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I wasn’t born with a silver spoon- DR. OLATOKUNBO AWOLOWO-DOSUNMU

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I wasn’t born with a silver spoon- DR. OLATOKUNBO  AWOLOWO-DOSUNMU
  • ‘I wanted to be a doctor from age 4, Papa (Awo) had no hand in it’

 

Dr. Olatokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu is a medical doctor and the youngest daughter of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. She bared her mind on growing up, decayed health sector while advising women married to great men to emulate her mother’s legacy. She spoke to FLORA ONWUDIWE who was at her home town in Ikenne, Ogun State. Excerpts…

 

You are a naturally beautiful woman and looking young at 71; what is the secret?

 

It is just the grace of God; there’s nothing else whatsoever. I don’t have any beauty routine. It’s just the grace of God. I think it is also genetic. If you saw Papa and Mama even in old age, they both looked young. Even Mama at the age 99 didn’t look too bad. Ultimately, it is the grace of God.

 

What would you wish for at your age?

 

Nothing more than I am now; peace of mind, good children, a good life, comfort, peace, just generally feeling at peace with where I am. What would you consider as your biggest regret in life? None whatsoever, not a single one.

 

You are the fifth of five children, what was your growing up like?

 

It was very interesting. Being the last child, of course, everybody dotted on me. I enjoyed favours from my parents, from their friends and family. It was good growing up.

 

Who influenced your life more between Papa and Mama?

 

That is impossible to determine although Mama was the one that interfaced constantly every day; she was there.

 

Although, she had her business, her shop was on the premises of the house, initially, and then she moved to Gbagi much later. But she was the one we saw constantly. But Papa was also a presence that was there. Mama always reminded us of Papa, what he wanted and what he liked.

 

She always talked about him. So, we knew what he wanted and what he didn’t like. The few times that we got to spend with Papa, he made them count, they were very memorable times with him. Of course, we always heard about Papa in the house and in the news.

 

He was what he really stood for, his integrity.

 

Could you share any memorable experience while growing up?

 

They are so many, whether birthdays or other memorable occasions; generally, just sitting down chatting with Papa were good times.

 

So, it would be correct to say that you were born with a silver spoon?

 

 

I don’t know about that; I wasn’t aware.

 

You see this is the trouble, people look at those in office today and think that that was what it was like. It wasn’t like that in Papa’s days. They were just doing a job and that was what they were doing.

 

Like I told you Papa’s income took a hit but we thank God that Mama was working, that was why it didn’t show.

 

She never went to government house. The only time she went to government house was when the trouble started in 1962 in Bell Avenue. Even when he was Federal Commissioner of Finance, he rented a house in Surulere that he lived in; he always rode in his car.

 

So, there was nothing spectacular at all about that, he didn’t have excess money, he didn’t send us abroad.

 

When my sister and I went to the United Kingdom, that was during the crisis, it was because it was too distracting for us here.

 

He decided that Mama should send us away. It was only because he knew mama could afford it because he had nothing; that was how we went abroad.

 

So, I don’t know about silver spoon. So, there was nothing spectacular about us at all.

 

But that is how the society looks at the family?

 

That is because that is what they see now   long time now. But reading it now, of course, it evokes all sort of memories.

 

During your school days, you were driven in the best cars, attached with security…

 

Absolutely not. Papa had his own car that took him to work, then there was a back-up car. I think it belonged to Mama. That is the one that took us to school, if it was available and brought us back, if it was available.

 

If it wasn’t we walked, yes we walked to school and walked back home. And it was quite far like my primary school was in Molete and we lived in Okebola in Ibadan. So that was quite a distance in the hot sun. And the ground was always hot, those crisp soles of shoes conducted heat very severely. Your feet got really hot from walking. But we thank God in those days there were no kidnappers,n there was no worry about safety or security, so we did that safely.

 

Did your mother allow her children to do domestic chores or the housemaids were there to assist all the time?

 

Yes, there were plenty of them; we were encouraged to tidy up our rooms first of all and to do little things in the house. We didn’t cook in the house but we went to secondary school where you had to cook.

 

What was the relationship between you and your classmates; were you selective and only interacted with mates whose fathers were almost of the same status as your father?

 

First of all, I didn’t even believe that my father had a special status. I did not know. I am telling you seriously, I was not aware. Secondly, the kids were all children of ordinary people.

 

We went to ordinary schools. I went UMC demonstration school, they were like those government schools. There was no class distinction and there were no classes anyway. Even the children of the other ministers went to the same school.

 

The Attorney General’s son went to local government school, that was where he went to primary school and he still maintains some of his friends and some of them are in Abuja.

 

We were taught that human beings were human beings. In that regard we were all the same, we were taught to treat people the same and to see ourselves as the same. We didn’t go to school elites. There was university staff school at a time, we didn’t go there and there were elite schools in Ibadan but we went to ordinary schools.

 

Did the teachers treat you specially?

 

They were never intimidated at all; the teachers were not.

 

 

They just did their job and that was it. They were never made to feel that this is the premier’s child, no, and I have no recollection of that. I only got accolades and recognition on the basis of my school work. If I did well that was when I got it. If

 

I came to school and my hair was untidy, I got punished like every other child. If I did not take care of my uniform I got punished like every other child.

 

 

In those days, the headmistress was a family friend and they were all very down to earth people. So, if you did anything wrong just pray that headmistress left it in school and didn’t report you at home for a second ration. That was the kind of life we lived.

 

Could you recall any instance of a   teacher flogging you?

 

That happened a little bit, not flog, but more of emotional distress. That happened in Saint Ann’s Secondary School. It wasn’t my teacher, she was my older sister’s teacher. She was supposed to teach history or so, but my sister used to tell us stories that every time this lady came to class, she used to pick on her: your father did this, did that, and that was during the crisis; it really became a problem and you know sometimes children can be very cruel too, when the crisis started, we saw some people carrying father’s portrait. We told the principal, she tried to sort it out; these are the lessons we learnt to build our moral fiber and emotional strength in life.

 

 

Your studying medicine, was it a personal decision or a result of Papa’s counseling?

 

 

It was my personal decision. When I was in medical school, this was in 1969, Papa was in government[H1] at and he led the Federal government delegation to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London. While I was there with him, one of his former colonial secretaries, Mr. Wole Brown, came to visit him and he saw me and asked me ‘how are you and what are you doing.’ I said I am in medical school, and he said ‘so you made it. You always wanted to be a doctor since you were this high.’ Apparently, I decided that I wanted to be a doctor since the age of four. You know parents love that kind of thing, and they kind of enforce it all the time. Throughout my schooling I was always better at Arts- English Language and Literature – than Sciences. I could so easily have shifted, but I just made up my mind that I was going to be a doctor and God made it happen.

 

On you return, how does what you met on ground compare to what it is now in the health sector?

 

There was absolutely no comparison; I came back here immediately I qualified. I didn’t stay back to do my house jobs. I came back to Nigeria for my house jobs. That time, Nigerian hospitals, certainly the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, were accredited for full registration with the General Medical Council (GMC), which is the regulatory body for doctors in the UK.

 

That’s where you get your registration, that is where you get your licence to practice. At that time, you could do your house jobs in UCH and be registered fully. If you qualify for medical school, you apply for pre-registration to work as a house officer and when you finish your house jobs, you are fully registered to practice medicine. Based on that as soon as I finished my house jobs in the UCH, I was free to go back to the UK and work because I was also fully registered in the UK. That is no longer the case now, it has not been the case for many, many years. If you qualify in Nigeria and finish your house job in Nigeria, you still have to go and take tests in the UK in other to be deem fit to practice medicine in the UK. So that is one major difference.

 

Then you have the condition of the facilities that were available to work with, now they have all sorts of equipment and all the time there is one problem or the other and the conditions for teaching medicine here are quite different.

 

When I first qualified those were the days, when Saudi Princess came to Nigeria for medical treatment at UCH, but now the movement is in the other way. So, most of the doctors vote with their feet, that is they leave. Of course, abroad they call them highly skilled migrant workers.

 

They are looking for doctors and nurses and other kinds of medical professionals, so if you belong to those professions and you pass the test you will have the red carpet and you are good to go.

 

There are so many Nigerian doctors now in the UK not to talk of the U.S. and everywhere you can imagine in the world, you find Nigerian doctors. I went to Botswana and the medical practice that was there and talked about and trusted was owned by a Nigerian doctor; that was 1995. And they are doing very well, they have a good life, the kinds of things that make life meaningful for any individual they can have over there.

 

The opportunities are there as long as you know your job, work hard and sky is the limit. I met one when I was practicing in the UK cardiovascular surgeon and he was trained at the University of Ilorin.

 

He was referred to as a miracle worker because the most difficult cases were usually referred to him. Of course, he did very well, financially. I think he has relocated to Canada now. He is doing very well, so rather than coming home, he relocated to Canada. So, the conditions are completely not the same at all.

 

When I qualified, I couldn’t wait to get back to Nigeria. As a matter of fact, I came back by boat; there was still boat travelling between UK and Nigeria like two weeks intervals; it was like cruise that was what I came back on.

 

On a boat to Nigeria?

 

Oh yes, two weeks, it was lovely, MV Orion and we stopped at Las Palmas, different places. I had my ticket when I was studying and any time I felt like sleeping or leaving my desk, I would put it right in front of my desk, looked at the ticket in front of me and said to myself ‘I am on that boat.’ So that energized me to continue my studies. I could not wait to get back to Nigeria. These days people who study here can’t wait to get out.

 

What advantage do couples of same professions have over couples of different fields?

 

 

A total understanding of what the job entails. If you are a doctor and your husband is a doctor, you have to go for call duties. Weekend calls, calls during Christmas, calls during family events that you can’t go. Of course, the understanding will be there that this is what it is. Well somebody from a different profession will understanding, but not fully.

 

You are a medical doctor and married to doctor; most times you discuss patient, does it not make your marriage boring?

 

Not always. It gets boring but we can talk about cases, may be difficult cases, interesting cases, we learn from each other and that is good. But then we talk about other things as well. How did you meet your husband?

 

I knew him when we were in Nigeria, his father was the administrative secretary of the Action Group and he was my brother’s friend. And when I was in Bristol, he also came there and that was it.

 

 

You said Christ visited you at the age 45. How?

 

I gave my life to Christ. I was born into a Christian home. I was baptized when I was a few weeks old. You know how it is, you don’t really know what it is all about until something happens and then you do understand; that‘s what happened to me. I was at Full Gospel Christian Business Fellowship Breakfast, Lagos. I don’t know why but it was on that situation, that’s what happened.

 

What would you say you took from Mama that helped you in marriage?

 

Calmness of spirit, it helps me in life generally. She was calm, she didn’t lose her temper. She didn’t pick quarrels with people; those were the lessons I learnt from her. Her industry, her willingness to support the family, she was always there, her discipline. Even when Papa was angry, she was always quiet, those were the lessons I took from her.

 

You named a foundation after Mama; what legacy did she leave behind that you are propagating?

 

 

In her own right she was a leader; yes she was a political leader. She was a fantastic helper for Papa while in office. She never encouraged him to compromise his integrity and she supported him. For example, if he was tired or he was busy, and there were people coming, she was able to take meetings and talk to them and douse whatever it was that was the situation. She was a leader in her own right. She understood what her husband was all about and she was a role model to women everywhere. Just life generally, her character, her relationship with her husband, the fact that she demonstrated very clearly that you don’t have to lock a woman up, that women do have a role to play even as spouses of great men or in their own right. She went out to campaign, she stood in for the Federal House of Representatives election in 1964 or 1965. They boycotted the elections, it was a pity, but she took Papa’s place and was leading the Action Group (AG) into the elections. In her own right she was a political leader, she showed what women can do. Her fortitude in the face of a whole lot of trouble is what was most remarkable about her. She didn’t question her husband’s life mission, she never did, she didn’t say why all these troubles, I am tired, I have had enough of this. Never, it was always you want to do this, what do you want me to do? Where do you want me to go? And after the travails were over, in the Second Republic, Papa came out again; most women would say politics again, she was out there with him. She was always identified with his life mission.

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Arts & Entertainments

‘Comedian Broda Shaggi now Otedola’s son-in-law’

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‘Comedian Broda Shaggi now Otedola’s son-in-law’

Comedian Brodashaggi is now the son-in-law of billionaire Femi Otedola, after he commented on a viral video in which DJ Cuppy appears to kiss the comedian.

“My son-in-law”, Femi Otedola commented, obviously jokingly, amidst the thousands of retweets and comments the video has generated.

In her own post of the video, DJ Cuppy tantalisingly wrote: Dreams do come through, breaking her comment with a kissing emoji and then adding: congrats to Brodashaggi.

Brodashaggi, real name Samuel Perry, must have been in a dreamworld for landing a kiss with Cuppy as the video shows him collapsing afterwards.

He wrote: “FINALLY, I kissed Dj Coppied (Sic)”.

On Brodashaggi’s Instagram account, the post had garnered in less than 24 hours over 700,000 views. It is also trending on YouTube, with over 300,000 views on Wednesday morning.

This viral video has also ignited the dreams of many other Nigerian who also wished on Twitter to kiss DJ Cuppy, reports the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

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Literature

Why Spoken Word performance should be kept alive, by Onuoha

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Why Spoken Word performance should be kept alive, by Onuoha

T

heatre enthusiasts, artistes, critics and others that attended the Lagos Fringe Festival 2019, and had the opportunity to watch the stage presentation of Nwa Chukwu, a spoken word performance by Ndukwe Onuoha, featuring Maka and Tonie The Emperor, cannot but note with nostalgia, the sheer brilliance and rich theatrical resonance.   

 

The Lagos Fringe Festival is an open access multidisciplinary arts festival for producers, culture advocates, exhibitors and performers to showcase their work, either existing or new work to a diverse audience consisting of local and international audiences, venue owners, curators and arts buyers.

 

The six-day Lagos Fringe Festival 2019, organised in partnership with Multichoice Nigeria, British Council Nigeria, Freedom Park and the Alliance Francaise, took place on 19th to 24th November, 2019, at various venues across the city of Lagos.

 

It thus afforded teeming theatre enthusiasts opportunity to rich and engaging spoken word performances as well as dozens of other theatrical presentations. Indeed, spoken word performance has continued to assert its relevance and place in live theatre, just as it continues to thrill, provoke discourse and inspires audiences across the country.

 

The piece, Nwa Chukwu, is a stage adaptation of Onuoha’s Spoken Word album, titled Nwa Chukwu. Onuoha fuses a unique conversational delivery with traditional instrumentation to convey “poetry that is accessible, relatable and at once punchy”.

 

Born and raised in Aba, Abia State, Nigeria, Onuaha studied History and International Relations at Abia State University, but has worked in advertising ever since.  For him, poetry, a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings, is an important tool for keeping social issues on the front burner of society.

 

“Spoken word performance is a very important tool for keeping social issues on the front burner of society, and should be kept alive by all means.

“I fuse a unique conversational delivery with traditional instrumentation to deliver poetry that is accessible, relatable and at once punchy. I’m an incurable ad man, and an award-winning copywriter and Creative Director of 7even Interactive, a fast-rising advertising agency in Lagos, Nigeria.

 

Nwa Chukwu: Spoken word performance, he says, was inspired by the need to start a conversation about identity. “More and more, we see many young Nigerians shirk their identity in favour of Western ideals.  So I wanted to start a conversation about identity and what it means to be Nigerian.”

 

According to him, the presentation at the Lagos Fringe Festival was the first of many performances. “This is my first theatre production, so I had to learn as we went along.

 

Poems for Nwa Chukwu were written and performed by Ndukwe Onuoha, featuring Maka and Tonie The Emperor.

 

 

The performance was directed by Ndukwe Onuoha and Tonie The Emperor, and produced by Tonie The Emperor. 

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Arts & Entertainments

ZMirage CEO, Teju Kareem bags Honourary Doctorate in Benin Republic

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ZMirage CEO, Teju Kareem bags Honourary Doctorate in Benin Republic

F

or his years of committed and selfless service to the creative industry sector of the Republic of Benin, Nigerian artiste, theatre technician and businessman, Teju Kareem, was on Wednesday, honored in Porto Novo, the Republic’s prime cultural city. Alongside eight other recipients, the Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer of ZMirage Multimedia Company, was conferred with a Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) in Public Administration by the EDEXCEL University, based in Ifangni town, a few kilometers from the Nigeria-Benin border.

 

In the letter of nomination, the Council of the university said the popular theatre technician and scenographer was considered worthy of the award because of his “relentless service to the good of the people of the Republic.”

 

The ceremony was held Wednesday, December 4, in the course of the school’s 2019 Matriculation,Convocation & Honorary Award Programme at the Palace Bayol (Cultural Centre) of the city of Porto Novo; and was witnessed by about 300 people, including eminent guests in the academic circles of both Benin and Nigeria; and parents and guardians of some of the graduating and  matriculating students.

 

 

Past recipients of the award include: His Royal Highness Alhaji (Dr.) Sule Gambari, Emir of Ilorin and Chancellor Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka Anambra State (2008); His Excellency Ibhahim Shekarau, former governor of Kano state, 2008;  and His Excellency, Alhaji Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi, former governor of Zamfara State, 2010, among others. President and Chancellor of the university, Professor Emmanuel Odeh Ogbeh, urged Kareem to continue with his “selfless service to the cause of humanity; and urged the students to emulate such virtues of service.

 

He stressed that the university’s motto remains “Education for Innovation and Self-Reliance as this is the only way Africa can liberate itself from its many challenges. The school, he said, is affiliated to over 40 institutions of higher learning “to ensure quality assurance”. Founded in Nigeria in 2009 as the Institute of Business Technology Management of Nigeria, the school relocated and was upgraded to a full university status in Benin Republic in April 2014.

 

Among the contributions cited in his name were: technical direction of the visit of Pope Francis to the Republic in 2011, which was considered groundbreaking; Technical Producer SICA and CIOFF (International Council of Organisations of Folklore Festival and Folk Arts), Cotonou 2012; Technical producer Miss Benin; Technical Producer Miss Malaika Benin Republic, which changed the character of such showbiz event in the republic – it was adjudged the best of such an event in the history of the country; Director General International of Igbale Aiye, a UNESCO heritage site; coordination of the campaign and eventual investiture of then President Boni Yayi in 2013, said to be an experiential event that is yet to be equaled; the staging of the Miss Malaika Beauty Pageant.

 

Present at the investiture were Doctor Bonny Botoku, CEO Multiple Vision Nigeria Limited and

 

Secretary/Translator Benin-Nigeria Interborder Relations, who is also convener of the yearly African

Integration Festival; Mr. Oladipo Okeowo, CEO Oaklandit ventures, and Mr. Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo, culture curator and communicator and former editor of The Guardian on Sunday.

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Arts & Entertainments

11th Ben Enwonwu Lecture: Art as instrument for peace, conflict resolution

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11th Ben Enwonwu Lecture: Art as  instrument for peace, conflict resolution

T

he place of art as an instrument for peace, conflict resolution and socio-economic transformation is the focus of 11th Distinguished Ben Enwonwu Annual Lecture scheduled to hold tomorrow in Lagos.

 

 

Instituted in 2004 by Ben Enwonwu Foundation (BEF) to immortalise Prof. Ben Enwonwu’s unequaled contributions to the growth of art in Africa and the world, the distinguished lecture series offers an opportunity for national and international leaders, renowned academics, policy makers and the rich diversity of contemporary Nigerian society to share their understanding and perspectives on the role of art in causing desirable societal changes including the upholding of cultural identity and relations, human rights/social justice and economic empowerment for nation building.

 

 

On October 5, 1966, a copy of Ben Enwonwu’s critically acclaimed work, ‘Anyanwu’ (1954-55) was gifted by the Nigerian government to the United Nations (UN) in promoting world peace. Standing gracefully at the lobby of the UN’s headquarters in New York, ‘Anyanwu’ symbolises an emergent African continent with many of her countries gaining independence. Other works by the artist advocating for peace, conflict resolution and societal transformation include the series ‘Children of Biafra’ (1968-72) and ‘Storm over Biafra’ (1972), which chart Enwonwu’s anguish over the Nigerian civil war.

 

 

According to the organisers, against this background, the 11th Distinguished Ben Enwonwu Lecture, which will hold at Agip Hall, MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos, aims to promote peace and conflict resolution by creating social transformation and change.

 

 

“The lecture will seek to also address systemic oppression, such as racism, colonialism, sexism, religious fanaticism, violent extremism, and relations in mainstream institutions and practices.

 

 

It is hoped that the lecture will spark a shift in our collective consciousness, resulting in a reinvigorated and revitalised population, restored civic pride and economic prosperity.”

 

 

The guest speaker is Ms. Harriet Thompson, The Deputy British High Commissioner to Nigeria.

 

 

The Ben Enwonwu Foundation (BEF) was established in 2003 in honour of celebrated Nigerian artist, Prof. Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu MBE, NNOM (1917-94). The Foundation aims to sustain and build on his life and works through which he forged a philosophical basis for contemporary Nigerian art by fusing Western techniques and indigenous traditions.

 

 

In 2004, the Foundation started its distinguished lecture series, which has become a major gathering for the rich diversity of contemporary Nigerian society. It offers an opportunity for national and international leaders, renowned academics and policy makers to share their understanding and perspectives on the role of art in causing desirable societal changes while contributing to nation building and economic empowerment.

 

 

“Through scholarships and grants, The Ben Enwonwu Foundation supports research, exhibitions and publications that foster innovative and scholarly artistic expression. Previous beneficiaries of the scheme include students of Yaba College of Technology, Ahmadu Bello University, Obafemi Awolowo University and the University of Lagos.

 

“In furtherance of its objectives, the Foundation opened an art centre in the artist’s home to promote research into his practice. The centre’s year-round educational programme explores Enwonwu’s art practice, the cultural and social context of his work and links to contemporary themes. The centre also houses leading gallery, Omenka, which represents a select number of African and international artists while examining in an experimental and research-minded way, contemporary art developments and discourses in Nigeria,” the foundation stated in a statement.

 

 

It noted that currently, the Foundation is embarking on several projects, which include publishing a catalogue raisonné of Enwonwu’s works, as well as autobiography, lectures and writings on contemporary African art.

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Literature

Birth of a terrible beauty

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Birth of a terrible beauty

Title: dispossessed

Author: James Eze

Published: Fasihi (Daraja Press)

Number of pages: 121

Year of publication: 2019

Reviewer: Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

 

 

 

E

ver since I got a signed copy of James Eze’s debut collection of poetry, ‘dispossessed’, I’ve been possessed! Poetry can be overwhelming at the best of times such that it becomes a benumbing challenge getting the aesthetic distance to engage in a proper intercourse with the text, as per a review.

 

Among the cognoscenti, James Eze had already won pips of high recognition within the comity of poets even without having a title in bound covers to his name. Eze is cast in the mode of the deposition of W. B. Yeats that the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

 

 

In appreciating Eze’s poetry, I will hold to Yeats’ depiction of the Irish revolutionaries of Easter 1916: “A terrible beauty is born.”

 

 

Eze’s dispossessed bears the subtitle “poetry of innocence, transgression and atonement”, and incidentally, the entire collection is divided into three parts, namely, “innocence” (21 poems), “transgression” (31 poems) and “atonement” (24 poems). The poet’s delineation of the three stages, not unlike Sigmund Freud’s Id, Ego and Super-Ego, runs thus: “In innocence, we encounter the poet in the early stages of his artistic development… transgression presents the poet at a very delicate stage in his emotional and creative development… In atonement, we meet the poet at the end of his journey … a frantic attempt to engage the world, not on anyone’s terms but his own.”

 

 

Eze sums up his odyssey this way: “dispossessed is therefore a journey that begins with laughter and blissful innocence but ends with heartache and a blinking back of tears.”

 

 

For me, there is a seamless blend of the three sections because the poet at no time encounters the atrophy of vision that undermines the work of stereotypical poets. The passionate flow of Eze’s métier seeps into the pores ceaselessly without any breaks whatsoever.

 

 

Like the great American avant-garde poet ee cummings, James Eze renders his poetry in lower case. The only other Nigerian poet of my knowledge who has this style is amu nnadi.

 

 

It’s remarkable that on the cover of dispossessed the author’s name is given just as James Eze while inside the book we are given the larger bona-fide of James Ngwu Eze. The poet does the formal introduction of himself in the second poem in the collection “i am”:

 

 

i am ngwu

 

 

nwa nkpozi eze

 

striving for self-definition

 

The poet’s forte in defining himself actually manifested earlier in the very first poem of the collection “petals & buds”:

 

for i am the missing lobe of poetry’s kolanut the fearless chest that absorbs the anger of razor blades i surrender my anvil at the crossroads and unscrew the cork of my silence

 

Eze then situates himself as somewhat appearing late within the ambit of world poetry, but the company he keeps is quite intimidating as can be seen from the poem “here i come”:

here i come

to the great feast of words

the late bloomer;

i come when the table is set

dinner is redolent with

the fragrance of great chefs:

okigbo, neruda, eliot, pound, yeats…

A poet bearing the bounties of Christopher Okigbo, Pablo Neruda, TS Eliot, Ezra Pound and W.B. Yeats perforce demands uncommon attention from the very beginning. Eze is in no doubts whatsoever as per the demands of his poetic calling espoused in “here i am”:

here I am

prophet, priest and pilgrim

Amid his plough of the dead poets’ society, Eze is very unafraid to challenge the masters, for instance, frontally disagreeing in his poem “april” with Eliot:

april is not ‘the cruelest month’

i beg to differ, sir

Eliot had depicted April as “the cruelest month” in his masterpiece The Waste Land. April ought to stand out as the beginning of summer and therefore a month of joy but for the “wastelanders” of Eliot’s iconic poem that eternally wallow in torpor the appearance of light only means the cruelty of work.

Eze is different, stressing that “i bless God that I am a child of april”, and concludes floridly thus:

i came, swaddled in april haze

i’m the reason why the sun kissed the rain under the mistletoe

the silent flame under the bushel

waiting for a gust of wind to blaze

A major influence that Eze is beholden to is of course Okigbo, like many other modern day Nigerian poets. Little wonder there is the poem entitled “idoto” in the collection while poems such as “a fistful of kolanuts” and “elegy of the weaverbird” are dedicated to the Ojoto-born poet killed in the Biafra war.

In the same manner that I see Bob Marley at equal range as a political singer and a belter of soulful love songs, I cannot see any separation whatsoever from Eze the love poet and Eze the poet of politics.

Eze is proud of his Igbo heritage, and the Biafra war is a subject very dear to his heart. He would not bend the knee to the modern scheme of, for instance, seeing the late Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa as a saint, for he writes in “re: epitaph for Biafra”:

you let the plume of  smoke dull your sense of justice

you shut the door on right and chose wrong

and that is why you are not my hero

True heroism for Eze can be found in the courageous 1803 revolt by 75 Igbo slaves in Dunbar Creek, Georgia which he celebrates in “the igbo landing”:

In what moulds were you forged, brave ancestors

You who threw a finger in the eye of cruelty

And spat in the face of slavery?

The title poem “dispossessed” is crucially the longest in the collection and somehow encapsulates the poet’s love-hate relationship with the existing order:

when injustice is buried in a shallow grave

we await the resurrection of dry bones

The headstrong critic in me, however, queries why in his “introduction” to dispossessed the poet writes that the third section, “atonement”, has as its “opening poem, ‘the poets’ republic’” only for the poem to somehow appear as the second poem in the section, after “a fistful of kolanuts” dedicated to Christopher Okigbo! And why does one poem in the collection, “i ask of You” (pg52), have a capital “Y”?

Well, as I wrote from the very beginning, James Eze’s dispossessed left me possessed, that is, it dispossessed of my faculties. Eze’s collection had an unhinging effect on me in very profound ways, thus rendering me quite possessed by a benevolent spirit that I initially thought was an evil one! I was mad with poetical-mental beneficence forged on the anvil of Eze’s word-smithy.

In my book, dispossessed by James Eze ranks amongst the best collections of poetry anywhere across the globe.

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Not again! Steve Harvey accused of naming wrong Miss Universe costume contest winner

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Not again! Steve Harvey accused of naming wrong Miss Universe costume contest winner

Steve Harvey’s Miss Universe ghosts came back to haunt him.

The 62-year-old host, who famously named the wrong winner at the Miss Universe pageant in 2015, was accused of flubbing contest results Sunday — but he was later cleared.

“Earlier this week, all the contestants competed in a National Costume contest. Here’s the look at the winner, Miss Philippines,” he said during this year’s contest in Atlanta, according to USA Today.

“It’s not Philippines. It’s Malaysia,” Miss Universe Malaysia Shweta Sekhon firmly told the host while standing beside him on stage.

Flustered, Harvey blamed the teleprompter, reports the New York Post.

“Let me explain something to you. I just read that in the teleprompter. Ya’ll got to quit doing this to me. I can read,” he said.

“Now, they are trying to fix it now. See? This is what they did to me back in 2015 — played me short like that.”

Earlier in the show, Harvey joked about his 2015 mistake, when he named Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo, as the night’s big winner, instead of Miss Philippines, Pia Alonzo Wurzbach.

“I’m hosting again. Fifth time. Can you believe it? I can’t,” he said. “Ya’ll never really did let go of that Miss Colombia thing… I survived it all. When you fall, get up.”

“Colombia has gotten over that, too. They’ve forgiven me. Well, not all of them. The cartel is still trippin’ a little bit,” he quipped.

When he announced Miss Colombia Gabriela Tafur Náder was making it into the top 20, she teased him, asking if he was sure he read the results correctly.

But the contest later revealed Harvey was right all along.

“Miss Universe Philippines Gazini Ganados is the winner of the Miss Universe 2019 National Costume competition,” a rep for the competition said.

“As part of the broadcast, we also featured Miss Universe Malaysia Shweta Sekhon’s national costume. Miss Sekhon wasn’t aware we’d be announcing Philippines first, so she jumped the gun when Mr. Harvey started with that news. Mr. Harvey made a joke of it so as not to embarrass her, but no mistakes regarding the national costume winner were made by him, the prompter or production.”

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Miss South Africa wins 2019 Miss Universe

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Miss South Africa wins 2019 Miss Universe

Miss South Africa, Zozibini Tunzi has been crowned the new Miss Universe 2019.

At Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia were the the pageant took place Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray of the Philippines crowned Zozibini Tunzi the Miss Universe 2019

Before she was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday night Zozibini Tunzi the 2019 Miss Universe said: “I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me — with my kind of skin and my kind of hair — was never considered to be beautiful,”

“I think it is time that that stops today. I want children to look at me and see my face and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine.”

Steve Harvey was the host of the pageant for the fifth time sporting a bedazzled green and gold suit jacket.

He was commenting on a costume from earlier in week and said Miss Philippines won the National Costume Contest. But the woman standing next to him said she was Miss Malaysia.”Y’all got to quit doing this to me,” he said.

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Man, who played Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street, dies at 85

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Man, who played Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street, dies at 85

The longtime puppeteer behind beloved Sesame Street characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Caroll Spinney, has died at age 85, the Sesame Street Workshop announced in a statement.

 

Spinney spent five decades with Sesame Street, working with legendary puppeteer Jim Henson at the start of his career, reports ABC News.

 

“Caroll Spinney gave something truly special to the world. With deepest admiration, Sesame Workshop is proud to carry his memory – and his beloved characters – into the future,” the workshop announced in a statement. “Our hearts go out to Caroll’s beloved wife, Debra, and all of his children and grandchildren.”

 

While Spinney himself may not have had the widespread recognition of his characters, his portrayal of the 8-foot yellow bird and trash can-dwelling Oscar, skyrocketed both characters to global fame. Big Bird has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, his likeness on a U.S. postage stamp and was named a “Living Legend” in 2000 by the Library of Congress.

 

In a 2015 interview on the website Reddit, Spinney recalled one of his most meaningful interactions with a child. He said he had received a letter asking him to call a 5-year-old boy named Joey who was “so ill, the little boy knew he was dying,” Spinney said in the interview.

 

“He said the only thing that cheered him at all in his fading state was to see Big Bird on television,” Spinney said of the man who had written to him.
When he called and spoke to the child as Big Bird, their conversation lasted for about ten minutes.

 

“He said, ‘Thank you for calling me, Big Bird. You’re my friend. You make me happy,'” Spinney recalled. The child died months after the call.

 

“Caroll Spinney’s contributions to Sesame Street are countless. He not only gave us Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, he gave so much of himself as well. We at Sesame Workshop mourn his passing and feel an immense gratitude for all he has given to Sesame Street and to children around the world,” said Sesame Street co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney in a statement.

 

Spinney, who retired from Sesame Street in 2018, had been living with Dystonia — a chronic disorder that makes muscles contract abnormally — for some time and died at his home in Connecticut. He leaves behind his wife Debra, children and grandchildren.

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Chicago rapper Juice WRLD dies at 21

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Chicago rapper Juice WRLD dies at 21

Rising Chicago-area rapper Jarad Anthony Higgins, known by his stage name Juice WRLD, died Sunday morning, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed to NBC News.

Higgins hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chartearlier this year with this studio album “Death Race for Love.” The 21-year-old artist was signed to Interscope Records and was considered at the forefront of the emo rap scene.

The cause of death is unknown. Police say Higgins “suffered a medical emergency” early Sunday morning while at Midway Airport in Chicago, NBC Chicago reports.

TMZ reported Higgins had a seizure after a flight from California, although this has not been independently verified by NBC News.

The Chicago-area native released a collaborative album in 2018 with Future before releasing his debut record entitled “Goodbye & Good Riddance.”

The album title began trending on Twitter shortly after TMZ first reported the news of his death.

Higgins once rapped about the short lives of artists in his single “Legends,” where he said he didn’t want to be known as a legend because “all the legends seem to die out.”

“We keep on losing our legends to the cruel cold world,” the lyrics said. “What is it coming to?”

Another lyric from the song, “What’s the 27 Club? We ain’t making it past 21,” also made the rounds on social media as fans mourned.

Higgins grew up in the Calumet Park neighborhood of Cook County learning different instruments, including piano and guitar, before turning to freestyle rap in high school, according to his YouTube biography. His work was featured on the “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” movie soundtrack and the BTS: World mobile game soundtrack.

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At Quramo we continue to collaborate and innovate – Shasore

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At Quramo we continue to collaborate and innovate – Shasore

Mrs. Gbemi Shasore is Executive Publisher at Quramo. She is the moving spirit behind Quramo’s book publishing business, producer of Quramo’s ground breaking documentary about the creation of Nigeria as well as convener of the annual Quramo Writers prize which is now in its 3rd year. In this interview with a group of editors, she talks about the prize, the expansion of the finale into a three-day long Quramo Festival of Words (QFest) and many other sundry issues. Excerpts

 

On Sunday December 15, 2019, the 3rd Quramo Writer’s Prize (QWP) winner will be unveiled, how does this make you feel?

 

I feel very proud of what we have accomplished and the spotlight that we have put on literature, literacy and the arts culture in Nigeria. It is a big task, and one that would have been difficult to do alone. Over the years, we have made some rewarding connections and collaborations with many creatives in the industry and I know that this award will go even further to cementing its place in our popular and literary culture.

 

The Quramo Writer’s prize has remained true to its vision, as an avenue for discovering unpublished authors. Will this change in the future? I think that is a unique aspect of this Prize, and while I don’t see this necessarily changing in the future, I definitely think that the standard and quality of writing of the unpublished works we receive will grow so much that it wouldn’t matter that they are ‘unknown’.

 

 

The QWP prize is worth N1m with the possibility of a publishing contract.

 

A million naira can seem like a lot of money for a budding author?

 

The Prize money serves as a form of Writers’ advance, which again, is not common practice in the Nigerian publishing industry, because the book market is so unpredictable and there is an inherent risk in publishing a book because it might not sell well. We give this advance also as a retainer because making a good book takes time, up to a year, so in that regard, the writer is compensated for their time as they work on the book and do other things.

 

 

Your judges for this year are Toni Kan, Molara Wood and A. Igoni Barrett.

 

How independent are they?

 

 

We believe in a transparent judging process, so our judges are independent, however, we oversee the process to ensure that our vision for the Prize and the winner is ultimately met.

 

We have seen many prizes take off and then fizzle out.

What are the plans to keep this prize sustainable into the future?

 

 

It is impossible to predict the future, but I will say that we are very committed to this platform.

 

It is not something we are dabbling in but a strong pillar of our company’s vision. We hope to continue to succeed by strengthening our networks and partnerships and being as innovative as the environment might require.

 

Samuel Monye’s book was launched at the 2018 event.

 

Is another launch set for this year?

 

 

We have a series of book readings, talks and panel discussions planned that will improve on the previous year’s format.

 

 

This year’s unveil has been expanded into a 3 day Quramo Festival of Words aka Qfest. Run us through the line up?

 

There will be book readings with amazing authors, Masterclasses with some of our most brilliant minds, conversations with notable personalities, panel discussions around publishing and documentaries as edutainment, an open mic night, film screenings, the unveil of the Quramo Writers’ Prize, books at our QBook Café and, a collaboration with an IDP camp where we get to put some faces to the people who have had harrowing experiences and now recovering from the insurgency.

 

 

From publishing to documentaries and now a 3 day fledge festival.

 

What other surprises should we expect?

 

 

We are always innovating and creating and trying to come up with new things, so watch this space! You are also a writer and playwright? Where do all these come from and how do you find the time? As a little girl, I loved to partake in theatre and dance productions.

 

When I went to school in America, I took part in an African stage production of Ola Rotimi’s The Gods Are Not To Blame and I auditioned for the role. I have always loved to be involved in acting and stage productions and I think I have found my calling. I have written two books, In Her Own Right about Abimbola Fashola’s time as first lady and an upcoming book for young adults about the history of Nigerian money. I also produced three stage plays over the years and a documentary.

 

Because I am passionate about this, and it is my calling, I make the time.

 

Last year’s award ceremony was a celebration of the arts with books and music and drama. What do we expect this year?

 

Very much the same, we have created an exciting and concise Award ceremony and we are happy with the way it works out, but we always try to come up with a few surprises

 

Finally, what book did you read last and why?

 

I re-read Possessed and APOG, both by my husband this year, as a way to reconnect with the story, especially with the release of the documentary earlier this year.

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