By Prisca Sam-Duru
Sometimes one cannot help wondering what truly makes an individual unique. Could it be a person’s mien, eloquence, success or benevolence?
In the case of Nigeria’s foremost writer and poet, Odia Ofeimun, he isn’t just unique because of his writing prowess. Perhaps, his being used to doing things differently, ability to hang on to his opinion in spite of that of the general public or entire world, power to brew controversy to any extent and non stop argument on mind boggling topical issues as well as constant engagement in intellectual/literary combat and many more, stand him out from his contemporaries.
The uniqueness of this great writer has earned him the title of a trouble maker of the first order by another iconic author who happens to be his closest friend, Professor Kole Omotosho.
The literary industry no doubt, needs a boost. So, whatever contribution aimed at furthering the quest for a vibrant literary community, is most welcome. But then, in this clime, people are used to solo exhibition of visual art works and book fairs or book festivals which normally afford publishers the opportunity to exhibit books from their stables, but not book exhibition by a single author.
Odia as he is best known, took a unique leap in this regard penultimate week, when he exhibited over 40 of his books written in a period of over 3 decades.
The exhibition of books tagged, “Special 40-Plus Book Exhibition held at the Agip Recital Hall of Muson Centre, Lagos attracted friends of the author, some members of the literati and few government officials.
The Poet Lied, When Does A Civil War Come to an End?, A Handle for the Flautist, Nigeria the Beautiful: Poems for Dance Drama, Itoya: A Dance Drama, Because of 1914: A Centenary Dance Drama, Impossible Death of African Author, A House of Many Mansion, Nigeria Women Poets, Messianism as a Political Platform and many more are the titles of books exhibited.
Former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba described the exhibitor as a prolific writer “Who has shown tenacity and ability to hang on to what he believes in. In spite of the fact that he is not making money, he has not given up. I recommend that the likes of Odia Ofeimun should not give up.”
Chairman of the occasion, Professor Kole Omotosho said it was an “Unusual occasion to celebrate Odia and his over 40 works. It’s always difficult to speak about Odia, a trouble maker of the first order. He argues most of the times and most his books come out of continuous argument. Here is a talent that has taken on any issue relating to Nigeria”
In his detailed review of the books, Dr Ogbare Gimbar who explained the language, importance and style in some of his favourite works, said The Poet Lied, is one book that generated a lot of controversies due to its linguistic felicity. “Its a miracle Odia is still around”, he said, noting that “His contributions in Tempo when election was annulled in 1993 were enough to kill him.” According to Gimbar, “Poems on the North Eastern part of the country are most troubling poems. Odia has been able to represent the most challenging issues of Boko Haram in these poems. Odia is a man who never shy away from intellectual combat.”
Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Communication Technology, Dr Tunji Olaopa described Odia as a writer who has “Carried Nigeria in the unfolding bowel of poetry for long.
His muse must surely be a militant when confronted with the gross dysfunction that the Nigeria predicament presents. He is a rebellious nationalist who comes to the nationalist struggle for the soul of Nigeria from a unique perspective – poetry.”
Responding, Odia encouraged young people to challenge him on issues he raises about Nigeria, but added that those who are ready to challenge him must ensure they are more knowledgeable than he is.
“I am genuinely interested in the way my country is run, I like the fervour with which Nigerians want to do things and I always want to contribute to it but I’m calling my country men and women to lets open our eyes and fight the battle, don’t wait for your leader to fight it for you.
That is why the kind of books I write are the kinds that fight the battles I like. They may not be right now for instance, Taking Nigeria Seriously, was published a few years back but it doesn’t matter when you want to read that book, in my view, the arguments won’t change, it doesn’t matter who becomes the head of state of Nigeria, if they are genuinely interested in what Nigerians think about the way we should move, they should read books that try to describe the way the future should be.
We must describe our future before we move into them. That doesn’t mean you should neglect the past, we have so over concentrated on the past that we are unable to dream about the future.We give children the impression that burying their heads in the sand is a better deal, no it isn’t…”He said.
Roll call included Mr Bayo Oduneye, Mr Dare Babarinsa, Kunle Ajibade, Dr. Abubakar Suleiman who represented former President Goodluck Jonathan among others.