Novelist, poet, essayist and journalist, Sam Omatseye, was the centre of attraction at the maiden edition of a literary and cultural event – the Sam Omatseye Poetry Festival – recently held in Ibadan, capital of Oyo State, to mark his 30th anniversary as a journalist.
However, the festival, which was created by dramatist and President of the Poetry Enclave, Ebika Anthony, turned out to be more than a celebration of the journalist. It was a celebration of poetry and life anchored on a variety of performances by pupils of some of the primary and secondary schools in the legendary city of the seven hills
The keynote address, themed Poetry and the State of the Nation, was delivered by writer and Associate Professor of Creative writing at the Bells University of Technology, Ota, Dr. Bayo Adebowale.
Adebowale called on contemporary Nigerian poets to concentrate on producing works that would reflect the real challenges facing the country.
He said, “The problems threatening to strangulate Nigeria are myriads: the Boko Haram insurgency, the menace of cattle rearers, restiveness of militant groups, cultism in secret shrines, religious intolerance, kidnapping, political oppression of the minority groups, ritual killings, ethnicity, corruption and more.
“Certainly the present fraternity of Nigerian poets has before it the daunting task of addressing these challenges and fostering a more aggressive poetic tradition, which will properly enhance and restore the dignity of genuine nationhood to their motherland.”
The keynote speaker also urged other poets to adopt a more radical approach to poetry by allowing a revolutionary texture to pervade their works. “Poetic diction should now be ‘fire darts’: words of iron and thunder. Our poets must remember that they are not mere ‘griots in the courtyard of transient power’ but active parts of the propelling and vibrant engine of their age.”
Although some tested spoken word artists were present at the event and a few of them, such as Yinka Olaosebikan and Bliss, delivered probing and thought-provoking lines, the pupils were the real deal.
Enthusiastic, lively and obviously sufficiently grilled in the nitty-gritty of poetry recitation, especially before an audience comprising mainly creative artists, one after the other they took turns to make the poetry reading session the most engaging part of the festival.
A common thread ran through all the poems recited by the youngsters: they were written to reflect the theme of the festival, and to explore the various challenges facing the country.
One of the pupils, Faith Ademuyiwa, also of Glory International Academy, in Rescue Mission pleaded with fellow Nigerians, irrespective of ethnic or religious background, to come to the rescue of the country.
Some of the guests at the event probably had their first doses of spoken word poetry when Bliss and Olaosebikan hit the stage with verses that probed and quizzed the national consciousness deliberately aimed at provoking deep thinking among the audience. As expected, the subject was the state of the nation and the questions, particularly coming from Bliss, were endless. Many a guest at the event is likely to be haunted by her words: “Tell me, why can’t peace pitch its tents with us?