BY GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR
SECONDS crawls into minutes and the minutes tick agonizingly into hour. Yes. Just one hour. Nwakaego Aisosa Aghedo sits patiently, waiting patiently for one of her sponsors to show up. She paces around, almost ready to hear the footsteps of ghosts. She looks out of the window for the 10th time, unconsciously. Yet no sign of him. Thrice, she lunges for the door and flings it open, only to discover that it is just a rush of the wind.
She’d surprised everybody when she started her NGO, as a part two student. “My mission is to take away students from crime,” the words stumble out of her mouth. She forces a smile, and later, holds the tongue.
There’s a map of astonishment on her face. She looks up and sees her sponsor. “Oh God, at last!” Nwakaego exhales. She rises to her feet and offers her sponsor a handshake. “I was scared you won’t make this place again; I was almost going,” she says in a whining voice that could be a companion during lonely nights.
She appears calm now, nibbling gently, the pie she bought earlier. “Just a moment, I have to be with my sponsor,” she says. Her voice softens into whispers. I watch, as she walks away with her guest. The heels of her shoe sink into the soft earth.
After about an hour, she joins me and we begin to discuss her project. “Nego Poetry Corner (NPC) is my contribution to youth development,” she says. Her eyes light up again and just as quickly dulled.
“Poetry corner aims at encouraging poets, building new breed of poets and those who can entertain through poetry. Those involved in performance poetry.” She laughs; it is a girly laugh that is warming. “Poetry gives fulfillment. It is a form of art that allows for self expression. This art has existed through the ages. In Africa, oral poetry, the African original performance poetry in the villages, has always been part of our lives and what have you. Its appreciation, as a genre of literature is depreciating by the day as film, music and dance have taken over,” she says animatedly, waving her hand, as if offering them as a gift to me.
The power of positive thinking has turned Nwakaego into a strong character, sort of. She shrugs when asked if she had the fund to carry on with such a project without sponsorship. “It’s not so easy, but I’ll try.”
NEGO Poetry Corner (NPC) was conceived on December 27, 2007 in the mind of a student of the Delta State University (DELSU), Abraka.
The 300 level medical science undergraduate brought poets from diverse departments to a stand still as the corner had its maiden contest. The keenly contested competition held in Abraka campus of the school held on May 3, 2008, had judges from the departments of English and literary studies, theatre arts and English linguistics.
Assisted by Lincoln Maife, a 300 level geography and regional planning student of same school, every first and last Saturday evenings, reading sessions hold for members of the poetry corner where their poems are not appreciated, but given constructive criticism. This year, “it will be happening in different campuses that NPC is present. Towards the middle of the year, members of the organisation will gather at our secretariat for a grand reading session.”
“Aha,” she breathes. A flicker of hopes show in her eyes and she says, “the poetry corner allows poets to showcase what they have written over time and how possible improvements could be made to bring out the best in the pieces. NPC is building a strong network of poets in the country from secondary to university level.”
The young looking lady, with appealing eyes that can smolder and pierce at the same time, says, “the mission is to introduce as many students as possible, if not all, to the world of poetry so that they can shun cultism.”
She says the attention is to take NPC to another level. Already, plans are afoot to have a reality show for poets that will be viewed not just in Nigeria, but the whole of Africa.
“There are plans to have a contest that will bring poets from every par of the continent,” she says with a nod of approval.
For the Abraka contests, there have been two editions and the third is in the offing. Both editions recorded great successes. “A lot is expected from the third and we cannot afford to fail,” she says.
Does Nwakaego think that the financial reward is attractive enough to draw students to the project?
“Yes,” she admits. “On campus, N1,000 is a huge sum and when you can make it through your talent, it doesn’t cost anything to join others.” She smiles. Her voice drops into a whisper when she says, “let me tell you that every semester, students of Abraka now look forward to the over N20, 000, which will be soon be upped that they can get from NPC. That is what we targeted and we are succeeding.”
BORN in Calabar, where she attended Hillcrest Nursery and Primary School, before she moved to Benin, where she did her secondary education at the Federal Staff Secondary School.
The student of Pharmacology, who is from Oredo Local Council, says she started poetry recitations, when she was younger.
“I loved it and was not interested in dancing competition like other young kids of my age. You will be surprised to know that at an early age, I had started to recite poems from such greats as JP Clark, Wole Soyinka, Chris Okigbo and Gabriel Okara,” she enthuses.
The grand daughter of a magistrate, who was in love with Shakespeare, he in fact lit the poetry light in her. “I’m still looking for something to replace him in my heart,” she confesses.
Mr. Iluobe, her Vice Principal in secondary school, gave her more literary exposure. “At the school’s valedictory, I was called to do something, then, I was in JSS 2. I did a poem that made her popular in school.”
On the verge of graduation from secondary school, “I thought I could do something worthy of remembrance. I told my friend Osasere Omoruyi my plans, and together we put something together titled, The Nation, but there was no opportunity to recite it.”
While waiting for result, she went on the net, where she had contact with other poets.
“Anoliefo Victor and Ike Anya of Abuja Literary Society (ALS) encouraged me to come. But I couldn’t because of age, however, my parents finally allowed me to go. There I had opportunity to see how poetry is taken seriously, I saw people. Who were doing what I was doing so I needed to be encouraged. I wanted to be sure that I was not chasing shadows,” Nwakaego says enthusiastically.
She is already working on a long piece, which she has titled, Because it is, It can be you. She says it is a one-long poem project, and issues that bother her as well as those that affect every human will be studied. “Even when I am gone, somebody will take over and continue with same title.”
The drama coordinator of the campus fellowship of Word of Life Bible Church, Nwakaego is also the first born of her parents.
On a passing note, she says, “it is said that the more the age, the more the rags, but I contest, the more acquisition of clothing, the more the rags.”