Professor Cyril Ndifon and his wife, Rita, at the thanksgiving service

Professor Cyril Ndifon, Dean of Faculty of Law, University of Calabar survived a rare onslaught over allegations of rape and returned all the glory to God in a thanksgiving service. Ahamefula Ogbu was there

Trees that line the streets appeared to have been in agreement with the event of the day as they waved in the gentle morning Calabar breeze under the ambience of the early morning rays. Even the sun had arisen a bit earlier than usual as if not to be late for the occasion. The reflection of them gave the impression of smiles which tallied with the smiles of Professor Cyril Ndifon, the vindicated Dean of the Law Faculty of the University of Calabar who was accused of rape by one of his students. The only difference was in the inner resolve or stubbornness of the university don. That attribute was later to lead to the event of the day.

Allegations against the only Professor of Law Cross River State has produced would marvel you. He was accused of different things in different security organisations like kidnapping, sexual assault, forceful detention before it was narrowed down to rape. As the allegations were losing steam with the progress of investigations, his accusers kept changing their narrative; so that the inconsistencies worked in his favour.

However, following the case and how the authorities responded at every stage, it could be concluded that God was on the side of Ndifons as it was clearly a case of the “the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob.” Obviously, there were bigger players behind the scene that wanted Ndifon out of the way using his student as a pawn in the chess board, but probably, like James Hardley Chase, a writer said, “assassins always leave a trace”, so everything did not work out to their plans.

At the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Navy Barracks, Akim, IBB Way, Calabar, last Sunday where the university don had a thanksgiving service for his exoneration, the cathedral witnessed an unprecedented crowd beyond the capacity of the imposing edifice. There were more people outside than inside while the event planner had a hectic time culling seats from all corners. They apparently had underestimated the turnout. Every person that received a positive touch of Ndifon’s kindness showed up to identify with him. One wondered how lonely he would have become if he was actually guilty of the allegations.

The first reading at the thanksgiving service conducted by Reverend Father Jacob Ukpogu was taken from Jonah 3:1-5: 10 and counselled that there should be no victor, no vanquished, no chastiser and no chastised but for the offended to forgive so that the mind of God would continually be established in the career of the Ndifons. He said the intention of the enemies may have prospered only for a while before it was be overturned.

The second reading was taken from Corinthians 7: 29-31 where he emphasised that the world was passing away so that anyone who embraced wrong values would regret. Ukpogu charged those backbiting, telling lies, bearing false witnesses and pulling down others to desist while those offended through such should never see vengeance as an option but embrace forgiveness which he said freed the heart and soul.

“Professor Ndifon and family, I want to tell you that God is with you. Many did not go as far as you were taken and were utterly destroyed but God preserved you. No matter what situation you find yourself in, always take it to God in prayer. The Prophet Isaiah said that while you are still praying He will answer you. No matter the situation, always put your trust in God and do not go after those that offended you, those that caused you pains and caused you to go through what you went through. I owe special thanks and commendations to your wife, Dr. Rita for her understanding, perseverance and standing by you in your trying times, she is a very good and prayerful woman. God will bless and keep her because her type is rare,” Ukpogu admonished.

Professor Ndifon came close to tears when he was handed the microphone to speak. He said he had promised to thank God before the congregation when he was vindicated because he knew he didn’t commit any of the offences they accused him of and that the occasion was in fulfilment of the promise.

“What happened was that they aimed to destroy my career, reputation, the reputation of my family, my village, state and everything that I stand for. They took me and my family through the valley of the shadow of death but God delivered me and did not allow their scheme to succeed. I nearly died. My wife has been extremely wonderful.

“You won’t understand that there was an unseen hand manipulating and directing the movie but in all things I give God thanks, I always saw the hand of God. The fact that I am alive today is a miracle. If not for God, there were many avenues to have brought me down. When the medical report came out, I was exonerated, when the police report came out, I was exonerated and they passed the file from Federal Attorney General to the State Attorney General but in all these, they gave the verdict that I had no case to answer and to sum it up, it shows the favour of God,” he narrated.

At this point, the hall erupted with solidarity songs from students who marched down from all sides of the cathedral to the front and rendered songs praising God and the sterling qualities of Professor Ndifon. The students said the two years the action against their Dean went on nearly stifled activities in their faculty.
When his wife took over the microphone to thank the congregation, she broke down and amidst sobs, narrated that prior to the allegation against her husband, he received many threat text messages that she was scared for his life, so when the allegations came, she reasoned that it might still be the handiwork of those threatening him. He thanked everyone who contributed whether positively or negatively, adding that though they went through the valley of shadow of death, they feared no evil.
“No matter what happens, those who will believe you will believe you. They wanted my husband to go to prison but God did not allow them. I have cried enough, they accused him of being proud and too strict; yes, he is proud to do what they wanted him to do,” she narrated.

On the sideline, Rita said she never believed that her husband of 23 years committed the offence even though the barrage of misinformation and propaganda on the issue raged to the extent she was nearly sucked in. However, on a day she followed her husband to one of the police stations where he was invited, while sitting in a waiting room, “the issue of my husband somehow cropped up and they started discussing it without knowing we were the people they were talking about. One girl in the room said ‘I know that man, he can do it, in fact I am sure he raped the girl’. At that point, my husband turned to the girl and asked her if she knew the Professor Ndifon and the girl responded that she knew him very well. When the girl rose, opened the door to leave, my husband called her back and told her to tell her parents that she saw Professor Ndifon. It was at that point that I reasoned that if the person that has said she knows my husband very well did not recognise that he was the man in the same room with her, then I must stop listening or reading what anybody said about the case.”

Counsel to the Professor, Sunny Anyanwu said that once he heard of the rape allegation, he was sure Ndifon didn’t commit the offence, adding that when he saw the girl in question and how “bulky” she looked, he wondered from where the Law professor could have borrowed strength to subdue and rape such a huge girl. He also fought to the end and secured victory when after he was exonerated the university refused to restore him and he had to go to court.

The reception which held at the Library ground was a carnival of sorts with dancers, comedians, entertainment and so much to eat and drink. Ndifon used the opportunity to thank the Vice Chancellor of UINCAL, Professor Zana Akpagu who was earlier at the church thanksgiving service and the school authorities for their boldness and resolve to recall him after his exoneration despite pressure not to do so. Former Commissioner of Police, Lawrence Alobi was Chairman at the reception. As the day wore on, events shifted to his modest home at Akpabuyo, where visitors trudged to till the next day.

In the ivory towers, students are always seen as the weaker constituents and therefore draw unlimited sympathy so that when Professor Ndifon, was accused of rape by a student of the department, his balloon was adjudged pierced and therefore without remedy. However, not for the cerebral and equally stubborn don.
Ndifon described himself as the most investigated person in the country who while every security agency was mobilised to sift the wheat from the chaff in the allegation, was pilloried by the social media which tried and convicted him before the conclusion of the investigation.

The student was alleged to have been involved in cheating at a test, had her paper seized but later given the grace to recopy and submit her script in the presence of the Professor. Before then however, there had been threat messages from a number that investigations later traced to one of the lecturers that passed through the tutelage of Ndifon. The calculation must have been a complex one because going by seniority, he would not have been made the Dean even if Ndifon dropped dead. Apparently thinking that the Vice Chancellor coming from his area, could have helped in propping him up for the position, he allegedly spun the web.

According to the don, “My secretary was there with my office assistant, the girl in question. When she finished copying her script, I came out and she locked my office. My staff after I had driven off asked to drop her but she said she was okay and would be going to her hostel. Remember that this is a girl that has been there in the faculty for four years, failed my course which she tried to redeem, yet I never made any overtures to her, so why would I just come up to rape her?

“It was about two hours after I had left office that the idea of rape sprung up. From hindsight and investigations, she was goaded by someone very close to me to raise the allegation of rape and that man openly boasted thereafter that if I escaped other cases, that I will not survive the rape case. Soon, they spun several tales about it but, adding and subtracting along the way but I knew myself that there was nothing like that. How can a girl say I picked a condom from a shelf in my office, put it on, parted her legs and penetrated her and while that was going on, there was a knock on the door, I left her went to answer the door and spent like 20 minutes, came back and picked another condom and raped her again?

He took the embarrassment with equanimity under which people never knew there was an iron resolve to prove his innocence no matter the cost and for how long. As a first step, he was stripped of his deanship and suspended by the university authorities. Then, his erstwhile impeccable reputation went straight under the carpet. His feeble voice crying out his innocence was drowned by a plethora of traducers.
It was therefore a big surprise when a community of Professors visited him and offered to work out a soft landing which would have them plead on his behalf with the parents of the girl so that everything would come under control. It was therefore with shock and trepidation that they met a brick wall after Ndifon asked them to define the offence for which they intended to render an apology to achieve a middle ground. He politely declined and insisted that they should await the result of tests and investigations which the police and hospitals were vigorously already pursuing. For spurning the overture, he was tagged stubborn.

The shocking aspect of the event was that the result of the test from the police clinic was handed over to the accuser of the university don but unknown to her, it bore the truth of what happened. She had allegedly asked the officer on duty who received the medical report from her if all was well to which the female officer responded in the positive. It was therefore to her disappointment that the result which she allegedly later tried to change to incriminate the don became the pedestal upon which the Law Professor bounced back to life.
According to the final police investigation, the girl kept changing her statements while the person tagged “good Samaritan who allegedly assisted the girl to report the case after two hours, not to the school security but to Airport Police refused to show up claiming he wanted to be an anonymous witness in the saga. The biggest loss to the university community from the saga has been the withdrawal of accreditation for the Law Faculty of the university as while the saga was going on, the weightier matters of academics gave way to politics and the university lost big time. Students would not be admitted into the Law Faculty this academic session.
According to a Police Investigation report signed by Assistant Superintendent of Police Babatunde Lasisi, 2i/c Force Gender Unit, Force Headquarters, Abuja, three findings were made before recommendation that none of which indicted Ndifon.

After considering all the reports, the State Attorney General recommended that no case could be established against Ndifon and the University was notified. After high-wire politics, he was recalled but is yet to be restored to his office.

One document that sealed the tale of the accuser was a sworn witness statement on oath of Ndifon’s secretary, Monica Ogbaji who debunked the tales and graphically recalled the events of the day and how they parted with the girl on a happy note exchanging banters. She dismissed the allegation as an afterthought. She was however later removed from that office when Ndifon was suspended. Her other colleague who corroborated her affidavit was also removed but they insisted on the truth and were vindicated.