By N.T.A Efo
Sentiments APART, the name of the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, was on the lips of everybody at the first matriculation ceremony of the Federal Polytechnic, Ukana – FPU, for short, on Thursday, March 23, 2017.
The Rector, Professor Belema Obamanu, said of him: “we are indebted to the Senate Minority Leader, Very Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio, for his care, support and best wishes to the Polytechnic.” Some students and staff I spoke with also had good words for the Senator representing Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.
I was not surprised at all. In fact, I would have been surprised if it was not that way. After all, if there was no Senator Akpabio at the helm of affairs in Akwa Ibom State at the point of establishment of the FPU, probably by now, there may not have been a school like FPU matriculating students. FPU was among some new Polytechnics established by the Goodluck Jonathan administration in the twilight of its tenure. Only a few, amongst them FPU, are on ground, carrying out full academic exercises. For FPU, it is no thanks to Senator Akpabio, whom, as a sitting Governor ‘bankrolled’ the takeoff of the school. Though the bankrolling had much to do with money, it also had a lot to do with courage, determination, commitment and dedication to see that such a school needed not to wait for Abuja to send down its take off funds. For schools that had to wait for Abuja, I doubt whether they can count themselves on the list of schools at the moment.
It could have had to do with the Ukana site of the school, many of us would reason. And it’s very natural to do so. After all, was the school not supposed to be sited at Ididep, according to some ‘’authorities’ during that period’? We all could remember the controversy of its siting. Then Senator representing Uyo Senatorial District and now a Presidential Aide, Senator Ita Enang, swore he saw the original “summons” of the school, summoning it to go to Ididep, his own town. We later heard that a team that was led by the present Governor of Rivers State and then Minister of State for Education, Barrister Nyesom Wike, came to Akwa Ibom and pronto, the school was sited at Ukana.
In a piece I did around the time of the controversy which I titled “Federal Polytechnic Ukana: So What?,” I gave reasons it was not necessary to bicker over its site. One, I said Akwa Ibom State was the better to have an additional higher institution, wherever it was sited. Two, I said the then Governor Akpabio, if ever he had influenced the siting of the school, did not put a gun to the head of the team to dump Ididep for Ukana. Three, I said the members of the team may also have been the ones who requested that the school be sited at Ukana, as a gift to the Governor without the Governor asking them to do so. Four, that for Senator Enang to try to get the school to be sited at Ididep instead of Ikot Ada Idem, Obot Idim, Ikot Edibon, Afaha Eket, Oron showed there was no good direction on his moral compass to chart the course of campaign he had embarked on during that period.
I also said we had bickered in the Second Republic over whether to site the nation’s fourth refinery at Oron or Calabar and ended up losing it to Rivers Stat, which now has to house two of our refineries. I also said if eventually the Ukana site stays, not all the workers and students will be from Ukana. I was right because the Rector is from Rivers State, not even from neighbouring Ikot Ekpene, Abak, Ididep or Afaha Offiong. There was also a very worthy argument about the three Senatorial Districts and the hosting of federal tertiary institutions. Maritime Academy of Nigeria is in Oron,Eket Senatorial District;University of Uyo is in Uyo, Uyo Senatorial District, people argued. So, why not allow FPU to be in Ikot Ekpene in support of justice, equity and fairness?
My conclusion was that Ukana was in Akwa Ibom and anything sited there was in the interest of the whole state.
The matriculation ceremony came about two weeks after the Senate Minority Leader, at plenary, presented for deliberation and adoption, a Bill for the establishment of the Federal Polytechnic Ukana. The Bill, Federal Polytechnic Ukana Establishment (and other matters) Bill 2017, seeks to provide legal backing to the institution.
For those who can remember that the Bill to give legal backing to the University of Uyo was presented to the Senate by Senator Ita Enang after over 20 years of its establishment, Senator Akpabio merits an award in proactive legislation.
If not for that smart move by Senator Ita Enang, the University of Uyo would still be an illegal institution today. Yet, we had Senators representing the district before him, some of them graduates of the institution.
Senator Akpabio, like him or don’t, has always been a charismatic, proactive fellow. He is one who takes a lot of risks and does things before counting its costs – and, so far those things end well, he does not mind the cost.
The staff and students of FPU will have him to thank dearly when eventually the Bill is passed into law. They will be more thankful after a year when they will find out that out of the schools created along with FPU, only FPU is standing with a legal backup and offering full academic services.
FPU, established on June 9,2014, ‘’to provide technological innovative and value oriented training to meet the manpower requirement necessary for the development of our nation,’’ is anchored on ‘’the provision of qualitative vocational and technological skills for youths.’’
Interim accreditations have been secured for Computer Science and Statistics courses for which the 56 students who matriculated are admitted into. The institution hopes to put forward,for final verification, courses earlier denied accreditation, like Computer Engineering Technology; Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technology; Science Laboratory Technology and Business Management.
Senator Akpabio, whose administration donated the Temporary Campus and Administrative Block at the Permanent Site, aside other forms of support, is not done with the school yet. He is at the moment embarking on an Entrepreneurial Centre and Sports Complex for the institution as part of his constituency project. He has also promised to construct hostel blocks for the school.
AKPABIO, FPU AND PROACTIVE LEGISLATION
By N.T.A Efo