Connect with us

Politics

Final Call Stills Okara’s Waves

Published

on

Gabriel Okara, a Nigerian poet and novelist, has often been described as the first Modernist Poet of Anglophone Africa.
Okara, who incorporated African thought, religion, folklore and imagery into both his verse and prose, had had his works translated into several languages.
The literati and those who appreciate literature, especially poetry, believe that “Call of the River Nun’’ was Gabriel Okara’s, most memorable poem.
“……My river’s calling too!
Its ceaseless flow impels
my found’ring canoe down
its inevitable course.
And each dying year
brings near the sea-bird call,
the final call that stills the crested waves
and breaks in two the curtain
of silence of my upturned canoe.
O incomprehensible God!
Shall my pilot be
my inborn stars to that
final call to Thee.
O my river’s complex course?”
(Culled from “Call of the River Nun’’)
So, were nostalgic memories and sadness that followed the news of his demise in the early hours of Sunday, March 24, 2019, at his home in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
He was confirmed dead at the Federal Medical Centre in Yenagoa; Okara had breathed his last exactly four weeks to his 98th birthday.
Okara, whose remains would be laid to rest on June 22, 2019 was born Gabriel Imomotimi Okara on April 24, 1921 in Bumoundi, Bayelsa.
The poet and novelist had his secondary school education at the renowned Government College, Umuahia; the same school that groomed other renowned Nigerian literary icons, including Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo, Elechi Amadi, Chike Momah, Obi Nwakanma, Chukwuemeka Ike and Ken Saro-Wiwa.
Okara, who had also worked as a civil servant, authored “The Call of the River Nun,” as his first poem and it won an award at the Nigerian Festival of Arts in 1953.
His other works included The Fisherman’s Invocation (1978), published two collections of children’s poetry, Little Snake and Little Frog (1992) and An Adventure to Juju Island (1992) and, several other poems featured in the Nigerian literary journal Black Orpheus.
In his poetry, Okara draws from Nigerian folklore and religion while exploring extremes within daily life through secular patterns.
The Britannica, commends his first novel, The Voice (1964), as “a remarkable linguistic experiment in which Okara translated directly from the `Ijo’ (Ijaw) language, imposing Ijo syntax onto English in order to give literal expression to African ideas and imagery.’’
Dr Eugene Ibe, representing Government College Umuahia Old Boys Association, spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and also wrote as his tribute on Okara’s life at the Government College and how the experience shaped his later life.
“Every time I met Okara, he never got tired of telling me stories of his life at Umuahia, a school where all students were treated equally no matter whether your father was a fisherman, or a farmer or a politician like Zik.
“Okara took the entrance exams into Govt. College in the year 1934 from Kaiama and went to Umuahia for interviews.
“ In 1934, there were no speed boats but dugout canoes; roads rarely existed but the Port Harcourt to Umuahia to Enugu rail line was operating mainly for carrying coal from Enugu to Port Harcourt.
“The poor boy had to travel in a paddled dugout canoe to Onitsha and then go by road from Onitsha to Umuahia, a three-day journey.’’
According to Ibe, Okara said he was interviewed by Rev. Robert Fisher, the Founder and Principal of Government College, Umuahia in 1934.
“He must have done extremely well to be awarded a full scholarship (for the best five entrants) to study at the college which he entered in January 1935.
“As a `fresher’, he was immediately pounced upon by the Class II boys who tried to `show him pepper’.
“When he ran to a teacher from Nembe, Mr W. E. Alagoa, he refused to protect him, especially as he spoke in Ijaw vernacular, a punishable offence in Umuahia.
He was so miserable that he felt like returning to his parents, Samson and Martha Okara, but when he remembered the three-day journey he opted to endure and eventually adjusted.
However, he was liked by his juniors like late Dr Melford Douglas, late Dr J.O.J. Okezie, a one-time Federal Minister of Agriculture, late Justice Charles Daddy Onyeama of the International Court at The Hague.
“Okara was good in sports being lanky and tall; he specialised in long distances.’’
On Okara’s experiences in class, he said: “He was taught mainly by Europeans, including Fisher, A.J. Carpenter, the author of West African Nature Study and a few Nigerians like Mr W.E. Alagoa and Mr Jumbo.
“His classmates at Umuahia included late Dr Ernest Green, late Barrister Young Harry, late Police Commissioner Franklyn Okujagu and late Dr G.C. Mbanugo, ex-parliamentary secretary to Nnamdi Azikiwe.
“His interest in Arts and Humanities was encouraged by the English teachers.
On the private life of this great literary icon, his nephew, Emmanuel Okara told NAN that the poet was jovial in his own way, an “English gentleman’’ and a lover of tradition as well as Christian Science.
According to him, he also played the piano very well.
“Uncle Gabriel was such a delight to be with and he would usually regale you with anecdotes and rib cracking jokes, some of which I am chuckling at as I am writing this tribute.
“ Uncle loved his tea; not just any tea; quality tea like `Earl Grey’ or `PG Tips’, I remember how once when he was a guest in my house in Lagos en route the United States of America, he asked for tea and I brought a mug alongside the stuffs for him to have his tea.
“Uncle pointedly told me that tea was usually taken in a proper tea cup and a saucer which, because of the size, retained the same temperature to the end, unlike the mug where the tea got cold before you are through with it.
“And the next time he asked for tea; I duly complied with the full paraphernalia that goes with tea drinking.’’
So notable was Okara that President Muhammadu Buhari, in his condolence message ,extolled the “great story-teller whose powerful use of imagery and symbolism in his literary writings helped the world to appreciate and understand the richness, complexities and uniqueness of the African heritage and culture.’’
The president believed that Okara, who was deservedly known as the “founder of Modern African literature’’ would be fondly remembered for his immense contributions to the development of African literature, drawing on experience from his native Ijaw language.
Similarly, the Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson, described Okara’s demise as a great loss to the state and Nigeria; he commended the late Okara’s contribution to the educational policies of Bayelsa, especially his administration.
He said that the late Okara would be greatly missed by all lovers of literature and intellectualism, especially the young and up and coming writers.
A former Governor of Bayelsa, Chief Timipre Sylva, said that as a keen fan, admirer and friend of Gabriel Okara, he studied the poems of the Nigerian Negritudist (As termed by literary scholars) in his undergraduate years and beyond.
“Okara’s passing is not one to mourn, it is for celebration and for pride and for the marking of a platinum point in cultural mileage,’’ he said.
Jumoke Verrissimo, a poet and author of “I am Memory’’, said Okara’s works greatly influenced many writers, especially those who were interested in evoking the folklores, music and religion in their poetry.
The Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Bayelsa State Chapter, through its Chairman, Mrs Bina Ilagha, said the association was saddened by the news of his passing on.
“The Association is ruffled by the news because it came at a time when preparations are in top gear to celebrate his masterpiece, `The Voice’ at 55.
“We are saddened by the news but are consoled that he left behind lofty legacies; Pa Okara, through his literary exploits put Bayelsa in the map of literary excellence.’’
The Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Prof. Nelson Brambaifa, described late Dr Gabriel Okara as a deity of African literature whose voice could not be stilled.
According to Brambaifa, Okara’s accomplishments have ensured that his name will never be forgotten.
For James Tar Tsaaior, a professor of Media and Cultural Communications, and Alexander von Humboldt, experienced research fellow at the University of Potsdam, Germany, Okara is a patriarch of Nigerian/African literature.
“I met Pa Gabriel Okara only once, in Port Harcourt, in 2004, during the birthday celebration of another writer.
“During our Port Harcourt meeting, I found him a decent, personable and collected man whose presence was contagious and reassuring.
“Indeed, he infected me with his artful smiles and noble carriage.
“One thing peaked significantly for me; this accomplished and celebrated writer was truly easy-going and constructed a horizontal relationship, not a vertical one, with others around him.
“It was for that reason that I took a picture with him. That picture has today survived him and a memorabilia which I will continue to cherish.’’
On his works, Tsaaior said: “Later on, I was to read his powerfully encoded novel, The Voice; I found it a supremely resonant literary offering, rich in vernacular traditions.
“The peculiarity of the idiom Okara mobilised in moulding the integral universe of the novel foregrounded his rearing and rootedness in Ijaw cultural traditions and cosmologies.
“He remains a gadfly, a beacon and touch-bearer whose towering achievements will continue to announce him to the whole world.
“ He will continue to live in our hearts as the noble and illustrious citizen of the republic of letters.
“When the mother mushroom yields to the elements and dies, an heir in a new mushroom germinates in its place to continue its progeny.
“ Okara still lives on. His voice is still alive and accented and will travel and reverberate beyond the Delta creeks, mangroves and estuaries to the boulevards of the world,’’ Tsaaior concluded.
Ihechu writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.

 

Vivian Ihechu

Continue Reading

Politics

Rivers Crisis: PDP Chairman Hails Jonathan’s Call For Truce

Published

on

The Lagos State chapter Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Philip Aivoji, has described former President Goodluck Jonathan’s call to end the political crisis in Rivers as commendable.
Mr Aivoji commended Jonathan  in an interview with The Tide‘s source on Monday in Lagos.
Recall that Jonathan had on Monday implored Governor Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers  and his predecessor, (the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT) Chief Nyesom Wike, to sheathe their swords in order to douse the political temperature in the state.
The former president, who spoke at the inauguration of the N222.1 billion Trans-Kalabari Road construction, emphasised the necessity for Fubara and Wike to collaborate to promote the  progress and prosperity of Rivers State.
He noted that the political tension in the state was excessive and worrisome, and would not contribute to  development.
Jonathan said that destabilising Rivers State would adversely impact the Niger Delta region and could also trigger crises across the country.
Reacting to Jonathan’s admonition, Mr Aivoji described the former President as a man full of experience in mediation and conflict resolution, even at the international level.
“Jonathan is a leader in the party and a leader from South South; there is nothing wrong stepping in to broker peace. It is a good one,” the PDP boss said.
He, however, said that the former President should go further to speak the truth to the warring parties and point out  to each of them where they had erred.
“This is the way to settle issues. If we want to resolve it, we must tell the truth to them.
“The ex-President is an elder, he is an experienced person, who has been meditating in international affairs. Let us see how it goes,” he added.
According to him, the former President, being experienced mediator, must dig deep and probe the cause of the crisis.
“He (Jonathan) has seen it all. Peace of graveyard will not help the matter, they should resolve issues.
“We hope that the nitty-gritty will be looked into and the constitution of the party will be followed if they are true members of the party,” Aivoji said.

 

Continue Reading

Politics

Group Carpets Amaewhule Over Political Crisis In Rivers 

Published

on

A group, Coalition of Rivers State Leaders of Thought (CORSLOT) has blamed the former Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Rt Hon. Martins Amaewhule, for the escalation of the political crisis in the State.
The coalition, which stated this at a media briefing in Port Harcourt, said Rivers State would not have been in its current political situation had Rt Hon Amaewhule played the sacred role providence bestowed on him.
The text for the briefing which was read by the Convener, High Chief Sunnie Chukumele, and co-signed by Prof (Mrs) Reginah Azunwena, Odinaka Osundu, George Ijoma and Elder Anuage Menegbo, also commended Governor Siminalayi Fubara for his peaceful disposition despite the crisis, adding that this disposition has marked the governor as a man of peace.
“Pitiably under him, the world saw a legislative arm of government that was vehemently out to frustrate the executive arm with all sorts of negative actions against the governor and the government of Rivers State.
“Had Martins Amaewhule seen the state as sacred, he would have mediated in whatever were the issues between our former governor, His Excellency, Chief (Barrister) Nyesom Wike. Amaewhule failed woefully to play a stabilizing role which his exalted office gave him ample role to play”, they said.
The Coalition also called on former Governor Nyesom Wike to have a rethink on the political crisis in the state as he has a cardinal role to play in the resolution of the impasse.
“CORSLOT wishes to advise trouble entrepreneurs and eye service politicians of Rivers State origin to take note that power belongs to God Almighty and the people.
“Rivers people are taking note of these political actors.
“Rivers State is owned by Rivers people and not  self seeking politicians”, they said.
“We begin by appreciating the governor of Rivers State, Sir Siminalaye Fubara, for working assiduously for peace by embracing and working with the Presidential Peace Accord of 2023 and to state that it is in recognition of this that the governor has won awards and honours within the state and Nigeria”
The Coalition also thanked the Governor for attending to the needs and welfare of citizens of the state, particularly the welfare of civil servants and the planned employment into the Civil Service.
“CORSLOT further recognizes the governor’s attention on infrastructural development in the state with his continuation of projects he inherited from previous administrations and indeed his bold initiatives of new ones.
These come with spiraling advantages”, they added.
They also urged the governor to take immediate steps to fill his cabinet with men and women who have the capacity to add value to the State.

By: John Bibor

Continue Reading

Politics

Council Boss Hails Fubara Over Successful Project Commissioning

Published

on

Following the successful commissioning of the  Andoni Section of the Ogoni-Andoni- Opobo Unity Road by Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, the Chairman of Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area, Hon. Enyiada Cookey-Gam has commended the number one citizen of the state for his multiple  infrastructural development projects that have direct bearings on the lives and well -being of Rivers people, especially in NgoTown, headquarters of Andoni Local Government Area and its adjoining environs.
The Chairman maintained that the road, as commissioned, will provide connectivity between coastal communities, cities, and hinterlands, facilitating the movement of people, goods and services, which enhances trade, commerce and tourism, and also contributes to local economic development and the local government area’s internally generated revenue (IGR).
On the event, Hon. CookeyGam lauded the efforts of the initiator of the project, 24 years ago, Dr.Peter Odili, former governor of Rivers State, for his determination and love for the people that found expression in the initiation of the Unity Road project which has been able to connect the catchment local government areas of Khana, Andoni and Opobo/ Nkoro, including the neighbouring states.
He described both Dr. Odili and Governor Fubara as beacons of infrastructural development.
The Chairman of Council also urged Andoni people to guard against vandalization and theft of the facilities that have been put in place for their betterment.
He further admonished the people of Andoni in particular, and Rivers people in general, to support the good work the Governor has come to do despite distraction from some politicians in the state who do not mean well for the people.

By: Bethel Toby

Continue Reading

Trending