I remember so clearly that chilly morning, as I walked up the rocky gates of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, to begin registration as a fresh man. There were motley banners, from the good to the bad. Usually the October rush is a competition by the various groups on campus to attract and catch young lions and lionesses who still have their names written in pencil. However, more a decade later, it has not dimmed from my consciousness the inscription on one particular poster which cried that ‘the dream is here!’
As a student of medical laboratory sciences, I had the unique privilege to savour two campus of the University of Nigeria – Nsukka and Enugu. The red earth of the ‘adopted’ home of Nnamdi Azikiwe, rains down torrents of fond memories. We were accommodated in Ziks Hall – then it was an exclusive male affair, with only the ‘E’ block reserved for the ladies.
The day started with a combo affair of burger – okpa and bread. It took a lot to adapt to the rather chilly nature of Nsukka, especially during the harmattan. Not even the hot water provided any comfort for the exacerbating early morning cold. For as soon as you stepped out the ‘shower’ it practically seems as if one has embraced ice.
Nonetheless, the walk from Ziks flat to NSLT was rather a journey. As all freshers are wont, we were always running through and fro Jimbaz to NSLT for lectures. What a spectacle, we must have made, and I suppose most freshers still evoke. Nsukka was fun! ‘Scientific’ was a daily affair, haggling with the food vendors for hot sizzling fried yam, plantain and fish. Sleeping – rather than studying – in the library or in ‘prefab’. Those nights of TDB, moving to Abuja in droves all in an effort to convince oneself that we are serious students, only to take black coffee and doze all night.
Enugu had a certain tinge of artificiality which was absent in Nsukka; being the home for the so called professional courses – Medicine, Law, Accountancy and Architecture. Those in the management sciences were perceived as the scum of the campus but really were envied. These guys had time which we cannot afford, though we inwardly craved for it.
Donning our lab coats or suits most of us paraded Ogbette Main Market like peacocks. Of course, who dared eat in the refs located within the halls? Nwanyi Marere was a rush, guys falling over each other to grab a space before her large steaming pot of white rice. The tinge of being big lied in the quantity of meat or fish that adorned ones meal. The amazing thing was that most of us only survived on okpa for breakfast or nothing.
The politics of Enugu campus was quite peculiar. The ABF – All Believers Fellowship has the campus in the pouch. It took a lot of wrangling to extricate SUG politics from them. The eternal rivalry between the various constituents in the College of Medicine – MBBS, Med Lab Sciences, Medical Rehabilitation, Radiography and Nursing – trickled down to students politics.
The SUG elections of 2002/2003 session saw the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHST) going into an alliance with those in Law. The deal was that the presidency went to Law while FHST produced the vice president. This was instructive because our sister faculty in the College of Medicine also had a candidate standing for president. This unhealthy competition amongst those who should form the health team at the service of the patient unfortunately seems to characterise Nigeria’s health system. Despite all these, friendships were forged that have broken the rancid barriers of professional pettiness.
Nonetheless, the dream remains aflame in the recesses of men and women who have sucked from the bosom of the university. “University of Nigeria, my alma mater, hail and rejoice for her noble ideals!”