a College of Arts and Science. Later in 1980, it was upgraded to a College of Arts, Science and Technology.
In 1985, it was promulgated a Polytechnic through an edict of the Anambra State Government, before it was eventually taken over by the Federal Government in 1993.
Part of the history of the institution as culled from its website read thus: “The kernel of what eventually became the polytechnic was the brainchild of the Oko Progressive Union (OPU) greatly catalyzed by the patronage, resourcefulness and result oriented leadership of its pioneer chairman, … Dr. Alex I. Ekwueme.”
Ekwueme’s integral role in the formation and transition of FEDPOKO is enough reason for the Nigerian Government to have considered renaming the institution after him.
WHY EBONYI UNI?
FUNAI was one of the 12 federal universities created by former President Goodluck Jonathan on February 26, 2011, a move believed by many to have been political.
While announcing the renaming of the university after Ekwueme, Osinabjo said it was to honour him for his contributions to national development.
By overlooking a popular federal institution in Oko, Ekwueme’s hometown, it is a wonder that FG has not lived by the age-long saying that a prophet is not without honour except in his own hometown.
Some say the perennial debate over which is more prestigious, between a university and a polytechnic, could be a factor in FG’s choice. Perhaps Ekwueme is too ‘mighty’ a figure to be named after a ‘mere’ polytechnic.
Going by the debates on social media over this recent announcement, Nigerians united in their thought that this honour to Ekwueme should have come when he was still alive to witness it.
A true Nigerian of Ekwueme’s calibre, they say, deserves to be honoured in his lifetime, not posthumously.
WILL HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF
Delivering his Democracy Day speech in 2012, former President Goodluck Jonathan announced the renaming of the University of Lagos after late M.K.O Abiola, acclaimed winner of the June 12 presidential election annulled by Ibrahim Babangida, then Military Head of State.
But instead of the euphoria such announcement was expected to generate, students of UNILAG, as well as prominent Yoruba leaders, vehemently protested it.
“We were all taken aback. There was no due consultation and they said this is a democracy,” Olukayode Amund, a Professor and Dean of Students Affairs of UNILAG, told reporters.
“Change of name is the least of our problems. Besides, there is MAPOLY, already named after Abiola,” a protesting student also told journalists.
Eventually, Jonathan was forced to beat a retreat and suspended the UNILAG name change.
A repeat of such protest is not envisaged this time round, given that Dave Umahi, Governor of Ebonyi State, has already issued a statement commending the President for the decision. However sound and genuine the intention may be, would it have been more fitting if the polytechnic at Oko was named after Ekwueme instead?