MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
At a time the average Nigerian youth, whether in or out of school dreams of becoming a ‘fly by night’ millionaire via ‘Yahoo Yahoo’ cyber scam, the likes of 31-year-old Othuke Umukoro still believe that one can make his millions or even billions through intellectual advancement within the realm of globally accepted standards.
In our clime, while we blame our political leaders for creating the environment for cyber crime and other illegal ways of seeking instant wealth to thrive, we hold the youths who deliberately want to gamble with their God given talents responsible for any misadventure borne out of inordinate ambition.
The Brunel International Africa Poetry Prize winner, Othuke Umukoro; obviously from political backwaters, is another typical example of how a Godly ambition devoid of quick fixes and fraudulent tendencies can re-write one’s history from grass to grace.
Through his poetry prowess which was built over time by sheer consistency of mind, Umukoro has genuinely earned himself the sum of Three Thousand Dollars as prize money in a contest that involved several others. He was announced in May, 2021 by the judges as the winner out of the eight finalists in the contest.
The prize money is unarguably not the cause of celebrating the young poet here because someone, somewhere would want to quickly remind me that when converted to Naira, the amount is less than N2million at the current exchange rate, an amount not enough for the average Yahoo boy to celebrate in a day. That is certainly not the issue.
AtlanticNewsonline is joining Nigerians, particularly Umukoro’s family to celebrate him for taking the name of Nigeria high like other earlier winners of the Brunel Prize from Nigeria. In 2016 two Nigerians Gbenga Adesina and Chekwube Danladi had jointly won it and Romeo Origun in 2017. Other Nigerian intellectuals in different spheres have also done the country proud in the global arena.
For his competence in the literary world with a strong demonstration of his ingenuity in the poetry genre which ultimately earned him the Brunel International Africa Poetry Prize, Othuke Umukoro stands to be counted as a global personality that deserves every celebration we can afford.
Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa has already set the commendatory tone by describing Umukoro as one of “Nigeria’s brightest exports to the literary world noting that the global community is yet to see the best from him.”
He was chosen from a shortlist of eight poets including Gambia’s Kweku Abimbola, Uganda’s Arao Ameny, South Africa’s Isabelle Baffi, Somalia’s Asmaa Jama, Lesotho’s Tumello Motobola and Nigeria’s Oluwadare Popoola and Yomi Sade.
The Brunel International Africa Poetry Prize is a major annual poetry prize of $3000 aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa. The Prize is sponsored by Brunel University, London.
Writer and Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel, Bernardine Evaristo had initiated the award in 2012 in order to revitalize African poetry which at the time was almost invisible on the literary landscape. The Prize was set up to encourage a new generation of poets who might one day become an international presence.
The Prize is open to poets who are born in Africa or who are nationals of an African country or whose parents are African.
The winner Othuke Umukoro is a Nigerian poet, playwright and educator. He graduated from the University of Ibadan. Born 1990 at Olomoro; a small town in Isoko area of Delta State, Othuke spent most of his childhood days fishing in the untamed rivers that run through his community while also learning how to read from his mother.
As an educator, he has taught in public primary schools in a low income community as a Fellow of “Teach for Nigeria” – a non profit organization devoted to ending educational inequality.
His poetry explores the language of quietness, the geography of memory, home, depression, hope and loss.
In his message of felicitation on Tuesday through his Chief Press Secretary, Governor Okowa has charged Othuke Umukoro to see himself as a model to young Nigerians, many of whom are already abandoning the path of intellectualism for quicker but unprofitable means of making money.