The meaning of professorship in Nnamdi Azikiwe University
By Okechukwu Nwafor
Just recently the Nnamdi Azikiwe University announced the promotion of academic staff to professors and Readers (sometimes called Associate Professors). The social media is awash with congratulatory messages from different individuals affiliated with those promoted. Those promoted are currently basking in the euphoric ambience of their new positions. In their minds, they would always exclaim, “so I am now a professor, Associate Professor etc.” Some would look at themselves in the mirror and imagine how they would be addressed as a professor. Some would begin to learn new methods of professorial comportment. I know one man who was dressing haggardly and immediately he was pronounced professor he changed his wardrobe and started dressing in dainty suits, attractive senators and foreign shoes. I never knew the man looked handsome. He didn’t have a car before but bought a car immediately he became a professor. Does that mean that the rank of a professor comes with a certain obfuscating magnificence and grandeur?
Some individuals, after assuming the position of a professor will now be selective with their choice of friends. They acquire a new mode of an aggrandized persona by even changing their walking steps. Some who used to work with a brash, rascally step would assume the stride of a gentle lamb. Some who used to be playfully mischievous would start working on their character. Some even start choosing their words in public. That is why most often many lecturers have complained that Unizik professors are uncomfortably reticent and withdrawn. Most times those who complain do not understand the reason. That position comes with a heavy moral challenge. As the most senior academic on campus you are the cynosure of all eyes. People look up to you for leadership examples. Once you make a statement it is regarded as sacrosanct and your words have the capacity to either influence positively, inspire or dampen the spirits. Many of your mentees and junior colleagues do not understand the reason why the position comes with profuse self honour and self-canonization.
Even the professors do not know either why their self image is suddenly being romanticized. The heroicized image of the Professor has caused us so many things in NAU. It has made us to become docile conformists and robbed many of their self agency. It has made many to forget that they belong to a community where their lives should be connected to. It has brought that sense of detachment that has made communication almost impossible accros the rank and file. It has severed the umbilical cord of communal congregation and enthroned class wars among Unions. That is why we see a hush rejection of this rank among some junior staff who feel that the rank emits arrogance, haughtiness and uncanny detachment from others. As a professor I see myself as equal partner with every other staff in the institution. Ekere olu eke. We contribute equal quota to the development of the University, whether a professor, a graduate assistant, a non-teaching staff, high school teacher or primary school teacher. In fact, I see high school and primary school teachers as champions of the system because they put in more efforts than most of us.
Again our understanding of professorship has made us to veer away from academic work into politics. Professors are not politicians. These are opposing categories. Professorial duties, and calling, strongly oppose the stance of politicians. Politicians tell lies while professors are seen as custodians of truth. That is why if a policeman stops your vehicle and if you introduce yourself as a professor he might let you go without much hassles but when you introduce yourself as a politician he may raise a suspicious brow.
Professors keep to time of appointments while politicians give you an appointment in the morning and come in the night. Professors don’t sell marks because they’re seen as moral crusaders while politicians can sell themselves to get money. Professors don’t visit the authorities secretly like Nicodemus to get appointed to positions because a professors appointment must be based on meritocracy but politicians desperately bribe their way into appointments. There are so many of such allusions which I cannot exhaust here.
If you are a professor and you are guilty of any of the above then know that you are a politician and not a professor. The only similar thing between a Professor and a Politician is that both start with the letter ‘P’. Apart from start the two are like Jesus and Satan.
Finally remember that everything is vanity. Vanity upon vanity and humble yourself. Condescend from your exalted position and discover the joy of communal congregation and mutual brotherhood.
I hereby congratulate everyone promoted to the rank of Professor, Reader and Senior Lecturer. May your new positions bring joy to your lives and the life of every individual around you. May it also bring positive change to your families, communities, departments, faculties and the University. We also thank the VC and his management team for their hard work and progressive attitude in making sure that promotions are released without undue delay despite the challenging times we found ourselves last year.
To be continued…
Next lecture will be on the meaning of ‘Graduate Assistant.’ We will look at what it means to be a graduate assistant.