When Professor Chigozie Asiabaka the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) cried out over the alarming growth of gambling by students of the institution, little did he know that the situation was way beyond what he had thought.
Little did the VC know that it was not only gambling that was taking the place of qualitative education at the University; he knew very little of the decadence which had eaten deep into the system in and around FUTO.
Naij.com launched an investigation into what is going on within FUTO and around its environs, and what was discovered is beyond troubling.
For those who know FUTO some few years back, it was a citadel that bred only geniuses. Academics extolled above every other activity. It used be seen as somewhat boring due to the lack of interest on the part of students and staff to partake in extra-curricular activities like the regular Nigerian higher institutions.
A school with great lecturers like the renowned physicist, Professor Ama Nduka, was not one where any Tom, Dick and Harry would thrive. It was a place of excellent research, a place where knowledge was readily sought after.
The serpent entered the garden
FUTO used to be known as a core science and technology school with engineering as its pride. Back in the days, it used to seem like an only boys college, with the ratio of boys to girls in the institution reaching an all time high of about 20males to 1 female. Regardless of the presence of females in the school, people still looked at it as a place for boys and men. This was because even the girls in the university were as strong and sometimes stronger than men both physically and intellectual wise.
However, like all things, change came. New departments and faculties were instituted and many blame this innovation for the decline in academic quality in FUTO. They argue that the new departments are not core science oriented and do not match the standards that were already in existence.
Some argue that it is the emergence of these new departments that saw to the massive influx of females into FUTO; hence they opine that at this point, FUTO became lax.
Now this piece has not in any way been written in support of the school of thought that women are the cause of men’s woes, but just to give an insight into the journey of FUTO so far.
The strangers that crept in
With the number of students tripling, and ladies equaling and almost surpassing the population of guys at the institution, investors began to see more ways to make a fortune in and around FUTO.
It all began with investments in housing. Knowing that the houses in the villages around FUTO would not suffice nor suit the taste of the new generation of students, many began to invest in real estate; building houses along FUTO road in Eziobodo and parts of Ihiagwa and Umuchima, which are the villages around the institution. FUTO sits at the centre of them all.
As the years went by, house rents continued to skyrocket very outrageously, and the students kept on paying, some through their noses.
Having explored the housing business, investors cashed-in on the fact that FUTO has lost its fervor for academics and intellectualism, hence investments in entertainment was next.
In a very short time, club houses began to spring up, eateries of various sorts and hotels started to emerge and are still emerging. One would have thought these to be development, but when the aim is to get the students who are supposed to be focused in school, then the story changes.
One thing they say leads to the other, it was the success recorded with these new ventures that led businessmen to look for more ways to milk the students of FUTO and this time to further derail them from their studies.
Gambling and S3@.Xx:’ hawking in the FUTO community
The vast majority of students within FUTO come from Lagos, Port Harcourt and many other major cities of the country; an exposure to the wild life of the city cannot be ruled out. Knowing this, some businessmen tried to recreate an environment for the students, one which looks like what they know.
Gambling is about the third fastest growing business in Nigeria, thriving virtually in all parts of the nation. Investors saw that there was a demand within the FUTO community, so they made supply; building bet houses, and making a great deal of profit from the business.
Lectures have complained endlessly of how the indulging in the act of gambling is having a negative impact on the performance of students in FUTO. Some lecturers who pleaded anonymity, noted that grades within the institution were fast dropping, with the students getting more involved in exam malpractice. They lament that many FUTO students have shunned the pursuit for excellence in their bid to acquire easy wealth to aid them keep up with the trending lifestyle in FUTO these days.
As with the way vices go, one doesn’t go without the other, so Pr@.$t!tut!@.n followed where gambling went. There used to be whore houses back in the days, but they were situated far off in town where most students could not locate, even if they tried. Then, one had to really be desperate, as to go on such quest, and will only be lucky to find such comfort homes with the help of a local.
However, it is not so now, virtually every village encamped around FUTO has two brothels. Investigations have shown that there are two whorehouses in Ihiagwa, two in Eziobodo, one major brothel in Umuchima and about three others along Obinze; all close to the dwelling places of FUTO students.
Further investigations reveal that FUTO students patronize these brothels night after night, it is even more troubling to note that the Pr@.$t!tutes also live within the hostels were students dwell. The stay home while some of the students go for lectures and come out at night for business. Some students are said to patronize them at the hostels were they dwell for as low as N500.
Whats follows next
Fears have been raised that FUTO is almost at that point when it would not be a force to reckon with in terms of educational qualities. There are incidents which have occurred in recent times which lend voice to the fears.
Only recently there was a protest in FUTO, students marched in protest against several attempts of rape within the institution. A development which in the past would not be linked to FUTO.
FUTO is not known for cult violence and violent activities due to cultism, however, with the way things are fast getting out of hand, one fears that cultism may take centre stage at the institution, that is if it has not yet taken over already.
There tends to be little or nothing that can be done to stop the ventures that springing up within the FUTO community. This is because, betting when of the right age, is not illegal in Nigeria. Pr@.$t!tut!@.n on the other hand is frowned at in some quarters, but has the backing of some very powerful cabals. Though not legalized in Nigeria, still the business continues to thrive because some persons in authority will not see it go.
Hence, the honours is on the parents to take a deeper look into the affairs of their young ones in the higher institution. It is ok to say government and school authorities should look into the issues within and around the FUTO community, but as Nigerians we must be realistic. There are so many other problems even way little than this which are yet to be looked into, talk more of being resolved; its high time we helped our selves.
It is time for parents and guardians to get more involved in the affairs of their children and wards, so one does not regret spending so much and getting nothing in return. It takes so much to train children in a university like FUTO with the current economic situation of the country.
Let it be known that FUTO still remains highly rated in Nigeria, producing some of the best students who are easily drafted into the various organizations, thus, all hope is not lost for that student seeking to get knowledge and proper education. Its all a matter of choice, man-a-successful men and women have passed through FUTO and have wonderful tales to tell afterwards.
One can only wish there are less distractions for the Nigerian students at FUTO, however, here are some tips that graduates from FUTO say works. Alumni of FUTO say that up-school jacking and staying in the hostels on campus are a student’s best bet, especially for the first three years of study. If only the government will be kind enough to make the hostels more comfortable for the students.
To the current students of FUTO, like Robert Frost, it doesn’t hurt to follow the path less trodden. One can swim against the tides of the age, one doesn’t have to follow the crowd; dare to be different.