The body of former VeePee, Alex Ekwueme, arriving at Okpara Square, Enugu, on its final journey home
On February 2, the remains of Second Republic Vice President, Alex Ekwueme, were laid to rest in his country home in Oko, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. It was an event that drew the crème-de-la-crème of Nigerian society, with the Federal Government, led by the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, heavily represented. The two leading political parties in the country, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the People's Democratic Party, PDP, were equally there. The event of that Friday was a culmination of similar ones in Abuja and Enugu, much earlier. At the end of the day, not a few Nigerians affirmed that Ekwueme had been given a rousing burial, both at national and state levels, by the country he served.
But by far what took up the national discourse on the day of the burial, and after, was the issue of immortalizing Ekwueme by the federal government by not just renaming the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, after him (he founded the institution), but proclaiming the institution a University of Technology. At the end of the day, Ebonyi State claimed part of the honour by having one of its institutions named after Ekwueme.
This development understandably became a major topic for discussion, with some people feeling that the federal government got it wrong. Others felt that the federal government was in order as Ekwueme, being a national figure, should not be localised by having an institution named after him in his home state. They cite the case of the late political sage, Nnamdi Azikiwe, who, though from Anambra State, built a university in Nsukka, and who had many roads named after him in many states of the federation.
While we understand the viewpoints of all the contending parties on the Ekwueme/Oko Polytechnic saga, we wish to note that it is no use blaming the federal government on the action it took of not upgrading the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, to a University of Technology.
Our stand is predicated on the fact that already, the polytechnic in question is a federal institution after it started as College of Arts and Science and later as Anambra State Polytechnic, before it was upgraded to a federal polytechnic; all this in one institution. Besides that, Anambra already has two federal institutions in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, and the Federal Polytechnic, Oko. While not reading the lips of the federal government, it must have observed that Anambra already had a federal university, while some states were yet to have any. Thus, it must have reasoned that it was only fair to give others the privilege.
Besides, immortalizing Ekwueme must not be in his home state. Like the statesman he was, it is better he be immortalized in other places. The Anambra State Government can name other public institutions after him, while the federal government can name the Federal Polytechnic, Oko after Ekwueme without upgrading it to a university.
Above all, we must make it clear that polytechnics serve a particular function. They offer middle level technical manpower which is fast disappearing in the country. Nigeria needs such technical background and the Federal Polytechnic, Oko remains an elite technical institution in these parts. We should not kill that on the altar of having it answer some fancy name.
Having noted these points, we however urge the federal government to rename the institution after Ekwueme, while retaining its polytechnic status, even as we commend the FG and the Anambra State Government on their efforts in giving Ekwueme a befitting burial.