Ini Ebong, an associate professor of theatre arts in the University of Uyo, whose appointment was unlawfully terminated 20 years ago, spoke with PAULINUS NTA on how he survived without income for throughout the period and his plans for the university.
How do you react to the recent National Industrial Court verdict that re-instated you with full benefits?
When I look at the mad men and women in the society, they capture my attention. I intended to do a documentary on them since 1989. I intended to make them talk on how they survive on the streets of Uyo. I observed them for that long. I watch them scavenge from the garbage of water, decaying food with maggots. It gives me a sense of repulsion but when you sit down as a deep thinking person that I am, you no longer look at the experience but the lessons imbedded in the experience.
I see them scoop water from the gutter, where people defecate to drink. They bathe from this same water, nobody cares for them, yet they are products of the society. I ask myself how they survive under these conditions. I have never seen a mad man fall sick, yet they sleep very roughly in the open spaces. All weather descends on them. They remain healthy and the only thing that makes you recognize that they are mad is their appearance.
However, we as normal human, very hygiene conscious, cleaning our homes with anti-germs chemicals, we still get susceptible to some of these simple ailments. We treat malaria and typhoid weekly. The mad man and woman do not receive these treatments, yet they don’t fall sick, nobody cares for them. I therefore learn the lesson that God is always at work. But for God to be at work for you, you must believe in him, your hands must be clean; your heart must be pure and your conscience must be good as ever. If you have all these, then be rest assured that even when everybody abandons you, God will see you through.
One thing is certain, you won’t see God personally, but he works through human channels and for the 20 years that UNIUYO has ruined my life, God has always used human channels to help me. Most times when I walk on the road, people will drive pass me and reverse and bless me unsolicited. I never begged for help from anyone, but close people. At a point, everyone deserted me except three friends who became all and all for me. They visit me regularly and call constantly to know how I am faring. They help me when I have difficulties with substantial amount of money and other forms of assistance.
My children take care of me generously. Good enough I trained them with my meagre salaries and sent them to good schools. Now, one of them is in Vietnam, one in the United State of America and two in the United Kingdom.
According to you, the University of Uyo ruined your life for 20 years and now you have been reinstated with full benefits. Would you want to pay them back with the same coin?
God forbid! That’s not in my character, Right from the day they terminated my appointment wrongly, I forgave them because they did not know what they were doing. To be precise, I can stake my life to defend P.J. Effiong or Prof. Akpan Ekpo who were the masterminds of my problem. If I see where their rights are being denied, I will fight to defend them. I hate injustice with passion. We are temporary visitors to this earth planet, when the time comes, we give way for others. Whatever we do boomerangs back to us. I had long forgiven them.
Would you resume duty as the court has ordered for your reinstatement?
I still have up to October 2021 to retire. They have only succeeded in making me look older than I am. Fortunately for me, I give only five minutes to think of my problems and I hand over the problems to God. That’s why I survive till today; else I would have died of hypertension or heart attack.
I don’t engage in gossips. I am a faithful disciple of Senaca, a Roman Poet and philosopher who said “I will do nothing because of public opinion, but will do everything because of conscience”.
Your message to the UNIUYO and the Education Sector.
Don’t pass or fail any student, but give him or her whatever he/she earns. I am a product of merit system.