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THE MAN-PROFESSOR DAN CHRISTIAN CHIKPEZIE AGU: A REFFLECTION

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Abstract

It should be counted or considered a privilege to have the opportunity of writing on a rare personality such as Prof Dan C.C. Agu. Gone are the days when people are only celebrated and immortalized at death. Celebrating Agu at 70 has not only provided a reflective moment of his grandiose achievements but a challenging ground for all in this academic race. The focus of this paper is not to attempt a biographical account of this erudite scholar, but among other things to bring to lime light the multidimensional packages of an icon who means so many things to so many people at different points of encounter with him, and to say the least, to paint an image which should probably be liken to the tale of an elephant described by six blind men where different images were painted of the same animal. The content of this work is borne out of personal encounter and experiences with him spanning through the writer's postgraduate periods up to the present time as a lecturer, still under his tutelage and mentorship. This reflective cum expository essay deliberated on the man Dan Agu, as a mentor, a teacher, a disciplinarian, an administrator, a composer and above all a professor par excellence and so on. After going through the above qualities encapsulated in one man, it became so obvious and apparently reasonable to give honour to whom honour is due.
THE MAN- PROFESSOR DAN CHRISTIAN CHIKPEZIE AGU: A REFFLECTION.
BY
IBEKWE, EUNICE U.
Abstract
It should be counted or considered a privilege to have the opportunity of writing on a rare personality
such as Prof Dan C.C. Agu. Gone are the days when people are only celebrated and immortalized at
death. Celebrating Agu at 70 has not only provided a reflective moment of his grandiose achievements
but a challenging ground for all in this academic race. The focus of this paper is not to attempt a
biographical account of this erudite scholar, but among other things to bring to lime light the
multidimensional packages of an icon who means so many things to so many people at different
points of encounter with him, and to say the least, to paint an image which should probably be liken to
the tale of an elephant described by six blind men where different images were painted of the same
animal. The content of this work is borne out of personal encounter and experiences with him
spanning through the writer’s postgraduate periods up to the present time as a lecturer, still under his
tutelage and mentorship. This reflective cum expository essay deliberated on the man Dan Agu, as a
mentor, a teacher, a disciplinarian, an administrator, a composer and above all a professor par
excellence and so on. After going through the above qualities encapsulated in one man, it became so
obvious and apparently reasonable to give honour to whom honour is due.
Introduction
George Orwell (1996) in Animal Farm says that though all animals are equal, some are more equal
than others. Obviously, one is known by what one does, that is to say, the accomplishment of certain
tasks in most cases stands one above his /her allies. The qualities achieved and earned by Prof Agu
have placed him in an exulted and honorary status which thus resulted in this epoch making event. In
the music field one often hears such affirmative names as, kw’ ja –a flutist, oti gba- a drummer,
onye ukwe- a singer, gba egwu- a dancer, ode egwu/ukwe- a composer and so on. At times a
prodigious artiste majors in two, three or more of the attributes and becomes exceptional to the envy
of other artistes; such is the celebrity in person of Prof Dan C.C. Agu. Without inciting or stirring
undue adulations, let me draw from Mark-Anthony’s speech in Julius Caesar ...”I come to bury Caesar
and not to praise him”. (143) My encounter or experiences with Prof Dan C. C. Agu do not call for
praises but an honest account saddled or spiced with bitter and endearing moments. This journey
started about twelve years ago when I gained admission to do my M.A. program in the Department of
Music Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka. The Department of Music which was then situated along
Ifite road shared a common building with Fine and Applied Art Department and Theatre Art
Department. It was a two storey building, Department of Fine and Applied Art at the ground floor,
Department of Music at the First floor, while the Theatre Art Department occupied the top floor. The
presence of three departments in one building made the place and its environment wore a very busy
outlook.
I came to the school on Monday the 6th of June 2005. As I entered one of the offices at the ground
floor, I met two unfamiliar gentle men and I told them that I was looking for one Dr Agu. Both of
them smiled and asked me spontaneously if I would be able to identify him if I see him. I said no,
they asked me to go upstairs (1st floor) and wait at the HOD’s office that Dr Agu would meet me there.
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To my greatest surprise, before I could get to the office one of the two men I saw downstairs came up
and politely introduced himself as Dr Agu, D. C. C.; and incidentally the current Head of the
Department of Music. I felt so humbled, my initial fear was dispelled. That first impression of warm
reception gave me courage, hope, satisfaction and created a workable atmosphere that saw me through
my studies. From 2005 till date he has never stopped encouraging, directing, advising, guiding and
sharpening my academic vision. All those attributes are what informed my decision to deliberate on
various dimensions of the man- Professor Dan Christian Chikpezie Agu at this two-in-one occasion of
inaugural and valediction tagged Agu at 70.
Prof. Agu as a Teacher
It is often said that an old woman is never old in the dance she knows well how to dance. A seasoned
teacher is always ready to teach any time anywhere. My first meeting with Prof. Agu marked the
beginning of my Post Graduate Studies in the Department of Music, Nnamdi Azikiwe University
Awka. Initially my intention was to go and report in the department pending when I would be ready to
commence lectures, but my visitation was met with unanticipated dialogue. After informing him of
my successful admission into the Department, and my choice area of study which is
Ethnomusicology, he welcomed me then and asked me what I know about this ethnomusicology
which I opted for, in the interim he suggested that I study Music Education since I was a secondary
school teacher. After much argument he now allowed me to settle for my choice area. He then offered
me a good footing by making available quality resource materials to prepare me for the lectures.
This euphoria of pleasant relationship was short lived. In my next lecture with him, that was when my
bitter experiences started. After the lecture, he said I must choose Topic for my Thesis to run
concurrently with my course work and be ready to submit the progress of my field work every week if
I must do the program or else I should find another supervisor. Amidst confusion, depression and fear
of the unknown I thanked him and left. It then done on me that the huddles had started. There was
never a dull moment throughout my study period. It was one assignment after the other. He has zero
patience with lazy students. If he fixes a lecture and you are not there on time, you are on your own.
On several occasions he would fall out with my incompetence and cancelled whatever opinion or
argument I must have presented and I would have to start all over again. It was really a very bitter
experience. His calls would come at any time of the day to remind me that I had not submitted for the
week. That was the most upsetting experience most especially when I had nothing to submit. He
monitored my field works and made calls to know what and what was happening at any research
venue. He at times would want to hear the sound of musical instruments accompanying the dance
performance which I was researching on. I was not finding it funny as it made me always feel guilty
each time I did not meet up the target.
The teaching learning encounter with Prof D.C.C. Agu was not a bed of roses as I went through
serious academic torture in those formative periods. However, in as much as the journey was not
smooth, I felt it was strategically applied to mould a better academic as I was able to finish my
programmes within the record time. He would always emphasize, “if you cannot meet up, it is better
you withdraw”. This statement always gets to my nerves especially when it has to do with my
inability to reach his expectations. But thanks to the Almighty God who always come to my rescue. In
fact the two programmes (M. A. And PhD) I ran under him was akin to the tax of crossing the
Rubicon. To God be the Glory, those nurturing periods have transformed or rather justified the
maxim-“no cross no crown”.
Prof. Agu’s Supervisory Strategy
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Prof Agu was my supervisor in both my Masters and PhD. Programmes. It was an encounter that
deserved mentioning in this work. I did not have any breathing space during those periods, meaning
that there was scarcely any moment of rest. There was one particular day he engaged me in a serious
kind of dialogue or what I may term ‘a supervisory strategy’,
Supervisor: Eunice where are you? are you at your research venue? the place is noisy
Supervisee: No Sir, I am at a burial
Supervisor: Burial! You are there attending all the burials in Achina. Ok no problem, I have seen that
you are not serious. I will soon drop you. I don’t supervise people who are not ready to work.
Supervisee: I am sorry Sir.
Supervisor: You better be. How many times have you visited the group you are studying?
Supervisee: Sir I have just met with their leader. I am yet to commence the group visit.
Supervisor: Yes I said it, you are not serious, you are there sleeping and attending burials.
Supervisee: No sir, I...I...
Supervisor: (Interrupted) I hope you remember what to do when you get there. Make sure you record
every bit of their performances, vocal and instrumental, both individually and collectively.
Take note of every signs, slangs and slogans and find out their socio-cultural implications,
even their organizational system should be found out. If you come back here without a
detailed account of the group’s activities I will send you back.
Supervisee: Ok Prof, thank Sir (even before I could say the last words thank Sir he had already hung
up). This interaction moved me into serious business which continued till I finished my
programme.
Prof Agu is not the type of supervisor that allows the supervisee to choose or select a project topic and
spend time unending working on it. You must be up and doing or else he will disengage you.
Peradventure a supervisee did not finish within the record time he/she must provide a good and
justifiable reason why he/she must not be disengaged. This type of supervisory attitude provokes duty
consciousness and makes his students to always work hard. The number of Post Graduate students he
has produced all over the country will testify to this. It is not an exaggeration to say that he has
produced more than fifty Postgraduate Students in different areas of specialization.
In one of his good moods he told me this story:
when I was doing my Postgraduate studies at Queen’s University, Belfast, Professor John
Blacking was my supervisor, very energetic and an astute scholar. He would always love to
see his students work round the clock. He was never tired of work and would make sure that
whoever he was working with was up and doing. I got admission to do M.A. at Queen’s
University Belfast, but it happened that they used to conduct placement test to know where
one is fitted, so after the placement test I was found qualified to do PhD instead. So due to the
peculiar nature of my admission coupled with limited time, I used to sleep in my study room
in order to meet up with my supervisor’s demands. Secondly, I do not want to spend even one
extra day above the stipulated graduation time. John Blacking (as that was how he wished to
be addressed) would always knock at my door each time he was passing either to give back
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already marked script or to remind me of my regular submission which I must comply with
every Monday. He did not delay me throughout my study period; therefore I have made it a
point of duty never to delay anybody unless the person wants to delay him/her self.
Guided by this policy, Prof does not mind the number of times he calls his supervisee or even the
number of times he cancels a supervisee’s work to make corrections. What borders him is how
responsive the student is, in addition to producing quality and better out come. He re-directs the
supervisee’s points of argument through critical questioning and reasoning. He is not the type that
yields to or compromise student’s stubbornness. According to him, the ability and expertise of a
supervisor is often portrayed in the work he / she supervised. For him, while the student is being
assessed, the supervisor is equally being assessed. If the supervisor is knowledgeable about the topic
of the ongoing research, the student will be better guided. He would always say, “the failure of a
supervisee is also the failure of the supervisor”. In other words, in any project oral defense both the
supervisor and the supervisee are under examination. Unlike most supervisors who would keep a
student for more than five, six or up to ten years running a particular programme, for Prof Agu such
exercise is an anathema, and spells inefficiency on the part of such supervisor, except where the
concerned student has a peculiar problem or does not show any commitment to his/her studies, in
which case the student would be advised to withdraw.
Prof. Agu’s Mentorship style
Mentorship is all about guiding, directing, advising and nurturing an individual to attain a better level
of behavioural growth and productivity. Mentor according to The New International Websters
Comprehensive Dictionary of The English Language, Encyclopedic Edition, (2010) means “a wise
and trusted teacher, guide, and friend; an elderly monitor or adviser” (796). Discussing mentorship in
this forum (academic terrain) should always be addressed in affirmative where it is assumed that the
mentor is more knowledgeable and therefore guides the less knowledgeable to become a better
individual. Prof. Agu’s style of mentorship is worth mentioning. As soon as I started my Post
Graduate studies, fortunately or unfortunately, the upcoming Conference of the Association of
Nigerian Musicology scheduled to take place in 2006 was to be hosted by the Department of Music,
Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Prof. Agu insisted and made it mandatory that I must participate
as well as present a paper in the conference. For me it was a very big challenge and a herculean task
for a novice who has never experienced what it takes to present paper in a conference. To the Glory of
God, stage fright and fidgeting notwithstanding I had a successful outing and was congratulated. I had
almost the same experiences in 2007 and 2008 at Delta State University Abraka and Adeniran
Ogunsanya College of Education Otto-Ijanikin Lagos State respectively where I participated and
presented papers. All these helped in sharpening my academic perception and formation.
In August 2008 when I finally joined the Department of Music, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka as
a lecturer he did not relent in seeing that I meet up with the challenges of classroom tutorials by
making most of his books available to me as well as making himself available for consultations. Prof.
Agu’s model of mentorship is never a case of ‘write a paper and put my name’ syndrome as it happens
nowadays where a supposed mentor would ask a mentee to write a paper and include his or her name
even without having time to glance through the paper. Rather he would expose you to his publications
for you to read and grasp the style and method of writing publishable academic papers. In several
occasions he would finish writing an article and ask you to read and point out either a typographical
or grammatical error to assess your spelling and grammatical competency. At times he would praise
you, at other times he would ask you to read over and over again until you are able to discover
something. I cannot remember any of his works which I was not privileged to read and that is why I
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always quote him extensively in virtually all my articles. I must confess that his style of writing has
influenced me tremendously. Prof. Agu is a versatile scholar. He is involved in numerous external
examinations and assessments for Readers and Professors. Even his modus operandi for external
assessment is not hidden from his students. What he does is just remove the examinee’s identity and
say, “go through this assessment template and see how the items are scored and the comments
therein” He would always say, “I want to have people that would succeed me when I am retired” what
a large heart! This is mentorship consummated in selflessness and service to humanity. I am happy to
note that the likes of Prof. Agu have started emerging amongst the Association of Nigerian
Musicologists members. That’s a growth and development in the right dimension.
Prof Agu as a disciplinarian
According to The International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language (2010),
A disciplinarian is, “one who disciplines, one strict in discipline” (363). Furthermore, and from the
same source, Discipline means, “systematic training or subjection to authority; especially the training
of the mental, moral and physical powers by instruction or exercise” (363). This is one of the aspects
of Prof. Agu’s multidimensional attributes that is irrevocable and it makes me uncomfortable at times,
because even when you would want him to shift ground on his decision it would look as if you are
provoking him the more. On a particular occasion I have tried to meddle in a student issue with him
and I nearly lost my credence. He said without apology that I should desist from mediating in
students’ problems because they will put me into trouble, and that one thing he hates most is to allow
any body drag the standard and reputation of the Department to the mud in his time.
In the Department of Music Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, the students would always say, “the
fear of Prof. Agu is the beginning of wisdom”. The conviction that students are normally stubborn,
mischievous and always late for lecture, is not when Prof. Agu is involved. If Prof. Agu enters a class
before you, you are in trouble and have automatically missed that lecture. If the class is not swept,
there will be no lecture. If the class is noisy, there will also be no lecture. So all these measures he is
taken to enforce adequate classroom discipline. No student would like to miss 75% attendance to
lectures which is a prerequisite for taking any examination in the school. Even if you are the students’
god father or god mother, acting or intervening on behalf of any student is a waste of time because
nothing will come out of it. He would always dismiss any mediator with such words as, “I will not
tolerate this kind of mess up in this Department, if they can deceive you people with their tricks, they
cannot deceive me, I will rather stand on the right path, if they do not value it today, tomorrow they
will, you think these students do not know when they err”. The students know him well for this; as a
result any issue that will make any of them fall out with him is carefully avoided. However, Prof Agu
has a very soft spot for people who are diligent to duty, hard working and responsible.
Prof. Agu. As an administrator
Prof Agu’s administrative qualities needed some highlights. He has held many positions of authority,
such as Head, Department of Music, Nnamdi Azikwe, University Awka.; Dean, Faculty of Arts, of the
same institution and President, Association of Nigerian Musicologists to mention just a few within the
confines of academic milieu. He is a good record keeper when it comes to documentations. He also
knows how to get one fully involved in discharging ones duty. His style of distribution of functions to
ensure cohesion is exemplary. If Prof Agu assigns a duty to a person, he will not create a room for
objection. The person will not even have the option to say no because, he will make the person
understand the implications of such rejection or decline. Such engagement will then place the person
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concerned in a sort of dutiful and committed obedient-servant situation not wanting to be an obstacle
or a cog in the wheel of progress.
During his tenure as the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, many departments were reconciled. He tried to
enhance mutual understanding among members of staff within the Faculty. As a peace loving
individual, he maintains peaceful co-existence and good relationship with people even when there is a
misunderstanding he easily tries to appease. His positions have never entered his head even when it
concerns a younger person he would find a way of addressing that person in his or her pet name to
reconcile whatever stirred relationship that has existed. Such is Humility epitomised in leadership.
In so many institutions of higher learning today, most people that happen to find themselves at the
corridors of power use the opportunity to intimidate, exploit, and gain undue advantage of their fellow
members of staff. Such leaders are bereft of transparency of purpose and open door policy. These
kinds of administrators always find it comfortable to sit on people’s promotions, make illegal
collections and are always running deficit when it comes to accountability. In worst cases, some use
the opportunity to indulge in various kinds of ominous and dirty businesses with students and
whoever that is interested and thereby reducing themselves so low to the mockery of people.
Prof. Agu always uses his administrative opportunities to fight for justice and better the lots of people.
There was an instance where he had to petition against the injustice meted on one of the members of
staff who was transferred from another institution into the Department, but instead of getting a lateral
placement, was downgraded two ranks below (not even by steps). Through his effort, the anomaly
was rectified and proper placement was granted. He is not the type that sits on people’s promotion
rather he accelerates it. His activities in the assessment of Readers and Professors can evidently bear
testimonies to this. Some assessors do find it difficult to give the report of their assessments thereby
stagnating the promotions of whoever they are assessing. Such unhealthy attitude though not so
rampant among the new breeds of ANM scholars but it rears its ugly head in other areas of academic
disciplines within institutions of higher learning. Through his endorsement, many Readers and
Professors of music are produced. In fact Prof. Agu’s multidimensional qualities cannot be fully
represented in a single write up such as this, it requires a diverse account from different acquaintances
and associates who have encountered him in one way or the other.
Prof. Agu- a Professor par-excellence
When one is referred to as an excellent scholar it implies that he has transcended the normal cum
average level of academic. This position is not a right but achieved or earned. This event which is
both capital and intensive is made possible by his products located in different parts of the country to
celebrate the achievements of this great man. The celebration is not out of place but calls for sober
reflection. Prof. Agu is a prolific writer of both national and international repute. He attended and still
attends conferences even when one would think that age has started playing its part. He has turned out
students of all categories and made Readers and Professors to his credit. He is one of the privileged
professors endorsed by the National University Council (NUC) to mastermind the Tertiary
Institution’s Accreditation Exercises. Precisely, this duty has even taken him across borders on
international tours. He has worked in various capacities to lift music to a greater level both as a
performer and as a world class composer. He is all rounder in music theory and practice.
Conclusion:
The writer has just tried to give a brief account of her encounter with the man Prof. Dan C.C. Agu and
has not claimed a holistic representation as many people may have their different perspectives which
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are still considered ideal for a work of this nature. Summarily, the writer concludes with a very short
poem to personify the colossus of our time, and which incidentally portrays some unwritten
demeanours that characterise the sage.
Agu- The Lion
The king of the jungle
The Hero of the animal kingdom
The most feared but fearless
When it roars
It smokes terror
The forest shakes and trembles
The earth quakes
The animals go into hiding
Men take to their heels
It devours without mercy
It fears nothing
Not even the sound of gun
Yet soft spot for Daniels
What a wonderful creature!
References
Orwell, G. (1996). Animal Farm. USA: Penguin
Shakespear, W. (1983). Julius Caesar. Honk Kong: Wilture Printing Co Ltd
The New International Websters Comprehensive Dictionary of The English Language, Encyclopedic
Edition, (2010). USA: Typhoon Media Corporation
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