By Alex Egbona
I have tried to resist the urge to react to the trending outright misinformation, half-truths and facts surrounding the establishment of the Federal Polytechnic, Ugep. More than twice, I have made moves to do a reaction. More than twice, I had to hold myself because I did not want to offend the sensibilities of those who started the writing spree.
But I am not able to hold myself again. The statements of untruth have been so widespread and I fear that if I do not put the facts straight, posterity would not forgive me.
This is the true story
It is no more news that I sponsored a bill for the establishment of a federal polytechnic for the Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency during my first term as a member representing the constituency in the House of Representatives. The bill had actually passed through a second reading and we were almost at the final stage of the legislative processes when the federal government of Muhammadu Buhari decided on its own, without the prompting of anybody from Abi or Yakurr, or anywhere else, to establish a federal polytechnic for Cross River State. As at the time of that contemplation, it was a project for Cross River.
When we heard of the development, all of us- the then governor, Prof Ben Ayade, the current minister of sports, Senator John Owan Enoh, the former senate leader, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, SAN, the then-senator representing the central senatorial district, Senator Sandy Onor, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, Pastor Usani Usani and I- all moved to attract the school to our respective areas.
For example, while Senator Ayade wanted it to be located in Obudu, Senator Owan Enoh, Senator Onor and Senator Ndoma Egba wanted it to be located in Ikom. Pastor Usani preferred Yakurr. Obla wanted it in Ugep. I wanted it in Abi, which was the location I suggested in my bill because Ugep already had a state-owned polytechnic which was initiated, built and completed by an Abi son, Senator Liyel Imoke.
I recall that at some point when the fight for the location became very fierce, even though in a clandestine manner by all the interested personalities, Obla called me one day to remind me that “my polytechnic” was about to be taken out of the Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency corridor.
As a sportsman that I am, I had to team up with my friends in the central zone to push for the polytechnic to be located in Ugep. I am aware that Obol Lopon Ugep had equally made some moves for the location of the school in his domain. The reason was understandable- there was a ready-made site in Ugep where the school could take off seamlessly.
So, it was easy to kowtow in the interest of our federal constituency.
It is therefore not correct to say that any of us from Cross River State ATTRACTED the polytechnic to Ugep directly. It was just the benevolence of the Buhari government. Nobody should therefore claim credit for this.
The first paragraph of the letter by Usani on December 17, 2020, to the then minister of education succinctly admitted my legislative contributions to the birth of the polytechnic, even though I have never tried to claim credit for it because it will not change the price of typing sheets in the school. But in that letter, Usani had thanked and congratulated the minister for “the decision to propose and receive legislative approval for the establishment of a polytechnic in Cross River State, among others. We are grateful for this gesture.”
Recall that it is not only Cross River that enjoyed the federal government’s benevolence. Other states did.
Having said this, I need to equally state that the choice of Ugep was actually made by the then minister of education because of Obla. The minister said so himself at that time. The minister and Obla were good friends. So, it is safe to say that the combined force between Obla, the Obol Lopon, Ugep and I helped in getting the school to be located in Ugep. Usani’s letter may have also played a role. But the fact that cannot be tainted is that Ugep was chosen as location because of the relationship between Obla and the then minister of education. The other truth is that all of us jointly made it happen, including our brothers from the old Ikom axis and that is why one of their sons is the pioneer rector of the school.
I just hope that this puts to rest the bickering over who attracted the federal polytechnic, Ugep. For the avoidance of doubts, let me restate that we all made it happen for the good of our people.
Now, beyond the fight for credit on the establishment of the school, I think what we should continue to do is to mount pressure on the federal government to make sure that all the needed facilities are in place to make the polytechnic a five-star institution of learning. And this is exactly what people like us are doing, using our privileged position in government.
So, let the claims and counterclaims stop.
Dr Alex Egbona,
Chairman, Committee on Specialty Healthcare,
Federal House of Representatives
November 28, 2023