By Prisca Sam-Duru & Elizabeth Uwandu
For Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, Wednesday’s reading at the University of Lagos, UNILAG, was a great honour done to her by the institution which doubles as her Alma Mater and where she retired as a lecturer.
The monthly reading organised by the English Department of UNILAG has turned into an event lovers of literature look forward to and Prof. Ezeigbo’s session didn’t let them down as she treated guests to an outstanding performance of a dirge for late literary icon, Buchi Emecheta, which earned her a standing ovation.
The multiple award winning writer and author of so many books which cut across all the genres of literature including children’s literature, opened her reading with her latest short story, “Mr. President’s Change Agent” which is coming out in November.
“Mr. President’s Change Agent”, narrates the story of a woman who receives her share of injustice in the hands of an unscrupulous Nigerian police officer after she refuses to give a bribe. Being afraid that she may be shot by the desperate officer, and coupled with the fact that she is already late for her appointment, she parts with the only cash she has with her after she is delayed for over an hour.
The story is an exposé of the rot in the Police force, perpetrated by the bad eggs among them.
“The story was written from my personal experience. I felt diminished as a human being and it was difficult for me to drive to work thereafter because I was very unhappy due to the way the policeman treated me. It was a helpless situation but as a writer, I decided to write about it to let authorities know what is happening and ensure there is change,” Ezeigbo explained.
Also narrating other ugly encounters still involving the police, the Professor of English and activist stated that, “When you travel to the Eastern part of the country, you’ll know that people in Lagos are enjoying. The police there are something else. I travelled from Ebonyi to Awka and was surprised to notice not less than 40 police checkpoints and at each stop, they collected money from the drivers. At a point, I warned the driver not to bribe them again else I’ll make trouble but to my greatest surprise, the driver and passengers attacked me, warning that I should not let the police delay them.”
The reading from ‘Mr. President’ gave way for poetry. She rendered two poems; both were tributes for renowned Ghanaian poet, Kofi Awonoor, who was killed 2 years ago in a bomb blast in Kenya, and one of the pioneer female African writers, Buchi Emecheta, who passed away early this year. The tribute for Awonoor was titled ‘Flight of the Song Bird’.
Surprisingly, the tribute to Buchi Emecheta elicited argument from members of the audience who contended whether or not Emecheta being a woman, should be ranked among the literary ancestors. As expected, the house was divided.
“Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo: Life and Literature”, being the celebrator’s biography written by Exechi Onyerionwu, was also unveiled during the reading.
Prof. Ezeigbo’s session came to a climax with her amazing performance of a dirge for Buchi Emecheta. Although the mood of the audience turned emotive due to the lyrics, the folk song which she performed in Igbo Language got everyone joining in the refrain.