For Oyovbaire, For Aloamaka

By Sunny Awhefeada,


The Delta State University, Abraka, two Saturdays ago, attracted the world’s attention when it rolled out drums in celebration of its 16th convocation ceremony. Convocation ceremonies in Nigeria are always marked with fanfare manifesting in processions, speeches, music, dance, food and drinks.

The spectacle is always colourful, inspiring, ennobling and wholesomely intoxicating so that everybody sees the therapeutic virtue and ennobling beauty of going to school in negation of the lousy thinking that “school na scam”.

This was the scenario that Saturday at Abraka, a town famous for its long history of education beginning from the 1940s when it hosted a teachers’ training college. The convocation ceremony evoked different feelings among the thousands that thronged the arena.

In the din, mirth, conviviality, gyrations, speeches, the rituals of rising to one’s feet, doffing of hats and other such academic niceties configured for such an occasion were two significant rites that caught the admiration of most people present.

The rites were the conferment of honorary doctorate degree on Professor Sam Egite Oyovbaire and the investiture of professor emeritus title on Professor Chukwuemeka Patrick Aloamaka.

Both men, in their eighties and seventies respectively, stole the show and without uttering a word to that effect answered the question, “what is the true worth of a man?” The admiring audience looked on and saw the response in the soothing smile of accomplishment that radiated on the faces of the duo.

In a society that is riddled with maladies and threatened to its very foundations by anti-social tendencies and abysmal lack of values, the recognition and reward for the intellectual prowess and acclaim for both men only point in the direction of hope for humanity.

And the Delta State University, Abraka, must be commended that it didn’t chase after “a money miss road character” for its most coveted honorary doctorate. It is also salutary that the university is increasing its tally of professor emeriti. Both indices speak to the university’s sterling academic integrity and coming of age.

The university has in recent years come to consolidate on its identity as a centre of academic excellence rising steadily to assume its rightful place in the global commune of universities.

Born nearly eighty-three years ago at Opuraja in Delta State, Professor Sam Oyovbaire acquired exceptionally brilliant academic degrees in Economics, History and Politics from some of the best universities in the United Kingdom.

He returned to Nigeria in the early 1970s to teach in the Department of Political Science in the highly radical Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU) Zaria.

Those were the halcyon days of radical leftist inclinations with the versatile Dr. Bala Usman as the doyen of dialectical engagements at ABU. Oyovbaire, armed with profound knowledge and courage of conviction of how societies evolve chose to go against the grain of Marxist disposition that Bala Usman and company so boldly and loudly advocated.

Oyovbaire not only offered a counter-discursive ideological formation to the Marxists, but he cautioned moderation which was to yield the philosophy of “a little to the left and a little to the right” in a regime where he served as a leading figure.

At ABU and beyond Oyovbaire was the epitome of the scholar as philosopher that the wise king should court. He was later to teach at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru and at the University of Benin where he retired in 1993.

Academic engagements have taken him to more than twenty countries with consultancies beyond that figure. He authored essays and books which pointed at a new direction for Nigeria.

My earliest knowledge of him was via a report in The Guardian newspaper, early in 1985, detailing how he took the military regime of General Buhari to the cleaners.

Oyovbaire was to emerge after the ouster of Buhari as a leading mentor and minister of information under General Ibrahim Babangida who ruled Nigeria from 1985 to 1993. Oyovbaire was in the stellar company of Babs Fafunwa, Bolaji Akinyemi, Olikoye Ransom-Kuti in Babangida’s regime. In the early 1990s at the University of Benin, we were made to view Oyovbaire as “a suspect” because he together with the likes of Professor Omo Omoruyi and Dr. Tunji Olagunju were thought to have put ideas in Babangida’s head. Marxist elements and radical students’ union leaders called Oyovbaire and co “comprador bourgeoisie” and other high sounding labels as they inveighed against the Babangida regime and we applauded.

I was to encounter Professor Oyovbaire physically at a public lecture where he spoke with candour and convincing sincerity in 2008.

I got to know him more in years to come as a man with deep convictions regarding the way society should go. He has become for many of us an example of a self-respecting intellectual whose looming fame and honour have endured the vagaries of public life.

Either working with him in organizing the ninetieth anniversary celebration of the Urhobo Progress Union or as a member of the Governing Council of our university which he chaired, every hour spent with Professor Oyovbaire offered more knowledge and insight than a full semester could offer.

He has served Nigeria and Delta State in capacities that only an encyclopedia can account for. This honour bestowed on him by DELSU is therefore well deserved.

Professor C. P. Aloamaka an indigene of Illah was born seventy-three years ago in Baro in today’s Niger State with a Pan-Nigerian destiny. A gentle giant, he has come to represent the quintessence of the ideal university man.

Aloamaka’s sojourn to intellectual stardom locates him in the annals of great men and women who braved the odds to reach the zenith of their chosen careers. His is a story anybody aspiring for an academic career should be familiar with. Thankfully, he has written an autobiography that will soon be unveiled!

His quest for western education saw him attending schools in Obollo-Afor, Ihiala and Ebu before proceeding for the Advance Level at the Federal School of Science in Lagos from 1972 to 1974. He attended the University of Ibadan where he read Animal Science from 1974 to 1977 and graduating with a Bachelor of Science honours degree with Second Class (Upper Division).

He followed this with a Master of Science also at Ibadan in 1980 and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Human Physiology from the University of Benin in 1987.

Aloamaka’s moment in academe began in 1980 as a lecturer at the College of Education, Benin-City. The University of Benin offered him a coveted teaching post in the Department of Physiology in 1982 where he rose to become a senior lecturer in 1989. He migrated to the United Arab Emirates where he was Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the UAE University, Al-Ain, from 1991 to 1995. An uncommon sense of patriotism saw him returning to Nigeria to assume a professoriate at the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma in 1995.

He was Dean of that University’s Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences from 1996 to 2003 and later from 2004 to 2005. His sojourn in the Delta State University, Abraka, began as a sabbatical engagement in 2003, while his tenured appointment commenced in 2006. He served the University as Head of Department, Dean of Faculty and finally as Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration).

Did he not serve as acting Vice Chancellor? Yes, he did! He also functioned in many committees either as member or chairman. He has the privilege of being the Chairman of the University’s first ever Advisory Committee.

Professor C. P. Aloamaka is widely published and highly regarded in academic circles. He is a member of many professional associations and serves on the editorial boards of many journals.

A professorial assessor and external examiner for many universities, he is the Ozomah of Illah Kingdom. It is instructive to note that despite his cerebral endowment, he never held any political appointment. He remains an academic thoroughbred. A very unique feature of the day of his investiture as Professor Emeritus was that it was also the day he bagged a doctor of philosophy degree in Law. His life has been characterized by a wholesome quest for learning. Hence he is the proud holder of three degrees in Law! How he managed to accomplish all of these is contained in his autobiography which he wrote with monk-like honesty.

Professor Emeritus Aloamaka has been a beacon of hope to many in academics. Now in the twilight of life he has found another vocation as a catechist leading humanity on the path of salvation. Here is the Professor Emeritus as teacher, lawyer and preacher in the service of humanity and asking for nothing in return!

I join all people of goodwill in congratulating both scholars. Their examples are worthy of emulation. Their medals of honour are well deserved!

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