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Odia Ofeimun Tribute Book: Celebrating a Literary Luminary’s Legacy

Celebrating the Literary Legacy of Odia Ofeimun: A Remarkable Tribute

Honour to the poet, By Reuben Abati

Tribute Book: Celebrating a Literary Luminary's Legacy

Odia Ofeimun Tribute Book celebrates the enduring legacy of a prolific poet and public intellectual.

Celebrating Odia Ofeimun: A Literary Journey

Nigeria NewsBurrow Press Team

In the vibrant tapestry of Nigerian and intellectual discourse, one name stands tall – Odia Ofeimun. A poet, essayist, and public intellectual of unparalleled stature, Ofeimun's contributions to the literary and political landscape of Nigeria are nothing short of remarkable. As we delve into the world of this literary giant, we celebrate his life, works, and enduring influence.

The Man We Know

Odia Ofeimun, often referred to as “Baba” or “Owalen” by his fellow countrymen from the Iruekpen clan in Edo State, is a man who commands immense respect. Professor Tunji Olaopa aptly describes him as a “committed and empathetic scholar.” But who is Odia Ofeimun, and what is it about his life and works that continue to captivate our collective imagination?

Born and raised in the vibrant city of , Ofeimun's anthology, “,” offers a multi-dimensional perspective of this metropolis. Lagos, a city often described as treacherous and chaotic, serves as both muse and canvas for Ofeimun's poetic endeavors. His words paint a vivid picture of a city characterized by both promise and frustration, a reflection of Nigeria's broader struggles.

The Fuel Subsidy Saga

As we trace Odia Ofeimun's journey, we encounter a significant juncture in Nigeria's recent history – the fuel subsidy crisis. Just as Ofeimun was set to review a book on his life, Nigeria was plunged into a crisis as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) announced an indefinite strike in protest of the removal of fuel subsidy. This move led to a drastic increase in fuel prices, causing widespread panic buying and long queues at petrol stations.

The government's response to the NLC's demands left much to be desired. Negotiations faltered, and appeals for patience seemed empty in the face of rising fuel prices. Ofeimun's journey to the book presentation ceremony at Rights Hall, Ikeja, was fraught with obstacles, from traffic gridlock to pothole-ridden roads. It was a testament to the challenges that ordinary Nigerians face daily.

Ofeimun: A Man of Many Facets

Odia Ofeimun's literary journey is a testament to his unwavering dedication to his craft and society. His versatility is awe-inspiring, with roles spanning poet, writer, polemicist, journalist, dramatist, producer, essayist, publisher, literary critic, and entrepreneur. Yes, an entrepreneur in the realm of literature and ideas, not driven by financial gain but by the love of literature and the promotion of literary genres.

Hornbill House of the Arts, under Ofeimun's chairmanship and founder's vision, has been a platform for literary excellence. It published Tade Ipadeola's “The Sahara Testaments,” a work that won the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2013. The imprint is also responsible for publishing Obari Gomba's “Grit,” a play shortlisted for the 2023 NLNG Literature Prize.

In Search of a Common Morality

The crux of our celebration today lies in “Odia Ofeimun: In Search of a Common Morality – Essays, Tributes, and Conversations.” This profound work, a product of a conference held in honor of Ofeimun on his 70th birthday at the University of Lagos, reflects the essence of the man himself.

The book, skillfully curated by editors Wumi Raji, Sylvester Odion-Akhaine, and Akin Adesokan, delves deep into Ofeimun's life, his writings, and his contributions to the Nigerian literary and political landscapes. While it claims to represent a sustained critical engagement with Ofeimun's writings, we acknowledge the earlier book, “Critical Perspectives on Odia Ofeimun,” edited by Vicky Mnguember Sylvester, as a precursor. However, the latest appraisal offers a more extensive scope, a deeper analysis, and a more diverse array of scholars and friends who take Odia Ofeimun seriously.

A Literary Polymath

Odia Ofeimun's influence transcends the boundaries of literature alone. He is a polymath whose impact extends across , literature, drama, activism, journalism, and . He remains one of Nigeria's most actively engaged citizens, and his courage, conviction, and ability to reinvent himself stand out prominently.

Even before the emergence of the Labour Party as a force in Nigerian politics, Ofeimun had ventured into politics, aspiring to become a state Governor on the party's platform. His optimism in the power of “right persons” to rescue Nigeria through active governance participation speaks to his unwavering belief in the country's potential.

The Book's Structure

“Odia Ofeimun: In Search of a Common Morality” is divided into four parts, comprising 18 chapters. The title's reference to “common morality” draws from Akin Adesokan's “The Fragmented Poetics of a Common Morality.” This common morality, deeply embedded in Ofeimun's writings, explores the essence of humanity, our strengths, our flaws, and our potential for growth across various aspects of human experience.

The critical essays in Part I delve into Ofeimun's essays and . They touch upon his tradition of “resistance writing,” showcasing works like “The Poet Lied,” “A Handle for the Flutist,” and “I will ask questions with stones if they take my voice.” The city, a central motif in Ofeimun's writings, is explored in “A Melting Pot: Representations of the Lagos Imaginary” by Professor Wumi Raji.

Engaging with Nigeria's Evolution

The critical essays in the book provide an academic and research-oriented perspective on Ofeimun's work, examining his contributions to nation-building, federalism, national conferences, and Nigeria's centrifugal tensions. These essays, authored by scholars like G.G. Darah and Sylvester Odion-Akhaine, shed light on Ofeimun's role in shaping Nigeria's trajectory.

Chapter III, titled “The Odia We Know,” offers a collection of tributes from those who have had personal encounters with the poet. Their stories reveal Ofeimun's role as an inspiration and mentor, not only through his literary work but also through his generosity of spirit.

Keynote Insights

Chapter 5 presents Professor Biodun Jeyifo's keynote address during Ofeimun's 70th birthday celebration. Jeyifo provides a balanced and firsthand portrait of the man, emphasizing the value of poverty in connection with the word.

Chapter IV, titled “Conversations,” offers a glimpse into Ofeimun's thoughts through three major interviews. This biographical section of the book adds fresh momentum to the narrative, offering insights through storytelling and reminiscences.

The Continuing Journey

As we celebrate Odia Ofeimun's illustrious career, we recognize that this book represents not just a milestone but a continuation of his literary journey. With over 40 books spanning essays, poetry, criticism, and public affairs analysis, Ofeimun's literary feast is far from over.

The essays within this book, while comprehensive, merely scratch the surface of Ofeimun's work. They do not shy away from constructive criticism, urging him to fulfill promises like writing the long-anticipated book on Chief Obafemi Awolowo. These critiques, combined with humorous anecdotes of Ofeimun at poetry readings, capture the essence of a man deeply passionate about words, whether written or spoken.

A Time for Reflection

As we conclude our celebration, we are reminded of the invaluable contributions of individuals like Odia Ofeimun. In a nation where hope for a better tomorrow often clashes with harsh realities, voices like his provide a beacon of sanity and humanity. It is time for Nigeria and Nigerians to take themselves seriously and engage in the meaningful conversations that Ofeimun's work inspires.

Odia Ofeimun's place in the world of letters is secure, and we eagerly anticipate the harvest of words from his fecund imagination. This book serves as a valuable addition to the growing bibliography on his work, offering insights that will enrich the minds of students and teachers of literature, culture, and politics.

In closing, let us remember that it is individuals like Odia Ofeimun who speak truth to power and represent oases of sanity in a land marked by both hope and disillusionment. As we reflect on his journey, let us join the conversation and comment, for it is through discourse that ideas thrive and evolve.

Join the conversation and share your thoughts on the enduring legacy of Odia Ofeimun, a literary giant who continues to shape the literary landscape of Nigeria.

Odia Ofeimun Tribute Book: Celebrating a Literary Luminary's Legacy

As we celebrate the remarkable life and contributions of Odia Ofeimun, a towering figure in African literature and activism, we are reminded of the power of words and ideas. Ofeimun's dedication to literature, poetry, and the relentless pursuit of justice has left an indelible mark on our cultural and intellectual landscape. His journey, as chronicled in the article above, reflects a commitment to truth, resilience, and the unwavering belief in the possibility of a better future for Nigeria.

In the spirit of honoring Odia Ofeimun's legacy, we invite you to explore a selection of books on poetry, literature, and activism. These works, like Ofeimun's own writings, delve into the complexities of human experience, challenge the status quo, and inspire us to think critically about our society. By delving into these thought-provoking texts, you can continue the intellectual journey that Ofeimun embarked upon throughout his life. Click on the links below to discover these captivating reads and immerse yourself in the world of literature and ideas.

Let us remember Odia Ofeimun not only as a poet and scholar but also as a beacon of hope and change. Join us in celebrating his enduring legacy through the exploration of these thought-provoking books.

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