EVENING OF POETRY READING & REFLECTIONS IN CELEBRATION OF THE 100THOUSAND POETS FOR CHANGE (100TPC)
@ERIATA HEIGHTS IKORODU, LAGOS
DATED: 30TH SEPTEMBER, 2022
BEING A BRIEF PRESENTATION TITLED: FROM GUDU TO SALERNO
Dear fellow poets,
I am honoured welcoming you to today’s Evening of Poetry Reading and Reflections in celebration of the100thousand poets for change (100tpc) and to specially appreciate you for being in the vanguard of our nation’s poetry renaissance as exemplified by our respective contributions to the activities of Poets in Nigeria (PIN) Initiative founded in 2015. Having collectively held countless poetry readings that would have served as grounds for reflection on personal and societal issues for which governance and the need for positive change are central, today’s event is unique because the place of reflection is being taken notches higher towards properly situating its essence in the scheme of things. Against this backdrop, and in cognizance of the fact of PIN’s 7yrs anniversary viz a viz my personal relationship with the 100Thousand Poets for Change Global Initiative for peace and its sustainability, I am imbued to indulging in a serious reflection of my past and by default, encouraged to deliberately peep into the future and that of 100TPC and PIN. In this regard, please join me on a brief journey back in time of my literary past which begun in Abuja, Nigeria.
SFEV & TIME MEDIA
The first time I would ever organize a literary event was under the aegis of Something for Everybody Ventures (SFEV) in conjunction with Time Media & Entertainment at the pool side of Hotel De Bently, Utako Abuja. It witnessed the reading of poems and live presentations of selected poems taken from my first poetry collection titled “Abuja na Kpangba and other poems- (2011) by members of Time Media & Entertainment led by Time Bello, a performance poet and friend. Present at the event were several literary minds inclusive of Denja Abdullahi who was the then Asst. General Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) now a former president of the Association and Nanman Guning Kash; then a Nurse with the National Hospital, Abuja now author, The Peculiar Girl and a host of literary minds. This program happened before I became Chairman, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Abuja in March 2012.
CELEBRATION OF NAIJA DRAMA DAY
On becoming the Chair of ANA Abuja, my private literary activities didn’t stop. Examples of such events were; NAIJA DRAMA DAY which held on 1st October 2013 at Chesbon Hotel (2/2) KUBWA organized under the aegis of NAIJA PLAY HOUSE in conjunction with ONE HEART GROUP and the subsequent unveiling of IF YOU HEAR SEY I DEH PRISON – anthology of poems I edited/published in 2012. Omooba Jerry Adesewo of AROJAH THEATRE was path of the Call for poems leading to the mentioned anthology. The event which attracted a huge audience was chaired by Professor Francis Egbokhare of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria whom I had the privilege of first meeting at the IFRA Ibadan conference on Nigerian Pidgin in 2009. He has been a worthy guide and supporter of PIN. For the record, the ONE HEART GROUP was an umbrella coinage covering the following theatre groups that staged 5 short plays on NAIJA DRAMA DAY viz: Phoenix Theatre, Kubwa, Aspire Theatre Company, Kubwa, flex Entertainment Kubwa, P&U Int. School, Suleja and the FCT COE College Theatre, Zuba.
ESTABLISHMENT OF JUNIOR ANA IN THE FCT COE, ZUBA
Following the apparent increase in literary/poetry promotion via various events that were privately organized in conjunction with ANA, a Junior ANA was established at the Federal College of Education Zuba, FCT. On this epoch-making day of inaugurating the body of young students, Mrs Joan Oji made a very powerful presentation on behalf of ANA Abuja. Of the various events that I organized or privileged to have been associated with, the 100Thousand Poets for Change (100TPC) which I was Organizer in Abuja between 2012 and 2014 will stand out.
THE 100THOUSAND POETS FOR CHANGE: FROM GUDU TO SALERNO
The 100TPC is a global non-governmental literary organization promoting poetry as a tool for “seizing and redirecting the political and social dialogue of the day” hoping to turn the “narrative of civilization towards peace and its sustainability” for societal uplift. In propagating the mission and vision of 100TPC, I and my team adopted the grassroots approach via establishment of branches in Suleja (Moses Okpara and Favour Amakor), KUBWA (Ify Asia Chiemeziem and Tee Jay Dan), Bwari (Theophilus Tanko Chigudu and Jones Mairubutu), One Man Village (Sunny Omeje and Jon Manuels Enekele) and Kuje (Onimisi).
Reflecting further on the activities of 100TPC would not be adequately surmised without a mention of Samuel Osaze who introduced me to the global organization whose 12yrs anniversary is being celebrated globally by poets. Next to be mentioned are foundation members of the 100TPC Abuja viz: Dike Chukwumerije, Salamatu Sule, Emmanuel Ojukwu, Ejiro Eghagha, Olajumoke Ogunsanya, Denja Abdullahi, Aj. Dagga Tolar , Chinyere Iwuala Obi-Obasi and Kukogho Iruesiri Samson. In 2012 and 2013 respectively, the city of Abuja joined more than 500 cities across the globe to celebrate poetry in what has been tagged the biggest poetry reading in history. While the 2012 event was held at the Gudu Recreation Park Abuja, that of 2013 was hosted at West point hotel, behind the office building of NAFDAC, Wuse Abuja.
The pioneer 100TPC Gudu Park event was co-anchored by Dagga Tolar and Chinyere Iwuala Obi-Obasi while that of West point hotel was anchored by two great guys; Dennis AmaFlex Amah and Samuel Nzeh who is now an OAP at Love FM Abuja. Spoken word poets; Dike Chukwumerije, Aj Dagga Tolar and others performed their poetry while the WRR and Autopedia CEO Samson Kukogho, Su’eddie Vershima Agema (top listed NLNG Prize for Literature 2022) and others read from their works. Presenters included, Tope Fasua, Zainab Galadima and Zubairu Ibrahim respectively.
What may pass as a very memorable 100TPC event in Abuja was an historical visit to Ushapa in Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) by poets hosted by Ushapa branch of 100TPC managed by Theophilus Tanko Chigudu. At this event, Poets were challenged to write poems on the spot leading to the anthology; “Wushapa – Beating the Drums of Peace” with special comment by Michael Rothenberg II who co-founded 100TPC with Terry Carion.
The icing on my activities with 100TPC was the privilege of participating in the 100Thousand Poets for Change World Conference (June 3-June 8, 2015) in Salerno Italy, an opportunity that brought me one on one with over 80 fellow Poets from different countries. Also, I participated in an online poetry reading in celebration of 100TPC @11 in 2021. Going by the ongoing plans of holding the conference in the next two years, poet-members of the 100TPC worldwide are expectant. Meanwhile, a poet laureate assiduously working in concert with other members of the group in this regard is Pilar R. Aranda. It’s a privilege having her speak to us from Tijuana, Mexico shortly.
Coming to Lagos from Abuja in 2014, I made efforts at rallying poets, performer-poets, musicians, dancers, comedians, painters, writers, engineers, guitarists, pianists, etc to hold a 100TPC event in Ikorodu in vain. Today, we are here in the same Ikorodu as witnesses to this reflective journey back in time. Essentially, it is to honourably credit different individuals and literary bodies especially the 100TPC for offering me the needed platform for unleashing my creative parts. For the umpteenth time, let me state that, the city of Abuja was where I started writing poetry for public consumption, made possible by the following platforms; Something for Everybody Ventures, ANA, 100TPC, ASO RADIO where I had an interesting stint as a presenter of a personal program titled; MEK WE YAN and LEADERSHIP Newspaper for which I wrote the column NAIJA PIDGIN A-Z.
From GUDU to SALERNO is a journey of garnered experiences, being practically put into use in today’s Poets in Nigeria Initiative; our nation’s foremost non-governmental literary body driven by poetry. A quick look at the following will put all in proper perspective:
1. The former branches of 100TPC in Abuja could pass for today’s PIN Connect Centres.
2. The Global Poetry Reading of 100TPC would perfectly fit as [email protected] Cross Country Celebration of poetry in 2021.
3. Since the 100TPC’s global reading enables poets of different nationalities to either read/present their poems in their respective languages, it could be likened to the PIN Tongues of Poetry currently moderated by Abdulbaki Ahmad.
4. THE PIN OPEN MIC of Maiduguri, Makurdi, Uyo, Ikorodu and Kano etc, reminds one of my time as Organizer of the 100TPC Abuja and that of other 100TPC event organizers across the world.
Noteworthy: while over 500 cities organized poetry readings under the aegis of 100TPC in 2012, the number steadily rose to over 750 in 2013.
SALERNO GLOBAL CONFERENCE OF POETS
Let me round up this supposed brief Reflection by appreciating the 100TPC, organizers of the first ever international poets conference that I will be attending and for creating the platform that enabled me to meet the person of Michael Rothenberg, Terry Carrion (co-founders of 100TPC), Micheal Dickel in whom I thoroughly enjoyed our semi-guided tour and exploration of the vast archeological ancient city of POMPEI, Italy. He was with his camera all through. Our boat cruise from SALERNO to AMALFI is one experience that will forever remain in my memory. For the first time in my life, I swam in the sea; (beach of the Tyrrhenian sea). As you will find out in a photo reel that will be shown shortly, we had fun with awesome experiences to share. Accordingly, names of the following poets still ring in my head: Anna Patricia Caminati who was a friend on Facebook for upward of 4yrs before meeting one on one in Salerno and the very day we met, we found ourselves spotting same colour blue, SIOBHAN MacMahon who honoured me by collaboratively reading my poems during a midnight open mic Salerno street poetry reading/performances, Els de Groen – poet and parliamentarian from Oss, Netherlands who attended the conference with her husband, Lisa VIHOS, Penny KLINE, Mark LIPMAN whose poem IMPOSING DEMOCRACY will be read today, Noor Mahmoud MOAWAD, Robert PRIEST who graciously commended the quality of my publications, Canuto Roldan (CanCan), Gabor Gyukics, Dennis Formento, Hosam SAWAH, Mostafa BEDEIR, Mohamad FAHARAT, GEENPINO, Youssef ALAOUI, Richard Paa Kofi BOTCHWEY, Laura SHOVAN, Panos BOSNAKIS and host of other poets for which a special mention will again go to Poet laureate Pilar Aranda who will one year after our meeting in SALERNO, graciously hosted me while on a private trip to Tijuana, Mexico. But for 100TPC, I wouldn’t have met her.
On this special day of Poetry Reading & Reflection, I thank God for gifting us creativity with poetry as our key interest and everyone who had in one way or the other imparted me. Even though this event is being dedicated to 100TPC, I wouldn’t have reached thus far without the active support/collaborative efforts of members of Poets in Nigeria for which Kolade Olanrewaju Freedom ranks top. Naming everyone in this regard may be herculean
But we know ourselves. Notwithstanding, I mustn’t fail to mention this female troika of children-coaches and members of PIN; Funke Awodiya, Clementina (Solutionist) who has graced all PIN stages performing poetry and the one we have come to recognize as mother or Iya-PIN; Shola Phebian Adekunle Oguntoyibo as well as various current/former connect centre reps; like Veralyn Chinenye, Halimah Olajumoke, Chinatu Blessed Orji, Utibe-Eno Ekpuk, Rahmah O. Jimoh and PIN Asst. Sec (Intern) Ifunanya Juliet Ottih and others for their contributions.
An excerpt from my presentation at the 2013 100TPC event goes thus: “We are here as voice for a borderless world where racial (tribal) differences, religion and all forms of sentiments inhibiting progress and development are not welcome”. This remains my stand, and that of many who write poetry of purpose. From the cover of our 2013 brochure, I found the following lines of mine on the sleepy Ushapa community:
I see you through your alluring eyes
That stare hearts…not of them holding the
Rudder, walking you through dubious paths
Away from eyes of the world, waiting…
I see you through the bowels
Of your rocky world, head and shoulder
Above all, with covers of warmth, walls
Of hope, tied to the future of many.
IKORODU could have been ISHERI-OLOFIN that hosted The Arthub Lagos 2018 event, AJEGUNLE, MAKOKO, OJOKORO and the borderline communities of Lagos that are representative of towns and cities in a corruption ridden Nigeria. As poets for change, we mustn’t rest on our oars in writing/working towards changing narratives for good. It is paramount therefore that, we neither forget our humble beginnings not work at cross purposes and should continually collaborate towards lightening the overbearing burden of supporting society via poetry. At this juncture, I request of you to respond; FOR CHANGE as I chant – ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND POETS!
Call: One Hundred Thousand Poets!
Response: For Change!
Let’s keep the spirit of poetry for service burning.
Thank you for your attention.
President, Poets in Nigeria Initiative
Organizer, 100TPC, Abuja (2012-2014)