The humane and cordial atmosphere that fosters creativity, intellectual excellence and academic freedom has fully been restored in University of Nigeria, Nsukka, since the appointment of Prof. Benjamin Chukwuma Ozumba, as the Vice Chancellor of the university. For example, the 2015 convocation drama which he commissioned through the Senate Ceremonials Committee impressed the then Minister of Education, His Excellency, Mallam Ibrahim Shakarau who commended UNN for hosting the best convocation creative and cultural activities that year. Ozumba’s emergence as Vice Chancellor has equally reintegrated the institution’s alumni association and restored their place of pride as stake holders in the university.
Universities’ annual convocation ceremonies have remained our nation’s main strategic way of supporting, consolidating and promoting live theatre productions in University campuses. One wonders why there is no national conservatory for the preservation, documentation of proper audio-visual outputs of these well planned and properly funded annual drama productions that serve as part of highlights for universities’ convocation ceremonies. If an audit of past convocation drama production video tapes and playbills are not conducted in our university’s Theatre Arts departments, it might be difficult for the country’s culture ministry to keep track of these highbrow artistic productions that mark the graduation ceremonies in our Nation’s tertiary institutions.
On the grounds of the significance and relevance of such convocation productions, UNN Senate Ceremonials Committee under the chairmanship of Prof. M.I. Okwueze has not only encouraged the improvement of the quality of UNN’s convocation playbills, but has equally made it possible for Theatre and Film Studies Department of the university to plan the convocation drama in advance. These grand theatrical events that add colour, essence and beauty to the graduation ceremonies have become one of the prime reasons for thousands of well meaning Nigerians to flock to UNN during convocation events.
Last year’s convocation drama attracted the former Minister of Education, His Excellency, Ibrahim Shakarau. Mallam Shakarau was so enthralled by the innovative staging of science on stage in a well packaged drama on climate change that he spoke for over an hour after watching the drama and also gave the staff and students of the department a handsome financial donation. The grand theatrical production that added special colour and beauty to the 44th convocation drama was Greg Mbajiorgu’s Wake up Everyone directed by Ndubuisi Nnanna.
This year’s convocation ceremony, being the 45th convocation event of the university, The Department of Theatre And Film Studies has been commissioned to stage a special production of Esiaba Irobi’s The Colour of Rusting Gold, to commemorate the remarkable life and works of this theatrical icon and distinguished alumni. Irobi’s The Colour of Rusting Gold, this time, is directed by Greg Mbajiorgu and Ikechukwu Erojikwe. This prophetic play by Irobi focuses on the corrupt state of our society at all levels and highlights the degree of moral decadence in our nation, Nigeria. As stated by Mbajiorgu and Erojikwe in the production brochure: “It is our expectation that our special audience for this year’s convocation drama will go home with this question in their minds –why must we allow our great nation, Nigeria which we cherish even more than gold to rust in our age and time?”
It is commendable to observe that UNN convocation plays in recent times seem to tackle topical issues.
This year’s convocation drama is special due to the following reasons:
- It celebrates a monumental doyen of the Nsukka Drama School, Esiaba Irobi. One of Irobi’s teachers and mentors, Prof. Chimalum Nwankwo, a pioneer staff of Dramatic Arts Department, UNN, praised the University for choosing Irobi’s play for the 45th convocation ceremony. According to Prof. Nwankwo, “it is a wise and worthy choice that recognizes an alumnus whose footprints on the campus cannot be forgotten in a hurry”.
- It is the first time that five academic staff of the department will be collaborating to produce a convocation play. In this special commemorative convocation drama, even already graduated students of the department have volunteered to participate in the production because of their love for Esiaba Irobi.
- This is the first time that patrons of the theatre will be conferred with special awards after a convocation drama. One of those to be conferred with such highly dignified honour by the Department of Theatre And Film Studies is chief Osita Chidioka (Ike Obosi), former Field Marshal of Federal Road Safety Corps and immediate past Minister of Aviation.
This happens to be the first time the department from where Irobi grew and nutured his dramatic skills will be celebrating him since his demise in 2010. We will recall that Irobi won the prestigious NLNG prize for drama but unfortunately died before he could receive the award. This is why it is anticipated that most of Irobi’s fans and friends, from far and near, will troop to UNN to watch this historic convocation drama in honour of their mentor and role model Esiaba Irobi and join in the interactive session that will ensue after the production.
Again, it is interesting to note that Esiaba Irobi taught, mentored or inspired great minds and scholars in theatre and other walks of life like Obi Emelonye, Charles Novia, Kola Ogunjobi, Kalu Ikeagwu, Niji Akani, Eucharia Anunobi, Nnorom Azuonye, Shehu Usman, Joe Chukwukelu, Nobert Oyibo Eze, Ola Ukaiwe, Obinna Nwachukwu, Uloma Umeano, Ike Achebe, Chioma Okafor, Ngozi Udengwu, Ike Okonta, Uche Nwaozuzu, Olu Oguibe, Okey Ndibe, Chika Okeke-Agulu, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, Eni-Jones Umuoko, Chinwe Ezeani, Chijioke Edoga, Chizua Umeano, Ireke Amorji and Yours Sincerely, Greg Nnamdi Nnabike Mbajiorgu.
UNN convocations usually attract such high personalities like the Visitor, President And Commander-In-Chief Of The Armed Forces, Federal Republic Of Nigeria or his representative with thousands of other VIP guests such as State Governors, Senators, Ministers, business men and women from the industrial and corporate world and, of course, distinguished members of University Alumni Association.
This year’s convocation drama will take place at UNN New Arts Theatre on the 19th of February, 2016 at 5pm. All guests are expected to be seated at 4.45pm, the Vice-Chancellor, the Visitor and other distinguished guests of honour will seat at 5pm, thereafter, the production will commence. It promises to extremely colourful and historic.
Greg Mbajiorgu, NURESDEF Laureate, is Senior Lecturer, Department Of Theatre and Film Studies, UNN.