On Tuesday, February, 22nd, 2021, the vibrant Delta State House of Assembly unanimously passed the three (3) executive bills presented to it, by the executive arm of the Delta State Government, to convert a college of education, a polytechnic and a campus of Delta State University, Abraka, to full-fledged universities. Lawpàdí defines a bill as a draft of a proposed law that is presented before the legislature for deliberation and discussion. A bill presented by the executive arm of government is known as an executive bill. The executive arm of Delta State Government presented three bills for upgrading of three existing state-owned institutions to universities as follows: College of Education, Agbor to University of Education Agbor, Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro to University of Science and Technology Ozoro and Delta State University Abraka’s campus at Anwai, Asaba to University of Science and Agriculture, Asaba.
Before presenting these three bills to the Delta State House of Assembly, the executive arm under the methodical leadership of Governor Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, had painstakingly and diligently worked on the most reasonable ways of addressing the tertiary education challenges facing Delta State and it’s people. This is the responsibility of a responsive executive arm of government, which is to present a set of proposals to the legislative arm of government for legislative scrutiny and possible passage. Curiously, many people did not notice that the bills, which needed to be subjected to legislature appraisal, that all the names paraded for the three proposed universities had virtually the same nomenclature as the existing state University, Delta State University, Abraka. Each of the three names started with “Delta State University….” There is just no way that four (4) state universities would have had the same nomenclature. The proposed names were simply given and presented to the legislators for them to make their own inputs as representatives of the people in their various constituencies. The proposed names were given based on the recognition that the other arms of government would have to contribute to the discourse, based essentially on the limits of comparative advantage which each situation commanded. If the executive arm had all the privileges and authority to convert these existing institutions to universities, without the input of other arms of government, it would have simply announced their conversion, and gone ahead to implement the programmes. However, government stands on a tripod of executive arm, legislative arm and judiciary and each arm plays its significant part in ensuring that the people’s needs, desires, expectations and security are met, peacefully. In the specific case of College of Education, Agbor being proposed for upgrading to Delta State University of Education, Agbor, the different arms of government have been playing their parts according to the constitution of Nigeria. Upon delivery of the bill to the House of Assembly, Ika Nation virtually went up in flames, as people canvassed various inflammatory and incendiary opinions on the “real” purpose for proposing it as a university of education.
In responding to the vitriolic comments on social media, in gatherings in the market places etc, a meeting was convened in Agbor-Obi on 1st February, 2021 to enable the Legislator representing Ika South State constituency and other stakeholders to brainstorm and inform on their perspectives on this process. Funnily those “Stakeholders” who were so venomous in their condemnation of the process were absent from the meeting. That platform was created to enable constituents make informed contributions that would shape the final outcome of the upgrading exercise. It was also an opportunity for the Legislator to gather opinions on how our people wanted the process to progress, going forward. Those persons who vilified the enablers of this upgrading exercise are now being praised for “forcing” government to reverse its “negative” plan to undo our community. Those people who responsibly and intelligently articulated their reservations about the proposed upgrading to a university of education, deserve to be commended, not the rabble-rousers, who leaped before looking.
Now, that the bills have been passed by the Delta State House of Assembly, after thoroughly and diligently scrutinizing the bills, including the contributions of their constituents and made modifications where necessary, it has taken the process to the next stage where the Governor of the state will sign the bills into law. Once the bills are accented to by the Governor, they become laws of Delta State so that in the event that legal issues arise, the Delta State Judiciary, the third arm of Delta State Government can play its role, by interpreting the laws establishing these three universities. By extension, my understanding is that the laws establishing College of Education, Agbor and Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro, will become obsolete, while the Anwai, Asaba Campus of Delta State University, Abraka, will cease to exist in law. I believe that the judiciary is in place to give appropriate interpretation of these laws, as it pertains to its function as the third arm of government.
The establishment of the three full fledged universities from these existing state institutions is evidence of political sagacity and unassailable innovative management capacity of the present government ably led by Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa, in the face of overwhelming economic and Covid-19 challenges buffeting Delta State, Nigeria and the world. Today we face the future with hope and collective courage, knowing that as a state, we have a centre of academic excellence at Delta State University, Abraka and that soon, we shall have University of Delta, Agbor, Delta State University of Science and Technology, Ozoro, and Dennis Osadebe University, Asaba as centres for teaching, research and community service in our dear state, The Big Heart in which the Finger of God continues to direct all our undertakings.
WRITTEN BY Emmanuel U. Tibi; PhD.