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Friday, December 8, 2023

President Jonathan’s Imo House Shaken By Iwuanyanwu’s Oru-Owerre Politics



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Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Owner of Champion Newspaper
Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Owner of Champion Newspaper


February 22, 2014, President Jonathan visited Imo state to receive politicians from the state who were declaring allegiance to the ruling party, the PDP. Owerri-born PDP chieftain, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, used the occasion to do what he knew how to do best: his trade mark Oru-Owerre dance steps – a clannish political dance done with scorn and indifference to the tastes of other stake holders in the state.

Iwuanyanwu asked visiting President Jonathan to convert the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Owerri to a Federal University Teaching Hospital.

He also asked the president to pronounce the Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri – which has since been teaching university degree courses – a full university.

To garnish his demands, Iwuanyanwu further told Jonathan that the FMC and Alvan Federal College of Education have the land mass, structures and all the facilities in Owerri to enable them be converted to a Federal Teaching Hospital and a Federal University respectively. He also informed the president that it will not cost the federal government anything to make the conversion.

Vintage Iwuanyanwu – he gave a veiled condition to Jonathan: those demands need to be met so that the people of Imo will listen to their political leaders and vote for Jonathan come 2015.

He further stressed that Imo people are very intelligent people who cannot be swayed cheaply to vote for anybody without a tactful conviction.

There are moral issues that batter Iwuanyanwu’s recent requests to President Jonathan.

Without prior agreement by true stake holders in Imo state on Iwuanyanwu’s demands, there were demurring whispers as he read them with a riot act demeanour. It is note-worthy that between 2007 to 2011, Iwuanyanwu’s overbearing influence on then Imo state governor, Ikedi Ohakim, helped to further divide the PDP House in the state.

And lest we forget, during the governorship tenure of Ikedi Ohakim, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu wanted a public amusement beach created on the banks of Nworie stream which cuts across the city of Owerri. He variously and vigorously defended Ikedi Ohakim over allegations that a whooping 8billion Naira was being poured into dredging the shallow Nworie stream. Eight billion Naira was gulped, but there is no amusement beach on the banks of Nworie stream in Owerri; dredging of the stream hardly took place.

However, as 8billion was being gulped, flood water erosions were carrying away humans and multi-storey buildings in other smaller towns in Imo state; the state government did not provide simple urban drainage facilities in those towns.

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(1) All the three state and federal universities in Imo state are in Owerri. The two federal and state Polytechnics in Imo state are also in or nearest Owerri.

Thus with students and staff population in Owerri nearing 130,000, the malaises of congestion, refuse-disposal and other anti-social problems in the city have posed very big challenges to every state government. Above all, people in the other two senatorial districts of the state have since been yearning for moving the state university outside Owerri district, at least, to enable them also benefit from the advantages of closeness to a tertiary institution.

So what sense for cohesion among the people of Imo statedid Iwuanyanwu make when he continued to call for location of more universities only in Owerri, more so, when he knows of the knotty issues between Owerri and other areas outside it, regarding the location of all the three universities in Imo state in the state capital alone – knotty issues that are yet to be untied?

If Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu had merely asked Jonathan for another federal university for Imo state, in the manner the incumbent state governor, other friends and political leaders of the state have been asking, that would be it.

(2) How could Iwuanyanwu call for conversion of FMC, in Owerri to another University Teaching Hospital, whereas the state’s University Teaching Hospital started about ten years ago remains uncompleted, under funded, and with lots of ultra-modern hospital equipments in it still remaining under-utilized, because appropriate housing are yet to be fully made ready for them?

Imo State University Teaching Hospital with approximate student population of 300 is located in Orlu, about 20 minutes drive from Owerri. The hospital suffered severe set back under the administration of Ikedi Ohakim – an administration that was generally seen to be under the jackboots of Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu while it lasted.

Many of Nigeria’s stake holders in health care delivery have increasingly called on the federal government to take over the running of state university teaching hospitals for uniformity sake in the health delivery sector. A federal take over of Imo state’s University teaching hospital would enable the state also have a FMC, and with more economic advantages, than a conversion of FMC Owerri to a University Teaching hospital an exercise that must surely marginalize the state’s teaching hospital. Had Iwuanyanwu called on the federal government to aid, or even take over the running of the state’s University Teaching Hospital.

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(3) As the number of qualified university applicants from Imo state without university places continued to outnumber the ones admitted, people from Orlu district requested the incumbent state government to establish a university in the district. Against Owerri district’s 9 Local government areas, Orlu district with 12 of the 27 Local government areas and with the highest population density in Imo state – outside the state capital – houses nearly half the population of Imo state.

By early 2012, information came that Imo state government was preparing to transfer Imo state University temporarily located in the heart of Owerri city to Ogboko, in Ideato south Lga in Orlu district.

Protests by Oru-Owerri dancers erupted against the state government’s intention. But shortly after the protests waned, information filtered in that the state government had rescinded its earlier decision to relocate the state university. The university still remains in Owerri.

In the recent past, the incumbent state governor appealed to the federal government to provide Imo state with another university. It is assumed that if ever granted, such institution may not be located in Owerri district. To pre-empt that, Iwuanyanwu doubled-crossed the state government, as well as his other colleagues, with his recent parochial request for mere pronouncement of Alvan federal college of education Owerri a university.

Since return to democracy in 1999, the disquiet in many quarters over having all the five tertiary institutions in Imo state located only in the area of the state capital had made every governor to attempt to permanently relocate the state university outside Owerri. But Oru-Owerre dancers mostly led by Iwuanyanwu would raise dust at every move. Their reasons included this put down by another Oru-Owerre dancer, Comfort Obi, in her Source Magazine: “By relocating the university {IMSU} to his village, he {the state governor} has denied Owerri the development and financial boom that come with a university.”


Chigozie Uzukwu.



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