Nigeria Poetry Transition

Nigerian Prize for Literature 2017 winner Ikeogu Oke has passed on.

Nigerian Prize for Literature 2017 winner Ikeogu Oke has passed on. The poet died from a short illness on Sunday, November 26, 2018.

Nigerian poet Ikeogu Oke who studied at the Universities of Ibadan and Nigeria has been known for his collections like Salutes Without Guns, The Tortoise and the Princess, The Lion and the Monkey, In the Wings of Waiting and Where I was Born. He burst onto the continental poetry scene when his collection The Heresiad, published by Kraft Books, won the Nigerian Prize for Literature 2017.

The announcement of the demise of the poet, writer and journalist was shared by the Public Relations Officer of the Association of Nigeria Authors ANA with the following post on their Facebook.

The executive ANA Abuja regrets to announce to you the sudden death of one of our own Ikeogu Ike in the late hours of Saturday. His death came after a brief illness at the National Hospital, Abuja.

The exco also expresses condolence to the family of the award-winning late Ike and pray that the soul of the departed rest in peace.

Alex Enemanna

Condolences has have been streaming from across the Nigerian literary community. Here are a few.

Okey Ndibe, Author, Academic, Publisher.

Ikeogu Oke rang me about three months ago to say he was quite ill, and was considering a medical trip to India. But his spirits seemed to be zestful, ebullient as ever. Little did I know that was going to be our last conversation, that the cold hands of death were about to still the voice of one of our most gifted poets. I’m stunned, but Death won’t have the last say. Ikeogu, a fine poet and finer human, left us many songs that we must now sing in defiance–and in celebration of his stalwart muse. Jee nke oma, Dike!

Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, Poet.

My brother Ikeogu, I am as good as dead as I write this. On the night of the book party following your being on the NLNG Prize shortlist you insisted on buying me very expensive beer in the posh hotel you were lodged. When the NLNG officers asked for a copy of your book before the announcement of the Prize-winner you asked me from Abuja to deliver the copy you had autographed for me to the NLNG Lagos office. When I saw you at Ojoto for the Christopher Okigbo soiree you looked ill & I was really worried. Now this! My tears…

Chika Unigwe, Author.

“Here lies a man who loved virtue and art, And gave to both his fortunes and his heart.”

Ikeogu Oke Ikeogu Oke (1967 – 2018)

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Author, Journalist.

And so it is true, that Ikeogu Oke has left us. Devastating news. I saw him a while ago. I noticed he had lost weight. Since he didn’t complain I thought he was trying to lose his belly. And even when his eyes, sallow, prompted me to ask, I didn’t. We spoke at lenght with Abdulkareem Baba Aminu, for who he happily signed his book. He didn’t want to stop talking and so the night stretched.

When I heard he was ill, I called him. He said he was glad I called. That he had just been in a surgery. I was travelling then and told him he would be better before I got back and we will see. I just got back and he just left us in the night. We laughed when I called him my younger brother, because only last year we were celebrating his Nigeria Prize for Literature win, just a year after me. Shock to see that that laughter will ring no more. Travel well, nwanne’m.

Kola Tubosun, Poet, Journalist,

Shocked is the most underwhelming word to describe what I feel to hear that Ikeogu Oke has left us.

I met him last year while working on the shortlisted books for the Nigeria Prize for Literature. As I described in my review of his book. I found the work delightfully committed “to innovation, tenacity, joyful experimentation and social commentary in a way that provokes delight and engagement.” His acceptance speech, a literary delight on its own, is titled “A Poem as a Dreamer and Pacifict”  

In person, when we finally met, he was not less impressive, perceptive, yet unassuming. Outside of my work as a literary journalist interviewing each shortlisted writer, we became somewhat close, and kept in touch. I was interested in creating a Wikipedia page for him.

In July this year, out of the blue, he sent me 50k to support our YorubaNames project. “A drop in the sea for what you need”, he had texted “in solidarity for African languages.” Then he added, “will remember to do more with improved life and prosperity.” What I didn’t know was that he was sending a message, a message I failed to catch.

He likely had a terminal illness he never told anyone about. And yesterday, he passed away in Abuja, and shocked everyone to our bones.

So, here is to thank him for his work — for that book, The Heresiad, the only one of his I ever read; for his Facebook rhyming which sometimes got on my nerves for their persistence and the notifications it invited to my phone whenever I was tagged (he stopped tagging me after I complained); and for his life which — going by all the testimonies about him — made an impact, and made meaning.

We here at wish that the poet rests in peace. Condolences to his family and friends.

By James Murua

This blog is run by James Murua a Nairobi, Kenya based lover of books.

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