PRESS RELEASE: DEMAND FOR YOUR ESAN VC BUT LEAVE EDO SOUTH ACADEMICS ALONE, EDO SOUTH COALITION OF PROGRESSIVES (ESCOP) TELLS EDO CENTRAL AGITATORS

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There have been calls of recent by some sponsored agents of the “Esan Agenda” movement for the “reversal” by Edo State Government of what they perceive to be the marginalisation of Esan sons and daughters in appointments as Chief Executives of Edo institutions. They claim that the Esan Central Senatorial District parades seasoned and eminently qualified professors, administrators and professionals who are deserving of appointment as heads of institutions within the state but have been “totally neglected”. An arm of the “agitators” early last week, rallied motor cyclists, market women and other categories of people in Ekpoma, with loud drumming and lurid placards, to the palace of the Onojie, HRH Anselm Abumere, to particularly demand for the appointment of an Esan Vice Chancellor.

No doubt, this is the agitators’ way of “testing the microphone” and a culmination of what watchers believe to be a series of propaganda activities prepared for the twilight season of the administration of Professor I.A. Onimawo, Vice Chancellor of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, whose tenure officially ends on May 12, 2021.

About five years ago, even as the term of office of an Esan Vice Chancellor was coming to an end, and at the point of selecting a new VC, this band of agitators, like Oliver Twist, had been up in arms, demanding for the appointment of yet another Esan VC successor. However, their agitation failed to gather traction, and being forced to eat the humble pie, they finally opted for commonsense, faced with the sad reality of a failed mission.

They had vowed to fight another day and to unleash a more aggressive campaign on the socio-political space. Dateline is when preparations are afoot for the selection of another new VC in 2021.

That these agitators are beating the drums of war now when the White Paper on the recent Visitation Panel to the University is still being eagerly awaited and the roadmap for the selection of a new Vice Chancellor has not been charted is not only ill-timed and preemptive, but also viciously interrogates the inordinateness of greed. It as well raises grave concerns for peaceful co-existence and for law and order in the University in particular and Edo State in general.

The Edo South Coalition of Progressives (ESCOP) sees nothing wrong in a Senatorial District agitating for reliefs and making demands of their government since the Nigerian Constitution offers them that right for free and it is, indeed, their bounden duty to agitate as free-born. We, however, find it vexatious that the sponsors of these agitations have preferred to drag our esteemed Edo South academics into the fray. Despite the number of clandestine meetings they have been having, there appears, frankly speaking, to be no clear direction in the agitations.

There is, indeed, an alternate reality which they face and because it is a propaganda war they are fighting, they have, deliberately, turned facts on their head and allowed them to spin uncontrollably.

It will bear stating that no Senatorial district in Edo State holds the monopoly of having an array of distinguished and qualified professors who are capable of leadership positions. To think there is will be delusional and arrogant.
For the avoidance of doubt, Edo South academics should, in fact, be the ones to be complaining against marginalisation in a University that has, within forty years of its existence, been so unfair to them. Yet the agitators would engage in emotional blackmail that Edo South professors are boasting that it is “their turn” now, because they have the Governor and the Secretary to Government as “their sons”.

What an unprofitable course to chart in the business of emotional blackmail!
ESCOP rejects any marginalisation of whatever hue of any Senatorial district, but believes that, as far as Ambrose Alli University is concerned, Edo Central has had a “field day” and has, in fact, faired so well in the appointment of Vice-Chancellors that it should not be preempting the process or over heating the polity yet again.

The claim by the agitators that “It is only institutions located in Edo Central Senatorial District that the indigenes of the area are denied the opportunity to be appointed as Heads” is deliberate falsehood. The College of Education, Igueben has been largely headed by academics from Edo Central.

The National Institute of Construction Technology and Management, Uromi, currently has an Edo Central professor as rector. Is the current Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the AAU Governing Council from Edo North or Edo South?

On the statistics pandered by the agitators on the appointment of principal officers in Edo State institutions, ESCOP is particularly baffled. The UBTH, a federal institution, was mentioned by the agitators as being headed by an Edo South person, but, regrettably, mention was not made of the Edo Central professors who have served as CMDs of the establishment in the recent past or, coming nearer to Edo Central, of the continued occupation of the office of CMD of Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, (ISTH) Irrua by Edo Central Professors. We view this hiding of information as totally dishonest and mischievous.

The case of Edo State University, Uzairue, offers an interesting template as it is a new University with a first Vice Chancellor who happens to come from Edo North now. Perhaps the agitators are afraid it may be like the early years of the then Bendel State University where three Esan Central VCs ran the University in succession. Common sense should tell us that it is quite premature to speak of dominance when the tenure of the current Vice Chancellor has not lapsed and another Edo North Vice Chancellor had not been appointed, or is even being projected. Why don’t we get to the bridge first before attempting to cross it?.
As the focus of attention of the “Esan Mandate” agitators is on the VCship of Ambrose Alli University, we present below a table of past/present Vice-Chancellors of the University, indicating the nature of their appointments, years of service and their states/senatorial districts:
Prof. M.I. Ogbeide (Ag, VC) 1981 – 1982 (Edo Central)
Prof. V.E. Aimakhu (Ag., then Substantive VC) 1982 – 1984 (Edo Central)
Prof. D.O. Aihie (Ag. VC) 1984 – 1985 (Edo Central)
Prof. P.A. Kuale (Substantive VC) 1985 – 1989 (Delta State)
Dr. Awele Maduemezia, FAS (Substantive VC) 1989 – 1991 (Delta State)
Prof. J.E.A. Osemeikhian (Ag., then Substantive VC) 1992 – 1998 (Edo Central)
Prof. (Mrs) Agnes Uduebo (Ag. VC) 1998 – 1999 (Edo Central)
Prof. D.E. Agbonlahor (Substantive VC) 1999 – 2004 (Edo South)
Prof. D.O. Aigbomian (Substantive VC) 2004 – 2009 (Edo Central)
Prof. E.F. Alufohai (Substantive VC) Feb., 2009 – Aug., 2009 (Edo North)
Prof. S. Unianmikogbo (Substantive VC) Aug., 2009 – May, 2011 (Edo North).
Prof. (Mrs) C.A. Agbebaku (Ag., then Substantive VC) 2011 – 2016 (Edo Central)
Prof. F. Okogbo (Ag. VC) May 3, 2016 – May 11, 2016 (Edo Central)
Prof. I.A. Onimawo (Substantive VC) May 11, 2016 till date. (Edo North)

It should be noted that both Professors Kuale and Maduemezia served as Vice Chancellors before the creation of Delta State from Bendel State and that at that time, the University was known as “Bendel State University”. Note also that in May, 1997, a Sole Administrator, Professor M. I. Isokun, was, in aberration, appointed for the University. He was from Edo Central and served till 1998.

Thus, from the above, the number of Edo Central Vice Chancellors/Sole Administrator who have served in AAU in the forty year history of the University is 9, with 55% as years of service. The number of Edo North Vice Chancellors who have served/still serving in AAU to date is 3 with 17.5% as years of service, while the number of Vice Chancellors from outside Edo State who served when AAU was Bendel State University is 2, with 15% as years of service. The number of Edo South Vice Chancellors who have served in AAU to date is 1, with 12.5% as years of service!

Figures don’t lie, but these are the statistics the “Esan Mandate” agitators are hiding from the public. The questions here now are: 1) WHO IS BEING MARGINALISED? 2) WHO IS MARGINALISING WHO?

ESCOP calls for a change of strategy by those agitating for an Esan VC. The process involved in the appointment of Vice Chancellors is clear, and ESCOP does not think that rabble rousing in any form, including rallying motor cycle riders, hapless market women and touts is part of it. Being economical with the truth and blackmailing our brothers and sisters from other senatorial districts of the state is not either. We certainly have not degenerated so low and the image of a University striving for global competitiveness cannot be brought to such low height!
We sue for peaceful co-existence among all staff in our higher institutions in Edo State and demand absolute compliance of all stakeholders with the processes of appointing a Vice Chancellor for the Ambrose Alli University.

The Visitor to the University has been given the mandate by all the three Senatorial Districts in Edo State to govern the state. It was not the sole support of any particular Senatorial District that gave him the victory. We, therefore, insist that by being declared winner in the September 19, 2020 Gubernatorial elections, Governor Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki is a governor of and for all. Let him govern us with the knowledge and wisdom God has given him, and let no one person, or group of persons, preempt or try to arm twist him. As Edolites, it should be our collective effort to see the Ambrose Alli University meet the dreams of the founding father. Let no one see the location of the University as an opportunity to claim ownership of it. The University belongs to the people of Edo State; not to one Senatorial District. It is our collective heritage. The Founding Father, Ambrose Folorunsho Alli, was unequivocal about the ownership of the University when the foundation stone was laid four decades ago.
Let us give peace a chance, love one another and be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.

DR. EWEMADE IBIZUGBE (PRESIDENT)
for and on behalf of
EDO SOUTH COALITION OF PROGRESSIVES (ESCOP)
March 6, 2021,
Benin City, NIGERIA.

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