It cannot but be an Inaugural Lecture with a difference if it is the first Inaugural Lecture in a relatively new, faith-based university in Nigeria which is, however, determined to, one day soon, be one of the best in Africa. Proclaimed every now and then, such a bold self-location turns the eyes on every footsteps of 12-year old Veritas University, Abuja. This first Inaugural Lecture will be no exception.
Although Gabriel Bassey Egbe, the academic delivering the Inaugural Lecture is a recent professor, he has a sensational location in academia and the university system as to be capable of raising the stakes. This is more so that his specialization is language which has simply emerged as the heartbeat of knowledge claims in the aftermath of the ‘linguistic turn’. It is bound to be an engaging story of the engagement with English as a global language by a Nigerian academic.
Prof Egbe is, among many others, a member of the Platform Group of Advisors, Times Higher Education World University Rankings; of the Applied Linguistics and Literacy in Africa and the Diaspora Research Network; of IRA’s Global Literacy Leadership Network; of English Scholars Association of Nigeria (formerly Nigerian English Studies Association (NESA); of Pragmatics Association of Nigeria and of Global Issues Special Interest Group (GISIG) of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language.
He is also the author of a forthcoming text: Sound and Spelling in English: Playing with Letter ‘e’; author of the play Emani published by Kraftbooks, Ibadan; of Laughter from the River, a collection of poems published by Makurdi based Aboki Publishers and of Patterns of EST Writing, a 2014 work published by Kraftbooks, Ibadan.
At the 13th International Conference on African Literature and the English Language, University of Calabar in May 1994, Prof Egbe presented the paper, ‘Ideologue and Aesthetics: A Reading of Richard Ntiru’s ‘The pauper’. And, in 2009, he along with Ekpe, S.I. wrote ‘War on Words: Reporting Conflict in Nigeria’s Niger Delta Region’ for the Journal of Media and Communication, (Vol. 2) just as he has the 2005 work “Emergent Forms and Language Development: Building on Workable Strategies” in Currents in African Literature and the English Language, (Vol. 3). It is a long list.
It is possible to anticipate the audience. In November 2017 when the university’s Centre for Peace and Development, (CEPAD), organised a national conference on that theme, Prof Mike Kwanashie, the then Vice-Chancellor of Veritas University declared the conference a testimony that the university could now stand in Nigeria’s capital and provide a platform to discuss what he called one of the biggest challenges of our time. As another act of standing in Nigeria’s capital city and lighting a candle, this Inaugural Lecture is bound to attract the attention of the burgeoning Abuja academic constituency.
Although there is an unwritten communal moratorium on praising Prof Hyacinth Ichoku, the incumbent Vice-Chancellor of Veritas University because that is how Nigeria destroys potential stars by praise-singing them to early exhaustation, there is no debate about it that he is sending signals in tandem with the exceptionalist aspirations of the owner-founders. All the diverse parties to the diverse dimensions of those strides would make themselves party to this Inaugural Lecture.
Professor Egbe’s assessors might not be in the audience but they will certainly be all ears to the intellectual music from Bwari. Many journalists will be keen because Prof Egbe was one of them years back at The Chronicle, the newspaper outreach of the Cross Rivers State in Southsouth of Nigeria.
Parents of students of Veritas University, particularly those in the Department of English and Literary Studies are most likely to want to listen to the man who has taught their sons and daughters many modules at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
Prof Egbe is currently of Veritas University but he is a product of the University of Calabar, (UNICAL). Professors at UNICAL who molded him into the emergent academic Iroko are most likely to want to sit back and see their own intellectual product tell his own story. In a highly inter-connected world, the Florida State University in the United States where he also underwent a short programme in 2018 would be interested in how an alumnus is doing it out there.
Beyond the diversity of the potential and virtual audience groups, the first Inaugural Lecture as well as the professor delivering it in any other university is automatically involved in making history! This makes November 14th, 2019 a day many must be looking forward to as a promising centre of knowledge production takes another step in an unambiguous adventure.