Nigeria Newspapers Online

Prof. Joy Okpuzor bows out in grand style after 33 years in UNILAG

Must Read

Prof. Joy Okpuzor bows out in grand style after 33 years in UNILAG

Prof. Joy Okpuzor

Published By: Isa Isawade

By Nehru Odeh

Professor Joy Okpuzor of the Department of Cell Biology and Genetics, University of Lagos (UNILAG) is a personification of excellence. After teaching at UNILAG for 33 years, she finally bows out of academia, proud of her achievements with her head raised high.

This came to the fore at the Valedictory Ceremony organised in her honour at DLI Nurudeen Hall, University of Lagos, which was held on Wednesday, February 28, 2024.

The theme of the ceremony was: “Retirement Reflections: Sojourn of an Erudite Scholar and Mentor.”

Professor Maurice Iwu, Pharmacognosist, natural medicine expert and Former Chairman, National Electoral Commission delivered the keynote address entitled “Beyond Lifespan: The Use of Yasayanas in the Treatment of Aging and Age-Related Diseases.”

Dignitaries present at the event included the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Professor Folasade Ogunsola; Professor Temitayo Ogundipe, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, UNILAG; Engr. Olumide Onakoya, former Chairman/Managing Director of Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc, who was the Chairman and Special Guest of Honour; Professor Elijah Oyeyemi, Dean Faculty of Science, UNILAG; and Professor Olukayode Oladipo Amund, immediate past Vice-Chancellor, Elizade University Ilara-Mokin.

However, it was not just Okpuzor’s day, it was a day for celebration and honour as well as tributes galore as guests poured tributes upon tributes on the erudite scholar and mentor for not only teaching at the university for 33 years but for her impacts and the footprints she left on the sands of time.

The large size of the audience, which included staff and students indeed spoke volumes about the lady who had shown so much brilliance, integrity and humanity.

Aside from those who paid tributes that day, the Book of Tributes, which was distributed, is replete with goodwill messages from friends, family, professional colleagues and former students both at home and abroad.

While delivering the keynote, the renowned pharmacognosist said people can still grow old and not be plagued by diseases, whether age-related or not.

According to Iwu, researchers have gone beyond lifespan. They are no longer talking about lifespan but health span, that is, how people can be healthy even at a very old age.

Iwu believes that some local medicinal plants can fight major diseases such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension etc and, therefore, enhance longevity.

Former INEC Chairman, Prof Maurice Iwu

“We have gone beyond lifespan. There are mechanisms to increase lifespan of people. But what we are more focused on now is health span. How do you make people old and still healthy, they do not suffer from major diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer etc – what we call neuro-degenerative diseases, and luckily for us we do have Nigerian plants that can do that when they are working together.

“But for most of the diseases, particularly chronic ailments that people will spend money on – hypertension, diabetes and so on – there are indigenous products. Something as simple as ordinary zobo for example is very good for people who have high blood pressure etc. So, that’s what we are trying to do. These are no longer crude products. If you go out there you will see a display of sophisticated well-packaged medicines that are from our own Nigerian plants. That’s the essential message,” Iwu maintained.

Iwu also referenced two scientists who projected that death would be optional by 2045, meaning that there would be a cure for every disease.

“Two years ago, two scientists shocked us by saying that by 2045, death would become optional. So that it is only if you want to die that you will die. And every disease will be curable. So for those of us who are waiting for 2045 – when death will become optional -what happens between now and 2045? Some people would want to freeze themselves and wait so that they would be able to have their bodies frozen and woken after 2045,” Iwu queried.

Asked in a brief chat with newsmen what advice he had for senior citizens, Iwu said: “Just take to what our forefathers did. You saw what I showed that people were living longer in 1950 than they were living in 2022. That means Nigerians are actually living shorter than their predecessors, which is very worrisome,” Iwu noted.

In her speech, Professor Folasade Ogunsola, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, said she was shocked and saddened when Okpuzor told her about her decision to retire, due to the invaluable role she had played in the university. She wished she could call her back but couldn’t because according to the Vice-Chancellor her services, honesty and sense of purpose are still needed in the university.

“First of all, when Professor Okpuzor told me she was leaving, I was very sad. And I was sad because we were losing someone who is really a valuable member of staff, not only in terms of academia but in terms of her contributions to the university.

  • UNILAG fixes date for Post-UTME, announces criteria
  • UNILAG extends vacation deadline over Delta variant
  • UNILAG test-runs zero emission vehicle

“She is one of the people I call my go-to person. We have a problem to solve. And we are looking for somebody with integrity, who is firm, who is just going to do the job well and add value, she is one of the people I call,” Ogunsola said.

Prof. Folasade Ogunsola, UNILAG VC

The Vice-Chancellor also said though they had had a busy day, she felt they must be at the Valedictory Lecture “because we have to honour her because she is an honourable person.

“But more importantly, academia is not always celebrated in this country. But we believe we must celebrate our own and we will continue to celebrate you. You have impacted the lives of so many. You are truly a patriot. God bless you. I wish you the very best,” Ogunsola maintained.

Professor Olukayode Oladipo Amund, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, Elizade University, Ilara-Molin, while paying his tribute, said he had known Okpuzor before everyone present in the hall since they met during their national youth service year when she was 22 and he was 24.

He described her as humane, sincere, trusting and loving. He also said right from her youthful days she had been a personable individual with a large heart and accommodating spirit.

“My long-standing friendship with Professor Joy Okpuzor stemmed from the fact that we share common ideals of honesty, integrity and candour. She is a stickler for rules and regulations without compromising on good conduct.

“She is a very reliable family woman placing much premium on her home, spouse and children. She carried out her academic and administrative duties with commitment, devotion and responsibility for which she had been endeared to her students and colleagues. I wished she could stay a little longer but the university system is no longer what it used to be when we joined,” Amund said.

The celebrant’s husband Mr Patrick Okpuzor also paid glowing tributes to her, praising her for her passion, hard work and dedication to excellence. He also praised her for being an exceptional wife and mother.

“Your passion, hard work and dedication to excellence have not only shaped your professional career but have also inspired everyone around you, including me, and I couldn’t be prouder of all that you’ve accomplished.

“Throughout the years, you‘ve managed to balance your career with being an exceptional wife and mother, a feat that speaks volumes about your strength and resilience. Your ability to juggle multiple roles with grace and poise has always been a source of admiration for me, and I am incredibly proud of you.

“Your kindness, compassion, and unwavering support have touched the lives of so many, both professionally and personally. Your commitment to your community, your work, your colleagues, and your students has left an indelible mark, and your legacy will continue to inspire generations to come,” he said.

Okpuzor, who was calm and beaming with smiles throughout the event, with a pair of glasses astride her nostrils, as she sat beside her husband, has every reason to be thankful to God for seeing her through the 33 years she spent at the University of Lagos. “It’s been tasking, but nevertheless God gave me the strength. Because I must be in my class by 8 o’clock. And that I didn’t miss and my students know that,” she said in a chat with newsmen.

Asked what would she say was the remarkable legacy she had left behind, She said it was training young minds and directing them in what is best for their lives. She cited a particular instance when she impacted the lives of one of her postgraduate students who was torn between continuing with his studies and starting a course in medicine once again. She advised him to start the medical programme.

“In fact there was a student of mine ( he was a Master’s student) who came and said he had got admission to read medicine. And I said go if you feel like going. Because anytime you wake up that’s your morning. So don’t bother. Just go. He just graduated from the College of Medicine. And when he finished, he came back to me. He said, ‘Ah Professor Okpuzor if not for you I won’t have taken this journey.’ That’s the joy of teachers. There is no money in teaching. However, you are happy when you look at your children, academic children.

“And another incident. I was in youth service. I had two Fulani girls. Very brilliant children. I brought them to Lagos for a competition. Then after my youth service, I left. However, I didn’t know they were still around. For so many years they were in Abuja. And we went for a conference in Kuwait. And as Nigerian contingent we were just there saying something. ‘Oh where are you from? I am from Lagos. She said she is from Yola. I said ‘Yola? Once you mention Yola, I have nostalgia because I served in Yola.’

“That was it. She went home. She came the next morning. By providence, she just sat behind me and tapped me and said, ‘Please Ma, are you Joy Ikemefuna?’ I said Yes. She said ‘I am Hauwa. I used to come second in your class. And Mariam used to come first.’ I hugged her and started weeping. Tears of joy.

“One of my students came from Finland just because of this event. Most of them are online. They said if not for the economic situation, they would come. Initially I didn’t want any ceremony. But they said I wasn’t going to go like that. So I am thanking all of them and my family for putting up this.

Asked again what advice she had for the younger lecturers she was leaving behind, especially females who are looking up to her, she responded: “As long as they take my footsteps, they will not miss the way. They will not miss in the academia. Because I always tell them ‘You’re here for a shot while. Do your best for humanity. This is what we are here to do. These children could be your children. So treat alL of them the w ay you will treat your children.’”

What next for Okpuzor after her retirement? “We’re just beginning. With my students, we would make waves,” Okpuzor maintained, as she walked gingerly to the Senate building with focus and determination and eyes on the future, accompanied by her professional colleagues.

Nigeria Newspapers Telelgram
Nigerian Gospel Radio
Nigerian Gospel Radio

You may 've missed...

Latest Updates

See More Stories Like This