Tony Adibe is the author of the poetry volume, Rich Man Who Cries For the Poor; Secret Letter to Journalists, The Voice of Money, among others. He is the South East Bureau Chief of Daily Trust. He spoke to HENRY AKUBUIRO on his writings.
A new edition of your book, Rich Man Who Cries for The Poor, has just been released. What motivated you to write a poetry book in honour of Chief Arthur Eze?
Sometime in June 2015, I had these incredible flashes of inspiration about the legendary Igbo, nay African icon, Prince Arthur Eze, the Ozo-Igbo-Ndu Global. The inspiration would not let me rest. The inspiration was akin to a seer receiving a message from the spiritual world and such seer can hardly rest until he/she has delivered the message to the intended receiver or individual. Bob Marley once said that one good thing about music was that when it hit you, you would feel no pain! But I must state here that one good thing about poetry is that when the inspiration fills you, you feel restless until you give it a form.
Specifically, I wrote the collection of poetry in honour of the noble Prince Arthur Eze, Eze N’Ukpo, because, after a deep reflection on him and his incredible charity works, which cut across race, tribe, religion, gender and age, I came to the conclusion that no Igbo man, dead or alive, had been able to do the kind of positive things he had been doing with his riches over the years. This is my opinion. and I’m entitled to it.
Recall that there are four notable Arthurs in Igbo land – Arthur Nzeribe, the politician; Arthur Mbanefo, the accountant; Arthur Nwankwo, the author and publisher; and the greatest of them all in terms of charity works and poverty alleviation – Arthur Eze –a man, I think ought to be celebrated. Mind you, all the other Arthurs I listed here are very good and great achievers in their own ways. But, if you are doubting my assessment of Prince Arthur Eze, you might as well doubt the reason why the Enugu State Governor, Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and his Ebonyi State counterpart, Engr. David Umahi just saw the need, as I did, and celebrated Prince Eze recently the way nobody in the southeast zone had done in the past. I’m glad that they have suddenly seen the need to celebrate the great philanthropist when he turned 70 years.
From the tone of the poetry volume, you seem overwhelmed with emotion. Why was it difficult to control your emotion in the cause of writing the poetry?
William Wordsworth described poetry as a spontaneous overflow of strong emotion. So, why should I control my emotion when I am suddenly pouring out the poetic content of my inner-self? Why should I control my emotion when I write about a subject, a hero so dear to humanity? Prof. Wole Soyinka once wrote poetry on Nelson Mandela. I think the work was entitled, Mandela’s Earth. The same Wole Soyinka also wrote poetry on Mohammed Ali, the heavy weight boxing champion. Would you say Soyinka was praise-singing? But then to praise someone who is doing good, and to attack the person, which is better?
In writing poetry, it’s like you are singing a love song. I’m sure you must have fallen in love before. When you are in love with something, that particular thing is in you and you are in it at the same time. That’s the easiest way to allow your thoughts flow along with the subject after your heart. Poetry flows from the bottom of your heart and you must allow it to remain like that. Let the critics and scholars comment but the truth is that you have expressed yourself. You have delivered the divine message that was burning inside you.
You need to read my poems on the late international footballer, Sam Okwaraji; the late theatre director and dramatist, Prof. Ola Rotimi; Marshall Kebby (real name Smart Obike Ebi), who died in June 1995 when he collapsed at the gate of Daily Times Agidingbi, Lagos –he was a Second World War veteran and a popular newspaper columnist at the time; Dele Giwa, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, former governor of Enugu State, Charles Taylor of Liberia, Chris Imodibe and Tayo Awotoshin – the two Nigerian journalists murdered in cold blood by Charles Taylor’s men during the Liberian war, and a host of other poems on people and places. My poetry is not only for the living; I write poems for the dead, too. But I think it’s better to celebrate our people while they are still alive and not when they have joined their ancestors.
What’s your writing routine like, considering you are a practicing journalist with headlines and deadlines to grapple with?
I hardly set out to have writing routine, although I’m a practicing journalist. For sure, one thing I try to avoid is not allowing my book-writing hubby to affect my official job adversely. I hardly allow such thing to happen. But the truth is that, if I set out to research on anything, I could wear a short and T-shirt and then lock up and “bury” myself inside until I am done with the research. When I was residing and working in Lagos, I used to have this Akwa Ibom lady who called me a wizard. She would say, while the rest of the people were sleeping, I would be wild awake, rummaging through piles of newspapers and books; she would say jokingly that only witches and wizards stayed awake in the night. But I tell you something: only a mechanic knows what he is searching for under a vehicle, and only the blacksmith appreciates the value of tiny metals in his workshop. I do not allow my book writing to pose a hitch to my official job. Even when I was working with the old Daily Times, I never allowed my book writing to affect my official duty adversely, because my official job is like the fat cow that produces milk for the family.