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Celebrating J.P Clark amid 55 cheers for Unilag’s English Department

By Damiete Braide

It is good to celebrate people who have made remarkable impact on the progress of the society, likewise institutions that have contributed to the growth of knowledge.  This was brought to the fore when the Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos, celebrated its 55 years of existence. The occasion was also used to celebrate renowned writer, Prof. J.P Clark, for his immense contributions to English department and the society at large.

Head of English Department, University of Lagos, Prof Hope Eghagha, said in his remarks, he was happy that the department was celebrating 55 years of its existence. The department, he said, “has produced great people in the society, likewise, people who have also contributed to the growth of the department and the society at large.”

He remarked further, “In the lecture entitled ‘The Humanities and the Redemption of Africa’, we can see the role which the Humanities has played in the development of Africa.  We believe the African continent is competing very poorly in the scheme of things when compared to other continents in the world.  We can come out of the valley when our educational curriculum is revisited and rejuvenated in such a way that it will reflect the thought of the African environment.”

Professor Eghagha bemoaned the removal of History from secondary school curriculum, noting that “the last 20 years have been very sad, because young people coming behind us will not have a history of Nigeria and sense of development of Nigeria. When we are conscious of our history, where we are coming from, then we can understand where we are and we know where we ought to go.”

Guest speaker, Prof Gabriel Godini Darah, in his lecture “The Humanities and the Redemption of Africa” disclosed that civilisation actually started in Africa 3000 BC, “This civilisation was in terms of counting, literacy while deep national thinking started from Africa. We cannot be said to be inferior, and nobody should judge Africans on account of their complexion,” he said, stressing that complexion was a factor of geographical environment, which “doesn’t affect one’s sense of reasoning, power to acquire one’s mind.”

Echoing that philosophy was imbedded in African culture, he said it was being transmitted every day, “We may not have gone to school somewhere to study African philosophy, but it is imbedded in our proverbs and day-to-day activities. African philosophy is vibrant; we just have to recognise it, appreciate it, and sell it to the outer world.”

Chike Ogeah, who represented the chairman of the occasion, the former governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, echoed that “Civilisation actually started in Africa. Even up to Biblical evidence, the first man was black. We have seen the relevance of the humanities which is life. It encompasses everything that we do which is creative, thinking, the language, the evolution of civilization etcetera.”

He was delighted that Prof J.P Clark was being celebrated alongside, describing him as “an institution on his own” and “a national icon” all were privileged to still have around and be consulted. Also, he said the playwright “is a man who is supposed to have won the Nobel Laureate by all intent and purposes, but, sometimes, one begins to wonder that, because we are in Africa and the organisers of such awards don’t see geniuses of people that the country has produced. It is not just Prof. Wole Soyinka alone, but there are so many extraordinary people that have come from that generation.”

The Dean of Faculty of Arts, Unilag, Prof Muyiwa Falaiye, said it was worthy of celebrating the English Department on its 55th anniversary. “For 27 years, I have been involved in activities at the department that has produced eminent professors that have passed through the department. We are privileged to have had Prof J.P Clark, the great man, in the department. The University of Lagos is grateful to the department and the department is grateful to the department.”

Prof Toyin Ogundipe, who represented the Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Prof Rahmon Alao, said the university was used to celebrating good things, adding, “We celebrate all those who have passed through the university. We celebrate with Prof Hope Eghagha for what he has done for the department, and we believe that more celebrations will surely come from here.”

Prof Tunde Fatunde of the Department of Foreign Languages, iterated that “this century is a century of knowledge and digitilisation” and “we need to use current technology to improve our educational system”, adding, “In Africa, the budget allocated for education is very poor; so, Africa needs to increase the budget on education to be able to compete favourably well with other continents.”

Poet and writer, Odia Ofemuin, added that “brilliant people are subjected to ridicule, and they are outspoken. We need to turn our society into a school so that those who suppress the university system are made to go through the system.”

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