By: Ugochukwu Iwuji (Owerri)
The environment has become a metaphor at the centre of global discourse and concern. In the last four years as 8th substantive Rector of the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Engr. Dr. Michael Arimanwa has paid a studied attention to the environmental sector of the trail-blazing institution.
The environment – a totality of the surroundings, geographical well-being and physical conditions in a place, is at the heart of any enduring infrastructural initiative. Most transformational leaders are often associated with conscious efforts aimed at strengthening and revamping the environment.
Global institutions have since realized the psychic role played by the environment to humanity hence the calculated investment in the sector. In the sphere of literature, critics such as William Rueckert and Cheryl Glotfelty have advocated a new epistemic form called Ecocriticism which seeks to interrogate the relationship between literature and the environment.
Already, a nexus has been established between security and environment, making studies in environment a multi-disciplinary one. From the beginning, Engr. Dr. Michael Arimanwa had factored the environment as a sector to be given priority attention. An educational institution should at least have an environment that encourages scholarship going by its physical and psychic ambiance. Being a structural engineer of repute and an alumnus of the polytechnic, the scholar and cleric swung into action. He first took a critical assessment of the decrepit access roads leading to the institution.
The major road leading to the polytechnic from Owerri – Aba Road was in bad condition. This was unbefitting of the ideal institution he had envisioned. There was then an erosion menace threatening the institution from within and without. Inside the polytechnic, there were untarred roads with their muddiness in the rainy season and dustiness in the dry season. Again, there was the need to expand the drainage infrastructure of the polytechnic to expel water when it rained. Generally, therefore, the environment Rector Arimanwa met was unhealthy.
The Rector did not hesitate in building bridges and collaborating with relevant stakeholders to have a healthy environment he so envisioned. First, he paid a visit to the government of Imo State with his Management team where he drew the attention of the government to the worsening condition of Nekede-Ihiagwa Road which is the arterial road leading to the polytechnic. True to his name, Gov Hope Uzodinma granted their request and gave them hope. The road was awarded and constructed, the first phase of which was later commissioned by Mr. President.
The construction of Nekede Road resolved a major external environmental challenge faced by the institution.Next, Rector Arimanwa tackled the erosion challenge that was degrading the environment of the polytechnic. Being a capital intensive project, the erosion site was not something the polytechnic could tackle alone, thus, the Dr. Arimanwa once again went into collaboration with a relevant government agency. He got the Ecological Office at the Presidency to tackle the gully erosion menace faced by the institution. The Fund controlled the environmental vitiation posed by the menace and effectively channeled the flood water to nearby Otamiri River.
It also reconstructed the dual carriage connecting the old gate to Nekede-Ihiagwa Road, giving the polytechnic a refreshing ambiance. The reconstruction of the road and control of the erosion menace came as a huge relief to not only the polytechnic community but the host community of Umudibia, who rolled out the drums on the day the project was commissioned.
Notably, too, the Rector invited the Federal Ministry of Works which constructed the access road leading to the polytechnic new gate from the Maternity Junction along the Nekede-Ihiagwa Road. This eased off human and vehicular movement to the polytechnic and also improved economic activities along that corridor.
Again, the intervention was a great relief to the host community who had had to contend with the unwholesome state of the road. The road construction and erosion control presented a major turn-around in the town-gown relationship between the Federal Polytechnic Nekede and Umudibia Community.
For the first time, the community came to fully appreciate the presence of the institution in their community. The speech made by the traditional ruler of the community at the inauguration of the the projects bore eloquent testimonies of the community’s deep appreciation of the works.
Besides thanking the federal government for responding to the clarion made by the Rector, Eze Godwin Merenini expressed profound gratitude to the Rector for attracting the projects and making them a reality.
Engr. Dr. Michael Arimanwa was however not done with his agenda of environmental transformation. He hit the ground running once again by paving the internal roads of the institution and creating a beautifully tarred network of roads crisscrossing the entire length of the school. The ambiance so created by this amazing road network gives the institution an endearing look.
There is, therefore, no visitor to the polytechnic who is not easily taken in by the institution’s sheer aesthetic splendour. One huge advantage of the sublime road network is the ease of movement and identification of locations within the polytechnic.
Beyond the beautiful outlay of well-paved roads adorning the environmental architecture of the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, there are also well-trimmed lawns and neat surroundings complimenting it. For the record, the institution has been rated the neatest polytechnic in Nigeria. Unarguably, it is not in a hurry to relinquish this status of pride. It has amidst dwindling revenue continued to maintain its environment to compliment the beautiful infrastructure at the institution.
The Rector has been deliberate in nurturing an environment that would, beyond physical or psychic aesthetics, guarantee a productive intellectual harvest.The clean and green environment of the Federal Polytechnic Nekede presents a delectable flora and fauna that is healthy and attractive for human habitation. The natural beauty of an environment contributes substantially to the productivity of humanity animating it. The will to maintain a beautiful environment is a call of leadership modelled after excellence. And the Rector has never hidden his knack with excellence.
In psychoanalytic terms, a sublime natural environment is both inspiring and soothing. One only needs to look over the window to get inspiration from the layout of nature in view. A staff in an office may naturally be disposed to give his or work a touch of beauty as seen in the school environment.
Thus, the psychic influence exerted by the environment can be overwhelming. At the northern end of the polytechnic also lies a cattle ranch where the sheer sight of fat, healthy cows presents its own inspiration. Prof Abdullahi Mahdi, a former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University and Gombe State University, was notable for transforming the natural environments of the institutions, giving them breathtaking elegance that can only reside in the world of imaginations. Mardi’s environmental revolution was notable as he cultivated an alluring nature-friendly atmosphere with well-tended lawns and flowers dotting the large precincts of the university. There is a certain discipline involved in cultivating nature.
Fundamentally, this is associated with a purposeful leadership. Engr. Dr. Michael Chidiebere Arimanwa has acquitted himself in the area of environment, having done so with the discipline the sector deserves. He has been consistent in according exceptional consideration to the environmental well-being of the polytechnic. When the polytechnic produced an electric car last year, the Rector was particularly excited because of the environment-friendliness of the car.
The vehicle which is solar-powered does not emit fumes as seen in vehicles powered by fossil fuel. While presenting the car to the Minster of Science and Technology in Abuja last year, the Rector expressed optimism that the vehicle would strengthen the natural environment with its zero-fume operation.
Elsewhere, Rector Arimanwa has maintained that the polytechnic is seeking funding and relevant collaborations to mass-produce the car with the intention of using it for inter-city mass transit. The Rector insists that the world is fast moving away from energy sources that pollute the environment, a reason the country must wake to the reality of developing a sustainable policy on electric car production and use.
For Rector Arimanwa, therefore, the environment deserves a pivotal place in his infrastructural revolution.
Dr. Ugochukwu Iwuji (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a public affairs analyst based in Owerri.
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