As part of the activities to sensitize the public towards the forthcoming 50th year anniversary of the transition of renowned poet, Christopher Okigbo, his only daughter, Ms Obiageli Okigbo, has been meeting stakeholders in the country in order to make the event a success.
Ms Okigbo, who is the president of the Christopher Okigbo Foundation, during her visit to Imalefalafia, Ibadan, said the event would afford Nigerians the opportunity to know who her father was, while also keeping his memory alive.
The late Okigbo was working in Fiditi, Oyo State when the Biafran war broke out, and he consulted prominent people before returning to the East to join the Biafran army, where he was killed in active battle.
However, despite the fact that he died as a Biafran man, he lived as a detribalized Nigerian, as he had settled in Fiditi, Oyo State, where he penned some of his greatest poetry collections, while also building close relationship with those in the Ibadan literary circle at that time, including Nobel laureaute, Professor Wole Soyinka, whom many said Okigbo consulted before returning to the East to join the Biafran struggle.
This year, therefore, makes it 50 years since the death of the poet, and according to Ms Okigbo, the event, which would be held at the University of Ibadan, between September 21 and 22, would focus on the legacy of the late poet.
Ms Okigbo, whose father died when she was just two years of age, said after meeting all her father’s contemporaries, she had got all she needed to know about him, and she had discovered he was such a courageous man.
While also speaking during the visit, the Chief Advisor to the Christopher Okigbo Foundation, Dr Wale Okediran, who is also a former president of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), said the event would bring together those who had a relationship with the late Okigbo while he was alive.
“It would also feature academics who have devoted their research to the writings of the late poet. The two-day event, would hold at the University of Ibadan.
“In fact, the opening ceremony would hold at the Trenchard Hall of the university, where Professor Wole Soyinka would be giving the keynote address. The event would be chaired by His Royal Majesty (Professor) Igwe Chukwuemeka Ike.
“Many personalities, including the Obi of Onitsha, Eze Alfred Achebe; Ambassador Judith Sefi Attah (Okigbo’s widow), among other literary stakeholders, would be on hand to witness the event.
“There would also be a reception, book presentation and unveiling of the UNESCO plaque at Cambridge House (where Okigbo lived in Ibadan), at Joop Berkhout Crescent, Onireke, in the evening of the first day,” Dr Okediran said, while further revealing that the UNESCO had earlier selected Okigbo’s manuscript among the Memory of World Register, and the plaque would be unveiled at the Cambridge House.
In his remarks during the visit, Mr Sina Oladeinde, thanked the Okigbo Foundation, and particularly Ms Obiageli Okigbo, for bringing back the memory of her father to the consciousness of Nigerians.
“Despite the fact that your father, Christopher Okigbo, went back to the East to fight a cause which he believed in, he was no doubt a detribalized Nigerian; as of that time, he was in Fiditi, a rural part of Oyo State, where he was working.
“A tribalized person would not have gone to such a rural area to impact knowledge in the younger ones, but that was who Christopher Okigbo was.
“We don’t know why he decided to return to the East during the Biafran war, but according to those close to him, he said if he did not go back, he would be branded a coward.
“We also got to know that he consulted some of his contemporaries before returning, and all of them were against him joining the Biafran army. In fact, we learnt that they were even planning to ‘kidnap’ him to prevent him from going to join the war.
“All that is history now, and we are happy that his daughter is keeping his memory alive with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of his remembrance,” Mr Oladeinde, who is also a literary journalist, said.
Also on hand to receive the Okigbo team was the Dr Lasisi Olagunju, an Editor, who said bringing such an important event to remember the late Christopher Okigbo to Ibadan had great significance.
“Okigbo might have died supporting the Biafran cause, but the truth is that he lived as a Nigerian and built lasting relationship with some of his literary contemporaries.
“We are happy that you have chosen Ibadan for the celebration of Christopher Okigbo, and we are sure this does justice to his memory as a great bridge-builder,” Dr Olagunju said.
(Edited By Olamide Michael)