The Dream is Here: UNN at 50!

Nwachukwu Egbunike

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!”

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6 Comments

  1. O my GOD. U r truly a SUPER LION. Well, I pray that 1 day, I shall recount my own version of the story. UNN @ 50. We wish HER d BEST. Great LIONS & LIONESSES. Hip! Hip!! Hip!!!…..!!

    Reply

  2. Reading this blog has left me nostalgic for the days when “Men were boys”. I graduated from the Medical Laboratory Science Program so I can relate very well to the stories. I am chuckling now thinking of the days of “my tie is better than yours”. I have been priviledged to meet up with some of the graduates of the other constituents – what a laugh we had about all the rivalry.

    Reply

  3. UNN @ 50

    By Unoaku Ekwegbalu

    Viewpoints Oct 1, 2010 The beginning
    ON October 7, 1960, as Nigeria basked in the euphoria of having her independence from Britain, her colonial master, 220 pioneer students of the University of Nigeria came into the campus to start their studies.

    It was a step into the dark as the institution was the first indigenous university. University of Ibadan had been there since 1948 but as a campus of the University of London. Thus, the University was called names – University of Ibagwa, glorified secondary school, among others because Nigerians did not really believe they were ripe to establish and run a university.

    But the founding father, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe had a dream – to revolutionise university eduation and provide the nation with the urgently required manpower well-equipped in arts and sciences.

    There were courses in engineering, medicine, law, social sciences, journalism, music, fine arts. The mother of all courses was General Studies, which enabled Arts students learn a bit of physical and social sciences and vice-versa for social science and physical science students.

    This again generated an uproar. Why should Arts students be bothered with science? The University of Ibadan based her educational system on the British system whereas University of Nigeria based hers on both the American system and the British system. Michigan State University was the link and mentor of the University.

    Some of the students, especially those from the Western part of the country were being dissuaded not to go to the University. It was in the hinterland and they were not sure children would be safe. After the first session, the students from the West assured their parents that there was nothing to be afraid of. They canvassed for more students from the West to join and get quality education.

    Some of the pioneer students were Lam Adesina, one-time governor of Oyo State, Sir Nduka Eya, who served as a Registrar and later became National President of the Alunmni Association, Prof. B.I.C. Ijomah, who also served as a Registrar in the University.

    He became the pioneer President of the Alumni Association. Seven of the pioneer students were females.

    Criticisms were afloat that the University was going to turn out half-baked graduates. The University was hard on the students in marking the examination papers so they had no option than to study if they wanted to graduate with good grades.

    It was, however, not all work and no play. Some of the drivers (as boy friends were then called) drove their “buses” to the altar after graduation. Elizade Motors, the major distributors of Toyota Motors in Nigeria was one of such couples made at the University of Nigeria.

    Ade Ojo found his heartthrob, Elizabeth at the University and as husband and wife, they joined their names to come up with “Elizade”. Nduka Eya’s bus, Regina Nnacheta later became his wife. The University was not only providing education, but also turned out to be a wonderful match- making field.
    UNN graduates

    In 1963, the University turned out her first graduates. It was time to test whether the graduates were half-baked or truly found worthy in character and learning as the University had dubbed them as they received their certificates.

    The Federal Government, in order to ascertain the quality of graduates from the country’s owned University, decided to introduce qualifying tests for all new graduates that would be employed by the Civil Service.

    For three consecutive years, the graduates of the University of Nigeria took the first 15 positions. The critics were silenced. The qualifying examination into the Civil Service was stopped. The underdogs had indeed turned out to be the champions.

    By the time University of Nigeria turned out her pioneer graduates in 1963, two other universities had come on the scene. All other universities then started seeking the secret behind the great success of the University of Nigeria. The derided General Studies was identified as the success factor. Other universities quickly adopted the course and gave it different names. The most important thing is that the University lived true to it motto – “To restore the dignity of man”.

    As the University blossomed and gained reputation, her products were snapped up in different work places. People came to appreciate the importance of some courses they did not know could be studied in the University.

    http://www.nigeriaplus.com/university-of-nigeria-at-50-by-unoaku-ekwegbalu/

    Reply

  4. This is a job well done, keep the flag high in honour of our alma mater. one love, one spirit, one goal- to restore the dignity of man.

    Reply

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