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From poetry to politics: the transition of Odia Ofeimun

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From poetry to politics: the transition of Odia Ofeimun

From poetry to politics: the transition of Odia Ofeimun
November 24
12:58 2015

*Poet declares ambition to contest Edo guber election
Debo Popoola
Poets and critics have been accused of only knowing how to watch and criticize those in government while they stand aloof. But Odia Ofeimun, a renowned poet and the author of critically acclaimed collection of poetry, The Poet Lied, has decided to cross the border between being a watcher and a doer.
Born in Iruekpen-Ekuma, Edo State, Nigeria, on March 16th 1950, and having authored ten significant volumes of poetry, Odia Ofeimun has established himself as a force to reckon with in the global literary field. He has also published two books on political essays, four books on cultural politics as well as edited two anthologies of Nigerian poetry.
He is widely anthologized and translated into many world languages. Odia Ofeimun has read and performed his poetry in several countries of the world including Ghana, South Africa, Ethiopia, India, South Korea, Columbia, Germany, Israel, Great Britain, China, the United States of America, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Sweden, Italy and Cuba.
In Nigeria, Ofeimun’s practice of journalism, spanning the years of military tyranny, has inspired a whole generation of journalists in print and electronic media. The principled stand of Ofeimun came at the price of random invasion of his residence, seizure of his manuscripts, computer discs and Nigerian passport to deny him freedom of movement. Undeterred, and while practicing probably the most dangerous vocation of all at the time, Ofeimun served the Association of Nigerian Authors as General Secretary and President respectively. He has been designated advisor to PEN Nigeria Centre and is a founding member of the Pan African Writers Association.
Odia Ofeimun is the recipient of many awards, the latest of which is the prestigious Fonlon-Nichols Award for literary excellence and propagation of Human Rights which was conferred on him by the African Literature Association in 2010. In a literary career spanning four decades, Odia Ofeimun has distinguished himself with poetry and essays which challenge both the imagination and the intellect, crossing cultural borders and establishing new benchmarks in the articulation of the African narrative. His essays are valued both for knowledge and analysis, for what to know and for how to think about what is known.

Though only 62, Mr. Ofeimun is fondly called ‘Baba’ by the post-civil war generation of Nigerian writers many of whom have found touchstones in his works or have been individually mentored in writing by Mr. Ofeimun. For his copious literary output while engaged with anti-military rule struggle in Nigeria, Mr. Ofeimun has been called an exemplar of conscionable and consistent writing and the writerly life.
Ofeimun who was the private secretary to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, made knownhis intention to contest in the Edo State governorship election in 2016.
In a recent telephone interview with a punch correspondent, Odia Ofeimun said he had not gone back on his decision to run for the position.
When he was asked if he would be contesting on the platform of one of the registered political parties in the country, he replied, “When we get to that bridge, we will cross it. This is just to let you know that I am interested in the governorship race in Edo State. I haven’t said anything about running under a party. The point is that I am going to run.”
Ofeimun first hinted that he might contest in the forthcoming election in an article published in the TheNews magazine last month.
In the article, he had declared that his goal was to realise a collective sense of achievement for his people in Edo State.
He had said, “I am determined to prove that within the particularity of one nationality, Edo, and the fold of a multinational state, Nigeria, it is possible to achieve high feats of modernity, cultural civility and technological proficiency comparable to that of any other country in the world. And, this, within 40 months. Not two terms of office.
“My strategy is to bring together the best minds that Nigeria, at home and in the Diaspora, can muster. I believe that this must begin with the complete elimination of illiteracy across all age grades. Put every child at school and nudge and humour and cajole every citizen under 60 years of age, and above if they so wish, to go to school. Provide for everyone who does not have it, whether native or not, with the equivalent of a school certificate which the Nigerian Constitution, since 1979, has declared the minima for full citizenship.”
A persistent critic of the Nigerian system, Ofeimun has been friends with many members of the political class often described as the progressives. For instance, he is close to the likes of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and the man he hopes to succeed in Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Whether or not this relationship will help his ambition is the question as it is not yet clear if he has started discussing with the APC leadership.

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