■ As UNN Mass Comm. alumni meet in Lagos, Prof. Pat Utomi tells the story of how he chose journalism with his eyes closed
By Lawrence Enyoghasu
It made for a great time of reunion and reminiscences when Jacksonites, the alumni association of the mass communication department of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, gathered recently in Lagos to brainstorm on how to improve the department.
The association took its name from Thomas Horatio Jackson, co-publisher of the Lagos Weekly Record for whom the founder of the department, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, first President of Nigeria, in his honour, christened the department.
The gathering held at the Ikoyi house of Prof Pat Utomi (class of 77) and attended by alumni cutting across virtually all sets or classes, (from class of ‘72 to ‘14) allowed attendees not only to exchange pleasantries but to also make new friends.
While declaring the reunion open, the initiator, Chido Nwakanma (class of 85) stated that it is high time Jacksonites stopped answering only to the name of the department but metamorphose into a name of media conglomerate that will be run by the alumni.
According to him the reunion became a reality following an E-Town Hall meeting which saw it winning the nod for such gathering with 74 percent of the total votes cast, adding that the objectives of Jacksonites will, among others, be: to foster networking among its graduates, to support the study and practice of journalism in the department, to engage in media advocacy.
“We have the intention of having a radio and television station,” he announced. “We need to have a weekly paper which will help the students and turn the name to a household name that will be known beyond the shores of Enugu State.”
In his speech, Kingsley Osadolor (class of 84), formerly of The Guardian, and, today, co-host of popular TV/radio programme “Good Morning Nigeria” noted that he left his house for a good cause: to relate with Jacksonites outside his set. He thinks it is an avenue to give back to the department. “In other words, how to make sure that the department retains its ego as the first and best institute for journalism,” he stated.
Chidiebere Nwachukwu (class of 11) and a lecturer at the department welcomed the reunion as a good development, adding that its essence is to integrate and keep records of alumni.
“We need to get all Jacksonites involved,” he advised. “They say that the room that is never filled up is the room for improvement. While we believe that we are doing very well, we still believe that we can do better.”
The host of the reunion, Prof. Utomi, caused widespread laughter when he told an amusing story of how he stumbled into mass communication department of UNN. According to him, in 1973, when he chose the course, he did it with his eyes closed, a pencil in his hand and a brochure of the university on his table.
“My story was a very peculiar one. I didn’t want to go to the university,” he said. “I wanted to be a pilot, so I was bent on doing everything I can to achieve that dream until my father convinced me to go to the university to have fun. Then I picked up a pencil, closed my eyes and hit a course called journalism. That was how I showed up in Nsukka for a year of fun but some challenges in the department made me to volunteer to extend my services and that changed my life.”
Like Utomi, other Jacksonites from the department, passed through experiences that helped to prepare them for life. For some, it was excess academic workloads, for others, it was the experience of working with limited resources and less or no supervision.
For Henry Ugwu (class of ‘13), and a singer, meeting people and the relentless effort to tag along with people was his most difficult challenge. Henry who is currently working on his album said he is happy to learn communication skill.
“As a singer and a social personality, what was my greatest challenge in the department is now my greatest asset. In the department, it was a must to communicate with people in English. Although I knew how to speak good English, I was just too shy to speak openly.”
During introduction, it was discovered that Jacksonites have families of two different generations: a mother and her child, an uncle and a nephew; Unoaku and Emeka Ekwegbalu, Steve Nwosu, Deputy Managing Director, Sun Publishing Ltd, and Lawrence Enyoghasu, respectively. Not to talk of a lady who came to the department and found love: Mrs. Olayemi Nwobodo, wife of Innocent Nwobodo.
Many Jacksonites graced the occasion: they include Emeka Okoroanyanwu, Osaro Isokpan, Innocent Oparadike, Onwe Raphael, Emmanuel Obochi, Tochukwu Anene and Brisibe Doreen.