Do we know Prof. Oserhiemen Osunbor? He is said to be the first Nigerian law student to graduate with a first-class honours degree. He achieved this feat in the year 1975 at the faculty of law of the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, which is also the first faculty of law to be established in Nigeria. A distinguished scholar, Osunbor was a law teacher for many years before he eventually joined politics in 1999.
He served as a Senator of the Federal Republic from 1999-2003 and thereafter was elected the Governor of Edo State under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the year 2007. He was however removed as Governor after a brief stint in office by the Federal High Court which declared Adams Oshiomole as the rightful winner of that election. But Prof has remained active in politics of Edo State till date.
In embarking on this drift of writing about a seemingly unremembered academician and politician, let me be clear that it is borne out of personal industry and nothing more. I celebrate the fact that the first first-class lawyer in Nigeria came from my alma mater. And I also wish to rub it in that we both finished from the same faculty.
I have come across many screaming headlines that not only was Prof Osunbor the young brilliant law student who shattered the glass ceiling for subsequent first class law students in Nigeria, he is also a “law guru” in the real sense of that phrase. To burn a little ink on his account therefore is not a wasteful venture.
Although I have heard his name in the past, I knew nothing about the record held by Prof Osunbor in the faculty of law UNEC.
In fact, in those days, while I was in school, only a few names of past first-class students were displayed on a shabby blackboard in the faculty building. The names did not appear in any particular order as that seemed to be completely left in the humour of whosever wrote them.
And whosoever it was that wrote them never remembered Prof Osunbor’s name. The situation may have changed though, as it’s been a long time I graduated.
But there were also many faculty almanacs, journals and article at least one of which one would expect should mention Osunbor’s name – but they didn’t. Was it deliberate or was it as result of the woes of poor documentation system we already know? But then in Edo State where one would expect Prof to be highly recognized if not celebrated by his own people – having vacated office only 11 years ago, a not so distant past – the story is yet the same. He is poorly known, or perhaps not so much as expected.
The unfortunate story behind his unpopularity in Edo State has it that Oshiomole viciously waged war against the gentle professor. He didn’t want any structure by which the people could remember his name to remain in the States. He tagged him “hopelessly incompetent”, allegedly removed the street lights erected during his tenure and destroyed every video archive of him as Governor. Talk about some viciousness! He completely buried the old man in a trench, although we can say he is somehow getting paid in his own coin through his successor, the present Governor.
Notwithstanding, Prof Osunbor is not a bad man neither was he incompetent. He showed a good measure of competence in all aspect of his preoccupation. For one thing, he didn’t play the kind of immature politics that is obtained in his State today. This is not a publicity skit so there’s no need to go into details of his achievement.
The faculty of law, University of Nigeria Enugu Campus could well give honour to Prof Osunbor to whom it is due, if indeed he was their first golden boy. Let the faculty extend invitation for its inaugural lecture or matriculation ceremony to the professor. He is in a well placed position to motivate, fire and inspire all freshmen of the faculty, especially with a first-hand narration of how he was able to achieve when there was no laid down precedent. And not only that, how he still went on to become a Professor, Senator and Governor.
Aniagu is also an alumnus of the faculty of law, University of Nigeria Enugu Campus.