Recently, the federal government approved a federal polytechnic to be located in Ugep, Cross River State and hinted that academic activities will resume in October this year. In this interview with the Obol Lopon Ugep and paramount ruler of Yakurr, HRM Clement Ubana, the royal father declared the readiness of Ugep people to donate land for the school project, while also thanking some sons of the area and the federal government for their role in achieving the feat.
How did you receive the news of the approval by the federal government for federal polytechnic in Ugep?
Well, with great joy and gratitude to the federal government for starting such an institution in Ugep. It’s overwhelming. I’ve been expecting it because I wrote to Mr. President about it. So for it to be finally approved, I am very, very glad.
At what point did you begin to expect that university was going to come because I do know that other people from the state also made moves… (Cuts in)
What happened was that as soon as the five polytechnics were approved going to the six geo-political zones going to the South South was allocated to Cross River State but we doubted a city where it would be located. As soon as I heard that, I wrote a personal letter to Mr. President and told them that there is already an institution existing at Ugep and they have the structure, the structure will be able to house a federal polytechnic comfortably.
Which institution are you referring to?
That’s the Institute of Management and Technology, Ugep.
But that’s a state government’s institution.
Well, we were thinking that since the Cross River state government is no more caring so much for that school because the school, I have been struggling with the government for that school to exist properly. If they were caring for this one, they would not have established a new polytechnic in Ogoja which means this one will be left to die. So I have to look for an alternative where the school, the structure will be put to use. But if the federal government said they want a bare ground, we’re ready to give them land to build federal polytechnics in Ugep.
Have the Yakurr People or Ugep people met to decide on which part of Ugep the Polytechnic will be?
We have met for a long time and we are ready. Even if they come today, we are ready to give them land.
How big is the land and where is the location in Ugep actually?
(Bursts into laughter…) We will show a land that will be enough for a federal polytechnic. You know federal polytechnic will be developed for so many years. If you look at UNICAL, the land mass is very, very large and Ugep has that kind of land to give and we are ready.
Are you saying you have a land as big as UNICAL to donate for this project?
Yes, we have a land even bigger than that of UNICAL to donate for this project.
In all of this, some politicians, some stakeholders, some natives of Abi, Yakurr, Cross River State as a whole actually made some efforts for the polytechnic to come… (Cuts in)
Yes, notable among them is Alex Egbona, Okoi Obon-Obla. These are people who saw my foresightedness and decided to support the project. So those two people worked assiduously to ensure that that dream comes true and we are happy with them. Very, very happy.
With the coming of the Polytechnic, what do you envisage will happen to Ugep?
The development will be massive. Economically, we will have so many business outlets open in Ugep and we will have so many new hotels that will be springing up in Ugep in order to meet up with the standard of having a federal polytechnic. Ugep people are ready; we are ready because of the development that school will bring to Ugep.
If you were to meet President Muhammadu Buhari today, what will you tell him about this?
Thank you very much Mr. President and I will reminded him that in that letter when I visited him in 2018, I requested for a federal university of science and technology to be given to Ugep people to house. That was my request to Mr. President. And so when the federal university of science and technology was not visible and the polytechnic was visible, I now went to remind him of my request when I visited him. I said now that the polytechnic is handy, can you please give it to Ugep people to house and he has finally approved it. So when I see him, I will say thank you Mr. President for keeping faith with us and we are very grateful.
The polytechnic is to start in October. What magic do you think will be performed for it to fully resume academic activities as planned?
In everything, what is difficult is money; now they have set aside two billion naira for the take off of that school and land is ready. What do you think we can’t do in six months? In six months, you will see massive development, massive houses that will stand in there. Money is at hand, two billion naira is a big sum of money and it can build a lot of things. So we are sure that that money will be able to start up that school in October.
How do you feel about the state of affairs at the Institute of Management Technology in Ugep?
Just as you say, it’s a state owned institute of management and technology, the development has been very slow because it looks as if the government is not even interested in that school. That school was founded by Senator Liyel Imoke; unfortunately he left government and you know in government, in politics, continuity is very difficult. Every project you take on is your own project. When you leave, the other person comes he will like to start his own project. I know when we wrote a letter to be granted attention by the present governor, I wanted to visit him with a delegation from Ugep for that federal polytechnic to be allocated to Ugep, I learnt the governor told somebody that ITM is Liyel Imoke’s project so when you are thinking towards that direction that this project is for the former governor, the present government will do less to develop it because they think they are actually going to actualize the dreams of their predecessor. I think that is the problem with that school; the dream of the former governor. So the present governor does not have that kind of dream and you know it will die naturally.
Have you taken steps to approach the current governor of Cross River State concerning that institution?
Not once, not twice. I remember in 2017 I called a public town hall meeting and made a pronouncement that if the Institute of Management and Technology, Ugep is allowed to die naturally, Ugep people will not vote in any election. I made that statement and that statement caused a very big uproar. But later we were on talking terms with the governor and he came to promise us that that school will not be allowed to die. But if you go there, there’s no more development added when he took over, there’s no development at all. The signature blocks are yet to be fully completed. The salaries are not regular. So you see that development is very, very slow.
You talked about Dr. Alex Egbona and Barr Obla contributing to making sure that the polytechnic in Ugep was established. Dr. Alex Egbona represents you at the National Assembly, can you rate his performance since he got into the National Assembly?
Alex Egbona you know is a child of events. Alex has been trying to go to the National Assembly and even when he finally succeeded, he was in court for a long time so he didn’t take off immediately he won the election. So it is less than a year, it’s too quick for us to assess him, to rate him, it’s too quick. Let us give him the opportunity for him to be one year and we will remind him if doesn’t do well. So for me it’s too early to rate him.
Do you think he’s doing any better than those who have been there, when you consider the time frame with the signals that you have seen from him as your subject?
He’s doing well, he has empowered a lot of youths, a lot of young men even with the palliatives he gave during the COVID-19 to Yakurr and Abi, he gave out palliatives, he has also been sponsoring a lot of young men. I think with time, he will do better than the former men.
Can you list some expectations from him in the coming days and years?
We expect him to light up Ugep and Abi. You know electricity is not stable at all in Ugep, not stable at all, very epileptic. We expect our representative to do more in the area of bringing street light to Yakurr and Abi and other projects that will lift his name higher.
What does he mean to you?
Alex Egbona is an Ugep man; already we have traditional ties between Ugep and Igbo Ekureku where he comes from. So if Alex comes to Ugep, he’s an Ugep man, if he goes to Igbo he’s an Igbo man. Both of us have a very strong tie, Ugep and Igbo Ekureku. So for him he’s our son and he’s been doing a lot of things. Even when he was in Cross River state government, he did a lot of things for Ugep people and that is why when he came out for election Ugep people said we will vote Alex, we have known him already. Alex is a better angel than those we don’t know. So for us, Ugep people, Yakurr generally, Alex is a better angel. He has contributed to the development of Yakurr and helped so many boys that I cannot mention. Some of them have had good structures in Ugep as their personal houses through Alex Egbona. So he’s doing well and we expect him to do more, just as I’m saying we need to give him time to stabilize.
So your final words on the new polytechnic, Ugep.
Thank you Mr. President. Thank you Cross Riverians. Thank you Cross River state government. Ugep is ready, hundred per cent ready to house the polytechnic.