Echoes from UNIZIK’s Oji Ofo Cultural Festival
• Chinese Lecturer Gets Students’ Union Government Chieftaincy Title
The atmosphere at the Convocation Arena of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State (UNIZIK) was exceptionally convivial recently. But this time, it neither played host to graduating students in their gowns and hoods nor eminent personalities being conferred with honorary degrees by the university for their distinguished achievements in different fields. Rather, it hosted the Oji Ofo Cultural Festival organised by the Students Union Government (SUG) in conjunction with Spines Communication.
Although the students had held the festival in the past, they took this year’s edition a notch higher with the conferment of a chieftaincy title, Ezi Oyi Nke Mbu na Unizik (Reliable Friend Number One in Unizik) on a Chinese national, Prof. Job Yu Zhangbao, in their bid to further promote Nigeria-China cultural ties.
The event was attended by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone, who was represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Prof. Frederick Odibo; the Dean of Students Affairs, Prof. Stanley Udedi, the Director of Information and Public Relations, Dr. Emmanuel Ojukwu; the Managing Director of Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS), Mr. Uche Nworah; and hundreds of Chinese nationals who came to rejoice with the honouree, among others.
Zhangbao is the Director of the Confucius Institute at the university, which is focused on fostering intercultural harmony across the oceans.
The SUG President, Comrade Joseph Okafor, in a remark before the conferment of the chieftaincy title on Zhangbao, said the Chinese national has rendered outstanding services to the university.
Okafor said Zhangbao has, through the institute, strengthened cultural and knowledge synergy between Nigeria and China, adding that the institute has opened hitherto closed doors not only to students and staff of the university but to other Nigerians.
Zhangbao, who was visibly elated at the honour, appreciated the students for the rare recognition, but stressed that the award was “for all the Chinese teachers who are working at the Confucius Institute.”
His words: “This title is recognition of the contribution of the Chinese staff of the Confucius Institute at Unizik to the growth of the Nigeria-China relations. I am so happy to become a red cap chief (Ezi Oyi Nke Mbu na Unizik).
The red cap is not for me; it is for all the Chinese teachers who are working at the Confucius Institute. It is a testament to their modest contribution to the effort to foster intercultural harmony across the Indian Ocean.”
While speaking with journalists, Zhangbao explained the mission of the institute in the university and its achievements so far.
He said: “The Confucius Institute at Unizik was established in June 2008 under a partnership between the university and Xiamen University, Fujian Province, China. Our Institute has produced more than 15,000 alumni. More than 10,000 of the alumni are working as translators, interpreters, managers, public relations consultants, company supervisors, teachers, and the likes, in Nigeria, South Africa, and Ghana.
“Some are working as middle or top-level cadres in multinational corporations. More than 300 of our alumni have studied in China on different Chinese scholarships. More than 40 of the number have got or are pursuing a Ph.D in China.
“More than 2,000 students sat HSK this year. This number is staggering. We presented 1,000 eligible applicants for this year’s scholarships, but only 134 were accepted. The reason was obvious: accepting all our 1,000 applicants would have denied other Africans the opportunity to also study in China.
“Twenty-one students from our institute sat the advanced HSKK（Oral Examination this year. Their pass rate was 100 per cent. The pass rate and the total number of those who passed the examination were the highest in the world. A total of 22 students from the 528 Confucius Institutes in 146 countries sat for the examination.”
He added that one of their students, Anthony Ekwensi, emerged the African champion and the number four in the world at 2018, “Chinese Bridge” Competition that took place in China. According to him, Ekwensi had at the time of the competition, studied Chinese for only 18 months, adding that he has been offered a master’s degree scholarship in China.
“Also last year, another alumnus, Mr. Harford Michael, who is now pursuing a Ph.D. in China, emerged the world champion at the ‘Contest in China of Chinese Teaching for Candidates of Master Degree’. He beat native speakers in that competition. Our institute has won the “Award for Excellent Confucius Institute in the World” two times, in 2015 and in 2017,” he added.
A deputy Director in the institute, Dr Anas Elochukwu, while reflecting on the honour bestowed on Zhangbao, said he has set three records with the chieftaincy title.
“Firstly, he is the first Chinese academic and cultural ambassador to become a chief in Nigeria. In fact, the four Chinese residents in the country who have also received a chieftaincy title are entrepreneurs, not academics. With this title, he now straddles two cultures — African and Asian.
“Secondly, he has gone down in history as the first Chinese to become a traditional title holder (chief) in southern Nigeria. Those four Chinese chiefs received their title from the North.
“Thirdly, he is overwhelmed by the rapidity of the recognition, because he has worked in Nigeria for just less than two years, whereas those four Chinese entrepreneurs who have also received chieftaincy titles have lived in the country for 10 years and more,” Anas said.
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