Stories by Simeon Mpamugoh
“Good morning, the policeman said.”
“Good morning,” she responded.
“Where is the permit that allows you to use tinted glass for your car?” he asked.
That was the beginning of an encounter of a literary icon and don, Prof. Adimora Akachi –Ezeigbo, with a policeman along the Abakiliki highway, Ebonyi State., which led to the short story “An Encounter with Mr. President’s Change Agent”.
“From Abakiliki to Awka, there are several roadblocks and no vehicle passed without them collecting money from motorists,” Prof Akachi -Ezeigbo told the audience who had come to listen at her book reading and unveiling of her Biography, Life and Literature, written by Ezechi Onyerionwu, which took place at MA Language Room, University of Lagos. Ezechi Onyerionwu wrote the biography.
A gathering of students and scholars, which came to support one of Nigeria’s brightest female authors and scholars, the event was attended by Professors Duro Oni, Chris Ezeigbo, husband to the author; Hope Eghagha, Head of English Department of the university; Adeyemi Daramola, Osita Ezenwanebe, as well as Dr. Chimdi Maduagwu, who moderated the question-and-answer series of the event.
She expressed happiness over her invitation by the university to come and read in the department. She felt at home being part of the university, even though she had left the ivory tower.
She said she was not writing novels yet, but was publishing on the Internet and e-journals, works that deal on peace and terrorism. She read part of her latest collections of poems –tributes to Kofi Awoonor, the 78 year-old-African poet and novelist, who died in the terrorist attack by al-Shabaab militants at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, and Buchi Emecheta.
She restated that “Mr. President’s Change Agent” was based on experience she had in Abakiliki. “I was a victim of that terror and trauma, she said, decrying the excesses of policemen on motorists who were often looking for particulars and offenses that do not exist. She further described Awoonor’s death as “misguided, fanatical, midday macabre dance”, and called for its investigation. She did not hide her love for Buchi Emecheta hence her poetry works on Buchi, who died of stroke. She also lost two of her children.
Her dirge to Buchi was entitled “Oku nagha Ozara” (Star that cannot be blighted). She eulogised: feminity shrouded in anonymity, languished in great anonymity, “Oku ada, Oje mba; they realised that marriage was not binding enough, that it took more than bride prize to muzzle a legend, a determined woman cannot remain a second class citizen, Prof Akachi Ezeigbo read, listing names of living female writers who were still leading the light from those who have embarked on journey of no return.
She read: “And never again would a woman’s voice be excluded from the gathering of saints/Never again will your voice be equated with ashes of dormancy/New generation calls you Ogbu hie uzo (pathfinder)/Oku ada of our time/you glittered like a star/Tell them that the slave girl buried alive has resurrected in a new age/The age of silence is no more/The bastion of male chauvinists is uprooted/You fought hard and your head remained above water/You are not afraid to enter in controversy. …/You followed them to their hometown and ultimately made it your home/Thought out a literary career that spanned four decades/Oje mba enwe ilo laa n’udo.”
Speaking to journalists, the scholar-writer recalled her most striking disappointment as a writer: “I would say my first book, which I submitted to a publisher, and it was rejected. I felt bad. In fact, that makes me always advise writers: even if you get rejection scripts, done worry; keep writing. I was shattered when I received that rejection: they told me they wouldn’t publish it. It was rather disappointing. Incidentally, another publisher in London later published the same book.”
Professor Adimora-Ezeigbo won the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2007. She has no particular preference writing any genre either poetry, children or adult novels saying they come in phases: “There is no particular one that is easier than the other. For instances I’m not writing novels. What I’m writing now is poetry and short stories and publishing them in journals and online.
“What it means is that I’m not coming out with physical book yet. I publish online, and that is what is happening at the moment. It could change in the next three to six months. I’m doing tribute on Buchi Emecheta. It is poetry and would be released in London and short stories in African Literature Today, the oldest international journal of African Literature in the world, published in United Kingdom.
“I write short stories and send it out, but, eventually, they will all be collated as a volume and poetry. Buchi Emecheta’s tribute is going to form part of the collection,” she enthused.
The Royal Holloway University of London Research fellow who is passionate about writing said she had always wanted to write: “I wanted to be a writer even when I was a child. Even now, I have retired from University of Lagos –of course I’m still teaching in the Federal University, Ebonyi state –I’m happy that I can still write.”
The famous, multi-talented creative writer and visiting scholar at the Centre for African Studies, University of Bayreuth, Germany, is also planning a novel on Igbo language: “I’m writing the book, because I have always wanted to write in my language. I encourage other writers to do so.”