Nigerian former President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has urged journalists and writers to lend their creative energy towards promoting justice and equity as a means of building a nation of hope for all.
Dr. Jonathan stated this on Friday in Yenagoa at a ceremony of songs and tributes in honour of late literary icon Dr. Gabriel Imomotimi Okara.
The ex-President in his funeral eulogy described late Okara as the voice of truth and justice and urged Nigerians to follow his example. He said: “Pa Okara represents justice, equality, and truth. I, therefore challenge us to be vanguard of these virtues. To all writers, literary enthusiasts and journalists, and all of us here to celebrate Pa Gabriel Okara, ours is not to sit idle when things are going wrong in our society, we should be the ‘Piano and Drums’ that will beat to our nation, the rhythm of hope and truth.
Jonathan further described Okara as a great treasure and a man of many paths who left behind many legacies.
“The death of a loved one no matter the age and circumstances brings grief to our hearts. Pa Okara was a treasure to many and nobody wants to lose his treasure. He was a man of many paths: a poet, novelist, journalist and of course an exceptional statesman. Through hard work and diligence, he dotted these paths with success marks and legacies for which we are here to attest and testify of his glorious strides.
The former President also noted that Okara was a literary icon who meant different things to different people, adding that he would be remembered for different things.
“Pa Okara means different things to different people, to some he was the first modernist poet of anglophone extraction. To others, he was a cultural ambassador who showcased the folklores of the Ijaws to the rest of the world through his works. Yet others see him as a seasoned administrator with a penchant for innovation. The story of The Tide and Rivers State Television (RSTV) validates their claims. And to some, Gabriel Okara is simply a patriot who prioritized service to his people.”
Commenting on his contacts and interactions with the late sage, Jonathan said: “For me, I recall that in secondary school, I read his poems such as, “Call of the River Nun”, “Piano and Drums” during my literature classes. As an undergraduate, at the University of Port Harcourt, I remember vividly how the management of the School decided to honour him along with two other individuals in a special convocation where he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters Degree. (D.Litt.)”
“In the formative years of Bayelsa State, Pa Okara served as Chairman of the Committee on Recognition and Re-classification of Chieftaincy Stools in 1997. When I was the Governor of Bayelsa State, Okara was an asset to me as he offered wise counsels on different issues.”
Jonathan also spoke on the need to imortalise the late poet, saying: “Life is a journey. In it are many roads, intersections, and stops. All human pass through these different paths. Pa Gabriel Okara also had his feet on the different stops of life and today we are here to share testimonies of how he applied his days unto wisdom and inspired hope and impacted on the lives of the people he came across. When a patriot dies, our task is not just to mourn and eulogise him for the great works he has done. We have a duty to preserve the memories and legacies of the individual by subscribing to his ideas and philosophies, in this, we immortalise the person.”
The former President appreciated the Bayelsa State Government for making it a tradition to honour citizens of the State who have distinguished themselves in one way or the other by naming State owned structures after them while they are still alive.
The Bayelsa State Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson in his tribute to late icon said Pa Okara was beacon of hope to future generation. The Governor promised to build to a mausoleum for Pa Gabriel Okara at the Ijaw heroes memorial park as well as undertake a project at Government College Umahiah the alma matter of Okara to immortalise the late poet.