Exit of a theatre Guru
Uriel Paul-Worika was born on April 23, 1938, in his home-town, Ogu in Ogu Bolo Local Council of Rivers State, Nigeria. He attended Methodist College, Uzuakoli, Abia State between 1954 and 1959. Thereafter, he proceeded to the University of Ibadan (UI) in 1963, as one of the pioneer drama students.
In June 1965, he obtained the university’s Diploma in Educational Drama, the first at Distinction level.
Following the external examiner’s recommendation, he was co-sponsored for professional studies in sthe United Kingdom (UK) by the University of Ibadan and the British Council from August 1965 to September 1966.
In April 1966, he completed a post-graduate programme in Theatre Management and Productions in Notingham and in September of the same year, he completed an Advanced Certificate Studies in Television Production from Teddington.
Paul-Worika’s work experience was vast. But, here is a sketch. He was the Theatre Business Manager, University of Ibadan Theatre Department (1967-1970.)
He was a Senior Information Officer and Head of Culture, Rivers State Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism from July 1970 to October 1972; first Secretary, Rivers State Council for Arts and Culture from October 1972 to June 1974; and Director, Arts and Culture, Rivers State, from July 1974 to June 1978.
He was a part-time lecturer in Theatre, University of Port Harcourt (81/82 session). While at UI as theatre Business Manager, he initiated and produced the first long-run English Television Drama series on theatre” on Western Nigeria Television (WNTV 1967-1970), the programme preceded Nigerian Television Authority’s (NTA) “Village Headmaster” by two quarters.
Since 1978, he was a Consultant on Theatre, Media Production and Tourism, using Sete Productions Company at No. 34, Nembe Road, Remuibekwe Housing Estate, Port Harcourt, as his platform.
His contributions to the development of the theatre in Rivers State were significant.
He was a playwright/Director of the First Prize winning play- ‘Hidden Truths’ -at the second All-Nigerian Festival of Arts at Ibadan in 1971.
Again, for seven years, between 1971 and 1977, he was the co-ordinator of Rivers State participants in the Argungu Fishing/Tourism Festival of former Sokoto, now Kebbi State of Nigeria.
Within the same period, he initiated and organised Rivers State Schools’ Festival of Arts whose impact was greatly felt in Rivers State. From 1972 to 1975, he was a member of the National Advisory Committee for the establishment of Nigeria’s National Theatre as well as the Artistic director/Co-ordinator of the programme for the formal opening of Nigeria’s National Theatre on September 30, 1976.
Also in October of the same year, he was Artistic Co-ordinator of the Federal Government-sponsored National Tour by the IPI-TOMBI Musical Dance Company of South Africa, the tour was to express solidarity with the oppressed blacks in South Africa.
Besides being a member of the Planning Committee on Nigeria’s participation in FFSTAC 77, Paul-Worika, also in 1977, was the Co-ordinator of the ODUM water display in Okrika, Rivers State, one of the three approved side shows for FESTAC outside Lagos.
As an executive producer and playwright he produced and directed about 50 episodes of the popular “Basi and Company, NTA Network TV Comedy series from ABS Studios Enugu.
In June 1988, he was the Director, Nigerian Cultural troupe to Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, in the West Indies.
The wider delegation was led by one-time Head of State of Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon and then Information Minister, the late Prince Tony Momoh.
He was a consultant to several documentary and feature films, including ‘King Jaja of Opobo produced in 1999 and ‘Hidden Treasure by Prof. Henry Bellgam in 2006.
A man of many parts, Paul-Worika did not confine his contributions to the theatre. He was a man of many parts. He also contributed to the promotion of soccer administration, politics and community service in Rivers State.
For instance, he was Vice Chairman/Team Manager Sharks Football Club of Port Harcourt from 1979 to 1983, as well as Vice Chairman, Nigerian Football Association (NFA), Rivers State branch from 1990 to 1994.
He was also Member, Protocol/Cultural sub-committee, Nigeria 99 Word Cup.
In the realm of politics, he was Rivers State Organising Secretary of Political Parties-NPP (1979), GNPP (1979-1981) and SDP (1991-1993).
He was also the Senatorial candidate and leader of the United Party of Nigeria (UPN) 1982-1983 for Rivers East.
In the realm of community service, Paul-Worika was a pioneer Chairman, Ijaw National Congress (INC), Okrika clan from 1994 to 1998. He was also a member, Ijaw Elders’ National Consultative sessions from 2003 to 2008 as well as Executive Member, Rivers State Ijaw Consultative Assembly (RICA) from 2006 to 2008.
He donated his Sete Arts Centre, No. 64, Aba Road, Port Harcourt, for use as the first Rivers State Press Centre, under Bobo Brown’s leadership of Rivers NUJ 1981-1982.
He received the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Award in 1992 “in recognition of his dedication to high ideals and exemplary services to humanity.”
Married with children, an active member of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) since 1993, and spoke Okrika, Kalabari, Igbo and all dialects of Ogu fluently.
He also had some working knowledge of French and Yoruba. He was also well- travelled, having visited 25 countries spread across four continents – Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.
In Europe, he visited Britain, France, Sweden, Holland, Italy and Austria. In Asia, he had been to India, South Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Kuching and Philippines.
In Africa, he visited Algeria, Togo, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Benin and Zambia.
In the Americas he had been to Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Antigua, Barbados and The United States of America.
There is no doubt that Chief Uriel Atamunoibi Paul-Worika was accomplished with special respect to the development of the theatre and culture generally in Rivers State.