Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia

The new Vice-Chancellor of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike (MOUAU), Professor Francis Otunta, has raised the alarm over attempts by “desperate” politicians to drag him and the institution into the politics of Abia State.

A national newspaper (not THISDAY) published a report claiming that the VC had gagged a lecturer who served as the INEC returning officer in the Abia North senatorial rerun election and “summoned him before the management to explain what happened during the election.”

Addressing a press conference on the issue, the VC said there is no truth whatsoever in the said publication, adding that it was “malicious and misleading” for the said newspaper to link him with an election he knew nothing about.

Otunta, who was less than a week in office when the said rerun election was conducted on March 5, 2015, wondered why a newspaper owned by one of the contestants should malign him with a published falsehood.

“I have never been involved in politics, even in my home state (Ebonyi),” he said, adding that the returning officer, though from MOUAU was not known to him at the time of the election since he was still familiarising himself with his new environment as the fifth vice-chancellor of the institution.

The Head, Department of Mechanical Engineering at MOUAU, Dr. Bertrand Nwankwojike had acted as returning officer in the said election and had erroneously declared it “inconclusive” with Senator Mao Ohuabunwa of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scoring 26,009, votes while his closest rival, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) polled 25,814 votes. The electoral body had promptly corrected the returning officer, who later declared the PDP candidate winner of the poll.

Nwankwojike, who was visibly angry about the accusation levelled against the MOUAU management, denied ever being summoned to appear before the management.

“I did not at any time discuss any election issue with university management,” he said, adding that he did not speak to any journalist about the said election. The mechanical engineering lecturer further asserted that he had no personal contact with the new VC before and after the rerun poll and was never called upon to give any report about how the poll was conducted.