Thursday, 19 October 2017

Celebrating Prof. Ezenwa Ohaeto

Brief Biography 

Ezenwa-Ohaeto is one of those rare Nigerian scholars whose world-wide travels were almost exclusively occasioned by the innumerable fellowship, workshops, and seminars that constituted his intellectual quest. And in almost all circumstances they were sponsored by his wining one fellowship visiting professorship or foreign lecturing appointments. As early as 1993 at the age of 35, Ohaeto travelled to Germany on the Alexander von Humbolt stiffung research fellowship. Between 1993 and 1995. Ohaeto was a visiting research Fellow, University of Maniz, Germany. In 1998, Ohaeto incredibly was Rockefeller Foundation Resident Fellow in Bellagio, Italy. In 1999, Ezenwa Ohaeto found himself as Mellons Fellow, University of Texas at Austin, U.S.A. Stranger than fiction as this seems, in the year 2000, Ohaeto found himself at Uppsala, Sweden, as Research scholar-at its Nordic Africa Institute, Senior Rockefeller Humanities Follow in the W.E.B. du Bois Institute, Harvard University Cambridge, U.S.A. In the very next year, 2002, he became the Institute Fellow. Finally, in 2003, Ohaeto returned to Germany as visiting professor. The record of Ohaeto’s fellowships, and foreign visiting appointments (eight in ten years) is one yet to be equaled by any Nigerian scholar or professor in any intellectual field of endeavour. Because he stayed away from Nigeria in pursuit of the Golden Fleece par excellence, Ezenwa Ohaeto, in spite of the intimidating number of publications, stagnated in his promotions to deserving academic ranks in the Nigerian institutions where he worked. The result: his professorship was achieved posthumously. Prize and Awards Professor Ohaeto’s achievement in this regard is an stunning and intimidating as his fellowships. Few academics living or dead in Nigeria could lay claim to the dizzying heights to which Ohaeto soared in his brief but distinguished life on earth. As early as 1971, at the age of twelve, when many of his mates were struggling to pass standard six, Ezenwa Ohaeto won a third prize corticated for poetry in the zonal festival of arts. In 1978, Ohaeto won first prize, short story competition, English Department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. In 1979, he won a certificate of excellence in drama performance, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Professor Ezenwa-Ohaeto’s outstanding performance in the NYSC service year won him the chairman’s award in 1980. Following what naturally seems to have become his lot, Ezenwa-Ohaeto won the BBC poetry award, Arts and Africa in 1981. Again, expectedly, since whatever Ezenwa-Ohaeto touches, turns to gold, in 1985, he won the best free verse poem, orphic lute, U.S.A. In 1997, he won the ANA Cadbury poetry prize and in 1999, Ohaeto won the choice outstanding academic book award for his publication of the biography of Chinua Achebe. If we add the prizes to the innumerable fellowships and visiting professorial and scholarly appointments, you will agree with me that Ezenwa-Ohaeto still remains the most award-winning academic that has appeared on the Nigerian scene so far. He capped his award winning exploits with the award of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) African’s most prestigious Nigeria literature prize (2005) as join winner with his mentor Gabriel Okara. We are now agreed that Ezenwa-Ohaeto’s life was marked by unusual excellence. What’s in a name Shakespeare would ask. There is sometimes something in a name. The name of our head of state, Goodluck Jonathan seems to be one remarkable example. Ezenwa literally means King Boy and he lived out the meaning of his name in everything he touched. He was a dramatist, a poet of world class stature, an outstanding academic. He shone like a meteor and is appeared in a blaze of glory. His academic laurels and publications are intimidating both quantitatively and qualitatively. He was at once, a poet of note, a world-class biographer, and an incisive critic renowned for his bestriding the major genres of belles letters. Professor Ohaeto was best known in Nigeria s a distinguished literary journalist cum critic. His interviews with Nigeria’s eminent writers and critics provoked debates and critical controversies in the daily times and the guardian newspapers over three decades, thus creating a new genre of critical information and insights into the minds and thinking of the people intervened, especially as some rejoinders provoked further debates between writers, readers, and critics. Thus. Professor Ezenwa Ohaeto took credit in creating an atmosphere of interaction between artistes and critics, to which few others could claim such credit. Professor Ohaeto’s interviews of Nigeria writers and critics were collected in a book Winging Words (Kraft Books, (2003). As an interviewer-critic, Professor Ezenwa Ohaeto’s efforts surpassed itself in his Chinua achebe: straight from the heart which is a conflation abringing together under one volume various interviews Achebe had subjected himself to, over the eyars. Only a scholar with the vast exposure to the world of literature, like Ezenwa Ohaeto, would subject himself to synthesize, collect, collate Achebe’s commentaries on social and literary issues around him. It is a collector’s time. It would now be stressing the obvious to delve into Professor Ezenwa Ohaeto’s scholarly expertise because that is what has engaged us, all along, as a poet, he had won many poetry prizes both local and international. But it is his experietise in oral poetry that bears comment. His poetry has its charm on its Oral base. His pidgin poetry is part of this Oral base. Titles of his published books of poems like “I Wan Bi President”, “The voice of the Night masquerade”, the chants of a minstrel” (winner of the Nigeria prize for literature) and the scholarly work contemporary Nigerian poetry and the poetics of morality establish Professor Ezenwa Ohaeto as very accomplished in this innovative genre of poetry. Younger or fourth generation Nigerian critics whom I had tagged “lazy” may note that Professor Ezenwa-Ohaeto was an exception. Here was a young academic in his prime who lived no other life than of a very diligent worker in the vineyard of literature. He traversed the length and breadth of this country interviewing fellow writers and critics; he established, almost single-handedly journalism provoking debates, comments, and rejoinders in various important Nigerian newspapers. His interest in the feminist Nigerian writers like Flora Newapa and Buch Emecheta found outlet in his many contributions to various journals around the globe, and his travels and visiting appointments to the world’s most famous universities are indices of a genius whose endeavours most of us would like to emulate. Ezenwa (King Boy) you left us in a blaze of glory. Come again, Nigeria has need of another you. Come back again but this time, stay longer with us. We would appreciate you the more, a more mature you who would live to be a sage, and an elder. Meantime, we know that what can’t be helped, must be endured. We take consolation that in the world beyond, you dine with that noble and select company of writers and critics among who are Homer, Sphocles, Virgil, Shakespearean, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Flora Nwapa, John Munoye, Richard Wright, Esiaba Irobi. Where else would you find a more distinguished company. Culled from Professor Charles. E. Nnolim’s Ezenwa Ohaeto: Biographia Intellectuale A Brief History of Ezenwa Ohaeto Resource Centre The Prof. Ezenwa Ohaeto Resource Centre was inaugurated on March, 31, 2011 in memory of Professor Ezenwa Ohaeto who was a foremost African poet, literary critic, essayist and a teacher of reputable standing. Prof. Ezenwa Ohaeto is a world renowned professor of Literature who died in 2005 at the age of 47 soon after winning the most prestigious literary prize in Nigeria - the NLNG Prize for Literature. The inauguration of the Centre was an occasion of great importance and was memorable on many scores which most importantly was because it marks the beginning of the actualization of a dream to immortalize the name of Late Prof. Ezenwa Ohaeto and provides a forum and contact point for scholars and critics to tap from his rich fountain of knowledge and also provides an avenue for the reading public to have access to his ‘intimidating’ resource materials gathered and built in all the years of his academic sojourn on earth. The dream of this centre started with the painful demise of Ezenwa Ohaeto who had a library that can best be described as very rich. The wife of Ezenwa-Ohaeto is always fond of sharing her early memories and attachment to those books. They were simply too many to belong to one person, her husband. She confessed that each time she went to the library she kept asking her husband, Ezenwa, who he left the books for. She never felt the enormity and presence of those books as much as she did when her husband died. It was until his death that she encountered each morning, piles of books staring at her with imploring eyes to put them to good use. They were begging her to continue reading them like her husband did or to help find some people who could read them and make them satisfied. She never stopped wondering what to do with those books which at some point she considered donating part of them to university libraries across the country until the idea of establishing a Resource Centre in honour of her late husband came to her. Again at that time she was under constant pressure from many students who were on one kind of research or the other who kept coming and were requesting for Ezenwa’s works and works on him. So the idea of establishing the Centre was the only avenue she considered best in making these materials easily accessible to anybody who might need them. The wife of Ezenwa Ohaeto went through a whole lot in her bid to acquire the proper compensation due to her husband which was the money with which she hoped to start off the project of a resource Centre. It was such an experience, a sordid tale that is best told by her alone. After the rigours, herculean tasks and experiences she passed through in those five years of trying to assess the money, she finally got it in July 2010 and that was when the dream began to take a shape that later saw to its actualization. That year marked the beginning of the building that is today housing Prof. Ezenwa-Ohaeto Resource Centre for which many people gathered the next year, on the 31st day of March, 2011 to inaugurate. 31st March was apt and is a very significant date to the centre because it is Ezenwa’s birthday. The inauguration was festive as it was a gathering of literary giants and icons of African Literature. In attendance includes but not limited to HRH, Eze Prof, Chukwuemeka Ike, the Ikelionwu XI of Ndikelionwu, HRH, Eze Boniface Unogu; the Eze of Owerri-Nnkworji, the special guest of honour, Prof, Boniface Egboka, the Vice Chancellor, Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka, Nigeria, our guest speakers, Prof. Charles Nnolim and Prof. Kalu Uka, The chairman of this occasion, Prof. E. I Nwana, The Honourable, Victor Nnadiekwe, Chairman, Nkwerre Local Government Area, Imo State, Prof. J.O.J Nwachukwu-Agbada among other dignitaries too numerous to be mentioned here. It was indeed a fulfilled day. The centre having been established has continued to carry out laudable programmes annually. These are programmes that are targeted towards the promotion of literature and literary creativity as well as immortalizing the evergreen memory of late Professor Ezenwa Ohaeto. In 2012, a Literary Festival was organized courtesy of the Ezenwa Ohaeto Resource Centre in honour of the fallen literary icon and godfather, Late Professor Ezenwa Ohaeto. The event was held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Auditorium and it attracted scholars and critics locally and internationally. Also many top government officials were there to add more colour to such a colourful event. The event which started in the university auditorium earlier in the day was laid to rest later that evening with a literary night held at Finotel Hotel, Awka in their magnificent and serene garden that proved vital in ensuring that the artists and audience had a fun-filled night. Poets, comedians and artists performed till late in the night to allow the audience have what they described as ‘one of the best literary nights ever and the most memorable in their lives.’ The students of Theatre Arts Department were there to thrill the audience with only a tip of the ice berg which can only be obtained within the confinements of their department. Dr. Elvan Nwanara graced the event with his musical troupe which everybody danced to till the early hours of the next day. Dr. Chike Okoye was there as the trusted master of ceremony to ensure a harmonized and well packaged night. That same year saw to a literary symposium held in the prestigious Ezenwa Ohaeto Resource Centre. The event provided a platform for an in-depth academic discussion on the topic “African Literature:a Cup half open or half empty” and thorough criticism on many diverse and topical academic issues that were raised during the symposium. The symposium attracted the likes of Prof. Ernest Emenyeonu who was the guest speaker, Prof. Charles Nnolim among other distinguish professors and members of the academia gleaned from various higher institutions in the country. On the 6th of March 2013, the centre organized a Youth Literary Convention that featured a poetry and drama competition from many selected secondary school in Anambra state. The Theme of the event was tagged: The Nigerian Child and the Environment and was held at the prestigious Whyte View Hotels in Awka. The programme was aimed at sensitizing the youths as well as the general public on the need for proper care of our environment. The theme was apt and timely as the event coincided with the time many parts of the country became victims of the heavy flood that saw to loss of many lives and property. The need to address the general public on many environmental hazards and the realities of other future events became the driving force that gave birth to the theme of the conference. The environment goes hand in hand with our survival as humans and it behooves us to protect it. Many negative actions on nature are invariably negative actions that will in the long run militate against out survivals as humans. Nature and environment is ours to protect as safeguard. Greg Mbajiorgu, a renowned dramatist whose works are environmental friendly was there to witness the performance of one of his drama works on environment titled Wake Up Everyone which was performed by the students of Anerobi International School, Amansea. One of the highlights of the event was the unveiling and launching of a book titled The Minstrel Never Die, volume 2. It was a collection of many of the fine essays and articles written by late Prof. Ezenwa Ohaeto and edited by Dr. Ezenwa Ohaeto. The occasion was colourful as it was remarkable in nurturing and sustaining the creative ingenuity among youths that are the leaders of tomorrow. The event attracted the likes of Barr. Dr. Obinna Uzoh who was the chairman of the event. Also in attendance was the bishop of Onitsha, Valerian Okeke among other dignitaries. The event was concluded with a literary night/ festival held at Bassino Hotels, Awka. The gathering was worth the effort as it was a gathering of poets and dramatists from various institutions and organizations. Poets, artists and comedians had their fill of exciting performances that all unanimously begged for a repeat of the event in the coming year. Many other programmes of great importance and delight are in the pipeline already packaged by the centre. They are all waiting for the allotted time to see the light of the day and thrill the general public. The Vision The vision of the centre is to create a foremost forum for prodigious engagement in creative writing, training, mentoring, discourse and study that will attract the best brains in African and global literature and culture. The Mission The project of the Resource centre, which is dedicated to academic research, revolves around the following objectives: • To immortalize Professor Ezenwa Ohaeto’s literary legacies as writer, critic, essayist, and community leader; • To provide a forum for the discussion of Ezenwa Ohaeto’s work as a critical factor in the development of African literature and aesthetics; • To support the growth the research in both indigenous and foreign language literature; • To provide outlets for young writers, as well as create for a for the discussion of the literary business; • To advance the pursuit of literature as performance; • To sensitize society to the values of creative writing and the scribal arts; • To advance the development of culture as a living and liveable environment; • To foster consciousness of the environment as integral to human existence and literature as a core factor in its sustenance. Moreover, it hopes to pursue every opportunity to support and organize lectures, symposia, workshops, exhibitions and literary performances with a bi-annual roster, during which experienced writers from within and outside the country will interact with young writers who will thereby enjoy the prospect of not only being heard, but also finding publishing outlets for their works. Means of Sustaining the Resource Centre The resource centre which is a non-profile making outfit is fundamentally a non-borrowing library with the intention of bridging that gulf between library facilities and local communities. In other words, it aims at bringing library facilities closer to the people. In full operation, the centre has managed to provide internet facilities for writers and the general public as well as mount a user-friendly access to inter-library services. The centre has established a digital library in order to be in line with modern trends of things in reputable and standard library in the world over. The library has and will continue to boost symposia, workshops, exhibitions and literary performances from time to time outside the strategic bi-annual events which will bring in writers from across the country and beyond. In order to meet the needs of routine self-maintenance, the Centre introduced a structure of membership through a systematized registration based on affordably levy. The levy is subject to renewal annually. The Board The centre has the following as her Board members who have continued to work tirelessly to the sustenance and enhancement of the human and academic resources of the centre: 1. Odia Ofeimum - Chairman 2. Dr. Ngozi Ezenwa-Ohaeto - C.E.O 3. HRM Prof. Chukwuemeka Ike - Ikelionwu XI of Ndi Ikelionwu 4. Prof. Ernest Emenyonu - African Studies, University of Michigan-Flint USA 5. Prof. Stella Okunna - Hon. Commissioner for Planning & Budget, Anambra State of Nigeria 6. Rev. Fr. (Prof.) J. Obi Oguejiofor - Department of Philosophy, UNIZIK 7. Prof. Ike Odimegwu - Department of Philosophy, UNIZIK 8. Prof. Charles Nnolim - Retired Department of English and literary Studies UNIPORT 9. Chibuzo Asomugha - Project Co-ordinator 10. Asika Ikechukwu - Assist. Project Co-ordinator Location The centre is located at Oganiru Estate, Ahocol Phase 3 opposite Esther Obiakor Estate, Awka, a giant building that housed great intellectual tools and resource materials that will continue to feed thousands of academic-hungry and excellence driven students. And many more will it continue to feed in the near future all to the glory of academics and scholarship at large. The centre is ever posed and has continued to grow and expand as the world continues to turn into a global village under the auspicious eyes of Dr. Ngozi Ezenwa Ohaeto, the C.E.O whose love for a beloved departed husband and singular drive to achieve a difference combined with the efforts of many to see to the establishment of this reputable house of learning and academic feast. Visit the centre today if you have never done that… If you have, visit it again because more surprises have been packaged for your delight alone… You can call us on these numbers: 08033713548 07084012668 Someone is waiting to talk to you. What you are looking for is here with us… why not try? We are expecting you…

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