I had the good fortune to visit my alma mater the University of Nigeria, Nsukka recently. Since I completed my undergraduate studies, I had not had any opportunity to go back there. The journey as you can imagine was quite interesting, going to the East by road these days is a rather risky business. I had a host of interesting co-travellers, who babbled endlessly about the worries of Naija. Their conclusions and suggestions can easily translate into a good material for a PhD research.
Nonetheless, I don’t intend to overemphasise the obvious, as I crossed the Niger Bridge, I had to call upon my ancestors to come to my aid. It’s already a miracle that the bridge is still standing. I suppose that the transport minister got a second mandate based on her impressive performance on the Lagos-Onitsha route especially the very nice Ore portion. The Ore axis is in such a beautiful condition, that transporters prefer to bypass it and go rather through the longer Ife-Akure-Benin Old Road.
Asides these few blushes, I was happy with what I saw in both Nsukka and Enugu. As an undergraduate, I remember quite vividly that on arrival in the Nsukka campus of UNN, I was greeted with a banner that read, The Dream is Here. However, that inscription was negated by the near desolate state of the campus. It was therefore a pleasant surprise that on this particular visit, to notice that the face of the campus has not only changed but is gradually being transformed into a proper university.
For instance, ten years ago, I met the uncompleted male hostel near the Franco Halls and it remained uncompleted when I graduated six years later. I was quite delighted to see that the hostel has now been completed; same goes for the Nnamdi Azikwe Library. The university is preparing to host the NUGA Games and the Akanu Ibiam Stadium is under rehabilitation. Also the Vice Chancellor, Professor ChineduNebo, seems to be restoring the essence of a university going by the number of inaugural lectures that have taken place in last couple of years.
Professor Nebo has done a lot. Obviously this is not to say that he has entirely solved the problems confronting UNN. In that vain it would be dainty if he tries to reverse the state of the hostels. The Franco Halls are an eye sore; the façade is completely run down and looks more like a poultry house than a hall of residence for university students. Leadership has never been easy anywhere and therefore I was not surprised that Nebo has both admirers and critiques. However, in the words of verteran journalist, Mr Conrad Bosah, Asst. Advert Manager (South-East Zone) of Vanguard Newspapers, “noisy leaders seek publicity, effective ones allow their actions to speak for them. Prof Nebo falls into the category of the latter.”
I was also at the Enugu Campus of the university where I actually completed the mission of my trip. I also saw first hand the noiseless transformation that Governor Sullivan Chime is undertaking in the capital city. Being a 042 guy – the local parlance for branding those us that grew up in the Coal City – Enugu has not had it this good for quite a while. It would be stating the obvious to insist that the extent of road constructions took the wind off my sails.
Enugu as a city as enjoyed prominence, as the former capitals of Eastern Region, the break away Republic of Biafra, the East Central State, old Anambra State, old Enugu State and its current place as the seat of government of Enugu State. Unfortunately, in terms of infrastructural development, the city still lacks behind with centuries of neglect. Past governments were more interested in chopping than in working. A former military administrator of the state was so obsessed with land that the thrust of his government was the awarding of numerous contracts for the walling of all government property. Of course some of these lands disappeared into private ownership during the exercise.
The story starts from the entrance to the city, the famous Coal miners’ statue which road has been in a state of disrepair for quite a while. From Holy Ghost Road to Ogui Road, it’s a whole world of dust as the roads are being fixed. I was surprised when I drove from Edinburgh Road to Trans-Ekulu without falling into any pothole; I had to pinch myself to confirm that I was not hallucinating. Wonders of all, the access roads leading into the long forgotten streets in Uwani have all been tarred. This is in contrast to the CNN connection, where Enugu constantly featured with little to show at home. This may also sound comical, but civil servants and pensioners now get paid!
Lest my piece be construed as a PR stunt, as a caveat I don’t have any connections with either Nebo or Chime, save from what I saw and which in justice I think should be praised. The reality is that more often what makes headlines are the absurd and all sorts of scandal. With each passing day the tribe of those who are determined to effect a change within their milieu is shrinking. For the simple reason that nobody appreciates their good work and worse still they are punished or may be treated as fools. Nigeria may be pathologically afflicted with a chronic metastasis, however, let’s not forget that this illness can only cured by us, when each one of us tries to create an oasis of sanity around ourselves.
Besides, this is no act for the beatification of proponents of the noiseless transformation in the two places I’ve mentioned. It would be also a misnomer to claim that more cannot be done. The gains of good leadership do not consist only in building roads or completing long awaited projects, it transcends these things. Nonetheless, would it not be diabolical if we persistently only see the worse of our situation without appreciating the bright side of things? Nebo and Chime have won my admiration and with no apologies to anyone, they have done quite well. For improving and not stagnating their domains, may their tribe increase!
Published: Vivante’s Viva, December 2008.