By Henry Umoru & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Emeritus Professor of Literature and renowned writer, Prof John Pepper Clark, died yesterday at the age of 85.
The poet is the younger brother of former Federal Commissioner for Information and South South Leader, Chief Edwin Clark.
In a statement signed by Prof C. Clark, for the family and Mr Ilaye Clark, for the children and made available to Vanguard, Professor John Pepper Clark died in the early hours of yesterday.
The statement read: “The Clark-Fuludu Bekederemo family of Kiagbodo Town, Delta State, wishes to announce that Emeritus Professor of Literature and Renowned Writer, Prof J.P. Clark, has finally dropped his pen in the early hours of October 13, 2020.
“Prof J.P. Clark has paddled on to the great beyond in comfort of his wife, children and sibling, around him. The family appreciates your prayers at this time. Other details will be announced later by the family.”
In his tribute, President Muhammadu Buhari said he extended deepest condolence on behalf of the Federal Government to the Clark-Fuludu Bekederemo family on the passing of the renowned writer and Emeritus Professor of Literature, Prof. John Pepper Clark.
President Buhari in a statement issued by his spokesperson, Chief Femi Adesina, paid tribute to one of Nigeria’s finest poets, dramatist and recipient of the Nigerian National Order of Merit Award for literary excellence, whose repertoire of published works depicts the hardwork of a great man, devoted to a lifetime of writing, knowledge and promotion of the indigenous culture of the Ijaw nation.
The statement read: ”Prof. J.P. Clark’s exit has, indeed, left an indelible mark in the literary world, “President Buhari takes solace that his body of literary works, which earned him recognition and respect both at home and abroad, would continue to inspire upcoming Nigerian writers to pursue literary excellence and flourish in their chosen vocation.
“The President’s thoughts and prayers are with the family of the departed patriot, the government and people of Delta State and the literary community in the country.”
He prayed for the peaceful repose of the soul departed.
Also reacting, Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo Agege, All Progressives Congress, APC, Delta Central, said the renowned poet and Emeritus Professor of Literature, Professor John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo made his mark and left this plane of existence as a colossus.
In a statement yesterday by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yomi Odunuga, Senator Omo-Agege, who expressed appreciation to God for granting the late intellectual a peaceful exit, surrounded by his family, said: “Born in Kiagbodo, Delta State, to an Ijaw father and Urhobo mother, the Emeritus Professor rose to become one of the most brilliant stars in Africa’s firmament, passing through the University of Ibadan and University of Lagos with such intellectual productivity that made him an African giant.
“Widely travelled and thoroughly distinguished, Professor Clark held visiting professorial appointments at several institutions of higher learning, including Yale University and Wesley’s University in the United States.
“His marriage to Professor Ebun from the great Odutola family in the old Western Region was a courageous challenge to old ways and people like him broke the barriers against inter-tribal matrimonial union.
“Through poetry, Professor Clark-Bekederemo captured pertinent contemporary socio-political issues as shown in his 1985 collection of poems titled, “State of the Union” – a collection of select poems in his 2002 anthology published by Longman Nigeria Plc under the title, “The Poems (1958-1998).
“As we all mourn the transition of this great African to eternal life, our heartfelt condolences go to his dear family and our dear Papa, Chief Edwin Clark, but forever, the world shall recall the intellectual stature and contributions of Professor Emeritus John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo.”
In his own reaction, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State said: “It is with a great sense of shock and foreboding that I received the sad news of the passing of Emeritus Professor of Literature and renowned writer, Prof. John Pepper Clark, whose death was announced on Tuesday.
”Prof. John Pepper Clark was a great academic and a celebrated poet, who contributed immensely to Nigeria’s advancement through his numerous works. His literary exploits brought honour and great respect to Nigeria, and his contributions to literature and education in general will outlive many generations.
”His writings mirrored the society all through our development as a nation and he raised his pen when it mattered the most to condemn societal ills that threatened our collective existence and advancement as a nation as well as a continent.
”My heart goes out to the Clark-Fuludu Bekederemo family of Kiagbodo Town, in Delta State, at this time, and I urge them to find solace in the impactful life Prof. John Pepper Clark lived. We thank God for giving us a man of such rare talent and may his soul rest in peace.”
Similarly, Professor Hope Eghagha of the University of Lagos, UNILAG, described the passing of JP Clark as a berthing of his earthly boat.
Eghagha, who said he was the literary child of JP Clark, said the literary icon put the name of Nigeria on the world canvass.
He said: “Our own JP’s boat reached its last earthly berthing place today, October 13. He lived a highly poetic and dramatic life, filled with intense creative moments and output.
“He was of the first generation of writers to put the name of Nigeria on the world canvas. An icon. A grand old man of letters who will be sorely missed. “May God console his wife Professor Ebun Clark and the children. We, his literary children, will continue to enjoy his legacy which will outlive all of us. His place in the pantheon of literary greats is assured!”