As Delta State University, Abraka, holds its 11th convocation ceremony on Saturday, July 22, three distinguished citizens of the state will be honoured with Doctorate degrees in recognition of their outstanding roles in the upliftment of humanity in their fields of endeavours.
The honourees are eminent artist and teacher, Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya, for whom an art gallery will be named, and two first class traditional rulers, His Majesty, Ovie Richard Layeguen Ogbon, Ogoni-Oghoro 1, Owhorode of Olomu Kingdom in Ughelli, and His Majesty, Professor Joseph Chike Edozien, Asagba of Asaba.
In a statement made available to The Guardian by the university’s Public Orator and Head, Department English Studies, Dr. Sunny Awhefeada, he described Onobrakpeya as ‘Master and Genius,’ noting, “He a is a living art avatar, who shares the same hallowed platform with Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci and Michael Angelo in the universal configuration of artistic influence! He was in the vanguard of the “Zaria rebels,” led by Uche Okeke that championed the decolonisation of African visual arts by privileging traditional influences in their practice. Much of the motif of Onobrakpeya’s art is rooted in his Urhobo tradition as he gives visual representation to ethno-philosophy, folklore, politics, environment, religion, modernity and related themes. While Urhobo tradition provides his collage, the world remains his canvas.
“As a master artist in a class of his own, it didn’t take long for Onobrakpeya’s skilful hands to attract global attention. He became an Artist-in-Residence at Haystack Mountain of Art and Craft in Maine in the United States of America in 1975. He has, since then, held some of the most prestigious Art Residencies and professorship around the world, seven of which were in the United States. He also enjoyed the same rare privilege at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, and the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, which is one of the world’s most notable arts galleries. He has since 1998 organised and participated, annually, in the Harmattan Workshop for artists at Agbarha-Otor.”
The university’s Public Orator described His Majesty, Ovie Richard Layeguen Ogbon, Owhorode of Olomu Kingdom, as a dedicated teacher and harbinger of western education in Nigeria. He also noted further, “His Majesty’s life has been devoted to service in the noblest of professions, which is teaching. He was one of the harbingers of a new era as he was in the vanguard of those who propagated western education in Nigeria. He began his teaching career as a primary school teacher in 1944.
“He served as headmaster in many schools until he was appointed Special Inspector of Education in the old Western Region in 1960. His glorious career peaked with his appointment as Principal Assistant Education Officer (PAEO) in 1974. He held that office until his meritorious retirement in 1980. His length of service spanned thirty-seven years of taking education to hitherto uncharted corners of the world.”
Awhfeada also described His Majesty, Prof. Edozien, Asagba of Asaba, as among the first professors of Nigerian descent, “began his career as a university don in 1951, as a Lecturer in Clinical Biochemistry at the University of London. The homecoming bug saw him returning to Nigeria in 1952. He pitched his tent with the Department of Pathology, University College, Ibadan.
“Edozien’s groundbreaking research in Nutrition put the University of Ibadan on the global map of scholarship as a centre of excellence in the field of medicine. When he attained professorship in 1961, he became Nigeria’s first professor of medicine and the nation’s fourth professor after Professors Kenneth Dike, Ajose and Eni Njoku. He became Dean of the Faculty of Medicine in 1962, the first black man to be so appointed at the University of Ibadan! He is today Nigeria’s oldest and most senior professor!”