Last year came to an end with me getting a mail from the Nigerian Writers Award group that I had been listed on their 100 Influential Nigerian Writers Under 40. Not a bad way to end the year, right?
My second year on the list and I smiled at the group of names there too: friends like the phenomenal Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, my brothers, Kukogho Iruesiri Samson, T. J. Benson and Romeo Oriogun, the poetic maestros Basiru Bash Amuneni, Dike Chukwumerije, Efe Paul Azino and Graciano Enwerem, the graceful Amara Nicole Okolo, Dami Ajayi, Kenechi Uzor, Eketi Edima Ette, Elnathan John, Emmanuel Iduma, Olulu Holloway, Jumoke Verissimo… to mention a few of my people on the list.
The ANA 2017 Literary Prize Winners were announced by one of the judges, Dr. Owojecho Omoha of the University of Abuja at the ANA Convention awards dinner on Saturday 28th October, 2017 held at Royal Choice Inn, Makurdi, Benue State. Only three categories (Drama, Poetry and Prose) were awarded out of the six contestable ANA Literary Prizes. The judges did not find any work worthy enough to merit the ANA/Maria Ajima Prize for Literary Prizes, ANA/Abubakar Gimba Prize for Fiction (Short Stories Collection), and ANA Children’s Literature Prize (for ages 7-13 years). However, an ‘Honourary Mentions’ list (for commendable works not strong enough to merit the award but worth mentioning) were announced alongside the shortlist release in September 2017.
ANA 2017 LITERARY PRIZES WINNERS
ANA Prize for Drama
Winner: Magnetism by R. C. Ofodile
1st Runner Up: The Masked Crown by Tunji Ajibade
2nd Runner Up: General Ologbosere by Dickson Ekhaguere
ANA Prize for Poetry
Winner: For Every Homeland by Obari Gomba
1st Runner Up: Of Waters and the Wild by Ebi Yeibo
2nd Runner Up: A Child of Smell by Seyi Adigun
ANA Prize for Prose Fiction
Joint Winners: Across the Gulf by Dul Johnson
What It Takes by Lola Akande
1st Runner Up: Devil’s Pawn by Kukogho Iruesiri Samson
2nd Runner Up: Goodbye Tomorrow by Ike Utuagha
The Honourary Mentions and their categories as announced in the list released in September are:
ANA /ABUBAKAR GIMBA PRIZE FOR SHORT STORIES
• A Tiny Place Called Happiness by Bura-Bari Nwilo
• Gates of Dawn by MSC Okolo
• Tales From Our Past by Lucky James.
ANA CHILDREN’S LITERATURE PRIZE
• The Adventure of Three Wild Boys by Wale Adewale
• Sodality: A Tale of Friendship by Chioma A Diru
• Dancing Tree by Stanley Okeke Oji
ANA/MARIA AJIMA PRIZE FOR LITERARY CRITICISM
• ‘Radical Theatre and Criticism of anti-People’s Culture: A Study of Esiaba Irobi’s Hangmen also Die’ by Nwagbo Pat -Obi
• ‘Vicarious Idiosyncrasies: The Mother-Daughter Ligament in Ernest Emenyonu’s Listen, My Momma Pays Your Taxes’ by Fynest Elvis
ANA 2017 LITERARY PRIZES JUDGES
1. Prof. Nelson Fashina – University of Ibadan
2. Salihu Mohammed Bappa- Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
3. Dr. Ismaila Bala Garba – Bayero University, Kano
4. Dr Owojecho Omoha- University of Abuja
5. Dame Joan Oji – Educational & Literary Consultant, Abuja
For a detailed review of the 2017 Literary Prizes Shortlist, check here.
The Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) literary prize in any category is a notable prize looked forward to by almost every Nigerian writer. While there have been quarrels over quality, judgments and things of the like – as with other prizes, it has remained one of the most prestigious prizes in the country. The judges of the Association of Nigerian Authors just released the shortlist for the 2017 ANA Prizes. It is an interesting list featuring past winners, shortlisters and some literary heavy weights for the award. It seems a reunion of sorts and a fight, particularly in the three broad genres of literature: poetry, prose and drama.
In the poetry category are Obari Gomba, Ebi Yeibo, Seyi Adigun and Patrick Oguejiofor. Obari Gomba and Ebi Yeibo, both academics, are previous winners. Gomba who was shortlisted for his For Every Homeland won the coveted award last year while Ebi Yeibo, shortlisted for Of Waters and the Wild shared the joint prize for the ANA Poetry award in 2014 with Su’eddie Vershima Agema (me). Gomba and Yeibo were also nominated for the NLNG Longlist earlier this year. Seyi Adigun, a medical doctor, is a past Chairman of the Abuja chapter of ANA. He was shortlisted for his A Child of Smell. Patrick Oguejiofor is a notable community champion whose voice has been heard on several topical developmental, political and economic issues. This time, he throws his might in the poetry ring daring the other ANA heavyweights with his new collection themed on the Maiduguri madness through Maiduguri Requiems.
The prose section has some notable names, Dul Johnson, Kukogho Iruesiri and Lola Akande. Dul is professor of Literature at Bingham University whose shortlisted work, Across the Gulf was published by SEVHAGE earlier in the year. His novel is a bridge between thriller and literary fiction. It dwells on some aspects of the Biafran war and its aftermaths, with a view of how it affected the destinies of some families. It is a fine story packaged to fine quality with a memorable cover. Professor Dul was shortlisted for the ANA Drama Prize in 2014 with his play, Melancholia – also published by SEVHAGE. Kukogho Iruesiri, who is a literary promoter of note is founder and publisher at Words Rhythm and Rhymes (WRR). He has earned some credits as a poet. Kukogho, more known as Kukogho Iruesiri Samson (KIS) entered his engaging unpublished manuscript, The Devil’s Pawn which is made up of about 50 episodes of thriller material he had previously blogged. Lola Akande, shortlisted for What it Takes, is a lecturer at the University of Lagos, who started writing seriously in 2009 after defending her PhD thesis. The fourth prose award nominee, the relatively unknown Ike Utuagha, made the shortlist with his book, Goodbye Tomorrow.
The drama category has Tunji Ajibade, shortlisted for his The Masked Crown, who won the prize in 2014. He narrowly missed the award in 2015 when he was shortlisted and came first runner up like RC Ofodile shortlisted in 2016. Notably, Ofodile won the ANA/Abubakar Gimba Prize for Short Stories in 2016. Ajibade’s plays largely explore history with a twist. He is known to employ narrative licenses to bend events of reality to conform with the ideas of his mind to get expected results. The two other shortlisted writers for the drama prize, which is usually not so hotly contested with limited entries are Solomon Iguanre with Oh Obedeki, Dickson Ekhaguere with General Ologbosere and Jerry Alagbaoso with his Tony wants to marry.
The ANA/Abubakar Gimba Prize will not be awarded this year as the judges found the entries only worthy enough to be honourable mentions. Bura-Bari Nwilo, whose Tiny Place Called Happiness, has made the rounds was a name some people might have expected to clinch the prize…
Like in previous years, the ANA/Maria Ajima Prize for Literary Criticism is also not going to be awarded as the entries seem not to have been impressive enough for the judges – or maybe, not enough entries were received. Nwagbo Pat-Obi who was honourably mentioned last year is honourably mentioned this year again alongside Fynest Elvis. In the end, one has to wonder at the level of scholarship and criticism in the country if year in, year out, no award can be given for literary criticism. Could it be because the needed was not available or that the available was not what was needed?
The final category, the ANA Children’s Literature Prize is also not for grabs this year as there are only honourable mentions for this category too. Thus, Wale Adewale, Chioma A. Diru and Stanley Okeke Oji will have to hope that there will be an honourable certificate for the effort. Yes, maybe honourable pictures too, as one of the three whispered to me.
(The full announcement for the list can be found here…)
So, who wins the coveted 2017 ANA Prize for the Prose, Poetry and Drama? Will the honourably mentioned have a certificate or at least, a handshake? We will all have to wait for the awards dinner of the 36th International Annual Convention of ANA coming up on Saturday 28th October, 2017 in Makurdi, Benue State.
Su’eddie Vershima Agema, editor and development worker, won the 2014 ANA Prize for Poetry in addition to being shortlisted and longlisted on different occasions in other categories of the competition. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @sueddieagema on Twitter and Instagram.
The celebrated Guest Writer Session, organised by the Abuja Writers’ Forum, comes up today, the 30th of July, 2016 at the Aso Hall of Nanet Suites, Central Business District, Abuja. For small tips on previous sessions, click HERE.
Today’s session is themed around Nelson Mandela, whose day was celebrated earlier this month. Contemporary South African literature will be brought alive through talks, music, and other works of literature. But it doesn’t stop there… There will be four artistes to thrill; Kukogho Iruesiri Samson (KIS), Nwemneme Andy Chukwunonye, Margaret Hepworth and Dave Adzer.
The first is Kukogho Iruesiri Samson (a.k.a KIS), poet and literary promoter par excellence. He is the author of two books, What can words do? And I said these words. KIS is a multiple award winning poet and is the founder of Words Rhymes and Rhythm (WRR), an online poetry platform that has gained massive social media following. He is a social cause promoter and on days when he wants to, can be controversial – hee hee hee, yeah, anyone who knows him knows that. He has a passion for teaching and helping to promote the arts and social causes such as stopping rape.
The second guest for the July Edition of the Guest Writer Session is Nkemneme Andy Chukwunonye who is the author of Letter to Mandela. He is currently a Chief Research Fellow with the Institute and Conflict Resolution in Abuja. The poems in Hello Mandela, like that of the traditional African writer, are concerned with disillusionment and hope, injustice and the various challenges plus triumphs that are the lot of the African.
Margaret Hepworth is a teacher and educator who is the author of Clarity in Time, which features Mandela as a fictional character (she had to get permission from the Nelson Mandela Foundation in South Africa for this). Clarity in Time is a story of courage that is themed on a young Australian teacher who realises that there comes a time when one has to leave the side lines of life and become active, if any change is to come. Hepworth is a big fan of Nelson Mandela and more than just using him for fiction, she uses his story and words (usually paraphrased) to teach and encourage people about reconciliation, forgiveness and rising above set expectations of self.
To cool all off would be Dave Adzer, the cool soft voiced musician and guitarist who has been a thrill at several Guest Writer Sessions before. He would be on hand once more to be the melody to all the words. Yes, in addition, there will also be the usual raffle draw for free books amongst other cool happenings.
If you have any enquiries about the Abuja Writers’ Forum (AWF), the Guest Writer Session You can send AWF questions to Edith Yassin on 08051614969 or send a mail to email@example.com, visit the AWF website at www.abujawriters.com. Other literary happenings in Abuja or the like? Come on, drop a note in the comment or send me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Is this where I also announce that I am an editor for pay and publisher? 😉
Whatever you do, if you are in Abuja, ensure you make out time to come to the Guest Writer Session today, the 30th of July, 2016 at the Aso Hall of Nanet Suites, Central Business District, Abuja by 4:00pm. Bring friends… Spread the word!
Abuja is king when it comes to literary fun… Yes, and we are not doing comparisons before you start calling Lagos and Makurdi 😉 The Guest Writer Session put up by the Abuja Writers’ Forum held at Aso Hall, Nanet Suites, Central Business District, Abuja is one of the most consistent literary events in the country. No contest. Each event brings together amazing authors and talents from different fields that leave you smiling. Past authors who have graced the event include award winning authors like Musa Idris Okpanachi, Kasham Keltuma, Gimba Kakanda, Tanure Ojaide, Halima Aliyu, Dul Johnson, E. E. Sule, Elnathan John, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Hajo Isa, Lois Otse Adams and even Chimamanda Adichie (well, hers was for a workshop)! Two months back we screened a movie by Ishaya Bako called Henia. I wrote a post on that. Read here. I had a reading there too with the beautiful painter Numero Unoma and the economist, Tope Fasua. There was also that fantastic time when they brought Satan to town! Hee hee hee, I am kidding. They brought Obinna Udenwe, the author of Satans and Shaitans along with his publisher and colleagues from Minna. The event always has lovely music and a great audience that includes writers, readers and fun seekers alike. The truth is it is always fun and you really wouldn’t want to miss the event if you are in town. It is a monthly event that holds every last Saturday of the month at the Aso Hall, Nanet Suites, Central Business District, Abuja, down the road from Eagle Square if you are coming from Area 11 and/or Asokoro and on the road to Transcorp Hilton/Millennium Park if you are going farther. Time is usually 4:00pm on the dot.
Who did they have the last time? That was June 25th 2016 (the event is for every last Saturday of the month). There were three guest artistes. The poet, G’Ebinyo Ogbowei who in addition to other awards has also been shortlisted (more than once!) for the NLNG Prize in poetry. He read from his book, Marsh Boy and other poems. Now, the fun part is Mr. Ogbowei is a lecturer and a pastor. However, when he started reading his poems, everyone forgot that part. Like the typical Niger-Deltan, most of the poems in the collection – and those he read – were about the troubles in the Niger-Delta. He also spoke about the agitations in the land, recalling a childhood of beauty that is now only a footnote of history. The pain was apparent. There was another side of him shown though… The lover man. He read some love poems that had people smiling. Mr. Ogbowei is an elderly man who has this commanding presence and when he reads, ahhhhh, it seems he is in a new world. Word after word just drop flowing, captivating the willing listener…
The last edition also had Edify Yakusak who read After they left, a thriller that focuses on the killings in the middle belt. Edify’s narrative is gripping and explores a part of us many of us wish never was. She read, deeply concentrating on her text as everyone watched, thinking of the graphic images and frustrations she conjured from her imagination. The other person on the list of performers was Sidney Okwoche, a final year student of the Federal University of Technology, Makurdi studying Forestry. Sidney thrilled us to some fine music. The songs were largely environmental issue based. Not a few of us had a rethink on a lot of issues. Sidney uses his music to protest injustice, particularly those against the environment and humanity. Interestingly, he only had a guitar and his voice. Nothing else. But, he did great justice. After the performances, there was a raffle draw for books and other gifts which a lot of people won. I was there with Aondosoo Labe and Aidee Erhime but none of us won anything. Better luck next time, abi? We gisted with a lot of people after the event and resurrected creative passions. These events can really inspire one…
So, who’s next and what’s to be expected? I thought you’d never ask!
The next session of the Guest Writer Session comes up on the 30th of July, 2016 at the Aso Hall of Nanet Suites, Central Business District, Abuja. It is themed around Nelson Mandela, whose day was celebrated earlier this month. Contemporary South African literature will be brought alive through talks, music, and other works of literature. But it doesn’t stop there… There will be four artistes to thrill; Kukogho Iruesiri Samson (KIS), Nwemneme Andy Chukwunonye, Margaret Hepworth and Dave Adzer.
Again, I think it is going to be worth the thrill. So, if you are in town, why don’t you drop by? It is always fun! If you have any enquiries about the Abuja Writers’ Forum (AWF), the Guest Writer Session You can send AWF questions to Edith Yassin on 08051614969 or send a mail to email@example.com, visit the AWF website at www.abujawriters.com.
So, we had our SEVHAGE Literary Festival here in Makurdi from October 16th to 17th [literary days] at Ejja Hotel and Suites.. It was so much fun! Now, we didn’t have the Makurdi mammoth crowd coming but we had some fun time. Wow! amu nnadi, the amazing poet, drove all the way from Port Harcourt and was of tremendous support all the way.
I had my siblings coming from different areas: TJ Benson from Taraba, Servio Gbadamosi and Tope Adegoke Mark from Ibadan alongside Romeo Ogun da Silva from that axis… Innocence Silas and Bash Amuneni came from Abuja, and KIS Kukogho Iruesiri Samson found love compelling his feet to Makurdi. Everyone had an amazing adventure and we will put each up soon.
Sibbyl Whyte, Debbie Iorliam, Celina Kile, Ene Odaba, Otene Ogwuche, Anselm Ngutsav, Afrika Ocho, and my right hand men, Aondosoo Andrew Labe and Tersoo Ayede were around to make things amazing. Sefa Ikpa, Felicia Okpo, my brother, Gabriel Agema, our SEVHAGE author, Terseer Baki was there too, adding colour. Nelson Apochi of Reading4Change taught me how to Tweet live. I used Anselm’s phone to learn. Oh! That was fun.
So, we shall do a small snippet… In the week of our festival, we went to the National Library to donate books; we went to an orphanage gave books and ‘milk’; we went to prison too and gave books and ‘recharge card’. Hee hee hee! It was fun at all the places and trust me, I could write a story about that. Oh, that was on 14th and 15th.
We had two days of events on 16th and 17th. Some guests didn’t turn up but we had a morning session on rape. We had guest panelists including Mrs Victoria Daaor, Oryinashater Gaai, Lazarus Mom, and Tersoo Ayede. It was moderated by Otene Ogwuche. Within that session, we had a spoken word drama too… Can you imagine it? A full spoken word drama! It was really nice. I have to give it up for Ene Odaba who put it all up. Ciara, her friend, did well in that play too. Celina Kile dazzled everyone with a spoken word performance on rape…and went on to give at least one performance for every session throughout the festival. We had two other sessions including a discussion in the afternoon moderated by Anselm Ngutsav and a night of awesome performances moderated by Ocho Afrika and Ene Odaba.
On the second day, Saturday 17th October, 2015… we woke up in the hotel to lots of gist. We took a stroll; Debbie, TJ Benson, Romeo, Innocence, myself…to get a meal. It was beer (boiled grilled millet) and akpukpa (boiled grounded beans). Bla bla bla… Morning session was mainly moderated by TJ Benson. There was a talk on publishing and writing led by Servio Gbadamosi, myself and a few others. It was interactive. After this, amu nnadi took his turn talking (continuing from his contributions to the earlier talk) by talking on ‘Making Poetry Count’. He gave many key points but said one shouldn’t really hope to make money from writing. He cited many examples including how he tried to get his book published traditionally but with little success. ‘Poetry doesn’t sell’… As a publisher, I have an idea of this. Sha, amu nnadi went on to say if one wanted to make money, it would be easier to get it from selling fuel (which he once did)… One anecdote to the other. Ah! The man get head – and heart. After that session, I took over the moderation and we had readings from people like Swem Peter Abayol, Romeo, Terna Ortese, Sam Ogabidu, Innocence… Celina Kile and Bash Bashiru Amuneni rounded it all off with amazing spoken word pieces. The latter performed some from his ‘Freedom’ album. You really should try getting the album to buy o… Bash is something else. Amazing guy…
In between, amu nnadi bought snacks for everyone. Then, TJ Benson and Debbie led an excursion to the Benue river. Ah… It was lovely. There are some amazing pictures to show for that event… we will get them out later.
In the evening, we started our session by 5:00pm and had many laughs, poking fun at each other. My brother, Gabriel was around and we teased on much. Guests like Terseer Sam Baki (recently shortlisted for the ANA Prize for Poetry 2015), Felicia Okpo, God’sgift Jozef Ike, among all the others were top participators. We read and also played some active games. There were performances that left people smiling from spoken word to ordinary poems and short stories… Terna Ortese, Ocho Afrika and I moderated…Somewhere along the line, KIS [Kukogho Iruesiri Samson] came. There were those who started to shake, thinking he was going to cause trouble. I told them they don’t know KIS or pops [amu nnadi]. Two of them aren’t the brash type.. amu nnadi walked in and went straight to hug KIS and all was well… The sun smiled 🙂
Then, the night called and we all moved on to the end of the event… at least in name only. The gist continued o… I wouldn’t tell you that some of the guys slept in the ladies rooms… but I can tell you that KIS and I talked till 3am when he slept. I couldn’t sleep, so I went down to the hall where we had had the events. I got a book ‘Beast of No Nation’ from Servio’s stock and read for long.
Morning came…and we had our first guests leaving. We made noise for long, hugged, talked, hugged more…then somehow had to leave the hotel. Interestingly, everyone remaining flowed to my cabin. Yes, and the fun thing is the gist continued…after a lot of more photos. What more do I say? Eventually, Monday found some people leaving and others on Tuesday… We went to the museum, visited NTA and the river plus others. But let me not bore you with those… 😉
NOTE: all through, far more kept being done.
Alright, you have an idea now.
Thanks to everyone who came and those who supported in whatever way they did. Thanks to Kunle Kasumu…and amu nnadi, for everything.
Let me rest myself a bit. Phew! Tired … but before we go, a few pictures.
‘You are going to be the MC!’
We had had a full meeting in the day and now…
That was Samson’s good night call on Friday. Say what? Why hadn’t I seen this coming? It had been some time since I had worn that garb and coming out of some small forced retreat, I wondered what the event would entail. Well, first thing to do was clear wardrobe issues. I had ordered some fresh wear for this author and when I had them delivered, I couldn’t help smiling at the choice of black or ash trousers, to accompany my black shirt. I decided to do a suit too so that meant simply that the corresponding black pants won the show. I searched around for my anger – the Tiv black and white muffler you would find me with every time. It occurred to me it had been a parting present a week earlier. I hit my head in the ‘Oh no!’ fashion of remembrance.
Well, I got into a bus with my main bro, Gabriel, by some 10:00. I had it in mind to go spend the night in town somewhere special so I packed a bag. There was the indecision of where to put this or that, what to leave or take… That was some exercise. In the end, though, like I said by some 10:00am we were moving to town for an event that was meant to start by 11:00. Of all days, Abuja decided to have its traffic jam in full – groan! With each stop, each trudge and each slowing turn, I groaned once more wondering aloud like in many movies: ‘Are we there yet?’ Choi! Samson had told me the event would start on the dot and I was shaking… Then our bus hit a small car and I silently began to question the evils of my forefathers who were bent on making me lose face and perhaps, friendship. Meanwhile, my phone had gone off of its own volition, I guess, 😉 … Samson kept calling Gabriel… Eventually, though, we arrived Area 3 and met Samson himself who came to usher us in. Can you beat that? Being ushered in by the celebrant himself! You don’t get that everyday. Well, he looked a bit concerned and relieved almost as if he had thought we weren’t going to come again. There was no anger which made me note one thing: the event was far from starting. I went to the hall and discovered a trickle of people. I went to pay my compliments to Dike Chukwumerije, poetic performing wonder and Chinelo Chikelu, Abuja Literary Society secretary. Mr. Eriata Oribhabor, Chairman of the Abuja Association of Nigerian Authors soon came in. There was Mr. Kaniko Uduagbon representing Denja Abdullahi, the Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, and standing in for the Chairman of the occasion, Femi Fani-Kayode whose break lights we didn’t see, somehow…
There were a few more things to set right which we did. After that, we set the event in top gear.
2 MAIN EVENT…
12:30 and lots of spaces empty, guests still trickling in. Barrister Ahmed Maiwada came in, looking his usual self with his grey suit, dark shirt and the dark glasses… I got the mic and called everyone forward. I forced a shy Ms. Chikelu to say the opening prayer. She started with the first sign of the cross but somehow forgot to close her prayer with same… National anthem and then, the dignitaries were called to the high table. Mr. Kaniko gave a brief speech which helped us move fast… Prof. Gbenga Ibileye of the Federal University, Lokoja gave a beautiful review of the book. The review went round the power of poets and poetry in changing society and creating a beauty through their words and acts. Naturally, Kofi Awoonor got into the conversation. Ibileye confessed that he hadn’t opened the parcel with the book till after some calls by the author. He expected some rubbish or roadside thing, the don continued, but was shocked to find out the top quality that the Origami published book had… Reading through was the second shocker. What can words do? Much and far more. When put right, when crafted in such a way as to delight and raise the weary, when structured and garbed in rhythm to sing easy notes understood by even the simple, words can do a lot and far more. ‘The collection might have been written by a small man in stature but it is Samsonic in might… This is aesthetically profound.’
The review went on and on, almost as if the good Prof was trying to write his own book J … it was fun though. It brought to mind the difference between prose and poetry. In trying to explain some little poetry, so much prose flew. Well, we came to the end of that and the Prof sat to some applause which I had to re-echo.
Dike-ogu Chukwumerije took the stage next with a performance. It was part of a deal both of us had reached – either perform or sit on the high table. I have to think of better bargains in the future to get people do more… Well, Dike performed a short piece in his usual captivating style and though the audience sure looked like they would have expected more, he took a bow to get to his seat. I guess he didn’t want to steal the show or something. It was enough to raise the mood in the hall. At this point, some other writers had strolled in from their offices; Mrs. Chinyere Obi-Obasi (who tries to be there always for us writers once we are in her town), Gimba Kakanda, Salamatu Sule, Oye Ololade…
It was time to unveil the book. I must confess I was a little confused here… Unveiling a book, what does that entail? (I had always missed this part at book presentations, including my very own book launch. I think I had only come in after my book was unveiled and joined in the pictures! If only I had watched the video of the occasion – ouch! Well, no one was going to shame me). The dignitaries came down and all stood by while I asked the author and his mother, Mrs. Victoria Kukogho – yeah, she was there. Sorry, I didn’t mention earlier. They opened it and showed to the public. With that, I declared sales open at the cost of one thousand naira, though the smart business poet-author of the book had been long selling his book and had done off with a whole lot of copies before the event.
Mr. Eriata Oribhabor, the Lead Presenter made his presentation speaking on the dedication of the author and his being an inspiration to many including himself. He moved to go back to his seat but trust me na, I asked him to drop something. He smiled and apologised and properly presented the book with something. The rest of the high table did their bit from Mallam Haruna Haruspice publisher, DCP Ojukwu, Mrs. … , Kaniko on behalf of Denja Abdullahi and Fani-Kayode, and even the reviewer. I was touched when the reviewer made his own contribution. We got a seat at the front for the author and had him recite three poems. After the recitation, just for the fun of it, we did an auction of five copies of the book – the first to be autographed by the author and the main ones for the occasion. We had fun trying to get them to one person. The offers kept pouring in from the first Three Thousand Naira I staked. Of course, I wanted the books too so I had to put in my money at some point. Imagine the high table people oh! After contributing at different points and losing my bucks, they – Mr. Oribhabor – mainly, told me that I was the anchor and wasn’t meant to be part of the game. The rest of the group supported him. Indeed! I asked if my money could be given back to me. The resounding ‘No!’ could really have brought down the roof. Grrrrrr! Well, the auction went well on to ten minutes and was continuing. Everyone wanted that collection of five copies and the stake for it was tempting. Add a simple amount, maybe just a thousand or even a hundred naira and get the five books. There was the video and historic aspect. In addition, I had said I would make the author do a chicken dance for the winner of the books. Thirty thousand naira going… going… someone else there raising a hand up. Thirty-one thousand naira! Thirty-one thousand, forty naira. Thirty-one thousand four hundred and forty naira. Thirty… Thirty-three thousand naira… And on and on and on… I had to be begged by the author to close it in at Thirty-six. Well, if he was okay with the bucks, who was I? After all, he had been saying I stop since before Twenty. Hmmm. Kai… Oh well.
The next segment was an interview session with the author that I had anchored. This was meant to be my only part in the original plan before I became the impromptu anchor – fortunate that I do it as a hobby. Well, we did the interview and he answered well narrating how he was inspired to put the collection together emphasising that he was not inspired to write ‘the book’ but rather the poems within. Each poem had its story. He spoke mainly on ‘Beggar without a choice’, a poem he had written after a discussion we had had earlier in the year. The poem talks about that person staying on in an abusive relationship. That amazing beauty that man, nature and divinity admires who stoops to be a slave to someone unworthy. It turns out that a friend of his had read the poem on Facebook soon as it came out and confronted him. That friend was in a beer parlour (bar) and called the author to say that he was drinking to go and give his fiancée a proper beating. Turns out said fiancée had been caught by her man in bed with another. The poem had eventually given him a rethink. Talks by the author and the mother of the fiancé also put sense. Eventually, the marriage held. The power of words. Holding on to his first comments, I asked Samson if he was an advocate of divorce. He said he wasn’t but that in the event of someone being bashed with no hope of change, and in a situation where the children would be adversely affected either psychologically, physically, or any way, then the partner being hurt had to leave. In a relationship before marriage, there’s no bargain. The person being bashed should leave. I asked about his near overt rhyming [in his book] wondering if it didn’t distort meaning in some poems, the choice of sound over meaning. I personally think that in some poems, poets lose the beauty of what would have come in an insistence on rhyme. The author said it wasn’t all his poems that had that touch. Some were left without rhyme. He however put rhyme in a lot so as to appeal more to people’s appreciation of the art. He always strived to ensure that the rhymes weren’t cosmetic but on point which made his writing difficult sometimes as he had to find an apt replacement. He
The audience had their chance to talk and ask questions. There were compliments here and there. Someone asked the author if he wasn’t deterred by the ‘fact that Nigerians don’t read’. Dr. Emman Shehu, President of the Abuja Writers’ Forum took that guest on stating that Nigerians read and that largely we have a problem of book distribution in the country amongst other publishing inadequacies. About his mentors, the author mentioned people like Shakespeare, Hardy (for prose) among others. His leaning towards foreign writers doesn’t really take out the African component of his writing (I know this for sure). It was simply due to a childhood exposure to largely foreign literature. The reviewer, Prof Ibileye asked if some of the poems were autobiographical. What do you expect? Of course!
We had to leave so I called on Kukogho Elijah, the author’s uncle who gave the vote of thanks. I added something, I think, something about letting everybody know that the books were still available and would be in bookshops nationwide soonest. Support can be made to the author who can be reached very easily on Facebook. To get a feel of his poetry, you can Google his name, check on Naijastories, Facebook, Word Rhyme and Rhythm blog (which he curates) and so. You can spread word of the book or simply, send word to show you support his writing.
We all recited the National Pledge and soon after that, had Mama Author, Mrs. Kukogho say the closing prayer which was offered traditionally. To the sweet presentation, the goodwill of everyone present, the good health of those that would eventually read a long post on the launch and all… We could only answer traditionally too; Ise.
Thanks to Victoria Bamas, Dorcas Bitrus, Tonia Jessica Okefe, Sarah Opara, Opeyemi Kehinde, Moses Opara and the entire supporting team that made the event a success. To those behind the scenes and everyone who said a prayer, well done. May the future be kind and life, give you far more than you can ever hope for. To those of you who read, or who have supported this Kukogho, myself and us all writers here and everywhere; thank you. May the future be kind.
Find a full gallery of events here…
- Good Poetry should evoke feelings – Su’eddie (sueddie.wordpress.com)
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- Letter to My Unborn (wordsrhymesandrhythm.wordpress.com)
- Learn The True Summary Of Life III (samueldpoetry442.wordpress.com)
- Best-selling author Tom Clancy dead at 66 (kvue.com)