‘In Memory of a Fine Teacher: A Tribute to Prof. Nnadozie Inyama -Bura-Bari Vincent Nwilo
My memory of Prof. Nnadozie Inyama began with him walking into the classroom in my first or second year at the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka to introduce fiction. Those years, the classroom could be so full of students with the spill-over covering the entrance and restricting airflow.
The heat in the room and murmuring by students often made listening to the teacher a great task. Despite the odds, Prof. Inyama found great joy bringing characters of texts alive. You could see it on his face that from the moment he began to share these stories and their significance, the poor atmosphere, the discomfort and the bad smell from wherever, did not matter to him. He taught and enacted dialogues while at it. His voice alternated and you could tell that he was familiar with many of the characters, as if they were people he was acquainted with.
In the hallway, Prof. Inyama was not one of the people who stopped to chat. He acknowledged greetings and walked away, almost dramatically. Often, he would flash a smile that said, “okay, I am in my office in case you have any serious business.”
I picked interest in the short story form of literature because he introduced classic short stories to the class. He introduced me to Guy de Maupassant and others, and I picked up from there. I have two collections of stories to my credit and I owe him a great deal of appreciation.
I wish I paid more attention and stayed closer to him, to learn a bit of the many things I knew he could have shared but for opportunities. Sometimes, I wish the department of English and Literary Studies operated a YouTube channel where lecturers would discuss their favourite books and characters or ideologies so that when we lose great men they can still be remembered and watched. Such a project would help younger students revisit the uniqueness that were these passionate teachers.
I admired Prof. Inyama from afar and spared moments to pay attention to his love for cars. He was a lover of the Mercedes Benz brand. I saw him drive three separate series and I thought, this man loves African fiction, is enamoured of the short story form and he drives Mercedes Benz. I would love to be like him!
I am grateful that Prof. Inyama shared his wisdom and wit with us. Often, he shared what seemed like esoteric English jokes that very few people understood. The real victim of the vacuum created by his exit would be the students who will never have the privilege of sitting in his class . He was such a man whose approach to the English language, enunciation and lifestyle made him distinct and I guess this contributed to him becoming a university orator.
Rest on, good man and teacher. May we teach and share knowledge as freely as you did, with unreserved pleasure and fulfilling smiles.