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PEN endorses Ben Okri’s presidential bid


Ben Okri. Photo_ The National

Following an emergency Congress held on April 17, 2021, members of PEN Nigeria — the Nigerian Centre of PEN International — resolved as follows:
That PEN Nigeria will fully participate in the 87th extraordinary Congress of PEN International scheduled to hold between September 20 and 25, 2021, which would also double as the centenary celebration of PEN International.

That PEN Nigeria has — after deliberating over the candidacy of two members: Ben Okri, an acclaimed Nigerian poet and novelist based in the United Kingdom, and Chigozie Obioma, a US-based Nigerian novelist who only joined PEN Nigeria in February, 2021, and has not been known to most members of the Centre — unanimously endorsed Ben Okri who communicated his interest/intention to run for the office of the Presidency of PEN International in the upcoming elections.

That PEN Nigeria will nominate Mr. Okri for this office, and will actively canvass support for his candidature, both in Africa and at other PEN Centres across the world.

That PEN Nigeria is extremely hopeful that Mr. Okri, if elected, will bring to bear his established authorial skills to PEN International, which will in turn widen the scope of the century-old organisation by providing a broader framework for authors and writers all over the world. His presidency will also consolidate the tradition of promoting and defending the rights and freedom of expression worldwide.

That PEN Nigeria welcomes the withdrawal of Chigozie Obioma from the PEN International presidential race. Mr. Obioma promised, in a mail, to step down if and when either Ben Okri or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie declares their intention to run for the exalted office, which he honourably did.

That the Congress empowers the leadership of the PEN Nigeria to take all necessary steps to reach out to individuals and institutions far and wide in search of support for the candidature of Ben Okri; and that the Congress wishes Mr Obioma well and will be happy to support his candidature in future when his person would have become better known – and his impact felt – in PEN Nigeria and PEN International as a whole.

The statement was signed by President Folu Agoi and Dagga Tolar, Secretary.


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