He has transformed education sector in the State. Hon. Gideon Onwe, Special Adviser to Ebonyi State Governor on Student Affairs in an inter
- He has transformed education sector in the State.
Hon. Gideon Onwe, Special Adviser to Ebonyi State Governor on Student Affairs in an interview with The Starnews, he shed light on what his office has been able to achieve in Education under Engr. David Umahi’s administration.
Can we meet you sir?
I am from Ntezi, Ishielu Local Government. In 2015, his Excellency the governor of Ebonyi state, Engr. David Umahi appointed me as special adviser on inter party. I occupied that office till 2017 when we had a cabinet reshuffle that brought me into this office as the special adviser to the governor on students affairs.
What is your Academics background?
By the grace o God, I have B.sc in industrial chemistry and I’m concluding my M.sc in industrial chemistry. I’m done with my course work by God’s grace and very soon I will round up.
What is your job role as the Special adviser to the Governor on Students Affair?
As SA to the governor on students’ affair, I’m in charge of students’ welfare.
My job is to ensure that the students of the state are carried along in the scheme of the government and also ensure that the government come up with policy that will ameliorate on the suffering of the students. When this office has not been created, it is a very difficult thing for the students to come to the governor to lay a complaint. It is very difficult for someone who doesn’t have a relationship with someone in government to come to the government house to look for any kind of support, but because an office has been created for the students, it makes it easier for them, they now have an office where they can channel their complaints either in writing or coming to the office in person. The office is really built for the students and to ensure that the government assist them to ameliorate on their suffering and proving those things that will make the environment of learning very conducive for them.
During one of my tour through the higher institution, I came back and I told the governor about the issue of school fees reduction and his Excellency looked into it and made some reductions in Ebonyi State University school fees. Recently, I received a complaint, since Ebonyi State University (EBSU) is not at a particular place, the campuses are spread though, they are building the permanent site. Now, they have four campuses: Ishieke campus, Presco Campus, Cas Campus, and the Permanent Site and most of them that do educational courses like chemistry education at Ishieke campus will have to come to Presco Campus for practical because that is where the laboratory is situated, it’s a difficult thing considering the background of most the students.
When I brought that matter before the Excellency, he bought buses which were delivered to them and this is really helping our students. They fuel the vehicle, it has specified time that it picks the students from one campus and drop them in the other campus. Some of the students that are making use of these buses already know the location and the time the bus will be there so as to meet up.
These are some of the student welfare this office has been able to meet. I’m the person taking all these reports and bringing all these things before the governor. I go around, to visit the students and discover what they are passing through, I channel it to the governor and I must commend him because he tackles whatever complaints that is placed before him.
Is there any scholarship scheme available to the students of Ebonyi state, outside the state and outside the country?
We have overseas students, I don’t think that there is any country of the world that Ebonyi students are not there either pursuing their Masters, First Degree or PhD courtesy of the Ebonyi state governor. Millions of naira has been sent to them and more are being saved to intervene when the need arises. And they are there on the expense of the Ebonyi state government. I don’t think there is any other scholarship beyond that.
So people are there on scholarship, but presently, Ebonyi state government is seriously pressed, because of the number of people that are there overseas, they wants to see how those they are there can conclude their programmes before any other set can go. You can’t have much people there and still be recruiting new ones. Eventually you may be weighed down in such a way that you cannot continue with the good job that you started.
So what we are doing at this point is making sure that the people that are still there for PhD, Masters and all the others graduate and come back, then we can send more people.
Are there students in other Universities enjoying the State scholarship?
Ebonyi state students are scattered all over the nation. I don’t think that there is any university in the country where we don’t have our students, and when you see our students, you see difference. We are known for hard work, they are very hardworking people anywhere in the world. The best graduating student from engineering last year from University of Uyo is from this state and the government sponsored him abroad to continue his studies, likewise our governor is doing here.
Ebonyi state government has a way of appreciating people who has been able to do something outstanding in their various fields. Either academics or in wherever they find themselves. Our governor is known for appreciating people especially when you do something outstanding. Our students that are spread out there in other universities are not left out, we have associations that bind them. So at all times we are on a network where we talk, where we meet, and then find out how to help ourselves and what people are passing through at every point in time. It has been wonderful; it has been made possible because of the assistance that Ebonyi state government is giving us. In Ebonyi state, we have really done well, because in the time past, people think that we are academically backwards and because of that, we are where we are. But today, we are among the best, because in the law school last year, an Ebonyian was the best in the entire law school. In the medical school, we will be making marks, Ebonyi state under the watch of his Excellency, has really achieved another level of life in all spheres of life.
Academically, we are on the map as far as this country Nigeria is concerned. As I speak to you now, Ebonyi debaters are representing this country; they are representing Nigeria in Germany. In debate, an Ebonyian is representing this country and so many other areas that Ebonyians are representing Nigeria.
Looking at what is happening in Ebonyi state government from our monthly federal allocation, ordinarily nobody can believe that the governor can do what he was able to do so far. Other governors sometimes will be accusing him that he is overstretching them because he is making every other person to believe that there is a lot of money. But these things are not done by money, they are done by believing. The governor will tell you come up with a project, just lay your hands on it and pray, believe in it and you will see the thing working.
What are the measures that the present administration is taking to ensure better education for the indigenes?
Between now and September of this year, there is a policy that all the campuses will close down because they are providing apartments for all the faculties at the permanent site, so that the entire university will be in one complex. When you go there and see the level of work going on, you will be impressed. I have visited so many other federal universities and state universities and I think it is only in Ebonyi state that something like that is happening.
The Governor said whatever you want to do, make sure you give the best, anything that is worth doing at all is worth doing well. That is his ideology about life. Academics in the state has gone beyond what it used to be. I am limiting it to academics because it is actually my area, but I do know a lot is happening in Ebonyi State University. We have not had it this way before and there are so many other measures in place to strengthen academics in the state.
You cannot talk about better environment for education without talking of infrastructures. Even when you talk about accreditation; the NUC, the body that is saddled with the responsibility of accrediting universities, they look at all these things. Look at the quality of the lecturers; look at the people, and the number of professors. I believe in Ebonyi state we are one of the universities that has the highest number of professors. You can find out by yourselves. When you look at what the Commissioner of Education is doing for secondary and primary schools, you will discover that the man has done very well because once it is 8 o’clock, you can’t see students roaming about the street again. We have been able to strengthen things. Look at the GTC that was almost a forgotten place, it’s a beautiful boarding school. Chief Engr. David Nweze Umahi has done well in education and all the sectors.
Ebonyi state is said to be backward educationally, is it true?
Before now, Ebonyi state is said to be backward academically, but today Ebonyi state is among the top ranking states, now doing well academically because when you talk about the number of professors that are indigenous professors, I think we are among the state that has the highest number of professors. Find out from all the universities, even the University of Ibadan, University of Nigeria Nsukka, University of Lagos.
So when you talk about academics, we are no longer backwards because I tell you that we have over 500 Post Graduate students abroad scattered in all the western countries. Before now we knew we were academically backwards, but we don’t want to continue to be there, so we have been able to exonerate ourselves and we are no longer at that level.
Today, we are academically advantaged and we are no longer backwards. Nobody can say that again, in Open University, we have a lot of people studying there, in fact we have Doctors, PhD holders everywhere.
What has been done to ensure that the students vote in 2019 election exercise?
Yes, in Ebonyi state government, and in my department, we discovered that before now, the student don’t really take voting as something that they need to participate in. They see themselves as students, they don’t want to get involved. We have been able to let them know that if they say what is happening in the state or country is good or not good, then they have powers to change it and the only power they have is their PVC. Presently, over 5000 students of this state from all the tertiary institution are all eligibly registered voters.
We have taken time to talk to them and also to INEC and INEC deployed a machine to the institution. The students have gone in mass to register to get PVC, this is to tell you how serious the students have taken it and they told us they are doing it basically to show the Excellency how well he has done, so they have to reciprocate, the student are fully prepared.
We have divine mandate in Ebonyi state which is called divine mandate foundation and that is the platform which the governor became the governor, that’s his campaign organisation. The students on their own have been able to form divine mandate student campaign organisation that will work hand in hand with main foundation, they are very formidable and that’s is to show the readiness of the students in 2019 election.
Is there anyone that candidate that can contest against him?
No, anyone that is coming to campaign against the governor, what will he show them that is new, is it the roads, the buildings, is it the transformation of Ebonyi state? the uncommon transformation which we experienced within a short space of time, is it accommodation of the young people in his government because with what the governor is doing in the state, it shows the young men that once you are capable, nothing can stop you from declaring interest, because we can’t keep having a minster of the second republic in our world today. Things are changing and everything is computerised. I like what Babangida said, he said if people will take to his advice, he is advising that all these politicians who are old should be moved out. You see what our governor is doing, he is able to do so much because he is a youth, the energy is there, you can’t say you are delivering democracy dividends to the people when you can’t even raise your hand or barely move, let alone walk in the street. Our governor is seen everyday on the street inspecting one project or the other and that is why you see the projects moving. All the contractors know that governor comes to inspect their work every evening, every morning. That fear is already there, they work even in the night because he may decide to go there in the night to know what is happening there. Someone who is already old, waiting for the day he will go and meet the Lord can’t do that. Governance is synonymous with age, being active; meeting up with the things people are looking for, so people should not out rightly write off age. It is high time we know that a young man should be given a chance and our governor has been able to achieve all these because he is a young man.
Is there any empowerment program available to the students?
Another name for his Excellency, Engr. David Nweze Umahi is an empowerment master, because when we talk about empowerment, there has not been any state that has been able to empower its subjects like the governor of Ebonyi state. First of all, we talk about widow empowerment, over 5000 widows has been empowered, over 500 widows are under the payroll of Ebonyi state government, 10,000 youths have been empowered with 250,000 each, the beneficiaries are doing something great with that 250,000. Then, over 5000 youths were given tricycle that worth 1.3 Million Naira. The keke were all assembled here, 5000 of them. If you go around you will see those keke with Engr. Dave Umahi Empowerment and these are the ones you can see in town, the Keke NAPEP went round all the 171 wards in the state and every ward has over 20 keke, the governor has embarked on a project called “one community 10 million naira”, each communities in Ebonyi state have been given ten million naira to go into whatever project they want to embark on, apart from the state government projects.
By Aanuoluwapo Akindoyin, Augustine Onwuzuruike and Onyinyechi Usulor