July 28th , 2016
I remember vividly , my first days as a student of the great University of Benin. My first moments as a greenhorn, a babe of tertiary studentship; My first memories upon my birth into the fascinating programme. I remember amongst others, the harsh awakening from redundant slumber – the very initiation into the process- the 100 level clearance exercise. Even then, it was obvious that the good ol’ university of Benin was in some ill-informed rush to acquaint me with her rigours. I remember the subsequence. The naive days of 100 level; getting used to the system, learning the pros and cons, the do’s and don’ts, realizing sluggishly the unnecessary inclinations and processing and subsequently deciphering the realities of a new world. I remember these. I remember my 100 level days, my 100 level courses, my first room, my initial lack-lustre attitude to pertinent academic obligations and my subsequent realization of the ‘celestial’ nature and over all imperative of a good ‘reading’ culture as a university student……that and more.
I remember subsequent sessions after hundred level. All with their different highlights and all part of the learning process. These days when I look back, I am forced to concede in a dizzy surprise that it was just yesterday after all. But a closer consideration offers me the truth on a platter of gold- it’s been a while. It’s been a long time coming. A lot has changed since in decided to fill my jamb form, and opted to be a Law student of this good ol’ institution. A lot has happened since I had to condone the exigencies of unbelievable and unbearable hardships to clear myself into the Uniben register, into my first hostel ‘space’, into psychological reformation and into the Uniben culture. The only ever constant possibility is change. I am a product of this unrelenting phenomenon. In the end, I cannot tell just how positive or negative, good or bad the changes I have undergone within the four walls of this school has been, but one thing is ever true and cannot be discountenanced by any contrary standards; it has been an exciting ride so far. A worthwhile expenditure.
In the course of my saunter, through this great mechanism; through this delirious system, I have come across some truths. I have come to realize some rudimentary and incontrovertible factualities, that I feel obliged to share with you. I have compiled a simple summary of these austere discernments.
The first is an obvious mention. Uniben is harsh! Forget what anyone may opt to make you believe to the contrary. A system that renders you at the bare against hardly surmountable standards and raging beasts in the guise of academic designs is not an especially friendly one. Even more so, if it leaves you with little items or tools for self-preservation or to aid the vie. In Uniben, it is a tireless race. You hesitate and you get crushed under the barrage of burgeoning academic misfortunes. The system gives you so little and expects fat returns. But yet, I have discovered that the system is only harsh and not impossible. The sea indeed is tough, but one may yet persist; beating tide by tide in steadfast progression. And if you must successfully wade the waters, you must sail diligently at all times; less the wind breaks through and you find yourself lost at sea…
I have come to realize also, that the environment in its ironic magnanimity fails to understand the solemn beckons of the system. It tenders and offers numerous distractions. In fact there are so many distractions that one may step on them as they flouter around in their alluring lull. And in commensurate measures, I realize as well, that while failure and success are conscious decisions (to be made and implemented) and not unpredictable happen-stances, one may yet choose to surmount the sweet tongued siren calls, shun proclivity, desist from understandable human inclinations and face true goals. ( Easier said than done though)
I have come to realize further, that this juncture; this stage of tertiary learning is perhaps one of the most focal points of ones live. I have come to understand that every choice we make now, within these four walls, would go a long way in deciding our future and our fates. The genius expressed in the apothegm ” You are product of your today, the consequence of your yesterday” even at this stage has come to utmost pronouncement. Whereas, decisions cannot be retracted, since like words they fly on the airs of existence and never perish. I have realized with a mixed feeling; with sweet-salt that this is truth and undeniably so. So we must act like we intend to end. If we acted like mediocre at this stage, we will waste in the bowels of mediocrity upon our entry into the real world and there are not two ways about it. A Latin maxim at Law goes thus ” nemo dat quod non habet“. In plain English, it translates thus; you cannot give what you do not have. What we acquire, is what you have.
Finally, I have come to realize by virtue of my ‘short’ stay in this institution, and during the course of my gradual development, my evolution, my journey beyond the fatal Rubicon of ignorance, that the University system is far from what one would conveniently presume it to be from the perspective of an onlooker or with the mindset of a lowbrow…neither is it what the simpleton mind would concede it as. It is not a mechanism through which you are merely taught tenets of your ‘course’ or made aware of the jargons of your field just so you can reproduce same and gratify the unquenching thirst of the ‘result board’. Not merely so. As much as this is one of the posits of the institution, in reality, it shouldn’t be the only instrumentality of the University. The University in my words is a ‘universe-city”. The universe reduced into a city. something small and concise. A pre-school of actual society. A place where you are grilled and bent into form, that you may have the necessary skill-set and dexterity to face the truths of life as an independent organism; a life outside the comforts of your parents home; without the protective wings of your immediate family. It is a citadel of learning not a temple of academic enlistment or crudely so, a library where you just go to read. I have realized in tandem that while we must employ and apply ourselves judiciously to our academic chores as students, we must not forget that we leave the school with as much as we have procured for ourselves whilst we were inside it. We leave with our entire inventory, it is with this we immediately face the world. It is the sensible beckon to the wondering individual then to exploit all and every avenue of self-improvement within these walls, as another opportunity may never come. Time has come then to stop asking what the university would do for you and ask more about what you could use the university to do for yourself. Not what the lecturer will teach you, but what you could use the lecturer to teach yourself, because in the end, the system doesn’t give two pennies about you. yup……that’s how it is. The system is just a remarkable consuming organism. It eats you in your first year and pops you out after you final year. You choose what comes out of the ordeal; gold or feaces.
The journey thus far has been fun whilst tiring, skullscraping and often back-wrecking; beautiful, effulgent delicately aesthetical, whilst being all the while with an undertone of harshness; often bothersome and stressful but without being bereft of moments of intrigue and resplendence. The journey thus far has been life.
My name is Vincent and I am a sojourning soul; a meandering mind. A student of the school of life, just like you. This is what I have learnt in my journey thus far. Unless I have mistakenly made some sense by this, I have just been writing gibberish.
Vincent C. Okonkwo.