Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The remains of the literary icon, Dr. Gabriel Okara, was yesterday laid to rest in his Bomoundi, Yenagoa home, in Bayelsa, in a ceremony witnessed by the late writer’s friends, colleagues and government officials.
Okara, first modernist poet of Anglophone Africa, died in March in a Port Harcourt hospital at 98 years old while the final burial rites commenced last Tuesday in Rivers.
Across the federation, prominent Nigerians in academics, politics and literary world, among others, attended the commendation service and burial of literary icon in Yenagoa yesterday.
The burial was attended by Bayelsa State Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson; his Deputy, Rear Admiral John Jonah; President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Mr. Denja Abudullahi, a prominent poet, Prof. John Pepper Clark and a renowned historian, Prof. Ebiegberi Alagoa, among others.
At the church service yesterday, Dickson, who described Okara in glowing terms, announced a donation of N25 million to a foundation dedicated to the memory of the renowned novelist and poet.
Dickson took a swipe at political leaders, especially members of the opposition in the state who did not attend the ceremony, flaying the political class for their inability to identify with the people they seek to govern in times of need.
He expressed displeasure that such group of Bayelsans “are only interested in imposing themselves on the people rather than identify with them,” particularly the passage of such a great literary icon who he said God used to bless the Ijaw nation.
He explained that honouring both the living and the dead had been an essential component of his government since 2012 and expressed regret that they had failed to learn the lessons inherent in the virtues behind this philosophy.
“We are burying and honouring this great man that God gave to us and you will not see them. The only time you see them is when they want to impose themselves on you and I.
“They never learn the lesson that in the last seven years we have been teaching; which is that a society that does not recognise and honour its best, a society that is in perpetual strife and looking for who to blame, pull down and destroy and not upholding and respecting what is good is a doomed society.”
announcing a donation of N25 million on behalf of the state government to the Dr. Gabriel Okara Foundation, Dickson said it would uphold the legacies of the distinguished literary icon.
He added that the Bayelsa State government “will work and partner with you to see how we can be talking about his timeless works and the lessons he taught the world. We will support the foundation so that our stories that Dr. Okara told the world will continue from now till the end of time.”
He expressed gratitude to people from all walks of life that attended the burial, particularly appreciating Prof. Brenda Marie-Osbey who came from the United States to be part of the final burial rites.
Also at the service, Alagoa, a renowned historian, described Okara as an elder brother from whom he learnt a great deal.
In his tributes on behalf the bereaved family, the Secretary to the State Government, Kemela Okara thanked the governor for organising a state burial, in honour of the literary giant and described it as an exceptional farewell to the late writer.
Abudullahi, in his comments, said rather than mourn the passage of Dr Okara people should celebrate his eventful life of prodigious contributions to humanity through literature and public service.