Tuesday, January 25, 2022 1:02 pm
As has become tradition, the University of Calabar held a solemn assembly to herald the academic activities in the New Year.
By Nkrumah Bankong-Obi/Calabar
A university is a rainbow of sorts. Where there exists a cordial relationship between town and the gown, the colours of diversity brighten more, and productivity is enhanced. This was manifest on Monday seventeenth of January as officials and students of the University of Calabar gathered at the Institution’s conference centre in an atmosphere of prayer, praise to God, exhortation, and soul-searching – to mark the commencement of work in the New Year. The diversity shone through in the attendance at the event.
This year, the Vice-Chancellor and her team did something remarkably different. In the continuous quest for idea-cross pollination, they chose a neutral Minister who had no direct connection with the University to lead the main solemn charge. And he, delivered on the template he set for himself for the benefit of the Institution.
It began with prayers and the introduction of key officials. Thereafter, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Florence Banku Obi, gave a motherly address in which she admonished the students to be of good character and the staff to cooperate as they strive to achieve the overall objectives of teaching and learning. She restated her commitment to begin each year with a solemn session during which members of the University community commit the year into God’s care. She lamented the deaths that occurred last year among employees and students and prayed to God to take charge and save the institution from such occurrences. She also advised staff and students to place God at the center of their affairs and seek Him in all that they do. Professor Obi who is the first female Vice-Chancellor of fifty-year-old UNICAL, called for close collaboration to overcome the challenges encountered in the previous year and those that may crop up this season.
The band of clergymen, most of whom are also lecturers in the school, took turns to read Bible chapters or just generally pray for the health, tranquility, and cohesion in the University. Deputy Vice-Chancellors, Directors of Institutes, and Centers were among those who handled this aspect of the program. They prayed for healing from hurt, disappointment, and sicknesses. A beautiful choir rendition of the University anthem yielded ground to the guest Minister, The Reverend Father Emmanuel Eroh to deliver his sermon. Father Eroh, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Ogoja, is the priest in charge of Saint Joseph’s Parish, Okuku in Yala Local Government Area of Cross River State. The clergyman interspersed his biblical exhortation with clinical real-life experiences. He spoke truth to power and the meek. His talk which spanned an hour and a half captured the essence of solemn assemblies, usefulness of such spiritual ventures, the essence of exercises of this nature before rounding off with a blessing of those in attendance.
As an academic community, the priest, Father Eroh, identified the various categories of people who need to change from evil and embrace the light of God. To the students, he named will parties and clubbing, cultism, poor fashion, immorality, cohabitation, nudity, prostitution as manifest signs of disobedience on the part of the students. And to lecturers, he identified those who frustrate students from passing exams or graduating, the ones who shamefully romance with their students, extortionists of poor students thus pushing them into different vices, idolators and unwarranted favor-seekers, those who scheme out their colleagues and engage in “pull him/her down syndrome”, teachers who indulge in tribalism and nepotism which is at variance to academic excellence. As part of their repentance, Father Eroh, drawing references from the Bible, advised them to pursue peace and that which nurtures mutual upbuilding, encourage one another with helpful words as well as flee from all kindsof bitterness, wrath, anger, malice, and slander.
Father Eroh who doubles as the Diocesan Director of Social Communications, listed the conditions for a solemn assembly to be effective to include; humility, obedience, and repentance.
In like manner, he called on the administrative staff which he described as the engine room of the University system to turn away from infractions like poor accountability, eye-service, insincerity, eyeservice, hobnobbing with evil,setting each other up for sack or destruction. To the professors, he asks them to reflect on their mentoring capacity, anger, and bitterness which in turn reflect poorly on the system. Finally, he called on the vice-chancellor to avoid courtesans who always revolve around the orbit of power. Such people, the priest noted are perfect in sowing discord among officials in their quest to be favorably considered for positions and other favors.
Having exposed the manifestations of sins that could hinder God from being in charge of UNICAL, Father Eroh called on everyone connected with the institution to genuinely repent and turn away from evil. Thereafter, he blessed them and advised all to do God’s will and experience a new lease of life.
The sobriety on the faces of those in attendance hinted that the message sank. For a moment, the politics, discontent, and other routines came to a half as the community prayed. Indeed, this may be a solemn session that could transform the fortunes of the University even in these difficult times.