This 2017 marks the 50th year that the late Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo, poet, teacher (16 August 1932 to September 1967) died for the independence of Biafra. Although he is no more, his memory as a widely acknowledged outstanding post-colonial English language African poet and one of the modernist writers of the 20th century lives on.
It is in line with this a Conference, with a theme, Legacy of Christopher Okigbo, will be held on 20 and 21 September 2017 at his alma mater, University of Ibadan.
This was revealed at a news conference addressed by the planning committee at TheNEWS headquarters, 27 Acme road, Ogba, Ikeja, today.
The conference on Okigbo, a collaboration between the Christopher Okigbo Foundation (COF) and UI, through the Departments of Classics and English, will have different sub-themes.
A keynote address will be presented on the first day by Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka under the chairmanship of Eze, Professor Chukwuemeka Ike while the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Achebe will be the Royal Father of the day. Ambassador Judith Sefi Attah (Okigbo’s widow), JP Clark, members of the Okigbo family, his friends, colleagues, as well as international and local writers will talk on the sub- themes before the floor is opened for discussions.
Judith Attah will speak on Okigbo, the Family Man; Pius Okigbo Jnr, will handle Okigbo, the Sibling; Chief Alex Ade Ajayi, Okigbo, the Teacher; Professor Remi Raji, Okigbo the Poet; J.P Clark, Okigbo, the Friend and Hon Chudi Ofodile, Okigbo, the Martyr.
While Prof. Abel Olayinka, U. I. VC will be the chief host, Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo, Profs. Dan Izevbaye, Abdulrasheed Na’Allah and Remi Raji will be part of the show. Dr. Wale Okediran revealed that Governor Isiaka Ajimobi of Oyo State will also be there. M Molara Wood, writer, journalist and critic, will be the moderator.
The conference will continue in the evening of the same day with a Gala soiree, to be hosted by Chief Joop Berkhout at Cambridge House, Ibadan, built in 1960 (Okigbo once lived there when he was the representative of Cambridge University Press) assembling Okigbo’s contemporaries, fellow poets, members of the cultural industry and institutions worldwide that have been instrumental in upholding his memory to date.
In 1992, Berkhout bought the property and Chris Okigbo was celebrated at the opening in the presence of Soyinka, Clark, Dr Pius Okigbo, among others. A plaque was, that day, unveiled in front of the house with “Here lived Christopher Okigbo.”
The conference will be concluded on Thursday 22 September when there will be paper presentations at the Faculty of Arts building, UI.
At the news conference, Kunle Ajibade eulogised Okigbo, describing him as charismatic and cosmopolitan, the reason that made him prefer to edit The Transition with more global outlook to Black Orpheus that celebrated Negritude. “People just loved to be around him, Okigbo had an electrifying personality”, Ajibade said, adding, “Okigbo was a great spirit. Soyinka, Achebe and Clark – all were ready to defend him. I don’t know what inhabited his lean frame that made him extraordinary.”
Obiageli, Okigbo’s daughter also gave an insight into what made her father ‘tick’. Okigbo’s cosmopolitan nature was, as Obiageli added, was what made “UNESCO to select his manuscript among the ‘Memory of World Register’. Also, Okigbo will not go down as a prophet without honour in his own home, as Jesus said in the Bible. Obiageli told journalists present that an artist’s retreat was also being planned in Okigbo’s state of Anambra.