(L-R) Odia Ofeimun; Guest lecturer, Prof. Mahmood Mamdani; Prof. Wole Soyinka, Chairman of the event; and Ambassador Segun Olusola, Chairman, African Refugees Foundation.
FOR the poet, Odia Ofeimun, it was a birthday well earned last Tuesday, March 16, 2010, as the world gathered to celebrate his 60th birthday. The event, which drew elite, artists, family and friends was organised by Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC), in collaboration with Odia Ofeimun Committee of Friends.
The celebrations started in the morning with a lecture at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Lagos.
The Director General of CBAAC, Prof Tunde Babawale, in his welcome address, explained the parastatal’s primary decision to collaborate with the Odia Ofeimun Committee of Friends, “in recognition of the celebrant’s sterling qualities and his contributions to scholarship, arts and culture.”
The CBAAC head went on to underscore Ofeimun’s contribution to human capital development.
“As a poet, Ofeimun’s verses initiated a paradigm shift in the ethics and aesthetics of the poetry of socio – political engagement in Nigeria,” he said.
Entitled Sudan and Congo: What lessons for Nigeria? and delivered by the Columbia University, USA, scholar, Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, the lecture renewed the search for all-inclusive reforms in all key institutional frameworks that hold the country together.
The guest lecturer was unequivocal in his recommendation: “One lesson of Congo and Sudan is that it may be time to rethink the legacy of both the colonial past and the reforms you (Nigerians) undertook to end the civil war.”
The evening event was a festival of culture, poetry, music and dance. There were poetry renditions by Chike Ofili, Jumoke Verissimo, Toyin Akinoso and Remi Raji. There was also dance drama presentation by Crown Troupe of Africa led by Segun Adefela and performance of The Feast Of Returns — a drama by Odia Ofemiun and directed by Felix Okolo
Highpoint of the event was cutting of birthday cake by the celebrant and a few friends and colleagues.
Odia, a native of Iruekpen in Ekuma, popularly known as Ekpoma, was influenced by his grandfather to embrace education at an early age. This marked the beginning of his obsession for knowledge.
With his exposure to literature and works of critics of religion and society such as Tolstoy, Rousseau, Obafemi Awolowo, and Wole Soyinka, the bible and even quoran, he became an accomplished writer.
Odia, who wanted to be a Chemical Engineer, but was forced to abort that dream after the death of his father, won the Nichols Fonlon prize in 2010.