Heartwarming birthday message to Pro. Akpagu by his former junior student

Prof. & Mrs. Zana Akpagu


Before now, I'd never met with Prof Zana Akpagu,  the Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar. I wrote about issues that surrounded his office, based on personal investigation. But in due course, one of my friends, the out-gone (or out-going ?) SSSA (State Security Adviser ), Mr Ogbeche Jude Ngaji, in what looked like blind dating, drove me to a place surrounded by all sorts of security personnels, a fine, homely residence. I was ushered into the semi-aristocratic palatial palor.

Thereafter, to my amazement, a young looking gentleman, emerged with a graceful looking lady, from what looked to me like an off-shore of a basement, announced my surname, "Ufumaka", with a handshake ; the SSA informed me, dramatically,  "Imaji, that's the VC". The graceful 'babe' is Prof Zana's wife!

Shocked, I bowed in cultural obeisance to a man that I only heard about but never had the privilege of meeting.

He graduated from the very famous Mary Knoll College, Okuku  (Marco OR MKC), then, in Ogoja,  now in Yala. He left Marco a year before my admission there!

While in Marco, we heard of Akpagu. Some seniors would, in attempt to send fear into our adrenaline, echo "I will Akpagulize you, if you mess around".

Akpagu was a "terror". He was a hard core. Yet very playful, seemingly, using his 'hard coreness' as a façade;  he was very understanding, if you were honest and industrious.

He was not known for terrorizing junior students of forms one and two ; but he wasn't that soft with his immediate juniors of forms three, from the beginning of when power and authority was handed over to his class mates.

In Marco of my days, hard core seniors were known as 'terrors'. At my supposed crossing to form two, though a 'repeater', with the privileges of my mates in form two, as it was then, and in order to give the feeling that I was a form two boy, I overly indulged in being a 'terror' !

Alongside other form two boys, we tormented the njukas (the freshers) who'd gained admission to A' Level (Advanced Level) or Lower Six. Being new students, not originally of 'mkpetious' Marco ,they fell prey to our terror.

Our terrorism wasn't and cannot be equated to a Boko-Haram stuff. It was a juvenile excitement of being a big boy!
We pounced on the backs of the  njukas. We made them to "pump their jaws" like a balloon, then we slapped the hell out of their jaws. It was fun.

In later years, having become prefects, we carried canes on our shoulders like fulani heardsmen. The canes were used to flog the juniors. It was used during the (in)famous 'Dam Washing'.

Dam washing day was like a rehearsal to hell-fire. Yet it was the day that the most delicious 'mkpe' (beans) was cooked. It was the day that Pa Moz (Moses) was more famous and popular. The devil was made alive through the eyes of the prefects and all the seniors.

Pa Moz was instructed by the Senior Refectorian to deter all dodgers or
'escapees' from entering the Refectory.
One could still hear the near-frail sounding, but sure voice of Pa Moz, "sop or no sop o, asad"(chop or no chop o, outside)!

Marco Refectory was more like a 'Concentration Camp'. Looking back, one wonders how we were able to come out of it all.

Marco was a metaphor of sweet and bitter ; the gorrila-like Man O' War. The TV star news casting. The Debating and Dramatic Club. The 'kumirukiki' hide out. The Akpariku apiam way. The "roll on your back" on the night of 'Foxes Birth Day', where water was poured on the bare ground, then, we the juniors would be asked to roll on our backs, bellies, heads, faces, etc.

Foxes birthday began at 11pm till the 'D-Night' of flogging by barely all the seniors!

November 11th every year was a foxes birthday;  it was also called 11-11.

Senior Zana Akpagu was full bloodedly part and parcel of the Marco tradition. He too held the canes, like a typical fulani herdsman, over his cattle, but in our Marco tradition, the canes were held against the junior ones!

When I first came to Calabar,  on hearing 11-11 bus stop, I was excited to visit there, thinking,  there would be some gathering of Hope Waddell Institute (Secondary School ) 'foxes' for that Marco-like horror. But I was deeply disappointed. The Calabar model of 11-11 is a mere bus stop!

Quickly fast forward : Now an academic professor, achieving the highest of such universal attainment, Prof Zana Akpagu is no more a Marco terror. Meeting him, I didn't need to be scared of his asking me to 'get on your knees' OR 'pump your jaw' Marco jargons.

Anyways, I was a bit expectant, and wouldn't have been surprised at myself if I quickly obliged, knee-jerkingly, rolling on the floor of his sitting room, fearing also that, he may've instructed his wife, like Pa Moz, to not let me entrance to his family refectory for a plate of 'mkpe'. Co-incidentally, my visit to his residence was on a Saturday, an 'mkpetious' day!

Prof Akpagu, while in Mary Knoll College  (Marco), was not an average student. He was a very brilliant, bouncing brain, a jolly well fellow. He was in the clique of the 'A' students.

Some of his mates have revealed that those who followed him to discos and jollying about, failed their exams, while the playful Akpagu went about, like the nocturnal bat or cockcroach, 'jacking' his books ; He was said to have read as if all his life depended on books.

Prophetically,  all his life is now dependent upon books and God :
Prof Zana Akpagu appears to me, an Obudu -Caribbean book-worm. He is a scholar of African Literature in French.

Earlier, student Akpagu, while graduating from MKC (Mary Knoll College ) in 1977, having written his WAEC (West African Examination Council), bagged Division 1 (one). He proceeded to the famous University of Calabar  (Unical) where he graduated with a 2nd Class Upper degree, and a Masters degree in the same scholarship.

Not done yet, 'Master' Zana Akpagu proceeded to the Ancient city of Benin at  the University of Benin to do his PhD in his chosen course of Caribbean and African Literature in French.

Away from book, Akpagu, PhD, had his first working experience at the defunct University of Uyo (Unicross) as a Graduate Assistant. Later, he moved to Uniben as Lecturer 1, 1994-1998.
Then, he relocated to his alma-mater, Unical as a Senior Lecturer, 1998. While there,  Dr Akpagu was made an academic professor on October 1st, 2007.

Zana was HoD, Modern Languages and Translations; Dean of the Faculty of Arts ;   Dean of Students affairs and an elected member of the university's Governing Council.

Prof Zana Akpagu's life has been surrounded by books and 'booking' conferences. He has attended several conferences,  local and international ; Nigeria,  France, USA, Israel, South Korea, South Africa, Kenya,  the Gambia, Ivory Coast, etc.

He has too many academic publications, too many for my penning. He's a recipient of over 35 awards as well as a member of several professional organizations.

The 10th Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Akpagu is the first Northern Crossriverian to have attained that academic position.

Earlier, Prof Zana Akpagu served as Education Commissioner under the Mr Donald Duke-led administration in Cross River State, 2001-2003 ; was SA, Inter-Governmental Affairs, 2007-2010 ; SA, Special Duties, 2010-2012, under Senator LiyeI Imoke’s Administration.

While as the Education Commissioner,  Prof Zana was key factor to the founding of the present day CRUTECH, the defunct Cross River State Polytechnic. Initiated and monitored the return of all mission schools, including his alma-mater, Mary Knoll College, Okuku Yala, in Cross River State.

He also initiated the founding of some schools : Government Secondary School, Atekong Drive, Government Secondary School,  Okuku, Yala, Kagbong Secondary School, Ipong, Obudu,  etc.

Prof Zana Akpagu was born some 58years ago!

He was brought up in the Roman Catholic Mission's (RCM's) religious way of life. He has since imbibed and maintained that spiritual stance, resulting in his membership of the Knighthood of the Secret (Sacred ?) Order of St Molumba.

Traditionally,  he holds some chieftaincy titles. He is the Ushikebe 1 of Ipong ; Utekushu 1 of Bebuagbong ; Ushikpel Kubong 1 of Ohong, all in his country side of Obudu.

Prof Zana is also the Otebeche ( the one who organizes, gathers or unites a place/people) of Yala; Ntufam-amid Ejagham of the Qua Nation, etc.

My Marco Senior is also a Jerusalem Pilgrim, aka, JP, married to a very beautiful, calm mien and sharp-witted Ntukae, Lady Winnie Zana Akpagu.

Lady Winnie Mandela, sorry, Akpagu, has to her marital degree, four awesome kids that go by the names of Brian(Bryan), Maximillien ('Maxmillianbooks'), Zana-jnr and Sean (Sean Connery 007)!

In the preparation to writing this essay, having been told of his date of birth (dob) or birthday "bash" that would be organized by the Prof's gang of well wishers, I called my friend, a very kind-hearted, humble and highly industrious and God-fearing buddy, Egbai, PhD.

Dr Egbai had promised to invite me for the "bash", though he had forgotten to so do. I had put a call to him for some brief on the Professor, and having called Prof Zana to no avail, I thought that it would be great to present a cerebral  (birthday) cake to him : After all, having attained such a lofty height, and having achieved so much, Prof Zana Akpagu can do some shakara now!

This is my birthday cake in honor of Prof Zana Akpagu!

Happy birthday Prof.
Great Malabite!
UNICAL 485449973515162895

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