THOUGHTS ON HYGINUS EKWUAZI By Su’eddie Agema
For the first time, I am publishing my ‘Thoughts’ not on a book or article but on a person, a friend, Dr. Hyginus Ekwuazi – no, not the fine medical Dr, a great man in himself but the elder Dr. For those who do not know this literary giant – and it would be surprising, Dr. Hyginus Ekwuazi is a man of many talents. He is a lecturer in the department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan – a former Head of Department. He is a giant in the famous Nigerian movie industry, Nollywood. In poetry, he is a name feared by competitors in any category that his work appears – quite justifiably.This might not be unconnected with his continuous swooping of prizes year by year since his debut collection in 2007. He has won the Association of Nigerian Authors’ Poetry prize with almost all of his four poetry collections. It has gotten so bad that people have suggested that he should be made a permanent judge so that the slot can be left open to other people to win – haba! Several prose writers need beware as he has joined the field. Dr. Ekwuazi recently published a children’s book, I’ve Miles to Walk Before I Sleep. And he isn’t stopping there, if he is the man that I know and yes, I think I do – to some point.
Dr. Ekwuazi’s poetry collections are Love Apart (2007); Dawn into Moonlight (2008); The Monkey’s Eyes (2009); and That Other Country (2010). They are all fascinating books including the ‘worst’ of them all The Monkey’s Eyes of which I wrote ‘You do not need to go beyond the cover of the book to see its ugliness.’ 🙂 (He laughed when I showed him an excerpt of the essay with this ‘yab’ or claims to have laughed. Hmm, one wonders if it is not the changing ‘I dey laugh’ sort of laughter of Nigerian politicians these days:)). Jokes aside, Ekwuazian poetry is beautiful. I should know this especially as I have had all my copies of the book in my possession ‘borrowed’ without my permission. Those which I got back as a gift from the author have exchanged so many hands of my friends and students. It is no surprise also that many of the students I have introduced it to have had need of very little convincing to write their final essays on. Themes that he focuses on behind love notes and simple verse include Biafra, nationalism, corruption, decay, love, life and death, among others. For style, he adopts a narrative stance that flow his poems as being story like. This indeed might be the magic of his poems that are also told in simple words, without any effort at pedanticism or the more traditional stance of obscurity by most poets. As such, even the casual reader falls in love instantly with the words of this pen magician whose way with words is phenomenal for even in his seeming simplicity and narration comes a great assortment of themes, literary and poetic devices. These devices are poured forth subtly such that only a careful look reminds one that the words used there are not ordinary but a rich trove. Hmm, with such craft, I sure agree that this man should be made a permanent judge or honorary ‘something’ (we will think of the title). Haba! How would others (like me with my just published 54 Weeks: A love poem) get something if he continues this way? 🙂 Of his poetry, Sam Ogabidu (Chairman of Association of Nigerian Authors, Benue State, well read critic and my good friend :)), writes that “It simply spells out a man who has read and read well.”
On why he published his prose quite late, I was pleasantly surprised when I read a letter he wrote to me and said “Do I write stories/prose? Where’s a true story: once upon a time, I started a novel and it was going very well; but from no where the fear just came upon me that if I finished it I would die…and so I stopped. I know you’re laughing but dis na true talk! Now I’ve overcome that fear…One fine tomorrow, I will start something…and you’ll see it” (April 1, 2010) I’ve Miles to Walk Before I Sleep is ‘junior fiction’ that extols the beauty of family and togetherness. Religion is discussed in neutral light and general education given a new outlook. It is instructive and educative without being a textbook narrative. It is the sort of book that one would want to give every child. It takes into cognisance the ideals and behaviour of the modern ‘internet’ child who is quite different from the child of fore (today’s parents). Not surprisingly, the flow of the novel is somewhat poetic and an Ekwuazi follower would easily notice theft of lines from his published poems!
In Dr. Ekwuazi is a man who is committed to his beliefs. He is steadfast and loyal. This is evident in his love of Christopher Okigbo who he idolises. This finds expression in essays of his like ‘Okigbo – Mythmaker & Towncrier at Heavensgate’ and countless poems dedicated to the late poet extraordinaire. It even continues to a point where one can bribe his feelings and love. I sent a collection of my poems Shrine Tale for his views. Some of the poems had been inspired by Dr. Ekwuazi and I made a point to tell him this. Not one of these got his attention. The ones that got to him were the ones that mentioned Okigbo! Dr. Ekwuazi’s loyalty can also be seen in his continuous romance with his publishers, Kraft books (owned by his friend, Steve Shaba). This has seen him publish all his poetry collections and the new children’s novel with them. The man’s loyalty spills through to friends, most of whom find their way to his poems. There is the Biafran touch that he holds dear and talks on in conversations – I believe, but most definitely stores in his thoughts and his works.
Another aspect to Dr. Ekwuazi is his simplicity and humility that would be attested to by most of his students. He is a content man too who doesn’t drag for too much. This part is most evident in the normal price of his books despite their richness both in content and layout. I was shocked to discover his collection of poetry going for a low amount (below five hundred naira!). This is a man whose poetry, as I mentioned earlier, is an award snatcher. As a friend, Dr. Ekwuazi remains loyal and faithful. Like I mentioned earlier, poems keep pouring for friends, living and dead. I do not have much to say of him as a father and husband but perhaps, I would be asking the younger Dr. Ekwuazi and Madam Nkechi, soon. Yes, this reminds me of the offer of tenancy for as long as I want that this great man has offered me. What am I waiting for? Well, let me finish with this piece first, then… Okay. So, to end I would say quite simply: Don’t skip any work that bears the name ‘Hyginus Ekwuazi.’ You sure might be writing an article longer than this after an intercourse with any. And I still wonder why critical works on him are unavailable or have I been looking in the wrong places? Whatever it is, a lot more needs to be done on him.
Live on friend, you are a worthy man.