Literary enthusiasts in and around Abuja based Veritas University are in ecstatic mood ahead of the visit of a torchbearer of the poetic imagination, Professor Tanure Ojaide to the university. The event scheduled for June 23rd, 2021 is in collaboration with the Association of Nigerian Authors, (ANA).
A statement by Veritas Writers Community said the event which would be attended by some secondary schools in Abuja would feature, among others, a reading as well as an interactive session with the guest. The implication is that the event will transform into a university wide event, with attendance transcending the narrower circle of the literati.
Veritas University, Abuja’s Department of English and Literary Studies boasts or parades hefty names in the domain; from ex-US based academics such as Professor Chimalum Nwankwo and Dr. Emmanuel Egar to those who rose from the crucible of Nigerian universities to become the first made-in-Veritas-professor such as Gabriel Egbe, the current Dean of Postgraduate School as well as the German trained Dr. Ellel, amongst others.
Professor Ojaide shot into literary prominence in the 1980s when his poem, The Fate of Vultures which slams insensitive and low quality governance won the ANA ward for that category. The poem which has since emerged with other poems into a book would appear to most readers of it as if written only a year or so ago. He was then an academic at the University of Maiduguri in the Northeast of Nigeria.
He has won several other awards since then, listed to include the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for the Africa Region (1987), the BBC Arts and Africa Poetry Award (1988), the All-Africa Okigbo Prize for Poetry (1988 and 1997) and also the Association of Nigerian Authors’ Poetry Prize (1988 and 1994). The University of Ibadan (Nigeria) and Syracuse University, (US) educated poet teaches at the University of North Carolina in the US and has no less than five books, listed as follows in some sources: The New African Poetry; God’s Medicine Men & Other Stories; The Beauty I Have Seen; The Tale of the Harmattan and The Activist; The Old Man in a State House and Other Stories; Theorizing African Oral Poetic Performance and Aesthetics: Udje Dance Songs of the Urhobo People. This listing follows no sequence.
Ojaide thus belongs in the select club of Nigerian intellectuals with global voice who are, therefore, individually and/or collectively, powerful since voice is power. Nigeria’s incoherence at the domestic level, however, prevents the mobilisation of these intellectuals as a power resource for national greatness in a world of states as quite of number of other states have successfully done. With the persistent level of disarray at home, most of them turn into angry provider of testimonies by which Nigeria is spatialised as a country on the queue to implosion. This has yet to happen because such conclusions are rarely more than exercises in mirror-imaging in the first case.
While Nigeria struggles to get over that paradox, especially as former President Olusegun Obasanjo re-assembles the elite towards de-fragmenting the persistently divided elite and the possibility of a new consensus, Veritas University, Abuja appears prepared to take advantage of such a high profile visit in a domain in which it has relative internal strength.