By Usman Aliyu
The Edo-Okpa Unity Forum, an NGO made of members of Edo extraction, has kicked against plan by the Edo Government to convert Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, to a multi-campus institution.
The forum in a statement signed by the Chairman of its Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Peters Evbota, and the National Coordinator, Mr Emmanuel Omonua, described the policy as ill-advised and a clandestine way to play politics with the people of Edo Central.
The statement, a copy of which was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Benin, said the decision came as a huge surprise to the people of Edo Central, where the institution is located.
NAN recalls that Gov. Godwin Obaseki had on Feb. 18 at a townhall meeting on Edo education policy announced the conversion of the state owned university, fondly known as AAU, into three campuses.
While the main campus would be in Ekpoma, the two others would be located in Oredo Local Government Area and Owan federal constituency.
Reacting to the development, the forum said it noted at its monthly meeting in February that the institution had been grossly underfunded in recent time by the state government, the situation which the government blamed on paucity of fund.
“Bearing this in mind, how does this same government now want to embark on a multi-campus development which will mean new structures, new recruitment of personnel and a whole lot of other financially involving tasks?
“What this goes to show is simple: AAU has been deliberately starved of funds over these years by the government due to these hidden political schemes to crumble the socio-economic power of Esanland.
“As it is today, Edo South has the great University of Benin, Edo North has Edo University and Edo Central has the Ambrose Alli University.
“Can there be anything more balanced than what we currently have to warrant the balkanisation of AAU not minding the attendant effect on resources and academics,” the forum said in the statement.
The planned balkanisation of the institution, it said, would draw more fund from the government, create more physical, financial and psychological strains on the students, among other shortcomings.
The forum, however, called on the state governor to rescind his decision on the multi-campus policy, particularly as it concerns AAU.
Rather, the forum urged the government to release enough funds to make the AAU stand out as the best state owned university in Nigeria and a destination for learning nationally and internationally.
It advised the state against a policy that would weaken the current structure of the school, thereby making it sink deeper in performance and rating as a citadel of learning.
“Alternatively, the Governor can resort to, if he feels he has the required resources, establish new universities in the affected areas and leave AAU as a mono campus system.
“It’s obvious His Excellency is ill-advised on this decision as what AAU needs now is funding, setting benchmarks for academic performances and encouragement for growth.
“With these, the university will not only be self sustaining in terms of income generation but can also contribute to the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
“Balkanising AAU is totally a wrong decision that will have lots of obvious failures during implementation. The Governor should think through this as Edo Central (Esan) people don’t want AAU balkanised into a multi-campus institution, ” the statement read in part. (NAN)