He always stood out

By Prof. Zanzan Uji
When I came to the University of Jos in the early/mid-Nineteen eighties, as a young lecturer, Joseph Tor Iorapuu was a student in the Department of Theatre Arts. He was fondly called ‘Black Joe’.
I never taught him, I couldn’t have, because I was an architect and a mere amateur actor. But I knew him. He stood out.
I knew, because I knew his lecturers and they told me so:
There was Sonni Oti; There was (then) Dr. S. O. Amali;
there was (then) Dr. Iyorwuese Hagher;
There was Zack Amatta; there was Dr. S. Somade; there was Lantana Odekunle;
There was Bose Tsevende.
They all testified.
He stood out.
But he also had equally prominent mates and contemporaries:
There was Victor Dugga; there was Charity Pever-Ge (later Angya);
There was Mimi Shaahu; there was Dauda Musa (now late);
There was Kekere (also now late).
Black Joe stood out.
We acted several plays together at the Open Theatre.
The most memorable of the plays was Ola Rotimi’s “Holding Talks.” Although I played the lead role, Black Joe was the one that stood out.
He played the role of the dead Barber. Lying prostrate and spread-eagled on the floor of the Theatre Stage throughout the 1&1/2-hour duration of the play as a ‘dead man’, it was incredible that he never moved a muscle, never swiped a mosquito, never scratched an itch on his skin throughout that harrowing period.
He stood out.
Then he became one of us.
He stood out
He completed his PhD in record time.
He stood out.
He rose rapidly in the hierarchy of teaching and scholarship.
He became a Professor in the shortest possible time.
He stood out.
He became Dean of the Faculty of Arts.
He stood out.
In University Senate debates, Black Joe stood out.
In Community Service he stood out.
In Church, he became a Knight. He stood out.
Then he ran for Vice Chancellorship of the Benue State University.
A novelty was introduced – candidates had to take a written exam. The apparent strangeness of this novelty made some candidates quit the race in perplexity. Not Black Joe.
I can visualize, in my min’s eye, cold sweat dampening the palms of eminent professor-candidates, bent over children’s school desks, vacant answer scripts before them, biting off the tips of their ‘biro’ covers, before finally handing in half-filled pages. Not Black Joe. He floored them all. He came tops, he stood out.
At the final interview, Black Joe trounced them all and was triumphantly named the 6th Vice Chancellor of Benue State University, the first state-owned university in Northern Nigeria.
He stood out.
It is our fervent prayer that the Almighty God who has stayed in Professor Joseph ‘BlackJoe’ Tor Iorapuu’s corner providing him with the tools of success in these various life endeavours, will remain with him in that corner and grant him the wisdom to steer the affairs of our most cherished Benue State University to the most enviable heights in the history of tertiary education in Nigeria. Amen!
Hearty congratulations, our friend, brother and colleague, Professor Joseph ‘Black Joe’’Tor Iorapuu.
Z. A. Uji.

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