The war of attrition between Abia State governor, Theodore Orji, and his predecessor Orji Uzor Kalu, took a bizarre turn two weeks ago when the Abia State University (ABSU) released a statement withdrawing the degree it awarded Mr. Kalu when he was governor. According to the university, “The admission and graduation of the former governor violated its extant rules and regulations”. In a sentence, Mr. Kalu is parading a “fake degree”, or is he?
Anyone looking for proof that governance in Nigeria is a sideshow need not look beyond the action of ABSU, and by extension the governor of Abia State. The only surprise here, for those who can afford to be surprised by the news that comes out of Nigeria every day, is that this action is coming, supposedly, from the citadel of learning. According to Mr. O. E. Onuoha, the registrar of ABSU, Mr. Kalu was stripped of his degree “after an emergency meeting of the university senate which considered the recommendations of an investigative panel which considered allegations of breach of the school’s academic regulations by Mr. Kalu”.
Mr. Kalu reportedly dropped out of the University of Maiduguri and enrolled at ABSU while he was governor of Abia State and, therefore, Visitor to the university. In the last two years, he and his former sidekick, the current governor, have been at each other’s jugular in a state where governance has taken a backseat and citizens yearn for the dividends of democracy.
Mr. Kalu recently offered a mea culpa to citizens of Abia State for his malevolence in foisting his successor on them; a sad reminder of the malfeasance that is the hallmark of our brand of democracy. It sounds all too familiar. It was the same mindset that the Lord of the Manor at Ota worked with a few years ago. Nigerians are still waiting for him to show some grace and formally apologise as he bemoans the lack of credible leadership in the country. Not that an apology will serve any purpose really; but, at least, it will show that he can be taken seriously.
Back to Orji Kalu and his confessions. “I made him a governor when he was incarcerated by the EFCC. I made him governor without his input even as much as to campaign for one day! Yet, he left and said he didn’t know what he did to me. I think something is wrong somewhere. I did not quarrel with him except that I told him, ‘Governor, you should work hard and get somebody to replace you because you can’t win election again the way you are going.’ That was after two years of his administration; the rating in Aba and Umuahia were very low. And he came to newsmen with the claim that I wanted to stop him from a second term in office. That was his grouse against me.” That was the former governor speaking during a recent interview.
It seems the chickens have come home to roost. Orji Kalu is reaping what he sowed; the only problem is that the good people of Abia State who are gnashing their teeth are also being made to pay the price of his perfidy. ABSU authorities say they withdrew Orji Kalu’s “fake degree”, “On the strength of the findings and recommendations of an investigative panel into allegations of breach of the extant Academic Regulations of Abia State University, in the process of the admission and graduation of Kalu Orji Uzor in the discipline of Government and Public Administration, of matriculation number 00/42226”.
The senate said it based its decision on the following grounds, among others: “The violation of the Academic Regulations of the university on Admission-by-Transfer, which rendered the offer irregular, ab initio; The non-completion of the mandatory six (6) semesters (i.e. three academic years of study), before he was awarded a degree of the university. He spent only two semesters in all”. This decision, the senate maintained, “derived from the exercise of its onerous statutory responsibility to guard and maintain, at all times, the Academic Regulations of the University, its hard-earned reputation and the credibility of the certificates it awards”.
Of course, ABSU senate reserves the right to withdraw any certificate or degree issued by the university. Accordingly, I don’t have any problem with stripping Mr. Kalu of his degree if it is confirmed it was obtained fraudulently. My worry is that, in this case, it appears the fraud was perpetrated with the connivance of the university senate. If that is the case, then it means certain laws were broken and those responsible for the Orji Kalu admission racket, if we believe the claim of ABSU authorities, should be held to account.
Matters arising from this “fake degree” imbroglio are legion: Was it the same senate that admitted Orji Kalu to ABSU that awarded him a degree when he did not complete the mandatory six semesters? Was Mr. Onuoha, the current registrar, the registrar of ABSU when Orji Kalu was admitted to the university? Was he the same registrar that signed Mr. Kalu’s certificate? What role did the VC then and Orji Kalu’s dean play in this scandal? Did ABSU senate not see anything morally troubling to have the Visitor to the university double as a student?
The action of ABSU senate may cast doubt on the genuineness of the degree that Orji Kalu is parading, but it has also dented ABSU’s image and calls to question the integrity of its senate and the thousands of degrees and certificates it awards every year. Who will take degrees awarded by ABSU seriously? How many other politically exposed persons also got degrees they were not entitled to during the eight years Mr. Kalu ruled Abia State?
This is an issue the National Universities Commission (NUC) should investigate. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been as much as a whimper from the NUC on this issue. It is bad enough that our universities have become glorified secondary schools and can hardly compare with their counterparts on the continent; it is tragic that our academics have become the handmaiden of politicians, turning our universities into an extension of Government Houses across the country.
If Governor Theodore Orji compelled the senate of ABSU to withdraw Orji Kalu’s certificate, let’s hope, as someone observed, “he did not graduate from any state university where his political enemies are in charge”.
Mr. Onumah can be reached via his email account: firstname.lastname@example.org