BY DODOH OKAFAR
I read with trepidation a report narrating how another UNN student; the 4th in recent times, took his own life by drinking poisonous substance. The 400 level student identified as Samuel Elias was of the Department of Religion and Culture. According to the mother, he got frustrated over his failure to round off his studies after the authorities of the university kept “throwing banana peels” along his path.
I have read very intelligent interventions on this issue from fellow Super Lions and Lionesses and so many others. I also remember my conversations, the last time with others, when the news of Chukwuemeka Akachi, a first-class final year student of Department of English and Literary Studies of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, who committed suicide broke.
In my conversations with these ex-students, there’s one issue that comes up without fail: the determination of so many lecturers in the school to frustrate students and force them into abandoning their dreams. The sad thing as someone mentioned lately is that, the university has no effective official channel for addressing cases of injustice against the students by the lecturers. If you dare protest, so many voices would come at you immediately, telling you; you would be worse off for it.
I remember an encounter I had with Mr. Peter Nwokolo, (popularly known as PUN) of Mathematics Department in 2006. I had insisted that he must register me for MTH121 one Tuesday that I was lucky to meet him in his office. Prior to meeting him that fateful Tuesday, I had visited his office to register this course over a six-week period with no success. Mr. Nwokolo, perhaps, willingly or by accident was never in office at the time he said students can come to register. Curiously, once this allotted time of registration- 12- 2PM- Tuesdays and Wednesdays lapses, the man would saunter in. If you dare talk to him about course registration anything after 2PM, the man would simply look at his watch, point you to a notice posted on the door to his office and ask; “can’t you read?”
Mr. Nwokolo had a reputation for being a “tough man” and no one was encouraged to challenge or question him. On the said Tuesday, I had gone for the registration with a classmate Don Guru who also had been frustrated in his attempts to register. As usual, Nwokolo was nowhere to be found, so we bought groundnut and began to eat. After two hours of waiting, along with hundreds of other students, Nwokolo sauntered in; clutching pieces of papers. He made a few inaudible remarks and moved inside his office. For over 30 minutes, the man never deemed it fit to say a thing to the hundreds of anxious students who had had to forgo many lectures that day to queue for hours in front of his office.
I took the initiative and went to meet him inside; told him we need to register, knowing that that registration deadline was the next day. Nwokolo retort was a classic – “What have you been doing since the beginning of the semester?” All my efforts to explain that I had been coming since January were ignored- (the conversation took place in March). He pointed me to a list and said; “I have registered over 100 students since November last year”. I was miffed! Over a thousand students were due to register and so, registering 100, perhaps students of Mathematics Department are not really a good number and I told him.
He lifted his face to look at me and demanded that I leave his office. Politely, I left and minutes later, he came out and told us to write another list. It was shocking because, we already had a list which we began compiling since 11AM. I protested that it was unfair. The next thing I heard was; “I will deal with you! I cannot miss you and I will make sure I teach you a lesson you would never forget….”
I was enraged. How can a man be so insensitive? I told him point blank that he is a joker. I told the students not to write their names and demanded that he must register all. He threatened to call school security if I don’t leave. I told him to hurry. Many students were stunned. Older students who were carrying the course over couldn’t believe what was unfolding before them. Everywhere was quiet as I gave the lecturer a piece of my mind. Eventually, he locked his office and never returned for the day.
After waiting till 4PM, everyone dispersed. The next morning, I had a good meal of Okpa and Custard, said my prayers and made my way to “Abuja Building”, (where Mathematics Department and other departments in the Faculty of Physical Sciences are housed), my registration slip at hand. I saw a crowd as soon as I arrived, found a long list and wrote my name, while we waited for PUN to show up. Around 9:55AM, he arrived. He asked us to write our names according to departments. Perhaps, he knew I was in Economics Department and wanted to single me out. I was unperturbed. I had already made Inquiries on how to get a remark if one feels wronged. I already knew, I was not expecting an ‘A’ from the course, because, it was one of the worst lectures ever with poorly lit classrooms and teachers who barely spoke audibly. Attending classes at Abuja Building; whether for Maths, Statistics or Computer Science was a great torture and I never bothered. I only made sure I did the assignments and read whatever I could put together from tutorials by Sergius Okeh and Udeh Vincent Chukwunonso.
Well, to cut a long story short; PUN came early on the said Wednesday, registered everyone with an efficiency I never knew could be found in Abuja Building. The next time I went to the building was around April when we wrote the exam. To God be the glory, I made a ‘B’. The last time I saw Nwokolo was at Ogbete Market in Enugu and we greeted well like old comrades.
Why have I gone at great length to tell this story? To show you that in Nsukka, it is fun to frustrate and victimise students for nothing. Many students stay in the school for 10 years without graduating over missing scripts, incomplete results, missing files and what else- late submission of results.
At Nsukka, lecturers take no responsibility. The students who never marked their script are always asked to go find their “missing results”. Strange right? At the records departments, files miss every day and no one has ever been sacked nor punished for negligence. Never mind that the hostels are dungeons; totally unfit for human habitation. What do you say about the over-crowded classrooms or the constant power failures or shortage of running water?
Nsukka has largely fallen apart, derailed from its founding dream and has become a shameful shadow of its former glorious self. The recurring suicides in the school is a pointer; if any was ever needed; that UNN has been messed up by every administration in the school since the sole administratorship of Umaru Gomwalk. In my estimation; Bartholomew Okolo- VC- 2009- 2015 was the worst ever. Okolo destroyed the dignity of the institution, reduced it to a joke, turned the SUG into a colony of cowards and found a way of keeping everyone quiet. Mr. Okolo banned all the social activities that enable students to ease off like Bonfire Night and many others.
What is even most shameful that the prominent alumni of the school are watching passively, while the most important Nigerian institution in Igboland rots away. I have been rummaging the papers in recent weeks to see if I can get a copy of the policy document of the new VC- Prof. Charles Igwe. I wanted to use the policy document to assess his programmes and agenda and know where he is leading the school to. But till date; nothing. Well, the expectation is that Mr. Igwe who has been in the school since the 70s would be no different. Many believe he is a mediocre who has no revolutionary idea. So many people I have spoken to told me they are not expecting much.
Many of us are worried at the desecration and fall of UNN. What is even sadder is that many in the school are yet to realise that the school is gone. Pray; what manner of institution finds it hard to release a statement after it had become a reference point of all suicide reports that I have read in the last few weeks?
Such a shame!
Okafor, a social commentator sent this piece from Abuja. You can reach him via: [email protected]