Professor Ashong C. Ashong, a fine communication expert and former Head, Department of Communication Arts, University of Uyo, has an untold story of growing up in a tough environment and ending up in a rewarding career sojourn in the academia.
Born as the third child in a family of 11, with 8 alive till date, young Ashong grew up strong as a child in his home town, Obudu, Cross River State, to a “village pastor” as father, and a garri seller as mother (his own words).
Unlike some fathers who would care less about children’s education, Ashong’s father believed rather strongly in education and he would sacrifice anything necessary to send his children to school.
Ashong’s journey into being an outstanding scholar was not an easy road to travel. He describes himself as not really being a rich student while studying for his first degree.
In his words, “my brother and l had a determination; there was a vision we were pursuing. We believed that God would give it to us and we were willing to take the pains that came with it and we committed ourselves wholeheartedly to it”
After losing his father in 1990, he was left alone to sort himself out as he was at the time, pursuing his Ph.D. programme. At this level, he encountered a number of challenges that made him at some point feel like quitting.
In his first year as a Ph.D. student, he impressed everybody with his outstanding performance, as he submitted an amazing proposal which unusually in the history of the Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of lbadan, passed at first presentation. Naturally, everyone expected it to fly but that was where the speed stopped.
Circumstances made him complete his programme in eight years instead of the three years that he had hoped to spend on the programme. That was not all. Ashong encountered a major hitch after he did a mock oral examination that went extremely well but after which he had to wait for almost three years to complete the programme rather than a few weeks as one might have expected.
After that traumatizing experience of waiting that long, the time came for graduation and his name was missing because the clerk had lent a copy of his thesis to a postgraduate student in the department even before the department had had a chance to process the work. These circumstances conspired to make him contemplate giving up on his academic pursuit at some point. Thankfully, although it took an unbelievably long time, he managed to complete it in the end.
After these incidents, he resumed work as a lecturer in the Department of Communication Arts, University of Uyo. Things went extremely well until he became a senior lecturer and again beyond his understanding, he had to wait for fourteen years to be promoted from senior lecturer to associate professor. Although this elevation naturally requires about four good publications, he had to make seventeen publications to eventually earn the promotion.
Hear him: “It was as if l would never become a professor. It was as if l was such a lazy person but l refused to let it affect my disposition. My countenance never changed through it all. I continued to be myself and some people couldn’t understand how”.
“It seemed to me, that there would be no progress but God steadily got me going.”
After 14 years, Ashong was eventually promoted to Associate Professor and it took the regular three years to be promoted to the rank of Professor.
“Anybody that wants to get to the very top should at first have an abiding faith in something that is beyond him. For me it is God.”
“There is a need to discipline yourself and be focused. Have a vision and refuse to be distracted, even if it does not seem to be working out well. You don’t give up simply because you have obstacles.”
“Although things didn’t work out as l had planned, l believe everything that happened was within God’s plan for me and in all of this, l am glad l did not give up.”
Today, Prof. Ashong is highly celebrated, respected and admired by colleagues and his students whom he has impacted positively.