Dear President Jonathan, I deem it urgently necessary to write you this letter because the University of Nigeria, which you hold in trust for present Nigerians and those coming after us, is endangered. For the records, the UNN was set up as a culmination of African (not just Nigerian) nationalistic struggles. It held out in robust scholarship until the 1990s. In the 2000s, its institutional quality had waned so much in favor of prebendary cronyism. But stakeholders never knew they were yet to see the worst until, unfortunately, “Professor” Bartholomew Ndubuisi Okolo emerged as its 12th Vice-Chancellor in June 2009. A person like “Prof.” Okolo could have arisen to the post of vice chancellor only in a society that does not respect merit. Since Okolo’s embarrassing emergence as VC of UNN, it has been misfortune not just for students and staff but for the university as an institution. I am sorry about the length of this letter. I did my best to keep it as short as you have it. For your easier reading, Mr. President, some of the issues are itemized hereunder, and I assure you that what you see here is a tip of the iceberg.
It is known to members of the UNN community that Prof. Okolo could not, on his own, work out the publications that made him the (pseudo)professor that he claims to be today. He rode roughshod on a younger, smarter colleague, using his superior position as a senior lecturer to usurp the younger man’s superior ideas and research results, arrogating authorship to himself and penning his name as lead author of most of the publications.
Before he elbowed his way to VCship of UNN, Bartho was already notorious for many reasons. Under him, the southeast subsidiary of the Nigerian breweries ran aground. The Enugu Sports Club also collapsed under his chairmanship.
• Bartho coordinated the the NUGA games hosted by the UNN in 2009. Readers of this article who attended that event are witnesses to the fact that only one (the squash court), out of the dozens of sports facilities for which your and late Yar’Adua’s government provided funds, was completed. And those structures still remain uncompleted carcasses today after almost five years of Okolo’s VCship.
• As people wondered what he would be doing with the unused billions, a member of the “Professor” S. O. Igwe-led University Council, which orchestrated his selection in 2009, had revealed to his friends that Okolo, having bumbled to the 5th position in the screening for Vice Chancellorship that happened a few months after NUGA, bribed his way through by offering the council members the sum of 350 million naira. Weeks later, that council member, Prof. R. U. Okafor, who leaked that information died in circumstances that puzzled experts in Parklane hospital, Enugu. He spent one sick week in the hospital without medication because the experts, having run dozens of tests, were still at a loss as to what the problem was. Two years later, Prof. Miriam Ikejiani-Clarke, an obvious challenger of Prof. Okolo’s maximum rulership, died in similar circumstances in another hospital in Abuja. The fear of Okolo then became the beginning of wisdom for other professors.
• UNN students, having already known the administrative disaster Okolo was wont to be, protested for days against the questionable emergence of this substandard academic. And his first administrative decision was to ban student unionism. (It has stood banned until this day despite repeated appeals from many quarters).
• One of the first struggles Prof. Okolo waged as VC was with a professor of Agriculture, Prof. Alex Ikeme, who was the director of an entrepreneurial outreach program with which the UNN, with sponsorship from the CBN, trained many people into self-employment. It was a fight to take personal control of the funds issuing from the CBN. That fight – because the professor refused to give in to his imperial command – sounded the death knell on that wonderful program. The CBN officials who severally visited and investigated that case are still alive to tell you what they found.
• In Okolo’s hands, university admission became a gift for cronies and money bags. Majority of the intake are those who barely passed entrance examinations but admitted in what is called VC’s list; whose parents/guardians command Okolo’s personal interest. And these are admitted at the expense of many other bright candidates who are unfortunate to have applied under a VC that is a stranger to merit.
• Under Okolo, 2,000 naira is deducted from the salaries your government pays all categories of staff as internet charges without their consent. Staff still spend on the same internet in Modems and cybercafés because the university internet signals are weak in most parts of campus. It is even worse for those who double as staff and postgraduate students: As students, they pay 18,000 for internet; as staff they cumulatively pay 24,000 annually for same internet. So, in sum, they pay 42,000 for services they hardly get.
• Without consultation, Okolo’s administration deducts fixed sums of 3% at source from salaries of on-campus staff as electricity bills, no matter how much electricity was available or used each month.
• Dear president, you know that after a long drawn out struggle by ASUU, the TETFund (Tertiary Education Trust Fund) was established to assist Nigerian university staff with funding for research, conferences and postgraduate studies. In UNN, if you are not related to Okolo or his friends, you cannot access TETFund, no matter the merits of your proposal. The failure of UNN to secure more funds from TETFund under Okolo is due to his failure to account for the sum earlier received.
• UNN would have been luckier if it was only TETFund that Okolo squandered. More than 80% of the 6 billion naira intervention his administration got from your administration remains unaccounted for. The whereabouts of the billions generated yearly as IGR in UNN, and sundry other funds and government subventions, also remain unknown.
• UNN staff are yet to get the earned allowances for which your government made provisions about four months ago. It has been found that the bursar, with Okolo’s directive, put the earned allowances in a fixed deposit to yield interests at the expense of your employees.
• Apparently to control moneys from levies students pay for running faculties and departments, Prof. Okolo directed that all dues be made into a singular account from which deans and HODs would draw to handle their responsibilities. As I write you, Sir, deans and HODs run their faculties and departments with their (already depleted) salaries, while nothing is known of the proceeds of those levies.
• Dear president, it has been found that much of the financial directives from Prof. Okolo to the bursar (whom the university council later had to suspend) were done not on paper but by telephone conversation. It is no wonder then that Okolo had nothing to show when the Council, with Dr. Emeka Enejere as chairman, directed him to account for his financial dealings. He continued to dodge council summons until Chief Nyesom Wike, the Supervising Minister for Education, allowed himself to be deceived into ignominiously pronouncing Dr Enejere suspended, to be replaced by the minister’s legal adviser, without due process that your government very well preaches.
• I will tell you, dear President, something remarkable that happened soon after you instituted the new university council. One Mr. Fayemi, representing the education ministry in the council, visited parts of UNN. He could not hold back his frustrations at the level of dilapidation despite the billions in Prof. Okolo’s disposal. However, it was with shock that the university stakeholders received the news that Mr. Fayemi had been withdrawn from the council due to his insistence that things be done right. Investigations later showed that Prof. Okolo had bribed his cronies in the education sector at Abuja to recall “the unguarded” Fayemi.
• Dear President, do you know that Okolo’s wife is Alex Ekwueme’s daughter; that Okolo had projected his brother-in-law and Alex’s brother, Prof. Laz Ekwueme, to chair the UNN council, and almost had a heart attack when you thought differently and instead got a no-nonsense man, Dr. Emeka Enejere, to chair the council.
• When, in mid-2013, that the new Council began to investigate Prof. Okolo’s financial dealings and job recruitment processes, they made findings that will break Your Excellency’s heart. When the Council suspended the bursar and controller of personnel, there was rejoicing in the university community because both officers, being Okolo’s hatchet men, represented the quiddity of official malfeasance. The council also found a harem of personal assistants and advisers that swarmed around the VC, milking the UNN. Following a directive of yours as visitor to the university, these were also sacked. The joy in UNN knew no bounds as your transformation agenda was seen to be embodied in the new council.
• After having invited the VC for a meeting for the umpteenth time to account for his stewardship, the council, in their meeting slated for December 16, was set to take decisive decisions. One of the Pro-Chancellor’s aides, whom Okolo had bought over, informed him that council was set to suspend him and call for an independent investigation into his dealings. This led the professor to induce the Supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, with the sum of N200 million to remove the Pro-Chancellor without the knowledge of Your Excellency, who alone are empowered by law to appoint and remove federal universities’ Pro-Chancellors.
• Dear President, it is curious that Dr. Enejere’s removal came a day after the Pro-Chancellor shared the report of Council’s activities with Chief Wike, and just a day before Council’s decisive meeting already mentioned above. You can look at that report yourself. It will reveal to you Okolo’s colossal fraud and mismanagement of the University of Nigeria. Is this what you want, Mr. President?
• Dear President, I write you this letter because it seems to me that you, who are The Visitor to the UNN, could not have authorized the minister to remove an excellent Pro-Chancellor and replace him with his (the minister’s) legal adviser without following due process.
• The Alumni, all the unions of the university as well as the host community members, who had all seen the sincerity of purpose of the Pro-Chancellor were crestfallen by the news of his hurried suspension. We wonder whether you could have ordered the removal of a strict, incorruptible Chairman of Council. Well-wishers of the University of Nigeria call on you to keep a date with history and re-instate Dr. Emeka Enejere, the Pro-Chancellor whose conducts have won every well-meaning stakeholder’s heart. Solidarity with his leadership is so much that the Alumni, all staff of the university as well as members of the host community have come together in an unprecedented synergy to ask you to stop whoever wants Dr. Enejere removed as UNN Pro-Chancellor. Dear President, do you know that love for Dr. Enejere’s leadership among the staff is so much that they have been in overwhelming protest and have vowed to do no work until he is restored as Pro-Chancellor?
• The Minister’s action this time is one too many, out of the law, and demonstrates disregard for your office.
• Dear President, please do not keep quiet over this matter. You hold the University of Nigeria in trust not only for Zik and other founding fathers but also generations coming after us. Will you abandon it for the few whose ambition is to destroy an important part of the country you are laboring to build.
Dear President, the issues raised here are verifiable and I invite you to send a team to investigate them. Your Excellency will marvel to find that I didn’t even scratch the surface of Prof. Okolo’s mismanagement of the university he holds in trust for you and Nigerians. Dear President, I know you are a person that loves those who build and not destroy; those who detest evil and desire right; those who uphold standards and not mediocrity. I ask you, in all sense of patriotism, to restore Dr Emeka Enejere as Chairman of UNN council. People like him are hard to find in our clime in these times. He is an asset that your government needs. Please bring him back and work with him.
Department of Accountancy
University of Nigeria
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters