The recently approved Federal University of Technology (FUT) in Akwa Ibom is answer to long-desired yearnings for a vehicle to drive the technological growth and scientific needs of the state.
It is commendable that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved N4 billion take-off grant for the institution. This shows strong resolve and unwavering commitment by the Federal Government to implement the project.
Apart from the new institution providing gainful employment opportunities, elevating the economic value of the host community, and boosting researches, the institution will significantly assist in offering more admissions to the teeming but qualified Akwa Ibom students who are unable to secure admissions in other institutions based on geographical spread.
Over the years, Akwa Ibom government had planned for the establishment of Akwa Ibom University of Technology. Though this was not actualised, the establishment of Akwa Ibom State University, with a conventional status was not misplaced but was envisioned to lay a solid foundation for a more self-reliant and technologically driven one to fill the yawning gap needed to launch the state into digital market.
Undoubtedly, the state has been known to be craving for technological hub hence the establishment of polytechnic and technical colleges. For example, Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, Ikot Osorua in Ikot Ekpene as well as technical colleges in Ikot Ada Idem in Ibiono Ibom; Oku Abak in Abak, Ikot Akata in Mkpat Enin, Etok Uruk Eshiet in Etim Ekpo and Ewet in Uyo.
These schools have added value to our technological growth, and have helped greatly in supplying middle level manpower to ExxonMobil and other blue-chirp companies. This is the reason the present administration must, of necessity, provide adequate funds, enough infrastructural facilities, and trained manpower to encourage and sustain some of the ‘dying’ technologically-inclined schools.
It may even be necessary to explore opportunities for ‘twinning’ the institutions with similar level schools in other countries with a view to benefiting from their phased out but functionally useful equipment, laboratories and books. The British Council and Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK should be willing to assist to midwife the process, if transparency is applied. This is because of the power voltage similarities with Nigeria. The USAID may also help in cases of equipment with dual voltage standards (110 V-240V).
In addition, there are many privately owned polytechnics that will help to drive the engine of the envisaged Federal University of Technology. Apart, there are some privately secondary schools that are engineering the pivotal role of grooming future engineers and scientists in different sectors of the economy to complement the gallant effort of the tertiary institution.
Luckily, Akwa Ibom son solved a 50-year-old Mathematical riddle in Japan. Some Akwa Ibom children have been excelling at national science competitions and winning first and second positions at various Science and Teachers of Association of Nigeria competitions. So, the foundation is not the problem, but the person to drive the technological growth is the issue.
However, we want to warn against unnecessary rumblings, lobbying and agitations on the siting of the institution. University of Uyo was supposed to be a Federal University of Technology, but some tribal bigots bungled the opportunity based on some fiendish factors. This time, such must be discountenanced by all. We must allow the institution to be sited where there are more proximal and other advantages instead of basing it on tribal and political considerations to avoid wrangling.
Much as Federal Character is upheld in the appointments of officers, the state as a host community must not be neglected but must be given a pride of place to avoid internal strife and other unhealthy competitions among the teaching and non-teaching employees between the junior and senior members of staff of the institution.
We hereby call on all hands to be on deck in an effort to reap bountiful harvests from the institution-FUT. The school authority must avoid dabbling into petty politics, but must keep to the sanctity and creed of a higher institution by churning out products that are sound in both character and in learning. So, shall the university like mustard seed grow into a big tree for many to reap its bountiful fruits.
Despite our political and dialectal differences, we must allow the Federal University of Technology – FUT- to birth in Akwa Ibom State for the sake of posterity.
First published by hard copy of Straightnews on July 12, 2012