ONYEDI GABRIEL, Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has threatened to treat any vice-chancellor and lecturers conspiring with politicians to rig elections as coup plotters.
The governor accused the Federal Government of appointing compromised academics willing to submit names of politically exposed lecturers as returning officers to rig elections for the ruling party, as vice-chancellors of federal universities.
Wike warned VCs and lecturers to be wary of attempts by some unscrupulous politicians to use them to manipulate elections.
The governor spoke on Tuesday during the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a 9200 capacity ultramodern convocation arena for the University of Port Harcourt by the Rivers State government.
Wike said it was worrisome that Nigeria had degenerated to the point where politicians influenced the appointment of VCs for the purposes of rigging elections.
He said: “Let me warn, not one person will dare to rig an election in Rivers State. Not one person will dare it. I have told people, allow the university community to produce those who will be leaders of this country.
“Don’t turn the university community to be where you will have politicians who manipulate and change the mandate of the people. Anybody who does that, you know it is a coup and you know the punishment for coup plotters.”
The governor said the reason for the jostling for VCs of federal universities was because of political interference by extraneous forces.
He described as heartrending a situation whereby lecturers, who were supposed to be revered in society, wilfully compromise their integrity, just to become VCs to manipulate elections.
“These days, you see a lecturer, a PhD holder, a professor ready to soil his name, to allow himself to be kidnapped and taken somewhere to sign result and to declare somebody who did not win an election winner”, he said.
The governor enjoined desperate politicians in the ruling party not to dent the integrity of the university system because of their inordinate ambition.
Wike warned that any VC that allowed himself to be used to rig election in Rivers State, should be prepared for the consequences of such an act.
“If you want to play politics with us, I will rub you in the mud. If you want to join us (politicians), openly come and join us. But if you want to hide under the university, I will roub you of mud”.
The governor declared that 2023 general election would be completely different from the 2019 election, insisting that attempts to prevent transmission of election results electronically would be resisted.
“INEC knows that they have to be prepared in 2023. And that is why we will resist any attempt for anybody to manipulate the amendment of the Electoral Act, to say that election results will not be transmitted electronically. That will not happen. If you want the vote of the people to count, the result must be transmitted electronically.”
Wike said that as an alumnus of the University of Port Harcourt, his business was not to play politics in the university, but to contribute to the development of the institution.
He promised to complete a primary school building in the university that was abandoned by the previous administration for inexplicable reasons.
In his remarks, the Acting Vice-Chancellor of University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Stephen Okodudu, commended Wike for consistently identifying with the ideals and aspiration of the university.
“You have continued to support the successive administrations of the University through donation of funds and provision of social infrastructure to give meaning to the lives of staff and students.
“I recall with nostalgia, that Your Excellency attracted then construction of the Faculties of Law and Social Sciences buildings while serving as the Hon. Minister of State for Education”, he said.
Chairman of the Governing Council of the university, Senator Andrew Uchendu applauded Wike for laying the foundation for what would be the best, iconic convocation arena in West Africa.
Performing the inauguration of the new convocation arena, the immediate past vice-chancellor of the university, Prof. Ndowa E. Lale, said Wike’s decision to construct the new convocation arena was a further demonstration that he had a heart to add value to the institution.
He declared that history would be kind to Wike because he had deliberately worked conscientiously for public good.