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When Royalty Walked At George Washington University’s Commencement

By Obidike Ajuluchukwu


I was there as a witness. No Atilogwu dancers accompanied him. No Bende War dancers cleared his way as he walked. And no Abigbo songsters sang his praises. No press release announced his participation in this annual ritual this year either.

Yet there was royalty in his gait as Dr. Ugorji Okechukwu Ugorji marched almost inconspicuously among the 400 graduates who earned degrees from the College of Professional Studies of the George Washington University on May 18, 2019.

I was in the audience at Charles E. Smith Center in Washington, DC with a mutual friend, Dr. Stanley Onye (another accomplished academic).

Ugorji is the Executive Director of the US-based African Writers Endowment, and an erstwhile leader and intellectual provocateur at the World Igbo Congress and the Nigerian Peoples Forum, to mention only a couple of his associations in his illustrious record of public service.

But more pertinent to this article, he is the first child (a prince that is) of the traditional ruler of Lorji Nwekeukwu Autonomous Community in Aboh Mbaise, Imo State of Nigeria, His Royal Highness Eze S. N. Ugorji.

The son, Dr. Ugorji, also holds three traditional titles from traditional rulers in his Igboland, Nigeria.

The writer, Obidike Ajuluchukwu, with a cane, and Dr. Stanley Onye to the far left, Dr. Ugorji and his wife, Uche, are in the middle with Dean Deery

But on this day in Washington DC, there was no extra-ordinary fanfare as he received a Master’s degree in Security and Safety Leadership/Homeland Security from the program that the Dean of the College, Dr. Christopher J. Deering, told us was the Number One rated program of its kind in North America.

The only betrayal of his status at the event was when some of us in the audience yelled “Odoziobodo” as he was congratulated on stage by Dean Deering.

Unbeknownst to virtually all in attendance, Ugorji already had a doctorate degree – 25 years earlier, from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

And this master’s degree was his second – the first one was in 1989 from the institution now known as The College of New Jersey.

The George Washington University’s program in Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security provides a pioneering education on counter-terrorism, intelligence analysis, emerging security threats, and relevant legislation.

The graduates from the program are prepared for leadership roles in the new and growing field in order to advance the cause of a more secure society.

With Professor Elaine Lammert as its Director, the program asserts on its website that “The master’s degree in Homeland Security provides a comprehensive, full field view of both current and emerging threats, as well as a cutting-edge graduate curriculum in homeland security studies that examines relevant national and information security policy and practices in the public and private sectors.”

Ugorji says that in light of terrorism and security challenges on the African continent and on the American homeland, he was particularly interested in the body of knowledge the program provided in counter-terrorism measures that also protect the human rights of citizens.

“The program was rigorous and intellectual challenging; and a lot of work too.

“I am grateful for the support the faculty provided during some instances of personal challenges.

“They were all enthusiastically invested in my success,” he says.

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