By Gabriel Dike
The 60th birthday celebration of Professor of Counselling, Faculty of Education, University of Lagos, Prof. Ngozi Osarenren, served as an opportunity for her mentors, colleagues and students to acknowledge her contributions in the education sector, especially in the Nigerian university system (NUS).
On Wednesday, April 28, 2021, UNILAG, especially the Faculty of Education, stood still for Prof. Osarenren as she marked her diamond jubilee with a thanksgiving Mass at St. Thomas Moore Catholic Chaplaincy, UNILAG, Akoka.
The thanksgiving Mass attracted UNILAG’s vice-chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, and his wife, Oluwaseun, principal officers of the university, VC, University of Calabar, Prof. Florence Obi, professors, chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), non-teaching staff, family members, well-wishers, current and former students.
The Mass was celebrated by eight priests, led by the chaplain of the church, Rev. Fr. Akin Paul. The high point of the celebration was when Prof. Osarenren, joined by well-wishers, danced to the altar to present gifts.
Emeritus Professor Pai Obanya, described her as a shining star, noting, “You have reached the top of an exciting career. But this is the time to consolidate on your glorious achievements and to work hard to become an authority in your specialized field.’’
Obanya urged Osarenren to write a book of authority in her field and also continue with the task of showing the light for the younger academics under her mentorship to find their way.
Former UNILAG VC, Prof. Tolu Odugbemi, said Osarenren stands for justice and fair play as demonstrated throughout her career at the university. Odugbemi observed that these exemplary character traits were also displayed while she was Commissioner for Education in Edo State and she handled important academic and administrative assignments in the university.
President of the Association of Professional Counsellors in Nigeria (APROCON), Prof. Oyaziwo Aluede, described Osarenren as a colossus, a rare academic gem and an encyclopaedia of guidance and counselling.
Aluede said her legacies in the education sector still remain unequalled, “for example, the manner with which she fought to wipe out examination malpractices from the Edo State school system was novel unbeatable.”
Chairman, ASUU, UNILAG branch, Dr. Dele Ashiru, described Osarenren as an academic and public intellectual of the Socratic tradition, and that her contributions to the development of minds and human capital in Nigeria and beyond were legendary.
“She is an enigmatic personality who bestrode the academic landscape nationally and internationally. She is a loyal, dedicated forthright and committed member of our great union. She is ever willing to serve the union at the shortest notice,” Ashiru stressed.
One of her students, Rev. Fr. Nwafor Tobias, said he and other students encountered a dignified and virtuous mother, a worthy professor and a thoroughbred educator. His words: “You have consciously and deliberately impacted and moulded lives. Your impact in the lives of those in the academic field and ordinary life can never be measured.”
In his message, Prof. Ogundipe said he admire many of Osarenren’s special attributes, passion for research, understanding and insightful analysis of issues: “These special attributes have endeared you to the heart of many and consistently reflected in your scholarship.”
It therefore did not come to me as a surprise that you rose to become a Professor of Counselling in the university. Your contributions to putting the university’s name on the global map through your many scholarly publications cannot be overemphasised.
“Your great leadership qualities and passion for the growth of the system stands you out amongst other colleagues in the university. This passion was displayed during the imbroglio that almost consumed the university in 2020, where you took a principled stand on the side of rescuing the system from those who held it by the jugular.”
Her friend of over 16 year and the VC of UNICAL, Prof. Obi, described the APROCON Secretary General as priceless and that she sacrifices beyond measure to be with her but considers her (Obi) convenience whenever she needs her.
“Ngozi, my good friend, your love has remained undiluted and constant these 16 years. I can’t stop thanking God who brought us together. Today, I celebrate you for another milestone,” she revealed.
Chairman, Secondary Education Management Board (SEMB), Abia State, Chief Eke Onyeforo, said as the former Edo State education commissioner, her transformation agenda set a pace that has been difficult to equal, practically, the issue of tackling examination malpractices and “miracle centers.”
“At SEMB, we have tried to replicate the blue print you set at Edo State Ministry of Education and pray we can achieve as much success. We are equally sure that your name will be written in Gold at the great University of Lagos where your products are making waves and are so proud of You,” Onyeforo noted.
In his homily, Fr. Paul, said to clock 60th year in Nigeria is a miracle and thanked God for the numerous achievements recorded by Prof. Osarenren in thew education sector.
His words: “At 60, it is time to appreciate God, family members and friends. There are things you can not do again. Soon you will start coming down the ladder and you will meet people, it is naturally. Nature will make you let go of some of the things you do.”
In her remarks, Prof. Osarenren, said she is overwhelmed to celebrate 60th years, adding” this celebration, I booked Mass and invited family members, colleagues and friends because God allowed me to witness my 60th years birthday. I did not even know I will see today. Nothing is impossible before God.
‘’I wanted a special Mass to let people know that God lives. I am standing here because God made it possible. I can’t believe the people that have gathered to celebrate with me.”