Posted by Boniface Okoro, Umuahia | 18 March 2016 | 2,928 times
Vice Chancellor of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU), Prof. Francis Ogbonnaya Otunta, has described as a fabricated, malicious falsehood, a newspaper report alleging that he gagged the Returning Officer of the Abia North senatorial rerun election, Engr. Dr. Nwankwoejike Betrand Nduka, by banning him from speaking on the election.
The Daily Sun report of Wednesday, March 16, 2016, alleged that Prof Otunta said that comments by Nwankwoejike, the Returning Officer who is also the Head of Department of Engineering of MOUAU, was causing the institution serious embarrassment.
The Vice Chancellor, according the report, dragged Nwankwoejike before the university management and ordered him to offer explanations on the election. After his presentation, the report went on, the Vice Chancellor warned the Returning Officer against making any further comments on the Abia North rerun poll unless he got clearance from the university’s lawyer.
In their reaction to the Daily Sun report, Thursday at the Conference Room of the school, both Prof Otunta and Dr Nwankwoejike vehemently denied that such a meeting ever took place, except in the writer's imagination. The duo and the university management have demanded an unreserved apology for the misleading report and a retraction.
Otunta, who is barely two weeks old at MOUAU, said he was not a politician and would never dabble into politics, wondering what the motive of the report was.
He said that even as a two-time rector of Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, he stayed away from politics.
“This morning,” he said, “I found this in the front page of the Sun of March 16, 2016: “Abia North: VC shuts up Returning Officer”. I just imagined what a powerful VC, may be he is an INEC official. I never knew that this refers to Professor Francis Otunta. So I went to Page 7 to read and I read what I am unable to contain. I do not dwell in falsehood. I am a Mathematician, I am a Precise Scientist. I am not a politician.”
“Unfortunately, very unfortunately, the Daily Sun, in their publication of March 16, 2016, not only said that the Vice Chancellor did, but said Prof Francis Ogbonnaya Otunta did. It is so bad, very damaging,” he lamented.
“I need all sorts of apology as the university lawyer will write. Apart from the lawyer writing, the Vice Chancellor, Francis Otunta, will take redress because it is really damaging,” he said.
Also denying the publication, Nwankwoejike said he has never addressed the media since he was done with the election duty and neither had he met with the VC or the university management on the issue.
“At no time have I met with the management of this university or the Vice Chancellor to discuss anything on election. And since I finished the work as a Returning Officer of Abia North senatorial seat rerun, I have never addressed any press conference or anybody because by the guidance of my employment as at that time, whatever I finished with, it is only the appropriate unit of the INEC that can comment on that. And since then, INEC has not called me, I have never read anywhere INEC made comment, rather what I have been seeing in the newspaper is how I will be probed and all that.”
He said would not have bothered if the media attacks were centred on him, adding that he was seriously pained the VC was maliciously being dragged into the issue, stressing that the publication was aimed at creating bad blood between him and the VC.
Nwankwoejike said: “I have never discussed anything with my Vice Chancellor on this issue. And I just met my Vice Chancellor only two times on official bases. I have not even sat down to talk anything except shaking hands.
“I still demand immediate retraction and publication of disclaimer on this issue and adequate apology to my personal self because, without doubt, this has planted a bad seed between me and my immediate administrator that has not lasted for a month, I have not even introduced myself to him, he has not even worked with me to know my ability. I demand adequate apology to myself, my Vice Chancellor and the university in general.”
Meanwhile, the university management has demanded the newspaper to publish within 48 hours, an unreserved apology to the VC or risk legal action. A statement by the Public Relations Officer of the school, Mrs Onyinye Ralph Nwachukwu, said the paper should also do a retraction which must equally be given prominence.
•Photo shows Prof. Francis Ogbonnaya Otunta.
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