By Codratus Godson
Award-winning poet, Chijioke Amu-Nnadi, in his capacity as the Resident Poet, is leading the Port Harcourt Literary Society (PHLS) to put pen and not gun in the hands of the youth of the Niger Delta. The poet an organizers who pulled top literary giants across Nigeria to Port Harcourt last weekend said the objective is to show that the Niger Delta is a serious region and not all about noise. The Society said it is using the power of the written word to give a new image through a new narrative to the Niger Delta.
Some of the poets made people to understand that the world is full of poetry. “As humans, we all live with its spirit, which sparkles and brightens our daily lives. From how we talk, write, relate with earth and with one another, and its diverse perspectives, styles and metaphors, poetry comes with a unique beauty that enriches our every being and helps make the world a better place”, speakers said.
The appointment of Chijioke Amu-Nnadi, award-winning poet and author of ‘through the window of a sandcastle’, among many other collections, as the Resident Poet of the Port Harcourt Literary Society ( PHLS), is said to have brought a dose of fresh air to the Port Harcourt literary scene. He is said to be attracting tremendous goodwill, bringing several important artists together to the Society’s scenic premises, bordering the breathtaking views of Pleasure Park and Air Assault Golf Course, around the Air Force area of the once famous Garden City.
From the irrepressible Kudo Eresia-Eke, to the astounding Sam Dede, from Efe Paul Azino to Nengi Ilagha, from Andrew Patience, all the way from Jos, to the amazing Iquo Dianabasi (Symphony of Becoming, longlisted for the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2013), the Society is playing host to hundreds of young and old, budding and established writers who find sudden vent to their poetic craft.
Every month, the Society hosts its Open Mic programme, as well as the PHLS-LIFT, otherwise called PHLS Literature for Teens, an engagement designed to nurture a new generation of poets from the Niger Delta region, the organizers said.
“The Niger Delta is a beautiful place,” Amu Nnadi said, “with very talented people. It is a region of great history and great promise, whose best narratives can only be told by its bards, with words, in dance and music. We are not all about militancy, and we are not a region of noise makers. That is why we must let the world know how beautiful we are.”
It is a literary movement, which, he said, will propel the region and its legion of creative talents to greatness. He adds: “There are a lot of hidden literary talents waiting to be discovered across the region. And PHLS offers them a worthy platform.
And the Society did last Friday, as it played host to its very first poetry slam, bringing together 17 poets from around the country, to compete against one another until the best slammer was unveiled.
Billed as Nigeria’s biggest Poetry Slam, the PHLS slam astounding in its inventive offerings, and delicious to every discerning tongue, hungry to taste of Nigeria’s new poetic dialects and dishes. It is, without doubt, the most exciting spokenwords event ever staged in the Niger Delta region.
Amu-Nnadi , while speaking at the Port Harcourt Book Centre, the Society’s premises and venue of the Poetry Slam, said while the objective is to promote poetry in the Port Harcourt and the Niger Delta region, the larger idea is to put the circumstances in the Niger Delta region in their proper perspective. And that is to offer youths of a region the pen, instead of the gun.
According to him, PHLS is also offering kids the opportunity to grow in poetry, to become better members of the Niger Delta society. “There is no better voice than the exposure and experiences they gain in such competitions and programmes,” Amu Nnadi says, “to showcase their talents and become new role models for millions more.”
The Resident Poet expressed the hope that government and other key corporate organisations will take a cue from Shell Petroluem Development Company, Keves Global Leasing Company, Kilimanjaro, Income Electrix and so many other supporters, to help the Society in promoting literature. “It can only help us tell the story, to the outside world, that our region is coming back to life and is offering great opportunities for entertainment, education, tourism and business to everyone,” he says.
Wihout doubt, it will contribute to building the image of the communities, the people, especially the youths, and the region.
“We are helping to tell a better story of our environment, of our culture, of our people and our shared promise,” Amu Nnadi reiterates. “We believe our activities will attract more participation as we continue to build the momentum. Already, we are engaging with secondary schools to nurture a new generation of spokenword poets in the Niger delta region, to show we are region of great talent and rich culture.”
The poetry slam, which coincided with the presentation of books by Professor Ebiegberi Allagoa, renowned historian, to the Port Harcourt Literary Society Library, afforded the erudite professor the opportunity to witness the performance by the youths. He said the performances were beyond his expectation.
“The youths of this country have a deep sense of culture and imagination,” Professor Allagoa says. “It gives me hope that the future will be better, as all the participants gave a beautiful story which depicted the situation in the country.”
While commending the quality and content of the Library, he gave the assurance that his organisation was going to work with the Port Harcourt Literary Society to see that they bring young people to participate in future events.
He said: “The Library is one of the best in the Niger Delta region. I was astonished when I saw the Library, a whole lot of people don’t know about the place. We are going to stand side by side to promote the place.”
The slam, which drew participants from all over the country, was staged in two categories, with seventeen competitors in the senior category and seven participants in junior category for students.
After a gruelling competition that witnessed some of Nigeria’s best poets as judges (Efe Paul Azino, Andrew Patience, Obii Ifejika and Graciano Enwerem), Toby Abiodun, from Delta State, was declared the winner of the N100,000 first prize money and the Dr Sam Dede Prize for the Best SpokenWord Artiste. The first runner-up prize of N75,000 went to MC Fragile from Port Harcourt, while the second runner-up was Envoi, from Jos, Plateau State. He received N50,000.
The junior category was won by Ude Ugo, a student from New Total Child Academy in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.