By PAUL T. LIAM
THE students of the Department of English of the Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida University Lapai, Niger State, will, for a long time, reminisce on their indelible encounter with the distinguished writer and activist, Chuma Nwokolo, who was recently hosted to a special guest author reading by the Dean of the Faculty of Languages and Communication Studies, Professor E.E Sule.
The reading was part of a nationwide tour by the author of The Ghost of Sani Abacha and was tagged, “The House that Fiction Built …” The Science Lecture Theater, venue of the event, was filled to the brim with enthusiastic students. The programme was slated for three thirty pm but commenced at about four –thirty pm, the students did not however appeared to have minded the delay as they waited in high spirits of expectation.
Professor Sule introduced the guest author, and submitted that it was part of the faculty’s programme to periodically host celebrated writers at the university as a way of inspiring and motivating the students to develop their creative writing potentials. He, afterwards, invited Paul Liam to handle the first segment of the programme, which was performanced by students. John Micheal Odeh, Evengeline Ogu and Berje Godiya Patrick were among the students who presented their works, and they were all very well received by the audience. The students’ performances ushered in the guest author’s reading.
Nwokolo commended the students’ presentation and their competence of the English language, unlike in other universities he had been to and had to correct the students’ grammar. He then went on to read from some of his works such as The Diaries of A Dead African, The Ghost of Sani Abacha, HOw to SpEll naijA, One More Tale for The Road etc., his reading of each story was accompanied with such dexterity that held the audience spellbound and yearning for more.
Nwokolo’s baritone voice, unique physic and mannerism were an extra attraction that enthralled the audience. After his very entertaining readings, he entertained questions from the audience. Professor Sule inquired as to the nature of his influences both abroad and at home, and he replied that his sojourn of ten years in the UK only resulted in two stories, adding that his influences had been mainly from his experiences in Nigeria.
Dr Ogunbe Ebenezer, the H.O.D of the English department, wondered why so much trash is published and thrown at the public these days, he lamented the absence of professional editing and formal publishing. To this, Nwokolo posited, “The gatekeeper have broken down. There is no more gatekeeping in the industry. We have lost the gate keepers-publishers, the system is broken down.”
His tour of Niger State was rounded off at another reading at the Hilltop Arts Centre, Minna, on May 28, hosted by the founder of the centre, BM Dzukogi, a former National Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA). It was attended by students of the centre as well as by writers that included Almamum Mallam, Awal Evuti, Abba Abdulkarim, Isyaku Bala Ibrahim, Saddiq M. Dzukogi, Halima Aliyu, Mallam Mahmud, Tunji Oladiran, Deborah Oluniran, Nana Sule, among others.
The event was anchored by Paul Liam and the reading was moderated by Agatha Aduro. The young students of the centre were as thrilled and captivated by Nwokolo’s elegant performances as he was by their innocent fascination of his almightiness, they eagerly filled him with questions which he happily responded to. He told the students that, fiction is a reflection of our reality and urged them to be persistent and work towards improving themselves and their writings.
He was also presented with a portrait of himself produced by the students of the centre, monographs and books written by members of the centre were also presented to him. Nwokolo appreciated their kind gestures towards him and in return he also donated books to the centre.