By Simon Ebegbulem & Gabriel Enogholase
BENIN â€” AS the University of Benin, UNIBEN, holds her Founders’ Day lecture today, Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, and civil society groups have kicked against the choice of Chief James Ibori as the guest lecturer.
Chief Ibori, an alumnus of the school,Â is billed to talk on: “Fiscal Federalism, Amnesty and the Youths: The Way Forward.”
However, Chief Clark and the others argue that since Chief Ibori is still being tried for alleged corruption in court, he is not the ideal person to deliver the lecture.
The civil society groups, led by the President of Love Foundation, a non-govern-mental organisation, Mr Patrick Eholor, Derivation FRont led by Edikeme Ekpovili and Benin National Congress (BNC), a socio-cultural organisation in the state, urged students and other guests to boycott the lecture.
Chief Clark, who spoke to newsmen shortly after he represented the former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, in delivering a lecture entitled, “Peace in the Niger Delta: The Way Forward”, said
“Ibori has a case of corruption, 173 charges made against him, and the case will be coming up the same Monday (today).
â€œThey said after the court case, he will proceed to Benin with a helicopter. As far as I am concerned, Dr Samuel Ogbemudia asked me to take charge of the establishment of UNIBEN, where I was the chairman of the University Council Pro-Chancellor for five years, I am part of that university.
â€œWhatever is happening in that university concerns me. So I thought that politics and people who have been indicted and facing criminal trial in court should not be brought into the university affairs, even though the assumption that every one is assumed innocent unless he was found guilty in court is there.
â€œIt is not enough for a man who is facing trial in court to come and lecture where the future Nigerian leaders are being brought up.”
On its part, a civil socity group, Derivation Front, in a statement signed by its National Coordinator,Â Edikeme Ekpovilli said: â€œWe request that an occasion of immense proportion like the foundation day celebration of the University of Benin should not be tainted by the credentials of a guest lecturer who is standing trial on corruption charges
â€œThe Dr Kubenje-led University council has a duty to at all times protect the dignity and integrity of the University institution and to elevate it above all contrary interests.
â€œIn view of media advertisement to the effect that against popular advise the university authorities are bent on making Chief James Ibori the guest lecturer at the university foundation day celebration on the 23rd of November 2009, we call on all alumni students, lecturers and friends of Great Uniben, to keep off the venue of the lecture in protest.â€
Meanwhile, the university had chosen the former Delta State governor to speak on the topic, Fiscal Federalism, Amnesty and the Youths: The Way Forward, and was expected to take a critical look at the future of Nigeriaâ€™s federalism and suggest the ways it could be deepened.
It was learnt that plans have been concluded to give Ibori not just a home boyâ€™s welcome, but a heroâ€™s welcome as UNIBENÂ celebra-tes one of her most visible alumni.