Cornucopia: Finishing Strong brouhaha of Prof Nwakoby of COOU

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..as FOSAD comes

By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu,PhD

I have been on activities of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, COOU, Igbariam since the era of Prof Orajiaka. I was closely monitoring every activity there until Prof Okafor came in from Nwafor Orizu College of Education as Provost. He was a professor at Nsukka and counting days to retirement before his recommendation came strong. Life came into him and he bowed out gloriously despite alleged poor treatment from Prof Greg Nwakoby who took over from him.
It happened when Dr Kay Onyechi, an Anglican, was a Commissioner for Education and Prof Okafor, a staunch Roman Catholic, though, then Governor Peter Obi was in charge and threw up Okafor like only him existed. There was Prof Ezekwe, but I had no issues with him.

I was listening to the ABS 88.5 FM news report and heard the commentary on “The legacies of Prof Greg Nwakoby as Vice-Chancellor Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University.” The commentary was disgusting to me, talk more of people who directly witnessed the administration of the Vice Chancellor.

I just made a little opinion sampling about the commentary and my ears filled. I won’t bring all everyone said to me to the public but I want to say that Prof Nwakoby, from reactions I got, killed ASUU-COOU, even when he is an ASUU member in spirit and body. I make bold to say I was disappointed because rather than build a community of friends, he allegedly created more enemies than he had as Deputy Vice-Chancellor Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka under Prof Boniface Egboka.

Hear Dr Emmanuel Ekwesianya, a member of defunct COOU Governing Council and 1st substantive Director of COOU Medical Services:
“Prof Greg Nwakoby, I am Dr Ekwesianya Emmanuel; that COOU staff you dealt with and crushed when you were VC. I left the services of COOU without my gratuity because you suppressed and crippled the activities of the Unions on campus from fighting for their rights, just to have your way. Because the State Government/COOU refused to contribute to staff pension, which the Unions would have fought for, which you blocked for your selfish end, my pension manager from her computation is paying me a monthly pension of N50,000 becuase I was not qualified for gratuity from what was saved from my own contribution. You are now swimming in affluence, courtesy of your passage via COOU, in addition to all your rights and privileges being retained at UNIZIK. I have nothing to place on the table for my family from my efforts but you have surplus for your family. All the retired staff of COOU are passing through the same pains but can’t write this my type of love letter becuase of fear of what you can do, especially as a professor of law. I am about exploding with all these burdens but now that I have ventilated, I feel relieved. I am not afraid of your arrests and incarceration in the prison yard, given your profession becuase he who is already on the floor fears no fall. The vengeance of God on the wicked does not come immediately but can never be averted here and hereafter. God is watching!!!!”

I wept after reading this and I couldn’t hold myself from crying.
Space didn’t allow me exhaustively delve into the ABS 88.5 FM commentary on the five-year term of Prof Nwakoby as Vice-Chancellor of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, COOU, Igbariam. Like a movie, he is being referred to in the past tense now as far as COOU is concerned.

But, trust Prof Nwakoby. Before that statement by Dr Emmanuel Ekwesianya could rest, he fired back with stronger venom explaining his part.

Hear him: “If as a doctor and an educated man with your experience in the university administration even as a Council member, this is your knowledge of payment of retirement benefit, I pity you. I was in your university for five years and nine months. Why didn’t the government pay retirement benefit under Prof Fidelis Okafor, Prof Ezekwe and Prof Orajaka? The praise I am getting from you for appointing you a Director of Medical Services is condemnation. You were acting director for years before I came to your university.Were you getting regular salaries before I came? So Nwakoby asked the government not to pay you pension? You may not also know that I am entitled to pension contribution from your university. Were you getting pension contribution under Prof Fidelis Okafor? He deducted the monthly pension contributions without remittance to your PFA. I just discovered that all the education you had was a waste. I will not arrest you neither will I sue you for defamation nor for libel because I know where you are coming from. You were in the Governing Council for years before I came to COOU. Why didn’t the Council in which you served meet the government for payment of pension? You were friend of Prof Fidelis Okafor who served for almost eight years, why didn’t Fidelis Okafor do it for you? The God I serve will punish all of you one by one. You must have seen and known why I didn’t want you close to me because my third eyes discovered that you are evil. If I am wicked, why did you bring ram and drinks to my house to appreciate me for what I did for you by appointing you Director Medical Services? Anyway, I am not wicked and will not waste my time with such a character like you. Note that I was not poor before I came to your university. I am today 20yrs as a Professor and I have lectured in three universities and I am a legal practitioner for years doing my work as a lawyer. If you have no good reward for good work, go and sleep. Face front as I have finished at COOU and moved on with my life in another institution where I am currently doing my sabbatical leave. You wrote this nonsense to me because you could write but not knowing that you merely exposed your ignorance and little mind. Do you know how many times I visited Chief Willy Obiano with the external members of the Governing Council for the payment of pension to the university staff? Were you not in the Council when Chike Osegbue committee was set up to meet prominent members of Anambra State to speak to the Governor on our behalf for reasons of the pension. You dwell on gossip whereas I champion the welfare of staff. You can go back to your group and blackmail me further. I have no time for gossip and blackmail. Use your time for something better and beneficial. If you have retired, go into private practice as a medical practitioner but gossip will not allow you to do it. In all, I wish you well and happy retirement.”

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Prof Nwakoby did not stop there. He continued: “I just discovered that your problem was that I refused to allow strike hold sway in the university. Note that I refused strike so as to make money for the salaries you got in the university and also for your son and your brother’s son in medicine to graduate within the specified academic period. The road is clear now. You can go on strike with your cohorts but as a retiree, you are not a member of the trade union. But if I may ask, why didn’t you go on strike during the trade union strike at least, all you could lose is salaries but get pension at the end. Now I see why people are blind and ignorant. You are an ‘educated illiterate’ without brain. Face front.
“Dr. Ekwesianya, when I came to your university on 12th March 2018, Prof Fidelis Okafor was owing pension contribution he deducted from staff monthly salaries from January 2015. The records are there in the university. I paid all the arrears and paid the current ones. It is on record that the university was not owing any pension contribution as at 4th December 2023 when my tenure ended. As I said, you are an ingrate and deluded fool.

“Ekwesianya is not entitled to my reply but I have decided to reply him so as to educate him on what he knows but pretends not to know. His grudge against me is that what they planned failed them”. End of the quotes. Nawaooooh! Don’t mess with a Prof of law.

A new Sherrif is in town and a super woman at that. What can Prof Kate Azuka Omenugha do differently? I know her, she will definitely avoid all these landmines butā€¦.I am always a misunderstood personality. Whatever I say and however I say them is always misunderstood. I will always say my own in good faith. And I say now that the new Sheriff at COOU shall perform exceedingly well, if she avoids certain elements. I come in peace but as a moral gadfly of society, I shall not be ashamed of speaking truth to power, even though those concerned shall always either run you down with pseudo names and hatchet writers or run to the courts to claim disparaging piece when even former Governors are being arrested for their acts in office.

Prof Kate Azuka Omenugha, the new Sheriff in town at COOU, during her interactive session with COOU Professors as the new VC said that the impression outside is that COOU degrees are compromised; that the only strength of COOU is uninterrupted academic calender and every other thing is a failure.

Who should we say killed COOU? Nwakoby was the immediate past VC and a new Vice-Chancellor is saying this in her SWOT analysis of the university. Tufiakwa! Could it be simply said that Prof Nwakoby sabotaged ASUU struggle for better funding of Nigerian public schools including COOU by his offensive against ASUU at COOU. Yes! He was alleged by ASUU to have had uninterrupted academic sessions, mass-producing graduates and post-graduates even as standards allegedly dropped as many academic behaved as they wished.

Before I continue let me announce that academics are gathering momentum for good governance in Southern Nigeria, particularly South-East, though politicians are already dancing “izege” in the new forum.

Suddenly, FOSAD emerged and it’s dominating already. What’s FOSAD? Forum of South-East Academic Doctors (FOSAD) pioneered by some eggheads to beat the one ,I and Dr Obiorah Edogor were proposing. And fortunately, I was added as a pioneer member but now, my number has shifted to over 300 plus due to poor WhatsApp culture. I didn’t visit on time and other academic doctors across South-East took over some spaces. Already we are over 2000 members including some senators. The forum is for intellectual intervention and socio-cultural association for people from five states of the South-East Nigeria who have doctoral degrees in different fields of human endeavour. Membership is across the globe.

We agreed it shall be non-partisan, non-religious, but a civil society group to defend and protect the interest of Ndigbo both in Nigeria and the diaspora, but without guns though. If FOSAD becomes a formidable positive force and voice by promoting and defending interest of Ndigbo, then needless forming my own and needless anyone at that forming a parallel body in the geopolitical zone. Let me not go into their 13-point rules of engagement today, but it’s loaded but nothing like financial contributions for celebrating or burials like I celebrated my parents on 16th December at Amanuke, Awka North Local Government Area. That’s the only platform you have seen even senators respect themselves. Nobody was forwarding nothing. And as if planned , Dr Steve Nwala from Abia emerged president while my nwannaa, Dr Uzor Ngoladi from Anambra emerged Secretary-General. We have other nine officers across other states in the South-East.

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Remember I said at the end of November, I listened to a commentary tagged: Legacies of Prof Greg Nwakoby as Vice-Chancellor Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University”. He was appointed by then Governor Willie Obiano. It happened I was the first to interview him as Vice-Chancellor of COOU. I perished that interview because if I had published it , he would have run into problems if not sacked the next day. He was grateful when I drew his attention to it. His aide, Barr Odieli Uche promised me a virgin even in hell. But, that was my last discussion with Prof. I had three discussions with Barr Uche but yielded nothing till they left office. If wishes were horsesā€¦! Some described it as wicked but to me it’s normal in a profession you are doing with free mind and honest inputs. I bear no grudges but whatever I do now may be misunderstood or misconstrued, but a watchdog has to watch particularly now he is no more VC.

I wasn’t keen on all the lofty and laudable praises laced with inneundoes the writer was using until I heard his era shall be considered as golden era in 24 years of the university. I was uncomfortable. How can anyone who ASUU alleged intimidated workers during his tenure be described as golden? The workers said so. I would have written on the true positions of things as it was happening but having had an encounter, it will be misunderstood. I stayed clear. Now I am free to re-examine his days as VC, starting with this public commentary. This is part 1.

According to ASUU members, the description of some people as being destructive in activism and rascalism in unionism showed bitterness of heart and lack of remorse by his administration in killing ASUU at COOU. According to ASUU, all the revolution he might have initiated or achieved becomes meaningless when human relations are juxtaposed.

ASUU-COOU members wondered how workers genuinely employed by his predecessor should be laid off as ghost workers and earners of padded wages. Some families got roasted following an unwarranted termination of their breadwinner’s appointment, yet Prof Nwakoby employed new ones in their numbers. Was that hypocrisy at work?

 I am not talking about the legion of feats he recorded and would have ignored this but the word usage was wrong by whoever was commisioned to write that paid commentary. What he frowned at, he over did. He met 35 academic staff, and employed over 200. So why sack workers on assumption instead of regularizing their appointments?

He can’t run down all those who were there before him in the commentary when he also had skeleton in his cupboard. How can he claim to have finished strongly when he as VC got thumps down by lecturers and some workers he frustrated their lives? Even, the new VC gave a thumps down by her address to Professors of COOU. Let’s go there.

Professor Nwakoby’s appointment in 2018 as the Acting Vice Chancellor was sudden just like that of Prof Kate Azuka Omenugha recently. The internal battle threw an outsider up.

Then, Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor F. U. Okafor, who I described as the most lucky being ever was given 2 year extention but some academics ganged up against that, describing it as unlawful. ASUU Igbariam led the onslaught and succeeded but rather than appoint a Vice-Chancellor from Igbariam, Prof Gregory Nwakoby was appointed from Unizik as acting and later regularized, and he stayed 5 years.

I witnessed Prof. Nwakoby when he decried the abuse of University Law and academic standards witnessed before his assumption of office. He thanked the Academic Staff Union of Universities, COOU Branch, for not only articulating the challenges facing the University but also suggesting ways to make things better in the institution. He claimed that would serve as a launch pad for his take-off. He pledged, among others, to ensure due diligence in his financial dealings, uplift the academic standards, enthrone a culture of adherence to the University Law, and reverse, according to him, all the abuses perpetrated under the watch of his immediate predecessor.

ASUU-COOU is alleging that history has shown all that were vain words as intoxicating spirit took over in 2019 when the national body of Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU made available the list of NEEDS ASSESSMENT disbursements to the relevant Branch Chairpersons, requesting them to monitor and ensure that monies allocated to their Branches were duly utilised in line with the established rules.

Acting on the directives from the national body and armed with the disbursement letter, the ASUU-COOU approached Prof Nwakoby to ascertain whether he had received the 193 million naira allocated to COOU. This was the height of it as initially, the VC feigned ignorance of the disbursement, perhaps, believing that no one at the University would know. ASUU COOU claimed that it was not until he was presented with the disbursement letter that he admitted receiving the money, claiming that it skipped his mind when the issue was first raised. Having acknowledged that he received the money, ASUU informed him about the need to constitute a Tenders Board immediately as required by the Law and ensure due diligence over the spending of the money. The bubble burst! He saw the innocuous discussion as a confrontation. ASUU alleged he was livid and declared that the Union cannot act as a ā€˜monitoring spiritā€™ over his administration.

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According to ASUU-COOU, the VC forgot NEEDS ASSESSMENT remains the brainchild of ASUU just like the TETFund, and that it behoves the Union to protect them from abuse. The battle line was drawn and contrary to Statute XI of COOU Law 2014, Professor Nwakoby refused to allow for proper constitution and functioning of the Budget Monitoring Committee (BMC), Building, Works and Services (BWS) Committee, and Tenders Board. As such, he allegedly failed to follow due process, rules, and laws relating to financial management, award of contracts, and execution of projects. This state of affairs continued from the inception to the point of his winding up his tenure.

One of the challenges Prof Nwakoby promised to address upon assumption of office was the issue of improperly constituted Senate. Unfortunately, and as alleged too, the University Senate suffered grievously under the watch of Prof Nwakoby. Just like the aberration of appointing students of the University into the Senate as occurred during the tenure of his predecessor, which he condemned upon assumption of office, Prof Nwakoby, ASUU alleged, started the same unlawful practice in his bid to raise a band of supporters. When the tenure of elected Deans expired in September 2020, the VC allegedly resorted to making appointments into these positions and had continued until 2023 when he was about exiting. Even at that, he still refused to conduct elections and instead sustained the unlawful culture of making appointments in Faculties where he suspected that his endorsed candidates could not win and where it would appear impossible to allegedly manipulate the election. In effect, he ensured that the Senate was improperly constituted so as to achieve his selfish ends. Prof Nwakoby, according to ASUU-COOU, made a mockery of the University Law even in situations he undertook to conduct elections such as the ones for the positions of the DVCs, Senate Representatives in Council, Congregation Representatives in Council, etc. Apart from the Students’ Union election that had already been scheduled by his immediate predecessor, Prof Nwakoby failed to conduct another election for the student body and simply continued making appointments for the positions.

Academic standards, according to ASUU-COOU, suffered the greatest blow under the incumbency of Prof Nwakoby. Contrary to his promise of uplifting academic standards, his tenure witnessed brazen abuse of standards as it became the norm for the VCā€™s boys to engage in fraud and abuse standards with impunity. It has equally become the practice for the administration to issue and keep reissuing memos regarding abuse of standards without bringing culprits to book. Extortion of money from students and award of unmerited marks by the cronies of the VC became the order of the day.

So many accusations on one man; even to buttress their point ASUU COOU referenced a case of fraud involving his nephew in Microbiology Department, who was extorting huge sums of money from students, and when the matter was brought before the VC, he unlawfully suspended the lecturer that made the report instead of punishing the offender. Also alleged was admission racketeering which became a prominent feature under his incumbency. ASUU alleged that casual check would reveal that agents of the VC collect as high as one million naira for admissions into courses like Medicine, Law, and Pharmacy. Can this be true? How I wish he had picked my call in the last 5 years to enable me to ask him for more or to get his reactions. But shockingly he has not picked my calls or replied meaningfully to my chats in the last one year. What can I do?

Employment process was allegedly not spared from the abuse witnessed under Prof Nwakoby.The woes of the University got compounded under the incumbency of Prof Nwakoby when it became obvious that the successive Visitors to the University (Chief Willie Obiano and Prof Charles Soludo) decided to turn blind eye to the abuses taking place in the University. It would be recalled that the Governing Council of COOU was dissolved on 2nd August, 2022 and has not been reconstituted till date. By that dissolution, the VC was given the leverage to act like a Sole Administrator. It seemed bizarre that the state government left the University to operate without a Governing Council for more than a year, especially when the governor is a professor. In the absence of a Council, those who have complaints to make about the state of affairs in the University had to turn to the Visitor. As it seems, the government is not giving adequate attention to the institution. As Professor Nwakoby leaves, his hirelings have come up with the slogan: PROF GREG NWAKOBY IS FINISHING STRONG. The question remains whether he is finishing strongly on the positive or on the negative side. By the time a thorough investigation is conducted into what transpired under his incumbency at COOU, the answer would remain clear. I come in peace!

Shalom!

Cornucopia is a weekly column of Comrade Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, PhD.
Odogwu is a known Journalist, Editor, Media & Public Relations Consultant, Social Analyst, Teacher, Motivator, Unionist, Lecturer,Community leader, Publisher, Social Analyst and Famous Blogger, as well as Social Media Entrepreneur, Publisher and Conversationalist @ www.odogwublog.com among others.
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