On Friday, November 5, 2021, Nigeria’s foremost professor of General Stylistics and Literary Criticism and present Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Uyo, Prof. Joseph Akawu Ushie, was inducted into a hall of fame where only few Nigerian literary giants in the class of Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, JP Clark belong(ed). He became the first person dead or alive in the whole of Cross River and Akwa Ibom States to become, Fellow, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).
For the uninitiated, Prof. Joseph Ushie is a veteran author, a university don, a celebrated poet, whose life began at Akorshi, Bendi, the hilly Obaniliku Local Government Area (where Obudu is) of Cross River State. He attended St. Peter’s Primary School, Bendi, Government Secondary School, Obudu and the University of Calabar, Calabar, where he studied English and Literary Studies, and was the Students Union Government’s Secretary General in the 1980-81 session. He subsequently obtained his MA (1988) and Ph.D (2001) in English from the University of Ibadan. He had served as Vice Dean, Postgraduate School, Head of English Department, and on several boards and committees in the University of Uyo. Prof. Ushie had also served as Chairman, ANA, Akwa Ibom State Chapter; Judge, ANA National Literary Competitions (2009-2010), Africa’s Representative at the 2010 Philippine PEN 50th Anniversary Celebrations; Juror, Canada-based International Poetry Competition (2017) and Co-Editor, Montreal 2017 Global Poetry Anthology. He has plenty of books, articles and publications to his credit. His collections of poems include Popular Stand, Eclipse in Rwanda, Hill Songs, et al.
On Wednesday, November 9, 2021, a die-hard lover of teachers and apostle of human capacity development in the person of Mr. Udom Inoyo thought it wise to celebrate the literary icon who though hails from Cross River State, has spent 36 years of his life teaching at the University of Uyo, where majority of his students hail from Akwa Ibom State. Like he and others have done through the Inoyo Toro Foundation in the last fourteen years, Mr. Inoyo ingeniously deviced a way to celebrate Teacher Joe Ushie. Inoyo staged a dinner to allow Prof’s family and friends to join him (Inoyo) in honoring Prof for his contributions to humanity and to celebrate Prof’s induction as Fellow, ANA.
The event hailed at Nuet Café, Ibom Tropicana, Uyo and had in attendance Professors Luke Eyo, Ini Uko, Ashong Ashong, Dr. Ubong Josiah of the University of Uyo; Mrs. Roseline Akawu Ushie (wife), Adie Akawu Ushie (son), Akwa Ibom State’s Commissioner for Environment & Solid Minerals, Sir Charles Udo and his counterpart in the Ministry of Culture & Tourism, Hon. Orman Esin. Dr. Udeme Nana, Pastor Anietie Ukpe, Akan Essien, Anietie Usen, Charity Akpan (President, Faculty of Arts Students Association, Uniuyo), Theresa Akomaye and Promise Ochibry were also in attendance.
What People Said…
- Hon. Charles Udoh:
I think this is a unique feat, it is rare in this part of the world for people to be celebrated for their accomplishments. Most times people are celebrated for things that the large society looks at and see the attainment value. I think it is also instructive to be part of this gathering. When Prof Ushie gave me his card, I saw General Stylistics and Literary Criticism and the first thing that resonated with me was my father. My father was an English teacher and he spoke ‘big big’ grammar. And he had a lot of books and one of his biggest dreams was to be a writer and unfortunately, he never lived to accomplish that dream and so today, I am honored with the joy of celebrating you. The first thing that struck me about Prof. Ushie was his sense of humor. I am happy to join others in celebrating you and trust that this will spur you to greater height and that many more laurels will come and you would be celebrated many more. Thank you, Sir.
- Prof. Luke Eyoh
Let me start by thanking the Chief Host, Mr. Udom Inoyo for deciding to do my good friend this honour. The Chief Host counted some of the attributes of Ushie, but one of the things that was not listed is that the large heart that he has, makes him accumulate persons of all walks of life, not only from his own background but around the world. Otherwise, why would I be here in this occasion? It is the same large heart that he has that brought me here. We have known ourselves since the 80s from the University of Calabar. Every good thing starts in a simple way. I remember what Sir Wilker said, that when he started his music career, people thought it was a joke but now, Sir Wilker has become super star.
Writing of poems is not a mean feat. When he started, he often gave me some of the manuscripts to look at. And I’m very happy to be around to witness that, that seed has grown to this position. I want to congratulate him and wish him more of the journey towards the sky, and to thank the Chief Host for giving him this honor because this honor is done to all of us. Thank you, Mr. Udom Inoyo.
- Prof. Ashong Ashong
It is a very great pleasure to be here. The rest of you call him Prof. or Joe, but I am the one who calls him Akawu. He and I first met at primary school, then attended the same secondary school as classmates. And so, it’s gratifying to see somebody who grew up on the feet of the hills, now dwelling on mountain top where eagles fly. Akawu has tried many things and succeeded in many of them. Unfortunately, I’m one of his bad records. He tried very hard when he started out his “Popular Stand” to carry me alone. In fact, I remember he bought me an exercise book and said, just start, write whatever comes to you. I think I wrote a few poems in that book even though I can’t find them any longer. But I know I wasn’t going to succeed on that, so I gave up. But he never gave up. He pressed on, and today it is our joy to see that his efforts are not just being successful, they have been appreciated and acknowledged by those who know what he has put in.
We gather here at his instance and thank you Udom Inoyo for this, for recognizing the valuable stock we have in this friend and brother of mine. Well, I have said it all, not only are we friends, we were classmates, and it turned out that, when I found the love of my life, it was in his house. I am happy that this day is one of those many days which I believe that as God gives us life, we would live to see many more, where we would be appreciated and celebrated. I pray that the ink would never dry and that people everywhere would benefit from this great intellectual personage.
- Rev. (Mrs) Angela Ashong
I think I should use this opportunity, to say something because, besides Prof. Ushie’s wife, I am his direct sibling here. The first time I heard of Mr. Udom Inoyo, I was at an event at Le Meridien, and someone talked so much about what you were doing at the Foundation. I was so impressed. And the next time I watched you so closely was when you had to chair the Planning Committee for His Excellency Obong Victor Attah’s birthday. I walked up to you and told you that I was so touched and impressed and you asked, What did I do? And I told you, I like to congratulate excellence when I see one. I didn’t know that you were the host of this gathering. There are things I observe from afar, thank God that I am today a beneficiary of your many benevolences because what you have done to my brother, you have done it for me.
I am not surprised that Prof Akawu Ushie has received this award because I am a living product of his investment. I don’t know how my history can ever be written without Prof. Akawu Ushie. He followed me to school, to classes and that was how I met Prof. Ashong, his friend, who saw me in the class and also saw me in the house.
To Mr. Inoyo, I am not surprised because you have an eye for excellence. What you have done here, you have done for my entire village. I am grateful to God that used you and this has added to my view and appreciation of you because my people back at home will hear of what you have done. On behalf of my father, my mother, my brothers, our cousins, and all the Obudu Bete-Bendi, Bekwarra, and Ibibio-speaking people, Thank you so much!
- Mr. Udom Inoyo
The last time we met, it was a fellow Malabite, Anietie Usen, who brought us together just to remind us that he was a village boy. That was the launch of his book, The Village Boy. It was a nice reunion and I have always admired Prof, from a distance, given his contributions to the development of our young ones, as well as his struggles to advance the cause of university teachers. We have enormous respect for the young ones and are concerned about their growth. That’s why in the last 14 years we have spent private funds hugely to incentivize teachers of Akwa Ibom State public secondary schools.
When I got wind of Professor Ushie’s induction as a Fellow into the Association of Nigerian Writers, the first thing that struck me was that given the prevailing state of mind of people today, nobody will remember to celebrate him. So, I said to myself, Why not? I found out that Prof is a very insightful and creative writer, one who deplores natural and local resources to portray the familiar in unfamiliar ways. Prof is also one with a profanely large but critical heart, with an infectious smile. He laces his speeches with humor and anecdotes, revealing a satisfied mind. Congratulations, Prof!
Let me use this opportunity to mention something that has been bothering me about our society. There is no doubt that there is a lot of unemployment in society. Our young ones are struggling. But surprisingly, there is a deep passion for consumption and waste, especially investments in burials. Any time, I mean every weekend, I am getting like 10 invitations for burials, and when we attend those burials, the canopies, drinks, food, uniforms, everything that is put into that consumption exercise is such that can stimulate SME’s. Each time we talk about SMEs, how much does it cost to set up a small business that will employ 20, 10 or 5 people, like hairdressing, barbing salon? N200,000, N500,000. But there is so much appetite for consumption amid poverty. I just pray that those of you who have the opportunity to use the pen or the microphone like Bishop Ashong will tell people to calm down and realize that the consumption appetite is not going to help us. But we are here to celebrate Prof. Prof, I greet you!
- Prof. Joseph Ushie
I was very surprised when the call came from him. After a long time, we met when my friend and brother Anietie Usen launched his book. The way he greeted me, the warmth, was as if we had always been together and after that, we exchanged numbers and kept talking. He likes to joke a lot and that’s all. So, when this award came and he told me his intention, I said to myself this man of all people? I now drove my mind backward and then remembered that it was the same him that we had recommended for the convocation lecture of the University of Uyo in 2014 where I served in the committee. Several things came to my mind. Has this man forgotten that I am from Cross River State? That was the first allusion I had and something struck me and I was touched. If you look at my life, this is my 36th year in Akwa Ibom State because I came here on October 24, 1985 and if you add 36 to 36, it would be 72, which is far above my years, meaning this is the place that I have spent the greatest part of my life.
So, in a way, his decision to honor me, to recognize me is something that touches the heart. It is something that is magical and it is not just about me but the reflection of the person of the Chief Host – the kind of lifestyle that he has, the kind of open-heart he possesses, and coincidentally, my contributions in this state may be more than my contributions anywhere in the world so that is one area I find value. I don’t know how I am going to thank you. It is not so much about the money you may have spent, but it is about the significance and the decision. So, for me, this is very significant.
So honorable gentlemen, it is a rare privilege. So, I thank all of you for coming. The glory goes to two beings, to God and you, Mr. Udom Inoyo. And all I would say is that, may your kind multiply in the society. That you set up a Foundation 14 years ago to carter for teachers’ welfare and promote education is something I find very altruistic. My prayer is for people like you to rise because if people like you rise, you will not forget those under!
It was an evening of eulogies, of reflections on the works and influences of a seasoned teacher. It was an evening of wining and dining not just with sumptuous meals and luxurious drinks but with the fruits of Prof’s intellect, stocked in his poems and sundry masterpieces. It was an evening of tranquil music, of pictures and of gratitude. It was an evening to congratulate and say THANK YOU TO A TEACHER, the legendary Prof. Joseph Akawu Ushie, FANA! Congratulations, Dear Prof. Joe Ushie, latest Fellow, Association of Nigerian Authors!