By Emeka Nwokocha
Monday, 7th October, 2019, will find a place in the annals of world history, as the Warri chapter of University of Nigeria Alumni Association (UNAA) held Founder’s Day/Dignity of Man Public Lecture, as part of its social activities in recent times.
The occasion took place at Ishaka hotel, Ekpan, Uvwie local government area of Delta State. And it was a gathering of honed brains cum Lions and Lioness of the prestigious university of Nigeria, UNN, Nsukka, prided as the premier indigenous and autonomous university in Nigeria.
Berthing an age long tradition of carrying out tasks with infallible precision, the programme kicked off with due prominence accorded the fraternal UNN anthem which blasted from loudspeakers, sending tunderous waves of retrospection and self dignity into the arena.
The anthem evoked a feeling of nostalgia among the Lions and Lioness, as they recalled the past good days when the mention of UNN would cower and kowtow other institutions to a submissive appeal.
Without wasting time, the UNAA, Warri branch President, Prince Andrew Duku, mounted the podium, to present his address. He was quite modest and intelligent on the contents of his speech, even as his address was concise, punchy and decipherable, and the message, expertly and unambiguously delivered.
Describing the day as a memorable one, the president reemphasised academic excellence as a cherished virtue and unique symbol of UNN, his alma mater.
“Today is blessed because it is a convocation of Lions and Lioness of our great institution, UNN, and it marks the epiphany of a new beginning in the life of the UNN Alumni Association, Warri branch.
“Whenever Lions and Lioness are gathered, there is great fear in the land, as all animals cringe for fear and scurry to their holes,” he thundered.
Continuing, Duku brought to fore, the vagaries of economic, financial and sociopolitical uncertainties bedeviling the Warri branch in recent years, and sought help to achualise the dream of the association.
He said, “The university of Nigeria Alumni Association, Warri branch, has come a long way. Although, it has been buffeted and tossed about by the vagaries of economic, financial and sociopolitical uncertainties. Like the remnants of the house of Jacob carried into captivity, I speak prophetically that we will rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,” he stated, mentioning the most pressing challenges as nonavailability of a Secretariat and a bus.
Sustaining the tempo of intellectual pontification and restoration of the dignity of man – the spin of the day’s discourse, the chairman of the occasion, Barr. Andrew Ovikuroma Oru, emphasised academic excellence and greatness as the ideological bulwark upon which the university of Nigeria, Nsukka was established. He copiously schooled the enthusiastic audience on the studded and constitutional brainstorming, aided by historic events that gave birth to the ivory tower. He described the role of the then premier of Eastern Region, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, in establishing the institution as phenomenal, noting that on October 7, 1960, the University of Nigeria, with only 13 academic staff and 20 students, was formally opened by Princess Alexandra of Kent, United Kingdom, barely six days after Nigeria became an independent nation.
Some of memorable events and record-setting achievements of UNN in the academic sphere were given a mention by the Chairman, and he proudly trumpeted the novel achievements to include first open heart surgical operation in sub-saharan Africa, successfully undertaken at the university of Nigeria teaching hospital (UNTH), Enugu, in 1974; the Faculty of Law in the university standing as the oldest in Nigeria with immense contributions to legal education in the country; the department of Electronic Engineering, renowned for its prestigious graduates was named centre of excellence in electronic technology by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 1982; and of recent, with dint of hardwork, at the department of pharmacology and therapist at UNN, a new agent HIV was derived from local plant source.
The highpoint of the day was a didactic lecture given by an erudite scholar, human rights lawyer and National Chairman, The Human Rights Defenders Organisation of Nigeria, Sir (Barr) C.D.S. Omon-Irabor. The subject centred on restoring the dignity of man as proudly being propagated by the motto of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Sir Omon-Irabor was at his best and on point as he deployed his erudition and legal razzmatazz to drive home his salient points, even as his knowledge of the flapping Nigerian democracy was unquestionable. This was brazenly brought to play in the manner he traversed the length and breadth of the teething problems halting the development of Nigeria.
Sir Omon-Irabor expressed dismay at the sham the Nigerian electoral system has become. He said the voting system had been compromised and bastardized to the extent that the electorates could not vote genuinely to elect their leaders. A development, he noted, brings the dignity of man to question.
The legal icon cleverly asserted that the essence of restoring the dignity of man as strongly advanced by the motto of the university of Nigeria, Nsukka, was not unconnected with the fact that the true dignity of man is not in existence. He implored Nigerians to take up their gauntlet and defend their rights to put the oppressors at bay.
“Stand firm for your rights; exercise your rights; don’t be afraid to defend your rights; fight for your rights anywhere,” he tasked Nigerians. He added, “when you defend your rights, your oppressors become a coward.”
Sir Omon-Irabor, however expressed disappointment that occasions abound when Nigerians knew their rights, but often trample upon the rights due to ignorance. He implored them to change the narratives and brave the challenge, even as he advised Nigerians to get themselves acquainted with the laws in Nigeria, such as tenancy laws, traffic laws, and others so that they would be abreast of the laws.
The legal luminary expressed dismay at the recurring ignorance and poor knowledge of Nigerians about the Nigerian laws, a development he noted often times put the people at the receiving end whenever they encounter errant law enforcement agents on the road, particularly, the police. He charged Nigerians to resist oppression, saying, “don’t be a coward in the face of oppression.”
Other speakers also lend their voices to stress urgent need for the dignity of man to be upheld, noting that discipline, hard work, integrity and love for humanity are sine qua non for upholding the dignity of man in the contemporary and bourgeoning Nigerian society.
Other dignitaries that graced the occasion include Engr. Ukwuaba S. I. (JP), Director, Department of Mechanical Engineering, PTI, Effurun; Chief Peter U. Ulodiaku, JP, MD/CEO ULO Electrical Stores; Mr. Dickson Omojero, MD/CEO, White hotel, Ekpan; Barr. & Mrs. Robinson Ahon; Mr. Matthew Okoloko, Deputy Registrar, College of Education, Warri; Mr. Daniel Awowo, Dr. (Mrs.); Ms Ogechi; Ms Irene Ezenweani; 10. Mr.Maduakonam; and Mr. Chibuzor Mbanefo.