The Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Prof Nelson Brambaifa, has described the late Gabriel Okara as a deity of African literature whose voice cannot be stilled.
Speaking when he paid a condolence visit to the Okara family in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Professor Brambaifa said Okara’s accomplishments have ensured that his name will never be forgotten.
Brambaifa, who was accompanied by top NDDC officials, urged Mrs. Timinipre Okara-Schiller, the daughter of the late literary icon and other members of the family to grieve like Christians who have hope in the resurrection.
He commiserated with the people and government of Bayelsa State as well as the literary world over the death of foremost poet and novelist who died at the age of 97.
In his condolence letter to the family, Brambaifa, said the late Okara was one of the foremost and dedicated literary icons Nigeria had produced.
Prof Brambaifa remarked that the death of a loved one usually brought grief to the heart and tears to the eyes. He urged the Okara family to take solace in the fact that their father lived a glorious life and was a pioneer voice in modern African literature.
“I shared some kind of bond with Pa Okara while he was alive. We shared a warm relationship when I was at the University of Port Harcourt. I invited him to all my events, including my inaugural lecture.”
Prof Brambaifa assured the family that the NDDC was going to make significant contributions during the burial ceremonies. He noted that the Bayelsa State government was at the driver’s seat, but stated that it would not stop the NDDC from playing its own part during the burial.
He reminisced: “The last time I travelled with him was when we went to Israel. It was always good to be around him.”
The poet’s first child, Mrs. Okara-Schiller, said those who understood the value of her father’s work celebrated him while he lived.
She observed that the late Okara never intentionally craved for public acknowledgment in his works, noting that he just wanted people to read and enjoy his works.
Okara-Schiller said that her father preached peace anywhere he went, noting that his greatest dream was for the world to live in harmony and love, which he revealed in much of his writings. She eulogized her father, stating that “Papa loved his independence and peace.”
A family member, Mr Rakiri Ijoyengidubamo, thanked the NDDC Acting MD for coming to commiserate with the Okara family. He said the literary icon, who died last month would be buried June 27.