From Chuks Onuoha and Olunkwa Felix, Umuahia
Soldiers and policemen yesterday descended on students of the Abia State University ABSU, for protesting the planned revocation of the degree awarded former governor of the state, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu by the institution. Kalu had completed his first degree programme at ABSU when he was governor and earned a bachelors degree. Surprisingly, the Abia State government recently threatened that the state s university would revoke the degree, in a move believed to be the continuation of the persecution of the former governor. Yesterday, when ABSU Senate was expected to meet over the matter, hundreds of students had converged on the administrative block as early as 7am.
The students, who were on a peaceful demonstration, were however, dispersed, even as some of them were beaten up and whisked away by combined team of soldiers and mobile policemen. Saturday Sun observed that no fewer than five students were beaten to a pulp and thrown into the waiting vans of the military personnel. While the mobile policemen stormed the campus with security van with the inscription, “MOPOL 28”, the soldiers came with several Hilux vans. The protest had started in a peaceful manner and within thirty minutes, the team of security operatives stormed the campus, beating student, including those who were not part of the protest. In the circumstance, students and staff were seen running helter-skelter for their lives.
It was not immediately clear where the arrested students were taken – to the police station or to army barracks, since both outfits were involved in the operation. Some of the Placards the students were carrying read: “NO TO REVOCATION OF OUK’S DEGREE.” “OUK IS ONE OF US.” “THIS INHUMAN TREATMENT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE TOMMORROW.” “IT IS OUK TODAY, IT CAN BE ANYBODY TOMMORROW.” “GOVERNMENT SHOULD SAVE OUR FUTURE.” “DEGREE FROM THIS UNIVERSITY MAY NOT BE CREDIBLE AFTER THIS.” “POLITICS SHOULD NOT BE MIXED WITH EDUCATION.” Two students who did not disclose their names said they were on their way for lectures when the security men started beating everybody.
“We were just going for lectures when I had a slap from the back, only for me to look and it was from a soldier; they started beating me and my friend. We had to run for our life.” Efforts made to reach the PRO of the School, Mr. Acho Elendu, for comments failed as he did not pick his call on his phone, 08037448159. There were hints earlier this week that there were plans by Governor Theodore Orji to invoke his powers as the visitor to the Abia State University and revoke the degree certificate the university awarded to his predecessor. It was learnt that this followed a recommendation of an investigative panel that looked into a spurious petition lodged against the certificate issued several years ago. Kalu had cut his degree programme at the University of Maiduguri and had transferred his transcript records and other details to Abia State University, where he completed the programme.
Inside source at the university senate said the matter to revoke Chief Kalu’s certificate was not discussed at the senate, that the Vice Chancellor only announced to members that decision had been taken on it. According to the source, when the former Vice Chancellor, Prof Ogwo, raised his hand to make a comment, the VC told him that whatever he said on the matter would not affect anything, because a decision had been taken on it. It was also learnt that the senate had dismissed the recommendation of the panel because it was hurriedly put together and did not follow due process. Senate had also noted that the report was hurriedly done and the Vice Chancellor, as at the time of the report, was never invited to give evidence during investigation. Neither Kalu nor others considered to be central figures in the petition were invited to testify.
Reliable sources revealed early this week that those interested in the matter allegedly had mounted pressure on the senate to revisit the issue. A senior member of the academic community warned that: “They should not bring politics into academics because it will destroy the institution. Offers have been made to some members after some of us rejected the bid.” Former Governor Kalu, who was outside the country, remarked that the Abia State Government’s latest move has shown the level of desperation of the government.
He spoke through his aide, Kunle Oyewunmi and said: “It is obvious that this shameless desperation was provoked by my return to PDP.If the governor is popular as he claims, why is he jittery and desperate that one man is re-joining a party he co-founded?” He called on well-meaning people of Abia State and Nigeria to call T. A. Orji to order, adding that Abians are yearning for dividends of democracy and the government has the responsibility to provide them. He said: “This move will also come to pass because no human being, except God, has the power to determine any other person’s destiny.”