Writer colleagues of the late writer, who spoke to The Sun Literary Review lamented the exit of the iconic writer and also extolled his literary grandeur.
“JP Clark has been one of the big four, the quartet, that gave Nigeria to the world as a land of literature. With his friends, Christopher Okigbo, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, he stood as a pathfinder for literary creativity, making Nigeria the envy of other Africans and the world. He never abandoned his post as a writer. He was always producing, in good and bad times. No season passed without a new play or collection of poems coming from him. His loyalty to literature as a vocation has been quite phenomenal.
“Although quite self-effacing, he was also quite a prime mover and activist. He was the other friend who went with Christopher Okigbo to bring Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna back home from Ghana to face the music after the failure of the January 15, 1966 coup. He organised his other colleagues, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, to meet General Babangida to plead mercy for Major General Mamman Vatsa, after the aborted coup for which the latter was executed. JP Clark was a poet and dramatist who never allowed himself to be distracted from his chosen vocation.
“He let his poetry and plays speak for him. He was quite an exemplar in this regard, deserving every accolade from a worshipful younger generation. He treated critics and admirers with magisterial distancing. As one of his well known critics, I am obliged to report that he was generally a very civil elder who did not over demonstrate his likes and dislikes. He was a balanced Homer who did justice to his Ijaw roots and Niger Delta provenance. A very unapologetic Nigerian, he wished, in his own way,j for true justice for every citizen.
“All his life, he enjoyed a special halo as a writer. He received the National Merit Award as proof of the respect of his colleagues. It makes it simply insignificant that he was not given a National Honour. JP Clark will always be remembered for taking poetry very seriously and making it a mark of distinction for anyone to be addressed as a poet. Even in these times of the pandemic, he deserves a truly festive sendoff. May his soul rest in perfect peace.”
Professor Hope Eghagha: “
With his exit, we mourn the loss of one of the progenitors of African literature whose works, though situated in the aquatic world of his Izon people, paint the human experience in its entirety. We shall miss his fatherly figure in the Dept of English Unilag.”
Professor Akachi Ezeigbo:
“It is painful, but we remember him with love. At the University of Lagos, he was such an inspiration to those of us who were aspiring writers at that time and those of us who were doing our postgraduate studies.
“He taught me as an undergraduate, so I have really benefited from his tutelage. He was a mentor to many of us at Unilag, and we have continued to remember him and teach his books. He was a good writer, one of the best in Nigeria and one of the best known in Africa, too. “So Nigeria has lost a literary icon. He will never be forgotten, and I hope his home state, Delta, and Nigeria should keep his legacy and name one or two places after him for him to be remembered. It’s the same thing I say about late Chinua Achebe: they are the ones who make Nigerian literature what it is today.”
“The passing of the 85-year-old internationally acclaimed poet and playwright is, no doubt, an immeasurable loss to the Nigerian literati and the country at large; and that has once again sadly depleted the irokos in Nigerian literature.
“The Association of Nigerian Authors will forever remember J.P Clark’s deeply humanistic initiative and comradely thrust when he rallied the two other legs to the Nigerian literary tripod (Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka) to save (though eventual unsuccessful) the soldier-poet and foremost benefactor to ANA, Mamman Vatsa, from the clutch of death in the hands of the then General Ibrahim Babangida’s military regime.
“Particularly, the ace writer will be remembered for his evocative and incandescent lyricism. Nigerians everywhere should, therefore, arise and celebrate literature and its incarnation in the form of the late inimitable and evergreen African writer, given that Nigeria stands tall today in the eyes of the international community because of the collective endeavours of path-finding literary craftsmen like J P Clark.
“May the Almighty God grant the departed literary forebear eternal rest and solace to his immediate family and the larger Nigerian literary community. “