Where is Echezonachukwu Nduka?
This piece was originally titled ‘Onyeka Nwelue, Guts, Glory and Gaffes.’ I intended to do a piece on the energetic and radical Nigerian writer, to celebrate his resilient spirit and also warn him that the constituency he was called to serve is not where he is presently residing. But, due to my recent shyness and aversion to article writing, I stalled on the piece. However, the present disappearance of a young Nigerian poet whom I respect, and who I believe is a strong voice for my generation, has not just nudged me out of my reclusiveness, but has also quickened me into tapping my keyboard.
Echezonachukwu Nduka does not need any introduction except, to the uninitiate in the Nigerian literary cosmos. He is a poet who does not write, not because he doesn’t have a mastery on English language, but because, he needs to answer the call of the superior deity that ping-pongs every true artiste. Any intellectual charlatan can masquerade with words, pen lines and construct rhymes. But true artists know that art is a divine call. It is spiritual and passion-driven. Echezonachukwu is one of those divine esoteric voices for my generation, a generation that swims and gropes in the cesspool of material wantonness.
Regrettably, this voice has played a fast one on us, his followers, and taken the path which has swallowed up most of my country’s best brains.
I met Echezonachukwu while in my third year in UNN, when I was contesting for a faculty position alongside him. We bonded, not knowing then that we share the same kindred spirit. Then, his sobriquet was ‘The handwriting on the wall.’ Little did I know, while I was throwing back drinks with him and other Modites, that he would be the handwriting in my heart, one that would spur me on later in life. Yes, two years ago, after my misadventure in Clearing and Forwarding, I was looking for my bearing in life. During this period, I read and consumed most of Echezonachukwu’s poems. I got fired up, I have always been a lover and worshipper of words; I was not fired up only by his dexterity with words but by his boldness. At that moment, I was like, if my buddy can write this good, then I should try.
I called him up, and he patiently schooled me, listing out several names of Nigerian writers I needed to follow up on Facebook. I did as instructed, and thereafter, I began to soak up the writings of these Nigerian literary masters. Echezonachukwu did not stop there; he intermittently briefed me on the occurrences of book festivals, poetry competitions and other literary contests. However, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that I was not a poet. I left poetry and branched into scriptwriting. But like a Jedi master, he cheered me on, and has given me the impetus to fly.
It honoured me that I was among the first set of people who listened to the audio of his love poem, If I Did Not Love You.
I was hoping to call him last week Friday to inform him of my plan for a poetry performance for my 28th birthday, only to log in on Facebook to discover that my dear favourite Nigerian poet is dead.
He is dead!
Echezonachukwu Nduka died the day he travelled out of Nigeria for his MA in Music. And I confirmed his death when I read his reply to a friend’s comment that subtly insinuated that he might not return to Nigeria after his Masters.
While this saddens me, it doesn’t shock me. Go back to history, almost all the brilliant minds that left Nigeria for one reason or the other, be it academic or any other fleeting reason, never return to reside back home permanently. I guess it’s not rocket science to figure out why. They always stumble on better offers in their host countries, where they are be appreciated, celebrated, canonized, paid handsomely, and perhaps, given liberty and support to explore their craft to the fullest.
And this is where their deaths begin.
The death of every true writer begins when he abandons his natural constituency, whenever he leaves the narrow road to tread the wide and easy road. If some of our writers know how much they are needed back home, they will pack their bags and return to this ‘hell’ of a country. Jesus reminded those, who would eventually cry for his blood, that the reason he was mingling with sinners and reprobates was because they were the truly sick ones of the populace who needed a physician, the ones truly deserving of his benevolence.
As such, it is those of us who are in hell that need the wisdom and prophecy of writers, our own writers. Please note, true writers are not ordinary beings. They are prophets, apostles, evangelists and teachers divinely sent to help their society.
If Echezonachukwu knows how much impact he made in the mind of some students who saw him perform in Nnewi back in June this year, then he would hurry back home after his program. Some young writers feel they are not smiling to the bank, but may I remind them that divine gifts are a burden, and assignments that offer no guarantee for financial rewards. Over here in Nnewi, I have several people who venerate Walter, though they have not seen him, yet they are striving to read, write and become knowledgeable like him. While our elders are busy being wrong role models, some crop of new writers are inspiring and challenging many a youth. Pray, tell me, when will our writers realize that their personal welfare is not more important than the souls of these youths?
Permit me to quote Dr. Thomas Jesse Jones’ admonition to Nnamdi Azikiwe, when he decided to return to Nigeria after his educational pursuit abroad. Bear in mind that Zik was returning to an uncertain future then, in spite of the guarantee of secured employment as a university instructor in America. He said and I quote, If this organization has thought you nothing else, always remember to help a fellow human being. By the exhibition of the spirit of philanthropy, some flowers which might have blushed unseen are enabled to develop into full blossom. End of quote.
I’d like to remind Echezonachukwu that many flowers have already been enabled by him, and these enabled flowers still need to be watered till they mature and blossom. If he – Onyeka Nwelue and others, kindly take note – stays more than is required in that foreign land, he will eventually end up like all these diasporic Nigerian intellectuals, noisemakers who think Nigeria can be transformed by clamouring on the internet and writing beautiful but soulless pieces every other week. Nigerians want writers who are in this hell with them, urging them on toward the right direction.
Apostle Eche, I write this part as your Mayor, please ensure you return home once you are done or you will end up like Esiaba Irobi. I love you. I wish God’s grace on your academic pursuit. Aluta Continua! (Forgive me for using this means; I want others to learn from it)