The Faculty of Humanities, University of Port Harcourt, in Collaboration with Onyoma Research Publications and Bayelsa State Library Board, celebrated Dr. Gabriel Imomotimi Okara, one of Nigeria’s popular literary Icons at 96.
The event took place at the Dr. Gabriel Okara Cultural Centre, Ovom-Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on Thursday, 18th May, 2017, with public presentation of a book, entitled, Gabriel Okara, in honour of the distinguished literary icon.
The book was edited by an erudite literary scholar, Prof. Chidi Maduka, a Professor of Comparative literature, and formerly of the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Port-Harcourt.
In his opening speech, the Chairman on the Occasion, Prof. Millionaire Abowei, who was represented by High Chief Timi Gumus, said that, given the enormity of Dr. Gabriel Okara’s contributions to knowledge, he deserves to be celebrated; and therefore thanked the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Port Harcourt, Onyoma Research Publications, and the various contributors to the book, for ensuring that the publication saw the light of day.
In a graphic presentation, renowned newspaper columnist, Mr. Lindsay Barrett, who reviewed the book, stated that Dr. Gabriel Okara is one of the pioneers of Modern African Literature, adding that the value of the book is substantially enhanced by the fact that it provides what might be the most comprehensive and instructive guide so far to understanding the works of a man that has proven to be the source of one of the world’s most contentious literary discussions.
Lindsay Barrett stated that, as a well known Nigerian poet, novelist, playwright and one of the pioneers of modern African Literature in English for decades, Dr. Gabriel Okara was the first Nigerian writer to publish in the influential literary journal, Back Orpheus, in 1957.
He informed that Pa Okara has won many National and International Awards with his works, including, The Call of the River Nun in 1953; The Fisherman’s Invocation in 1979; and The Dreamer His Vision, which won the Nigerian Prize for Literature instituted by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Ltd in 2005.
According to him, remarkably, at 96, Dr. Gabriel Okara is still writing and mentoring young writers; adding that, the philosophical depth of knowledge and primary relevance of his works constitute an embodiment of sensitivity to the principles of morality in our society.
The Executive Governor of Bayelsa State, His Excellency Hon. Seriake Dickson, who was the chief host of the event, represented by the Honourable Commissioner for Education, Mr. Markson Fefegha, in his speech, applauded the efforts and the literary contributions of the celebrant, which he said, were locally and internationally recognized.
Governor Dickson also extolled the role Dr. Gabriel Okara and late Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye, a political hero of the Niger Delta, played in the agitation for the creation of Rivers State in 1967; and used the medium to admonished guests to emulate the good works of the literary icon, whom he described as a force in the Ijaw nation.
The Vice Chancellor, University of Port Harcourt, Prof. N.E.S. Lale, represented by the Dean, Faculty of Humanities, Prof. Femi Shaka, and the publisher, Prof. Ebiegberi J. Alagoa, in their remarks, described Dr. Gabriel Okara as an accomplished poet, novelist and playwright in the global arena, who emerged from the furnace of creative reactions to the colonial experience.
They thus charged the younger generation to work hard to be like the celebrant, even as they wished him good health, wisdom and knowledge to carry on his good works, even as he clocked 96.
In his response, Dr. Gabriel Okara thanked the Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, the University of Port Harcourt team, Bayelsa State Library Board, traditional rulers, top government functionaries, the secondary school students, and other well-wisher, who came from far and near to celebrate with him and for their presentations.
The colourful event was spiced up with music, dance and drama performed by the award winning Bayelsa State Cultural Troupe.
Eminent personalities that attended the event were former Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Power, Ambassador (Dr.) Godknows Boladei Igali; Dean, Faculty of Arts, Niger Delta University (NDU), Prof. Wenikado Ganagana; the Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom, HRM King Buboraye Dakolo; the Amananaowei of Tombia, His Highness Chief Christian Otobotekere; former Provost of Bayelsa State College of Arts & Science (BYCAS), Dr. (Mrs.) Grace Efua Koroye; popular Nollywood star actor and Senior Lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt, Dr. Sam Dede; and the President, University of Port Harcourt Alumni Association, Mr. Chris Adokeme, among others.
Recall that the Executive Secretary of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Associate Prof. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, joined other prominent Nigerians and literary scholars in celebrating Dr. Gabriel Okara, for his literary contributions, at Ebitimi Banigo Hall, University of Port Harcourt, on 25th and 26th April, 2017.
Rex- Ogbuku Egiobu & Esther Ebi Ziprekumor
NSSZ, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State