Members of the Love and Light University of Abuja Alumni Association (USA) recently returned to the school for Lecturers Support Project where cash donations were awarded to some staff of the university and some of the victims of the 2021 kidnapping incident, Associate Editor, Seun Akioye reports
Divine Bassey Ubong was only nine years old when he was dragged from his bed, punched in the face and kidnapped. The gang of gunmen that invaded his home, inside the otherwise peaceful and secured campus of the University of Abuja, in Nigeria’s federal capital city, went round other houses belonging to the academic staff of the university and abducted other victims, including lecturers and non-academic staff of the university.
“I thought I was going to die,” Divine, now 10 years said of his encounter. “When the police arrested their leader, they said they were going to start killing us, starting with me,” Divine said.
The young boy, who is an aspiring musician and actor, began writing music at the age of eight years. At the time he was violently snatched from his bed, he had written 10 songs and had some already recorded.
His stage name ( he insisted it was his real name) ‘King No Shaking’ has some interesting dimensions that dated back to his mother waiting nine years to conceive him and then some medical conditions had threatened to abort the foetus.
“That’s why I was called no shaking,” he said with a smile. However, the smile did not last long when he remembered what many had referred to as his near death experience.
It was the most traumatic experience of his young life. The nightmare began around 12:30 am on November 2, 2021 with sporadic gunshots around the lecturer’s quarters. Not many of the abducted people thought much of it, until it was too late. Professor Joseph Obansa, of the Department of Economics had just finished preparing his lecture notes when the gunshots began and by the time, flashlights began to appear in his room he knew the storm was coming directly over his house.
“ They entered through one of the windows after destroying the burglary proof, I thought they were robbers when they asked for the money, so my wife brought all that she had which was N50,000. After collecting all that we had, they said let us go. I asked them why, that was when I felt a terrible blow to my neck.”
Obansa turned his neck, as if the pain of the blow was still there. Traumatized, he began to cry. Divine, who was also abducted alongside his sister, also remembers the traumatic experience. “I felt sick, angry, scared and tired,” he said, a little anger clinging to the tip of his voice.
“I was angry because they carried my phone, laptop, slapped my mum and they beat me up. I was with them for five days. I was eating dry garri and stream water; we trekked from morning until the night. Then they would stop you and give you dry garri and stream water. They would then begin to beat us, I was much traumatized.”
Both Obansa and Divine were recounting their experience at an event organised by the Love and Light Uniabuja Association USA. The event, which held on December 13, 2022, tagged “Lecturers Support Project” Benefit Presentation, was held at the Samuel Ogbemudia Library Hall in the university.
The event also provided an avenue for many of the victims and those who facilitated their release to relieve their experiences experience some closure and ensure that it did not happen again. That was what the vice chancellor, Professor Abdulrasheed Na’ Allah said.
“I was sleeping when I got the call, till today it has not been the same again, our security is now number one and I am determined by the grace of God that it will never happen again. The incident was intentional, but as they were taking the people away, God said no and they returned them back, we didn’t pay anything,” Na’ Allah assured.
Help from abroad
The Love and Light Uniabuja Association USA was established only in 2021 as an association of individuals who had attended the University of Abuja and currently resides in the United States of America or Canada.
The association with over 60 active members is registered in the state of Texas as a not-for-profit organisation, with two clear objectives of connecting all former students resident in the US and providing social-economic support to one another, especially during major life and family events. The association will also positively affect their society and institutions (both at home and abroad) through charity work.
It was to fulfil the second objective that the association had organised the Lecturers Support Project at the University to present cash support to lecturers affected by the eight-month long strike in Nigeria and to some of the lecturers of the university traumatized by the abduction of November 2021.
The representative of the organisation, Barrister Tracy Kanu-Ejim said members of the organisation wanted to give back to the lecturers who had endured agonizing pains in the past months. She said, “Our mission here is first to carry out an act of goodwill towards the academics of this university who endured a protracted strike without pay in this period of harsh economic realities.
“We want to appreciate your great spirit of sacrifice and encourage you to continually invest in the intellectual development of your students who will lead the future. Some of you could have “checked out” like Andrew of the 80s for greener pastures abroad, but you chose to remain here in the service of our fatherland Nigeria.
“Second, we want to appreciate some lecturers, staff, and their family members who endured anguish during the kidnapping incident at the university staff quarters.”
The university Vice Chancellor, Professor Abdulrasheed Na’ Allah at the event said the university had produced very influential people who are spread across the globe and some of those students are represented by the Love and Light Association, a group which is standing tall in benevolence.
“What you are doing is what is expected of the alumni,” he told the association. “This university has produced graduates from first degree to Doctorate, I am very proud when I travel and meet some of my students. One of such groups, the Love and Light has come back to give to the university.
“Their goal is to support the university and carry her banner across the globe. I am very proud of what you have done and I commend you greatly,” Na’ Allah said.
The Love and Light Uniabuja Association (USA) as a charity organisation said the Lecturers Support Project would now be carried out every year. That is not all, the students of the university would also profit from the generous hearts of the members through the facilitation of innovative projects, which would touch on science and technology.
Tracy Kanu-Ejim said: “Last May when the Vice-chancellor visited us in New York, we had a fruitful meeting where we discussed at length how Love&Light as an alumni association could assist our alma mater. Right there, we prioritized several projects that will meet the IT, healthcare, and security needs of the university.
“And we plan to come up with the funding to implement one or two in the nearest future. Meanwhile, our group on its own initiated this gesture as a token to help cushion the effects of living without pay and as our special way of answering the VC’s clarion call.
“We are glad for the opportunity to do something directly before the year runs out, but we are planning for something bigger in 2023. In fact, Love&Light has decided to make it an annual event, which will include many more lecturers.”
However, the charitable works of the association did not end at the university. According to Kanu-Ejim, the Love and Light Association had committed the sum of $50,000 to support an orphanage in Mararaba, Nasarawa state and Asaba in Delta state. It has also contributed to help one of its members defray costs of treating cancer while it had also extended the hands of love to a homeless shelter in New York City.
But the process of selection was not always easy. When the organisation requested for a list of lecturers from the university, it got over 600 names but had to settle for an initial list of 54 beneficiaries who were given the sum of N50, 000 each.
“The process that produced the current beneficiaries was a very transparent one,” Kanu-Ejim told the gathering. “When we requested and got the list of about 600 names of lecturers, we conducted a zoom meeting where the spinning wheel was utilized to randomly select a winner on faculty by faculty basis. The winners were collated and certified and their names were promptly transmitted to the office of Alumni Relations. 50 beneficiaries and four families who were victims of the unfortunate kidnapping, a total of 54 lecturers, were selected and the list was sent to the University,” she said.
Strike Action: A recurring Decimal
The association thinks it can offer some splendid suggestion to prevent a recurring strike in Nigeria, which often times cripples academic activities and its consequent economic impact.
“Back to the elephant in the room, which is the ASSU strike, we wish to appeal to all parties involved, especially the government to find more amicable ways in resolving disagreements without disrupting the educational stability and development of this nation.
“The government should develop the political and economic will and adhere to good governance principles in addressing such conditions that reproduce industrial dispute.
“Agreements reached in the past should be honored. Finally, Nigerian academia should explore alternative means of generating resources to augment the lean resources from public funding. They could engage in robust research of international value and partner with universities abroad to court interest and attract foreign direct investment to our citadels of learning and economy at large,” the association said.
‘King No Shaking’ has since put the incident behind him, it has also inspired a new song titled “Success” which he said is currently enjoying some airplays. Prof. Obansa has largely repaired from his trauma even though he sometimes shivers when he remembers what he went through and how he might have died but was saved largely to providence.
“I am very grateful for what they have done,” Obansa said, referring to the Love and Light Association. “This is the first time people have shown kindness to us. I suffered a lot of loss, it is the love they have that made them do this, you may have money if no love you won’t do anything like this, so I am very grateful,” he said.