Ministerial Screening: Before Professor Anwukah Takes a Bow

The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have successfully screened 18 of the 37 names sent to them by the President for confirmation as Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who though, have been dismissed as a group of noisemakers by the President in what I see as a slip of tongue, will become the major drivers of President Buhari’s vision for Nigeria.

To ensure that his dreams for Nigeria comes to reality, the President needs men who do not only possess the right academic qualifications, political connections and professional resume’s, but people with the right moral and service orientations to move Nigeria forward, as the President and his political Party have made us believe they are interested in helping Nigeria become the best it can be.

Professor Anthony Chigozie Anwukah [image above] is no doubt academically sound, having risen to the apogee of his profession as a university teacher and making a mark as a Vice-Chancellor of Imo State University, Owerri, having lectured in the school for several years, stretching to its earlier location at Uturu. Politically, Anwuka can be said to have been fortunate, rather than successful. 

He cut his teeth in the State politics, when he served as the Director-General of the Okorocha 2011 Governorship Campaign, and was eventually rewarded with an appointment as the Secretary to the State Government after Governor Okorocha had been sworn in as the Governor. He held this position as the number one administrative officer of the government for four years till he was relieved of the appointment, obviously in preparation for him to serve in the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari as a Minister.

Like I wrote somewhere else, if academic qualifications are the only criteria for the nomination and subsequent confirmation of Ministers, then, there should not be any serious controversies over the nomination of Professor Anwukah as a Minister. However, if we are talking about honesty in service, transparency and even political propriety, then the Nigerian Senate must be stopped from confirming Professor Anwukah as a Minister.

The Egbuoma, Oguta born Professor of Education is being tipped to man the education ministry, considering his precedence as a trained educationist and former Vice-Chancellor of a university. However, it may be important to remind the Senators of the Federal Republic and President Muhammadu Buhari that if what a government gazetted White Paper on Imo State University, Owerri contains about Professor Anwukah is to be taken seriously, then he is not supposed to come close to any public office in his lifetime, talk less of making the hallowed cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is said to be keen on getting angels as Ministers.

An investigation Panel set up to investigate the rot in Imo State University and recommend ways to move that university forward has this to say about the stewardship of Professor Anthony Anwukah:

“The Panel found that he laid the foundation for most of the rot that now plague Imo State University. Admission racketeering, which included admitting much more than the carrying capacity of the University and charging of fees from students for file jackets and processing; award of contracts with utter disregard to due process, for instance, a controversial contract for the rebuilding of the perimeter fence round his official residence, which he awarded by telephone from USA; the use and abuse of “personal/special assistants to circumvent the bursary in the furnishing of the Vice-chancellor’s (Anwukah’s) official residence, which he attempted to deny before the Panel."

This is a serious indictment on the person of Professor Anwukah as someone on whom this statement is made is a total misfit for any public office. A Vice-Chancellor who could aid admission racketeering in his university is capable of selling off an entire ministry if he is made a Minister. Charging students fees for file jackets and processing of whatever is a clear sign of avarice and mindless corruption on the part of such Vice-Chancellor. The Panel did not stop there; they went on to write the following about Professor Anwukah:

“He revealed himself to be a man who has grown bigger than the people he works with and is not amenable to control. He displayed insubordination to constituted authority in his department and faculty by arrogating to himself the power to choose which course and which students to teach, in total disdain of the faculty’s schedule, with its attendant breakdown of discipline.”

“His testimony before the Panel revealed a man who was rather economical with the truth. He bought and took away a brand new Mercedes Benz 15-seater bus at the end of his tenure, claiming that it was his legitimate retirement entitlement. This, the Panel found, is not true. It is stipulated in the approved remuneration/welfare package/end of tenure-retiring benefits for the Vice Chancellor/other principal officers of the Imo State University, Owerri, made by the Governing Council of the University on the 3rd day of December, 2004, that the vice chancellor shall be allowed to take away one official car on successful completion of his tenure of five years. That law did not permit a vice chancellor to buy and take home a bus as his end of tenure car, while still hanging on to his official car. Professor Anwukah, having fraudulently converted the said bus, should pay back to the university forthwith, the admitted value of the said bus which he himself put at N3.8m. There is need to examine critically the source of the wealth and opulence that Prof. Anwukah is basking in shortly after his tenure as vice chancellor.”

“The Panel was not at all satisfied with the explanation he gave as to how he acquired the fabulous house he resides in at Akanchawa Road, Owerri, particularly, given the fact that he also owns several other buildings in Owerri and Uli, Anambra State all acquired within the past ten years. He single-handedly terminated police investigation into the forged school fees receipt scandal involving some bursary staff, thereby shielding the culprits from possible prosecution. He should be dismissed from the University.”

President Buhari should be particularly careful with Anwukah considering the observation of this Investigative Panel that Professor Anwukah has a history of insubordination to constituted authority in the University, long before he was elevated to the position of a Vice-Chancellor. If as an up comer, he could display such arrogance and disrespect to his superiors within the university, it will not be out of place to hold the fear that he might refuse to be loyal to the President if he is eventually made Minister, considering that he, and his in-law believe that his nomination as Minister designate is not a privilege, but their right, considering their ‘massive investments’ to the electoral success of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Politically speaking, Professor Anwukah’s nomination is seriously against the political interest of the President in particular and the APC in general. As a youth from Orlu zone, I should have joined other unconscionable youths to celebrate the subjugation of other geo-political zones in the State. But, I won’t, because I consider posterity more than any other thing.

Orlu zone has held the governorship of the State for the past 12 years of the 16 years of civilian rule and by 2019, Orlu zone would have taken 16 whole years out of 20 years of civilian rule. This situation has made the two political zones of Owerri and Okigwe feel completely disconnected from any political Party that continues to concentrate its power base in Orlu. It is not possible that it is only in Orlu zone that we can find credible and qualified people to entrust leadership positions to. Just like there are very cerebral and committed technocrats and change agents in Orlu, they also abound in Owerri and Okigwe zones, hence, they should have been given a sense of belonging in the politics of the State.

Professor Anwukah’s nomination also lends some credence to the popular belief among Imolites that the APC government in the State is queer system of government where only family members and relatives are considered for plum political positions.

Already, the Chief of Staff to the Imo State Government House, Mr. Uche Nwosu’s only serious qualification for that job seems to be his marriage to the first daughter of the Governor, as the youthful Chief of Staff lacks any known professional or political history before the ascension of his father-in-law to the seat of power. Professor Tony Anwukah’s son, Dr. Uzoma Anwukah is married to the second daughter of the Governor, Uju. 

Earlier the Governor ceded the APC ticket for the Owerri Federal Constituency seat to his own brother-in-law, Chuks Ololo, who was roundly defeated in the general election, mostly as a result of the peoples’ disenchantment with the Governor’s nepotism. Geraldine Obinali, the Governor’s eldest sister holds no official position in the State Government, but is alleged to be more powerful within the government circles than even the Deputy Governor of the State.

With the ease with each the Senate is screening and confirming these Ministers, I will not be surprised if Professor Anwukah is asked to take a bow and go, like it has become the chorus in the Red Chambers within the last two days. But, it is important to reiterate that Professor Anwukah’s confirmation as a Minister will not only be tantamount to promoting impunity, but it will also project the President and the 8th Senate as condoning the same corruption they trumpet so loudly about their determination to stamp it out from Nigeria.

Onwuasoanya FCC Jones

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