ECHOES OF RECTOR MOGEKWU’S DEVELOPMENT STRIDES AT DELTA POLY OGWASHI-UKU

No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks- James Allen.

The above ancient quote credited to James Allen, a renowned British philosopher and pioneer of the self help movement, aptly etches the overriding need of celebrating excellence and appreciating goodwill wherever and whenever it comes across the ways of men.

Indubitably, the cloak of leadership- without prejudice to your beliefs- are worn on very few people whose consolidated actions are naturally programmed to trickle down the benevolence of such cloak to those at the lower spectrum of life pyramid. However, experience has shown that while most of such ‘lucky’ persons end up sauntering the part of greed and selfish aggrandizement, only an infinitesimal number of them dare place the interest of the masses at heart and accord it a due priority slant when making decisions and taking policy actions.

In the age long tradition of my people- the Africans that is-, it is usually very ordinary to express deep appreciation to those who explore the collective patrimony of all to the general good of the masses. The justification of this is not only premised on the fact that saying a ‘thank you’ goes beyond just good manners to denote good spirituality; it is, in fact, born from the wholesome truth (the only truth in this case) that every genuine effort at appreciating the good deeds of others turns out to be a potent magnet of such excellence to those who celebrate it.

In our quite primordial society where unjustifiable gender inequality and disproportion remains a subsistent monster in matters of leadership and control of public affairs, the women folk have evidently suffered much relegation to the background of handling petty positions. This is even more so as they have been erroneously believed to belong to the kitchen and, perhaps, the infamous ‘other rooms’. Nonetheless, time- the only honest and true revealer of all things- has been able to puncture wide holes into such bogus claims and deflated it from every side.

As an individual, I have been opportune to work in the education sector for a fairly long period. From the State Primary Education Board (SPEB) where I held sway in various positions to being a member of a tertiary institution’s board of governing council, I have keenly observed various school heads in terms of how they manage resources that were committed to them. In all of my intense observations, I have found exceptional qualities in the substantive Rector of Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku, Dr. (Mrs.) Mogekwu, whose other name is Edna Nneka.

Did you ask of the why and the reason? Of course you may wish to wonder and wander why Dr. (Mrs.) Mogekwu, an astute public administrator and seasoned academics par excellence, easily gained my attention and stood out from the litany of professionals that have held key positions in various institutions of higher learning in Delta State, the very finger of the holy creator. Well, the reason and the why of this conclusion- both of which are not farfetched- are calmly couched on the evident academic and infrastructural revolutions which swept through the Delta State Government owned polytechnic located at Ogwashi-Uku, a serene town in Aniocha South Local Government Area of the state.

In muse, Dr. Mogekwu obtained a plethora of academic qualifications from Nigeria and the United States of America from her cradle years to 2008 when she graciously bagged a doctorate degree from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka with specializations in management. Having reached the zenith of her academic pursuit through a process that is technically called human capital development, her lecturing services was meritoriously engaged by the Kaduna Polytechnic in the capacity of a Lecturer three. Since that day, precisely March 19, 1985, the expertise of Dr. Mogekwu has known no bound as she rose to the position of a Chief lecturer in 2000, about fifteen years after she was enlisted in what could simply be described as the bottom cadre of lecturing in the ancient polytechnic.

As it is said since aeons, a gold fish has no hiding place and a star will remain one no matter how darkness cast its shadows. So it was that in between that one and half decades, Dr. Mogekwu’s administrative dexterity ad proficiency was effectively explored by the Kaduna Polytechnic. She was appointed into various positions, including being the departmental examination officer (1986), head of department (1993-2000), Dean of college (1995-1997) and academic director of the most populous college in the Kaduna Polytechnic: all these were done strictly on merit grounds. As a thorough bred academic administrator, Dr. Mogekwu remained the substantive head of the College of Business and Management Studies (CBMS) after the College of Administrative and Business Studies (CABS) was split into two due to its size.

Although the multiplicity of positions she simultaneously occupied is astonishing, it is even more breadth taking to know that in her administrative career, there has never been any time in which her administrative and leadership prowess gave room for reservations and qualms in the minds of her colleagues and students. With the blue blood flowing in her veins (since she is of the Ogwashi-Uku royal lineage), the rare gem succeeded at upturning what was easily painted as the gloomy academic stand of the Kaduna polytechnic and carved out for it a unique niche that got and is still getting accolades from all sectors of the institution and beyond.

As a then head of department, experienced Dr. Mogekwu led her department to develop the twin curricula of Human Resource Management and Productions Operations Management in the Higher National Diploma programme of the institution. This singular feat catapulted the Kaduna Polytechnic to the lone world of institutions that have successfully introduced and run such programmes with the full consent of the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE). Till date and, certainly, for a period longer than now, it remains on the clean records of history that many polytechnics are grappling with the herculean task of adopting those programmes from the National Diploma Syllabus. Yet, Dr. Mogekwu successfully achieved all these despite holding vital appointment positions in the Governing Councils of some Federal and State institutions of higher learning. Please tell me my dear reader, isn’t that awesome?

In the face of these bubbling achievements, Dr. Mogekwu won’t relent. Hence, with the swirling fangs of development still propelling her to contribute her quota to the wholesome development of her state of origin, the Kpakpando (shining star) of Ogwashi-Uku kingdom (a title she earned in appreciation of her developmental strides) indicated her interest to run the affairs of the Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku (DSPG as it is informally called). She put in her credentials and participated in the conventional razzmatazz and intricacies that build up to attaining the noble feat of a polytechnic’s Rector. While she was religiously doing that she neither perceived that benevolence was, yet again, knocking on her doors nor suspect that fortune was set to ease off on her hard work for yet another time. Unknown to Dr. Mogekwu who had just commenced a five year leave of absence, she had set out on a date with history.

Well, so it happened that after the rigorous tests and screenings, the state government graciously announced Dr. (Mrs.) Edna Nneka Mogekwu as the new Rector of its polytechnic at Ogwashi-Uku. She was appointed alongside two others, Dr. Jacobs Snapps Oboreh and Dr. (Mrs.) Evborovbo Clara Sogbaike who were to head the affairs of the polytechnic at Ozoro and Otefe-Oghara respectively. One thing that was very unique to the 2012 appointment was that the state government, headed by Dr. Emmanuel Ewetan Uduaghan, specifically ensured that each of these Rectors were indigenes of the towns in which the institutions are domiciled. Deductively, the state government slated a challenge for each of them and placed them on the wavy ladder of litmus test to see what they can do for their respective area.

And so did the five years journey of Dr. (Mrs.) Mogekwu, the first female Rector of Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku began!

Like the eagle well primed, Dr. Mogekwu took stock of all resources on ground. Quite unfortunately for her, from the handful physical infrastructures to the lean financial resources she inherited, there was practically nothing substantial to write home about. The polytechnic which had paltry 75 students as at 2003 when it kicked off, could not boast of much meaningful development. To put it mildly, the school was practically empty and a holistic paradigm of glorified institutions for basic education. Such and such was the pathetic story of DSPG.

Yet, all eyes were open, all tongues were lashing and all ears were religiously placed on the ground in expectation of what a ‘woman’ Rector could do on the same terrain where her male counterparts left much to be desired. Yes, two other Rectors- male by gender- had occupied that position and, although they put in their best, not a few things were missing out in the polytechnic which was designed to be a model and centre of excellence in academics, arts and culture.

With the special but onerous task of redirecting the literal ship of the institution and steering its course towards desirable ends, the Rector accepted the truth that a tiger does not verbally proclaim its tigritude, but pounces on its prey. She only promised to leave a legacy of development in the school; and that was the bulk of her verbal speech. But she sprang into action and, about four years and some months down the line, the Delta State Government and, indeed, all men and women of goodwill can now confidently look back, beat their chests and lay claim to a befitting polytechnic at the Ogwashi-Uku town.

Did you, again, ask what she did? Well, she focused on her primary target of repositioning DSPG as a centre of excellence in academics, arts and culture. Specifically on the academic slant, Dr. Mogekwu added a school and twelve departments to the ones that were on ground at the point of assuming office. Flowing from her never reneging efforts of engendering quality education, there was a quantum growth in the number of admitted students from the discouraging 75 in the 2003/2004 academic session to a teeming number of 5,512 in the 2012/2013 academic session. In brevity, her drive for improved education and excellence turned the DSPG into one of the most sought institutions by candidates aspiring for tertiary technical education in the country.

Besides, she accelerated efforts at improving the quality of academic programmes offered in the school to ensure that students get quality education and obtain certificates that are highly rated and recognized in and beyond the shores of Nigeria. As part of efforts to realize this feat, she paid adequate attention to the quality assurance of the various programmes run in the school with the gratifying result that all programmes floated in DSPG have full accreditation from the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE). Further, she has consistently harped on the need of ensuring that graduates of the institution become, not just equipped to surmount the storms of post graduation life, but also to become self employed and employers of labour. To this end, she built and equipped the polytechnic’s centre for entrepreneurial studies as well as laboratories and studios where students can get practical trainings and experience while still in school.

It is on records that Dr. Mogekwu, a trailblazer and born achiever, is among the few proponents of the direct labour model in which staff and students are well trained and engaged in the execution of institutional projects as against the popular grain of hiring contractors. On this noble tactics, she explains that its cost effectiveness, the direct labour model serves as a rare opportunity for lecturers and students to practise the flurry of theories they learn in lecture halls. As regards arts and culture, the records are well cast in the iron of times and marbles of history. The Rector has revolutionized the entire spectrum of the institution in matters of arts and culture. A palpable evidence of this was the worthy invitation of the school’s arts and culture team to Abuja for the 2016 national exhibition exercise organized by the British Council.

On the infrastructural flip side, Dr. Mogekwu has fast tracked the erection of laudable structures that are being utilized unto productive ends by both staff and students of DSPG. With the reality of dwindling economic fortunes accruable to the institution, the Rector extraordinaire propped up the Internally Generated Revenues (IGRs) of the school and built worthwhile structures that can only be maximally appreciated through a tour round the school. Also, her goodwill- which is invariably a good commodity in the market of leadership- has attracted a plethora of development projects from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and a host of other agencies which has contributed to the jaw-breaking infrastructural revolution that swept through every facet and cranny of the institution since the last four years.

Although it is practically impossible to pen down the litany of projects executed by the Dr. Mogekwu’s administration, it is needful to highlight some imposing ones such as the 40-room two-storey building; 600 capacity auditorium with 22 offices and a snack outlet; 600 capacity convocation arena; 400 capacity lecture theatre and multi-purpose hall with four conference rooms, eight offices and conveniences; entrepreneurship/skills acquisition centre, block moulding industry, DSPG Campus Radio (to practically equip students of mass communication), Department of Arts painting studio, Poly Consult Bush Bar, technology driven Information Communication Technology Centre/Electronic library, male and female hostels with a total capacity of 5,000 bed space, Community Development Centre (CDC) and a legion of others.

In another stretch, Dr. Mogekwu has fought cultism and other vices in the institution to a standstill. It will perennially remain incontrovertible that the Rector is one of the few school heads who embraced love in dealing with cultism because she believes that overbearing negative circumstances compel students into such inimical acts; hence, the need to bring them out of it with love. This explains why she pioneered the institution’s chapel of mercy as part of her strategies to bring the lost souls closer to God.

Her relationship with staff and students is a bourgeoning one and this is explicitly couched in the relative peace and tranquility that the school has flourished in since her emergence some years ago. One unique thing that endears her to all is her calm and calculated nature. Although she is strong, energetic and full of ideas, she never underestimates the potentials of others. Despite having much to do and actually succeeded at doing much, she seldom talks like mean men do because she understands that no good leader throws his/her wining strategies/tactics into the open air. According to her, it is better to remain silent and let your work speak, instead of having fine voice without deeds.

Well, while she may wish to remain modest in announcing her good work, it is only ordinary that I explore this platform in to add to the much ado trailing her achievements and the rhythm of her success which is already unplugged. On behalf of the good people of Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku, I say keep the ship afloat our dear Rector because, indeed, all these achievements and more are cast in iron and will remain epochal in the annals of the polytechnic and in the womb of time for a long time, perhaps far longer than tomorrow.

Henry Ofa, a member of the Board of Governing Council at Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku, wrote this piece from Oghara, Delta State.

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