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At Poetourism 2020, Poets in Nigeria celebrate Odia Ofeimun

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For the poet, polemic and intellectual activist, Odia Ofeimun, his 70th birthday seem not to be over, as members of Poets in Nigeria (PIN) recently honoured him at this year’s Poetourism 2020.

Odia, who turned 70 in March, was described as someone with ‘out of this world intelligence’. He served as private secretary to the late sage — Obafemi Awolowo.

Held at the prestigious Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF) facility, Odia’s presence thrilled guests at the event. Coincidentally, Odia and Omooba Shyllon attended the University of Ibadan, where they were part of a campus magazine that made wave in Unibadan in the 70s.

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According to Odia, “Poetry is not something you do for a while but for a lifetime, which must outlast you, because if it doesn’t outlive you, that means you have not worked hard enough or you have not done it right. If it can outlive you, it means you are not doing badly.”

Specifically, he said, “it is good that there is World Poetry Day because you can read any poem you like and engage poets you like. You must also engage those you don’t like because they challenge you to create. I can tell you a Nobel Prize winner I don’t like but when I am stuck and cannot write poetry, he is the one I read in order to unblock myself.

“Poets must also have the ability to link people together and nothing does it better than language. If you are looking for something that develops language, it is poetry. Nothing does it better than poetry.

“Every collection of poems that I wrote, I always made sure there was a Fela poem. All through my life, I wrote poems about Fela until he died and I did the ultimate Fela poem. I did not quite know that relating to Fela was something I had been doing in other areas of my life.

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“Inside me, I’m a small communist and socialist who believes that an individual never gets it right until the whole community becomes part of what they are doing, so, anytime I visit this facility, the first thing I ask myself is how do we ensure that the works of arts here will not only stay but last?”

In his presentation, Omooba Shyllon, who, over the years, has spent his personal resources in purchasing pristine art pieces, stated, “anytime I see Odia, I’m always overwhelmed with joy. He is a great mind that any nation can have.”

According to him, “at OYASAF, we don’t receive a grant from anybody, we don’t sell artworks, we only buy and preserve for the purpose of promoting African arts. We also promote the arts in our culture to the world. There is always a unique identity in a culture that cannot be found in another, such as, the food we eat, the way we dress or the way we talk.”

He continued, “culture is not only about religion — it is so large that it includes the economic system, social organisation, Arts, music, dance, literature, language, customs and traditions. Unfortunately, we have also demonised, disregarded and demeaned our language. Many of our children don’t speak their mother tongue. He added that the country could make huge revenues if the nation’s culture is developed.”

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Earlier, some of the poets visited the Niger Delta Hall of Fame in Lagos, where the founder of Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), Comrade Joseph Evah, welcomed them.

According to Evah, “some say people in Niger Delta don’t have brains but what they only have is oil, but I want to say that we have brains. Niger Delta indigenes have intellectuals in all fields of endeavours like politics, arts, education science etc like Senator David Dafinone’s family that holds the Guinness World Records for producing the largest number of chartered accountants in human history, First Female Vice-Chancellor in Nigeria, Prof. Grace Alele-Williams, renowned printmaker, painter and sculptor, Bruce Onobrakpeya and others.”

Comrade Evah, however, urged his guests to continue writing, adding that writers are deep thinkers.

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According to him, “any society without deep thinkers is useless.”

In his speech, president PIN, Eriata Oribhabor noted that Poetourism 2020 is a celebration of poets, poetry, World Poetry Day, Odia Ofeimun @70 and men who are quietly impacting society in diverse ways.

According to him, Poetourism is an initiative of Poets in Nigeria established in March 2019 to promote travel and tours among poets for informed enlightenment on happenings in different climes—inspired to crafting more lines of poetry. The first edition of Poetourism was held in Epe, Lagos last year.

The World Poetry Day is dedicated to celebrating poets/ contribution to the advancement of the arts and Nigerian society at large. “In cognisance of the foregoing, we are delighted to celebrate distinguished poet Odia Ofeimun. His physical presence here means so much to us who way have encountered him via his numerous works or otherwise.”

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