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Sam Egwu must go

By Ochereome Nnanna
EVERY other day on this column we lament the scourge of poor quality leaders who straddle the commanding heights of our public affairs. “Poor quality” does not necessarily mean low educational background or that the person involved does not have impressive academic certificates. After all, many of our poor quality leaders, like the man in the news today, are holders of post-graduate degrees.

Our man holds a Ph.D in Education (or is it Agriculture?) from a Nigerian university. Mind you, being a post-graduate degree or even Ph.D holder does not, on its own, make one a well-educated or knowledgeable person. I know of many such persons who cannot justify their supposed learning through the quality of their work or mental output enough to match some school certificate holders of the 1960s and 1970s.

“Poor quality” for me, refers to inability to apply commonsense in everyday matters. More importantly, it shows in failure to tell the difference between right and wrong; to pursue the attainment of all that is right and recoil from anything that will send the wrong signals to the public and particularly our children and young people.

Poor quality leaders are often products of poor quality upbringing. Someone who is not well brought up will bungle into an error before realising – too late – what he had done. A well brought up person will first of all consider the injuries his action will cause and therefore avoid taking it.

Mr. Peter Obi, the Governor of Anambra State, for me, is a fine example of excellent breeding. He recently told a group of journalists who were his guests how he once attended a public function of a tertiary institution funded by his state government. That means that Mr. Obi, as the state’s Chief Executive Officer, is the Visitor of the institution.

Towards the end of the function, the head of this institution whispered to him that a special party had been put together in his honour later that night and some fresh, young damsels of the institution had been “packaged” for his delight. A shocked Obi told him to count him out of such a sleazy binge.

“I am the Visitor to this institution,” he reasoned aloud before his guests, “how would it look to party with students who are young enough to be my children, with them knowing that I am the Visitor to their institution?” Compare this with a now late General during the military era who regularly had university girls lined up for his preliminary physical auditioning before he selected two or three “successful” ones for his personal entertainment later in the night. The slayer eventually died by the sword.

Here was Dr. Sam Egwu, the Honourable Minister of Education presiding over a strike-riddled educational sector. Just like his Ebonyi-born predecessor, Aja Nwachukwu, who could not cope with the challenge of perennial unrests by the Academic Staff of Universities (ASUU) and other labour unions in the Ministry’s work force, Egwu has been having his turn at wrestling with them. But unlike Aja, who was occupying an office his father once did and who was a particularly low-keyed individual, Egwu threw caution to the wind recently.

His marriage to his wife, Ukamaka, recently clocked  25 years old. Just like the days when he was the Governor of Ebonyi State, when Egwu and his wife found every flimsy excuse to make a public issue out of their married life with public funds, Egwu reportedly forked out a whopping sum of N120 million to throw a party that Nigerians will remember for a very long time.

When at first I heard this in the news I did not believe my ears. This was roughly a sixth of what his employer, President Umar Yar’ Adua, declared as the total worth of his assets (N850 million) in 2007. A man who can throw a N120 million party must be worth billions. Egwu had only been a university teacher before he was appointed Commissioner and later emerged as Governor of Ebonyi. He has never been known to be a businessman, let alone a successful one.

How then did he come by the wealth into which he dipped his hands to fund this unholy bash, unless he  stole it in his eight years as governor, as his political enemies back in Ebonyi have been alleging?

There are also insinuations that the amount (which has neither been confirmed nor denied by the Minister or his agent) might have been syndicated by the heads of federal higher institutions and parastatals in his ministry.

The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on the Air Force, Halims Ochuko Agoda, in a motion calling for the probe of the source of Egwu’s party funding, also wants the probe to ascertain where university administrators, provosts of colleges of education, rectors of polytechnics and heads of the numerous agencies of the Ministry of Education got the money to pay for their expenses when they attended the party.

It is clear to me that these tertiary institution heads might have dipped their hands into the lean purses of their institutions to attend the party in order to curry Egwu’s special favours. If it is true that they also provided the funds for Egwu’s bash, we were then being treated to another “bribe-for-budget” scandal, which brought down one of Egwu’s predecessors, Professor Fabian Osuji.

Osuji was allegedly involved in bribing members of the House Committee on Education to increase the amount allocated to the Ministry in 2005, for which he was dismissed with ignominy. The case later went to court and died there.

Perhaps this was what made it so easy for Egwu and his horde of collaborators in this scandal to do something similar so soon. After all, nothing happened to Osuji. He was only disgraced. So what? The word: “disgrace” no longer means anything to Nigerian politicians and office holders.

When people are arrested for stealing public funds and arraigned in the court of law these days, they rent and sometimes sew uniforms for hundreds of “supporters” who almost hold court proceedings to a standstill.

Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Obasanjo minister who is telling the court what he knows about the billions of naira missing aviation funds, sewed suits for his thugs, who mounted a guard of honour for him as he entered and exited the court and the judge did nothing!

Quite apart from where he got the money from, Egwu did not see anything wrong in throwing a lavish party when millions of our students were at home because their teachers are protesting poor pay. He is like Emperor Nero who, in 64 AD decided to play the fiddle while Rome burned.
He must go.


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