From Chidi Nnadi and Chukwudera Eze, Enugu
It was a busy week filled with excitement and joy, beginning from October 4, as the authorities of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) rolled out drums to celebrate the institution’s Founders’ Day.
The celebration was the 56th in the series after Princess Alexandra of Kent laid the foundation stone of the university on October 7, 1960.
The week-long activities lined up for the celebration started with exhibitions mounted by the faculties, centres, institutes, departments, units, alumni, among others on October 4 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Library of the institution.
In the exhibition, the departments, faculties and institutes showcased their latest inventions and research publications.
On display were solar water heater with fibre-reinforced plastic storage tank; incinerator for converting solid waste into energy for domestic hot water generation; Biomass stoves; Thermo-syphon water heater; paintings; fabrications and textile materials.
The exhibition was followed by the first and second rounds of the Dignity of Man debate, a recent addition to the celebration, by the university students at the Princess Alexandra Auditorium (PAA).
On October 5, the debaters returned to PAA for the grand finale of the debate, which saw Team Georgia winning the competition. The team proposed the motion: “The rise of million-dollar babies,” at the grand finale that featured four groups.
The best speaker of the debate and also a member of the winning team, Uwakwe Henry Ikechukwu, a 400-level student of Veterinary Medicine, said: “I feel excited that my years of practice and my night of consistent brain-work yielded good result. What helped me there was the specific knowledge of the British Parliamentary style of debate and my role in the style.
“Another thing that helped me was the knowledge I had about the topic. I have read it up in an article before. Based on that exposure, I had access to information that helped me present well, coupled with my role in the debate.”
Ikechukwu won with 82.75 points to beat the first runner up, Chizoma Emeka Joshua, with 79.50 while Senator Somfee Pamela with 79.00 became the second runner up.
Another member of the winning team, Orji Sunday Sylvester, a 400-level student of Mass Communication, said: “I feel very glad and, most importantly, I attribute it to God Almighty and my friends. I was not supposed to be in this competition, but my friends said I should come, that they would pay for my fee.
“My family members opposed my coming because of my Industrial Training in Lagos, but my friends encouraged me to come. I am glad not because I won for myself, but I won for them.”
According to the Coordinator of the debates, Prof Edith Nwosu, it was aimed at preparing the students for public speaking and critical thinking, adding that “our expectation is that one day, our students will debate in the British Parliament.”
One of the judges and the Coordinator, School of General Studies, Enugu Campus, Dr. Ngozi Nwodo, also said: “The students were assessed on accuracy in the delivery of their argument; debaters who are engaging and showed personality and good communication skills.”
The teams in the debate are: North Korea; Madagascar; Georgia and Brazil.
Speaking at the grand finale of the debate, an ostensibly happy Vice Chancellor of UNN, Prof Benjamin Ozumba, commended the members of staff and the students for their effort in promoting the image of the institution, saying that the debate was organised with an aim to promoting reading culture and cognitive development.
“I’m happy that our students are doing well outside. If they are doing well outside, we want to see them do well inside. I’m sure with the practices they have been receiving, they will do well. Glory to Almighty, University of Nigeria is number one according to the current Webometric ranking of universities,” he said.
The climax of the celebration was the Founders’ Day lecture, which was delivered by the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, on October 6.
The lecture, entitled: “Science, Technology and Innovation: The way forward,” ended in the night, as the minister could not arrive Nsukka on time.
But his lecture was so captivating that he held his audience spell-bound until about 8:00p.m when it ended.
The minister lamented that the neglect of science, technology and innovation since Nigeria’s independence had inflicted unprecedented harm on the country’s national development and left the country lagging behind lesser endowed countries in the sub-Saharan region in the field of innovation.
“We must aim to use science and technology to create wealth for our people, reduce poverty and work towards eliminating abject poverty, build an inclusive, competitive and sustainable diversified economy,” he said.
Another important day during the celebration was the Alumni Day and Dignity of Man Lecture Day, which draw lecturers from the pool of distinguished alumni of the university.
The lot for this year’s Dignity of Man Lecture Day, which is the 8th in the series fell on the Chief Judge of Anambra State, Justice Peter Umeadi.
Justice Umeadi, who spoke on “The Rule of Law as the Foundation of any Nation”, called for the domestication of the Child Rights Acts by all the states in line with the changing times and development in the country.
He advised the legislature at all levels to prioritise the greater good of the people while enacting laws.
“It should always be borne in mind that the good of the people and strengthening of the foundation of the nation ought to be the purpose of legislation, which is then enforced by the ordinary courts,” the judge advised.
Also, the Commissioner of Police, Enugu State Command, Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu, while discussing the lecture, noted that corruption was a major impediment to the observance of the rule of law, pointing out that it was often recited in theory, but absent in practice.
Also, the Vice Chancellor, Prof Ozumba speaking on the Alumni Day said that the University of Nigeria under his watch was making giant strides in line with the vision of the founding fathers.
He outlined some of the achievements of his administration in the last two years to include: Improved global ranking by Webometrics, which has ranked the University of Nigeria first in the country and among the best in Africa; entering into strategic collaborations to expose staff and students of the university to international best practices; completion of abandoned buildings and revitalising moribund establishments, including the Faculty of Agriculture farm.
“Despite the economic challenges in the country, we are resilient and resolute in giving the University of Nigeria a face-lift. Such was the spirit of our founding fathers,” Ozumba said.
As part of the icing on the celebration, the institution’s Department of Music staged a night of musical concerts to entertain the guests.
The department, which emerged the best department of music in Nigeria recently at the Campus Classical held at the University of Lagos, played different symphony, ranging from Western Dance, African Chorus to African Instrumental. The Music Night was capped with African danced drama entitled: Economic Palaver and Jungle Justice.
The Department of Film and Theatre Studies also staged a drama show captioned “Iyi Uwa”.
The drama captured the folklore of “Ogbanje” myth in the Igbo cosmology where a girl dies and reincarnates repeatedly until the umbilical cord linking her with the spirits was severed by unearthing a ritual token, called “Iyi Uwa.”
On Sunday October 9, the curtain was drawn to announce the end to the celebrations of the 56th Founders’ Day with a thanksgiving service at Chapel of Redemption, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, where Prof Ozumba and his wife, Chinelo, were joined by the university management and their well-wishers to thank God for a successful celebration.