It was indeed a night of emotions as encomiums, panegyrics and soul-touching tributes poured out in their torrents on the night of Sunday, 12th February, 2017 at Ibusa, Delta State. By 4pm, literary enthusiasts beseeched the expanse Ogbeowelle Hall in their droves. They include Principal emeritus, Pa AWO Inugonum, JP, a seasoned educationist who taught Buchi Emecheta’s novel “The Joys of Motherhood” to literature students for many years. He rattled the audience with a scintillating biographical posture of Buchi Emecheta, while berating the dearth of reading culture in our society today,thus, reducing the relevance of the pedantic morals that the numerous novels of Buchi teaches.
The occasion began with a brief exhortation by Hon. Stephen Okocha titled: “Where is Your Hope”? He took his text from I Thes. 4:13-14, reflecting on the life and journey of the literary icon. He reminded all present on the need to live a life worthy of emulation on earth. His gospel which was lined on the garb of sober reflection sent ardent listeners pondering on every word that fell out of the preacher.
Reading a biography of Buchi Emecheta titled “The Moon That Illuminates the World” with a rider “…she bloomed like the luscious flower”, the anchorman of the event and also the convener, Philip Ngozi Ifechukwude reeled out a long odyssey of his romance with Buchi’s works. He narrated the serendipity that pitched him on a research of Buchi Emecheta’s “The Joys of Motherhood” during his project work at the university as a graduating student. He went down memory lane into the life and times of the late author and what she represented.
Students of St. Thomas’s College, Ibusa opened the night of fun with a spice of dance drama that preached the essence of unity in the country.
The first tribute of the night was read by Dr. Benjamin Nonso Ajufo. It was titled: “Buchi: That Ibusa Girl that Conquered the World” written and sent in by Dr. Peter Anene Nzekwue, an Ibusa-born literati and publisher of Xclusive Magazine based in Dublin, Ireland. On his own, Dr, Ajufo presented his own tribute which he titled: “The Priestess of Ogwugwu Afor. He used the poem to eulogize the writing prowess of Buchi Emecheta with the symbol of Ogwugwu Afor deity which later became the name of her publishing firm.
Dr. Austin Izagbo, the President-General of Ibusa Community Development Union (ICDU-Worldwide) had earlier written a wonderful tribute which was published in the Sunday Guardian of 5th February, 2017. The same tribute was read at the event by the publisher of the Frontline News, Dr. Dike Awana. Another spice of the evening was a poem titled: Yellow Sisi written by Philip Ifechukwude and was presented by Miss Gloria Ogechi Idegwu. This was followed by a tribute which she titled: “Tribute to a Golden Mother”. It was the turn of Mrs. Edith Peter-Egbuchua to deliver this tribute.
The climax of the evening was a drama presentation titled: ‘The Trials of African Woman’ written and directed by Austin Ajufo. The troupe had Ms. Christie Bendu Achakpo as the narrator as she reeled out the travails of the African woman which was in sync with what the life of Buchi Emecheta depicted. Other members of the cast were Angel Ojeikere, Moses Oraegbu, Chukwuma Obah, Gloria Idegwu, Sylvester Obah, Emmanuel Lotobi, Rose Okolie, little Miss Kansy Ifechukwude, Wisdom and Sarah Isoh. At the end, the audience was left to near tears with the melancholy which the entire setting and theme revolved around.
A tribute written by a patriotic Anioma son, Frank Ofili titled: “Buchi was an Advocate of Woman Emancipation” was presented by Prince Charles Obah, while Emeka Esogbue’s tribute, “The Mountain Whose Top the World is Seen” was read by the president of Ibusa Youth Council, Sir. Alfred Isoh.
Reading a compendium of tributes written by top academics and erudite personalities, Prof. Austin Uwandulu, the initiator of the entire project stole the show by demonstrating through the remarks of people like Prof. Niyi Osundare, Prof. Femi Osofisan, Denja Abdulahi, the current president of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and another prolific writer, Prof. Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo. He equally fleshed these tributes by pouring series of panegyrics to the late Ibusa-born matriarch.
In another display of patriotism, Dr. Tony Nwaezeigwe took the stage to read Prof. Pat Utomi’s tribute titled: “Heroine with a Cause”. As a proxy, he narrated the detailed relationship that existed between Prof. Pat Utomi and the woman he always referred to as a dear sister. The erudite historian and lecturer at the prestigious University of Nigeria, Nsukka then went on a solemn trip to describe Buchi as the woman with unparalleled love for her birthplace, Ibusa.
A creative ride with the title of Buchi Emecheta’s works composed by Philip Ifechukwude was aptly delivered by the senior prefect of St. Thomas’s College, Wisdom Ogini. This was immediately followed by another heart-rending encounter of a mother and child relationship that existed between the late Buchi and Barr. Amaechi Nwaenie, the Uwolo of Ibusa. The piece was read by Mrs. Patricia Oyana who took time to lead us into the affinity and love shared by this mother and son. Ideally, he chipped in such praises like adieu, nwa edeogu, ada ukwu eshimeshi!
The night was not complete without a literary display of upcoming literary minds in Ibusa who, from their performances, showed that though Buchi Emecheta is no more, the literary lacuna she has created will be filled in no distant time. They were the recitation of poems like “The Woman, Her Chronicles” written by Augustine Ogechukwu Nwulia, “I am My Father’s Son” and “The Fall of Bloom” by Maxwell Ajufo and the pantomime display of the poem “My Sojourn in the Evil Forest” by Austin Eloka Ajufo.
Basically, it rained like a holocaust as the night was replete with sweet memories of the life and times of a woman many described as a lioness. In his tribute, Dr. Austin Obidi, not left out, was satisfied with the whole display that characterized the event, adjudging that such has proven that Buchi’s soul will be smiling wherever she may be at the moment. He was emphatic in his remark that despite what we are encountering at the moment as a people, there is still hope for the town with what he saw of the many rising Buchis.
The vote of thanks was given by Peter Egbuchua, while Dr. Dike Awana said the closing prayer. Other people who graced the event were students from various secondary schools among whom were Trinity College, Ibusa, Omu Boys Secondary School, also in Ibusa.
Philip Ngozi Ifechukwude is a Poet, Novelist, Culture Activist and Chairman, Literary Friends Forum, based in Delta State