THE Vice-Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Professor Bartho Okolo, has eventually broken the silence on the embezzlement allegations leveled against him, stating that the volume of infrastructure investment in the institution has vindicated him.
Professor Okolo who has been unwilling to grant interviews to journalists, however, decided to speak when he was convinced that the press were out to find out the truth behind the saga. Due to his unwillingness to speak to the press initially,Vanguard Learning was prompted to carry out investigations. Students, lecturers and professors were interviewed separately.
At the end of the investigations, we discovered that all their submissions revolved around two things – inordinate quest for power and revenge for denying racketeers free hand to operate.
The aforementioned major factors triggered the phantom embezzlement allegations against the vice-chancellor. On one hand, there were some people in the institution feeding fat on students through sales of illegal handouts, substandard textbooks and other sharp practices which he decisively blocked.
This did not sit well with those who have been nursing grudges against him for hindering their illegal means of making money over the years. They, therefore, saw it as an opportunity to join forces together to fight their common enemy, the vice-chancellor.
On the other hand, there are some power brokers within and outside the institution who believe it is high time their kinsman assumed the office of vice-chancellor of UNN which the incumbent objected to, insisting on due process.
Further, some members of the institution who would not want their names in print, explained that in order to actualise the goal, an Nsukka indigene must be planted as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration), so that in case the incumbent VC is removed from office, the next person for that position will be an indigene of Nsukka.
A source added that from all accounts, if the Nsukka candidate was allowed to contest on a level-playing ground, there is no way he or she can assume the DVC Admin position because there are other qualified hands for the position. To get this done, they had to form a clique and woo some Nsukka students, lecturers and other powers close to the presidency to support the agenda.
Therefore, the game plan was to level an allegation of embezzlement against the present VC whose tenure will elapse May, 2014, so that if he is eventually removed from office, the next person in rank will be the DVC Admin, an Nsukka indigene. The permutation was that if he or she is there in acting capacity, in due time, with some internal and external influences, will be confirmed the substantive VC of University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
By so doing, the jinx that an Nsukka man has never been vice-chancellor of UNN would have been broken.
More so, because of the actions taken by the current vice- chancellor to block all illegal avenues through which some lecturers, professors and staff of the institution make money, the clique decided to form an alliance with the already aggrieved people to remove the VC from office.
However, after two days of investigations among students and lecturers, coupled with the rate of infrastructure development which we saw on campus, we returned to the Vice- Chancellor to ask him what was wrong.
He bared his mind on the issue: “I have a policy of not fighting anybody on the pages of newspapers because I want to focus on translating the vision I had from inception into reality. If I had engaged in those distractions, we would not be able to achieve this much.”
Professor Okolo stated that “before assuming the office of the Vice-Chancellor, people were just stealing with impunity without anyone to check them. I know this because I have been in their midst for 28 years.” This, according to him, made him vow that such decadence will not continue when he became the vice-chancellor. “I would have loved to show you evidence of what these robbers have done.
Even some of those wearing collars are thieves. When we came on board, we stopped the financial leakages and engaged in comprehensive rehabilitation of this university. The problem is that we saw the people who are trying to defraud UNN and we stopped them. The reason some of them are unhappy with me is that if I catch a lecturer, be it a professor engaging in any sharp practices, I sack him.
Some of the lecturers who sold hand-outs and rubbish books were also dealt with. I have about 11 professors who are on suspension today for various unethical reasons. Some of them were completely sacked.’’
In his philosophy, he asserted that for you to perfect change in any environment, for you to move from the status quo, some people must also fall.
He said: “Their primary objective was to put their kinsman from Nsukka as vice-chancellor of UNN. To actualise the plan, they have to remove me from office, claiming that I am stubborn. That was the reason for those lies they told against me. I don’t fight on the pages of newspapers, my works and the law fight for me. I have taken all of them to court one by one to substantiate their allegations against me. For me, I have evidence of their sharp practices and have reported same to the government. You can see why I don’t go to the press. “
On infrastructure developments, Okolo pointed out that from inception, he gave a lot of attention to infrastructure development because at that time, there was virtually no physical structure you could be proud of at UNN. It was a complete shadow of the past. “This campus was like a slum, without any beauty of a university to behold.
Level of decadence
When the transformation started, it was glaring to people, especially people who knew the level of decadence. Even Chief Olusegun Obasanjo attested to this when he came here two years ago to deliver our convocation speech. He said: “Bartho Bartho, I hope what you are doing in infrastructure, you are doing the same in scholarships and not just infrastructure”
Professor Okolo disclosed that the N1.3b post-graduate school building construction money was generated from the post-graduate school. He added that “the UNN property in Lagos which was bought for N480m when we assumed office is to fetch the school N2 billion every year. The value of the property as at today is about N800 million.” Interestingly, he noted that the money was generated from the post-graduate school.
He said, “There are 19 hostels on the campus. If you came five years ago or you had a child here years ago, you would have wept for this university.
“We executed these projects from our internally-generated revenue and money generated from our friends when we told them to come and help.” Before we came on board, four years after student graduations, students were still coming to look for their results. Can you imagine it? Now, we run three semester system.
At the end of every semester, all students results must be ready. If lecturers do not get students results ready three weeks after examinations, I will seize their salary. That is why for the past four semesters, all their results are ready. Nobody can force me to do what some of them are doing.” (VANGUARD)