How Not To Mourn Lecturers: Tribute To Prof Inyama, Dr Chuta
Skimming through news on the Valentine’s Day, my attention was drawn to ‘UNN Professor Inyama laid to rest in Imo’. Reading for details, the news by ElombahNews2 reveals that the ‘Inyama’ lectured at Department of English, UNN. I was sure it wasn’t FN Inyama. I know him as Fabian Nnadozie Inyama. I was relieved when the news read ‘Felix Nnadozie Inyama’. ‘Felix’ or ‘Fabian’ becomes the debate.
I put a call to a younger graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Othniel Omijie, who was supervised by Professor Inyama. Omijie confirmed that Inyama the university orator had died. He died in Abuja when he attended a conference, according to him. ‘Conference’ reveals to me that Professor Inyama died an active man, which he always was.
Then in UNN, he would teach and observe facial responses of his students. When the faces seemed not to flow, Inyama would read texts, mainly Shakespearean comedies, applying multiple voices: he would read like an old man, a minor character, a lady and so on, depending on the status of the characters being portrayed. Then shortly, he would revive our ‘dormant’ brains. He would tell us to read harder, otherwise we would return home worse than we came.
He loved comedy, which, of course, he translated to tragedy (courtesy of deconstruction). He would say, “I love comedy because Nigeria is already a tragedy.” If since then, 2000 or thereabouts, Nigeria had sustained being a tragedy, then Prof Inyama saw tomorrow.
I had always yearned to see him after my graduation. We met once, and I promised him I would return again. He was happy when I told him I was working for the Daily Trust. Since then, I didn’t get to see Prof Inyama; only to read this online news. But I had plans to see him. When?
While I was groping to find answers to my quagmire, I condemned myself for not keeping tabs on him, even when I had his phone number. I simply planned of going to see him like a ‘king’, which I am yet to become. Today, Prof Inyama is gone. I’m yet to see a communicator like him!
In my confusion, my mind ran through the exemplar lecturers at UNN of my era. Unfortunately, I’m yet to ‘see’ them because I want to ‘see’ them in a big way. The one that immediately came to my mind is Dr SC Chuta. His full name is Dr Sunday Chibuzor Chuta. He lectured at the General Studies unit. His fame is more amongst admission seekers that had the English language as an albatross. Chuta’s ‘The Fundamentals of the English Language’ and ‘909’ were the antidotes. I have forgotten what he told me that informed the title ‘909’.
At a time, his books became the only weapon to pass English in any exam. With them, it was pretty impossible not to pass one’s Use of English and general English, with flying colours, in JAMB, WEAC and post-UTME.
I met Dr Chuta by accident, so to say. I was among the tick generations in the university then, that were better classified as ‘lone rangers’. You are just on your own, thinking out solutions to your avalanche of problems. I was a privileged ‘lone ranger’ because my father worked for the UNN. But he was over-stretched by financial burdens. As a clerical officer, I have forgotten his grade level, but he was just borrowing from money lenders to train us. He had nieces, nephews and biological children, as well as his aged parents catering for.
I recall how some appointed mornings, my sister and I would wait for him on the road: my sister would mount the entrance to Awo hall to collect her food ration from home. I didn’t make it to the university hostel, so I used to stand by the Green House gate. Green House was a popular ‘lungu’ housing all manner of characters. I still remember Green House with nostalgia.
When my father told me that he was living on ‘I-owe-you’ when I demanded some money from him, it ‘entered’ my head. Before then, I was teaching extra-mural studies to students preparing WAEC examinations and JAMB. I did it as a pastime.
After my dad’s exposé, with his eyes welling up, I thought twice. I managed to go for a GS lecture the next morning. My injury was added salt when books listed by our lecturers for us to buy compulsorily were outrageous. I didn’t want to worry my dad again. In my confusion, I bumped into Dr SC Chuta in his office. “My son, what do you want?” he asked.
‘My son’ that he said gave me hope. I told him my problem. He replied, “God knows why you came to me. I won’t be able to help you because I want to be sincere. But believe in God. Just believe.” He told me an experience that converted him to Christ, and advised me to obey His commandments. “I’ve books that sell very well. The Fundamentals… and 909.” “Are you Chuta?” I asked him. He said yes, and smiled. I looked around his office, and saw a sticker ‘Someday we shall see God’.
I became the major marketer of those titles. I would teach and sell.
One day when I returned the proceeds, he told me to take the money for my feeding. It was so much that I had to meet my dad to inform him. My father was happy. I still recollect how my father brought out a ball of kola nut and shared with me. I took some part to my room. He told me he knew Chuta very well because he (my dad) was then the custodian of records at the Works Department, UNN. It was an era devoid of computers. My dad could trace all file locations, including Chuta’s.
The last day I saw Dr Chuta, about ten years later to present him my novel ‘The Last Man Standing’, he remained the Chuta I know. He told me that ‘someday, we shall see God’. Final.
While my spirit yearned for Prof Inyama, I searched Chuta’s name in the google. What popped up gave me goose pimples: ‘the late Sunday C. Chuta’. Behold even Chuta had gone! Seems heaven should not be dreaded if these good people are there! Like Jim Reeves observes, they were ‘just passing through’ this planet.
My lesson: anybody called a teacher manifests creation. It started from the classic era—Plato, Aristotle, Longinus etc. How do we remember our teachers? Don’t remember them like me. I have learnt my lessons. Who didn’t pass through them? Today we neglect them. Those they built climb the rostrum and refuse to pay them salaries, pensions, and gratuities. I won’t wait for tomorrow any longer to appreciate my teachers because I only have today.
Were Professor FN Inyama and Dr SC Chuta denied their rights after their retirements by those they nurtured? Only conscience can answer.
– Aroh wrote from Nsukka, Southeast Nigeria
Disclaimer: This article is entirely the opinion of the writer and does not represent the views of The Whistler.