MY EVENTFUL YEARS AT UNN by VINCENT IHESINULO
Intro by Edith Ohaja
Here is the first part of Vincent ‘da Vinci’ Ihesinulo’s story in his own words. Before diving into it, you might want to check the preamble I wrote about him, A SOCIAL CONSCIENCE WORTH APPLAUDING. It presents my interactions with Vincent over the years and the perceptions arising therefrom. You need those to lead you into the piece below. And please, share your views on that post and this as well. You are blessed!
MY EVENTFUL YEARS AT UNN
Telling this story fills me with nostalgia because my sojourn at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) was a very hectic but exciting time during which I pursued many of my ideals, garnered invaluable experiences and made many unforgettable friends.
I studied mass communication at the Jackson Building of UNN between 2000 and 2004 (gave one year to strike so I actually left in 2005). I was offered admission in law shortly after I settled into mass communication. Torn between the allure of the attorney’s wig and the swag of being a more cautious Dele Giwa, I chose the latter, aided subconsciously by the finesse of the impressionable Prof Sylvanus Ekwelie (whom I called Professor STYYLLE in my head. Lol!)
The almost four years I waited at home before gaining admission into the university were spent ravaging everything readable in my house. And were there books! So I came into mass communication ready-made. I felt I knew enough of the theories so I was more eager for the practicals. Seeing very little – a dormant radio/TV studio and a rested in-house newspaper used only as reference – I veered into campus politics.
My first year was quite lively. I had joined the most popular drama group on campus then called The Oak Theatre and was lucky to be cast as Okwu, a character in Esiaba Irobi’s The Fronded Circle. We performed this on stage before a large audience at the General Studies Building after many long nights of rehearsals. Our director was very proud of my performance and told me so. With that, I conquered stage fright and also learnt to ‘project!’
In between the drama rehearsals, I attended auditions organised by Goldfish Productions (the showbiz guys of the day) with Black Prince (later known as Obiwon of Obim o fame) mentoring. I was to mime R. Kelly’s If I Could Turn the Hands of Time but that showbiz ambition was botched by a security incident that occurred on campus shortly after.
I was a pioneer member of University of Nigeria Students’ Information Network, UNSIN, where I served as associate editor of Newscope, the association’s magazine. I always stayed back in school during vacations to work on projects meant for students’ use during school sessions. An interview I conducted with a controversial lecturer, Akionu, published in Newscope created a demand for the magazine.
My involvement in this organisation saw me shuttling between the Nsukka and Enugu campuses, where I made friends that inspired me into politics. We also shuttled round the country paying courtesy calls on state governors and top politicians. These trips opened my eyes, so to speak.
Then, school politics was all about aluta. But I didn’t subscribe to that brand of aluta where violence reigned supreme. If I would do politics, I reasoned with my mentors and friends, my brand of aluta was going to be ideological in nature. Nathan Oguwike, founder of UNSIN, fuelled that passion and shortly after, we launched.
A friend, Austin, who shared the stage with me in The Oak Theatre, saw me one day sketching a portrait and in utter amazement called me ‘da Vinci! Man of many parts.’ The name would come in handy while I brainstormed with my crew over which catchy name to use in the campaigns. We considered that Slim, my erstwhile nickname, sounded a little thuggish.
Week after week, we held the student audience spellbound as we rolled out catchy lines that hyped the da Vinci brand. ‘Have you thought of Da Vinci today?’ and ‘Behold DA VINCI, the PROfessional’ were some of the most poignant lines of those campaign days. The election in which I ran for the post of Information Officer of the Students’ Union Government (SUG) was ill-fated. But the winner who saw the substance of our campaign invited me to join his government as the editor-in-chief of the school publication.
The target was to revamp The Roar magazine of the SUG. With our arms hamstrung by the presence of people appointed for political patronage and compensation in the editorial board, we managed to make a modest attempt, as professionalism and editorial autonomy were clearly lacking in the composition of the board.
What this board lacked, however, a new editorial board constituted at the mass communication department had in abundance, with me in the lead as the editor-in-chief. This gave me the much-sought after hope. While we assembled materials to relaunch the department’s newspaper, The Record, a new regime took over in the department and disbanded my board. There again went another opportunity on the altar of politics.
While I remobilised for a second coming in politics, I tried to strengthen my political base. At the faculty level, I was elected the PRO of the students’ association. I held the same position at my parapo* association, Federation of Ngwa Students, FNS, and the National Association of Abia State Students, NAASS. I was also the editor-in-chief of The Rotaract Club of UNN where I repackaged the club’s brochure before being elected as the Club Secretary. I was a member of Junior Chambers too but Rotaract took the better part of my social time. In addition, I was involved in the creation of Franco Radio with Henry Emele at the production level. This grew into what’s known today as Lion FM.
When it was time for elections again, my name was already everywhere, so much that people thought I was going to run for president. With pressure from my parents, I quit active politics but not before negotiating for the headship of an autonomous editorial board that would be run mostly by professionals. I chose my team and we set to work. We set a high standard with the new Roar magazine that we rolled out, in terms of content and packaging. We even went further to introduce a fortnightly tabloid, Roar Extra. This changed the face of campus journalism and created a demand for news, news, and more news!
Another strike prolonged our stay in school and altered the academic calendar of that period. The SUG elections could not hold leaving only those whose course duration were beyond four years to oversee union affairs. Following a personal appeal from the Information Officer, C. P. Nwodo, I stayed back with a few board members to produce yet another edition of The Roar.
At the risk of sounding immodest, may I mention that we brought candour and glamour to the offices of the Information Officer and the editor-in-chief so much that all eyes were on the the information secretariat which we christened The Infocenta. The highlight of that era was the editorial autonomy which the board enjoyed. We cheered heroes and jeered at the villains on campus, not minding whose ox was gored. While others slept or partied, we edited stories sent in by contributors, designed and planned pages on snail speed computers with biscuit wrappers and bottles of Limca littered everywhere…
I juggled this job with my presidency of a UN-powered NGO, Poverty in Africa Alternative/Neighbourhood Environmental Action Team, POVINAA-NEAT club. Here, we preached cleanliness and set out special days per week for picking dirts off the streets.
When graduation day came round, I had a glorious extra-curricular record. But I also felt some pain because it deprived me of a better result than the Second Class Lower degree I made. In sum, I had lived a full life and scored many enviable achievements as a student. So I gave God glory for everything!
*Super-Jacksonites are graduates of the mass communication department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
*aluta is from “a luta continua“, Portuguese for “the struggle continues”
*parapo refers to people from one’s home area. It’s a Yoruba word.
The conclusion of Vincent’s story titled, “MY LIFE AFTER SCHOOL” is just as exciting and it’s coming up soon. Watch out for it.
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