When the then Head of English, Professor (Mrs.) Inyang Udofot mentioned that she was sending out a call for contributions to Professor David Eka’s festschrift, | was somewhat taken by surprise because I had not quite realised that such a season was already with us. I have always associated David Eka with English in Nigeria. Such was his passion about this imposed foreign language that he at all times, defended it stoutly! At the time, I assumed that being an advocate of local indigenous languages and therefore being on the opposing side of the debate, any contribution I make would not be relevant to a festschrift in honour of this promoter of “global Englishes”, courtesy of his 2005 inaugural lecture.
Professor David Eka has been in the higher education system in Nigeria for upwards of forty years. His research interest has been largely in the area of English language phonology. During this period, he has made important contributions to English language research, particularly as it is used within the Nigerian context. One of the hallmark contributions, which has almost become a theory in itself, is the idea of ‘elasticity’ as it relates to rhythm in Nigerian English.
Professor David Eka deserves to be celebrated for being anexemplar to his students, as well as his colleagues. There is no question of endangerment to his professional calling because he has successfully ensured that there is “intergenerational transmission” (as we say in endangered language studies parlance) through his students, grand students, and great grand students, some of whom have become distinguished professors in their own right.
In an era where it is expedient to accept juicy political appointments, he has remained steadfast and faithful to his passion and first love of teaching, research and community service. It is difficult to quantify the number of publications he has under his belt but I must mention and remind those old enough of his editorship of the Faculty of Arts Journal of Humanities (JH), when everything was done manually then, without the benefit of computers and ICT. He served diligently in that capacity for several years dutifully turning out the journals year in year out.
He has always been a source of inspiration and motivation to the junior ones, a teacher par excellence by example in the classroom, plus a compassionate administrator as a Head of Department. His diligence is unparalleled - even after his retirement from the University of Uyo, Professor David Eka still teaches and conducts his research with passion and a sense of duty. As the pioneer Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), he brought a number of beneficial innovations to the system.
Professor Eka’s sphere of service is not defined within the ivory tower only but also without. It is in recognition of his unstinting service that the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria elected him an Elder and his community has inundated him with several accolades.
It is therefore not altogether a surprise that at this time of his retirement, his colleagues and students, former and current, have come together to celebrate and honour his intellectual achievements with a well-deserved festschrift. The festschrift entitled English Usage in Nigeria since 1842: Patterns and Changes, contains twenty-six chapters of scholarly and well researched papers in various areas of English and language studies. The papers in this volume cover issues ranging from but not limited to, features of Nigerian English, spoken English in Nigeria, rhythm of standard Nigerian English, the concept of Eka’s elasticity to sociolinguistic issues, traditidnal concerns such as the influence of English on local languages and vice versa, emerging trends such as those of text messaging in addition to the deployment of English in literary creativity.All these have been classified into four important themes, namely:
In an era where quality teachers in the teaching profession are a highly endangered species, here is to Professor David Eka, a seasoned and distinguished academic, an academic icon, a trailblazer, a confidence builder, a motivator and a compassionate and amiable man. I strongly commend all those who have been a part of this commemoration! And I am delighted to have been asked to write the foreword to this monumental and important volume.
Professor of Linguistics
University of Uyo, Nigeria