By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
It takes no time at all for Fake News and Hate Speech to go viral across the whole wide world. The nameless and faceless voice trended all over the social media accusing Prof. Ernest Chukwusoro Igwe, Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, and the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Charles Esimone, of “undertaking the life-threatening suicide mission of transferring the 400-level students to the thick forest of Ifite-Ogwari for Fulani herdsmen to kidnap.”
The voice is purportedly that of a 400-Level female student of the Faculty of Agriculture.
Incidentally, towards the end of her “broadcast”, she mixes up the names of “Prof Igwe as the Vice-Chancellor and Prof Esimone as the Dean.” This may point to the fact that the voice may not belong to a student of the university after all.
In his defence, Prof Igwe has stated that “the wicked, name-calling and malicious insults are based on a dish of lies with the singular purpose of disrupting and distracting the Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, Prof. Ernest Igwe, and the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Charles Esimone from our singular goal of ensuring that the Faculty is positioned to be among the best Faculty of Agriculture in Africa.”
According to the resourceful professor, “I had thought of ignoring and avoiding this faceless, cowardly and retrogressive-minded name-caller, who is most likely fronting for some staff or some professional students (jobber) or themselves, but I did otherwise due to numerous calls I receive every hour from within and outside Nigeria, and friends and well-wishers requesting me to set the records straight for posterity.”
Prof Igwe informs that “the stakeholders on the relocation to Ifite-Ogwari were the University Management, Senate and Governing Council, Ifite-Ogwari community, Faculty of Agriculture lecturers, students of the Faculty, University security and safety, etc.”
He does not mince words when he states: “All the stakeholders were fully aware and approvals and supports of each group obtained for the relocation of the Faculty.”
He reveals that several trips to Ifite-Ogwari were undertaken by stakeholders including the students, and no objections to the trips were raised.
In his words, “to ease the problem of accommodation, the university sought and obtained over eighty rooms with water carriage toilets where students were to reside free-of-charge for one year. Additional 122 rooms at the Emengini Estate originally meant for the Orient Petroleum Estate were obtained free-of-charge for the students at Umueje. Provisions were made for adequate transportation of students within Ifite-Ogwari with the provision of additional three vehicles by the Vice-Chancellor.”
He stresses that the issue of Ifite-Ogwari being a den of the Fulani herdsmen is a dish of falsehood, stating: “Just three weeks ago, an illustrious son from a neighbouring town in Enugu State told me he had requested from Ifite-Ogwari people to teach his town their strategy that scares Fulani herdsmen from entering Ifite-Ogwari.”
He adds: “Additionally, because of the proposed arrival of students to Ifite-Ogwari, the Hon. Speaker, Anambra State has made a personal donation of two Sienna buses for Police patrols. The students are also part of the proposed Octagonal security apparatus arrangement for the university. Though security is not for public discussion, several visits were taken where our security experts did express their happiness with the security architecture.”
For him, “a place housing the Orient petroleum, the biggest rice mill and irrigation facility in South Eastern Nigeria as well as one of largest agricultural produce markets in Anambra State being regarded as a forest is not only insulting and mischievous but also shows a mark of irresponsibility.”
He undertakes a historical revelation to situate the matter thus: “I am Prof Ernest Igwe, the fifth Dean of Faculty of Agriculture. Other Deans of the faculty were in chronological order Prof P. C. Nnabude (1st), Prof E. L. C. Nnabuife (2nd), Prof L. A. Nwuba (3rd) and Prof C. U. Onugu (4th). Establishment of Faculty of Agriculture was conceived by the Prof. Ilochi Okafor administration, who secured the land in Ifite-Ogwari in 2007. Prof. Boniface Egboka established (gave birth) to FAG in a temporary location in Awka in 2010 while Prof. Joseph Ahaneku (2014 – 2019) crawled with little or no interest despite the huge resources during his regime. Prof. Charles Esimone (2019 to present) accelerated the development of FAG at the rate of a supersonic jet-speed, notwithstanding the bankrupt or conspicuous absence of resources he inherited.”
“Convinced that the 119.2 hectares of land at Ifite-Ogwari will obviously not be sufficient for her robust plan for Agriculture as approved by the VC,” Prof Igwe says, “the Faculty of Agriculture with the approval of VC secured 200 hectares of land at Umueje, the next town to Ifite-Ogwari.”
It is noteworthy that the Faculty of Agriculture has been in a temporary location in Awka campus since its establishment in 2010 with virtually no physical development.
According to Prof Igwe, “the Faculty of Agriculture through the university managed to secure interim accreditation from National University Commission in 2017. The faculty was due for another round of accreditation exercise in 2019, otherwise our students will be denied graduation. Determined to ensure that we obtain full accreditation since second interim accreditation is a failure, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Charles Esimone applied for and succeeded in obtaining a postponement to enable the faculty do all within her capability to develop the Ifite-Ogwari Annex to an enviable standard worthy of full accreditation and to be one of the best Faculty of Agriculture in Africa.”
“To achieve this feat,” Prof Igwe continues, “it is important to state few of the milestone actions, despite obvious no-fund availability carried out by the supersonic jet-speed Vice Chancellor, Prof Charles Esimone that included: Provision of funds for soil mapping and fertility tests to determine proper use of section of the 119.2 hectares of land at Ifite-Ogwari; Release of funds for the – Perimeter fencing of 119.2 hectares of land with palm seedlings; Establishment of two hectares of palm seedlings and four hectares of banana and plantain plantations and two hectares of guava plantation for the faculty; Repair of two dilapidated tractors; Release of N4.4m to Department of Animal Science and Technology for her farm activities; Release of N2.79m to Department of Forestry Management and Wildlife Resources for her farm activities; Release of about N2.6m to Department of Crop Science and Horticulture for her farm activities; Approval but not yet released of N6.9m to Department of Fishery and Aquaculture for integrated farms and procurement of modern Hatchery; Award of a thirty-five million naira contract for the supply of reagents and equipment for the establishment of a FAG central laboratory; Demarcation of the offices for admin and staff offices as well as laboratories, studio and classrooms; Purchase of three brand new Innoson vehicles (Hilux, Sienna equivalent and 55-Seater Luxurious bus while the old ones are being refurbished.”
The irrepressible Prof Igwe gives further highlights: “Constrained by funds, the Faculty of Agriculture with the blessing of the VC went for off-shore sourcing of funds. The good news was the attraction of the following: Donation of a four-wheel-drive Massey-Fergusson Tractor from Governor Willie Obiano through the State Ministry of Agriculture; Construction of JEZCO Food Technology Institute estimated at One hundred and twenty million Naira (N120m); Donation of Grass-Cutter House for eight families of one male and four female per family from Mr. Chinedu Ubaezuonu of Adazi-Ani to the Faculty of Agriculture; Donation of one million Naira (N1m) from the Ifite-Ogwari community; Donation of a rice thresher to the Faculty of Agriculture cooperative society from Governor Willie Obiano through the State Ministry of Agriculture etc.”
In conclusion, Prof Igwe goes philosophical: “Suppressing the truth is like preventing boiling water from bubbling or using your hand to cover the moon or advanced protruding pregnancy. It is only matter of time, the truth will surely be revealed. As I SHAKE the test-tube, I am SEARCHING for the TRUTH and NOTHING but the Truth.”
The final words of Prof Igwe are quite remarkable: “It is a matter of time; the collaborators behind the noise-makers will be unmasked.”