Book Launch Of “The Memory Of Seasons” By Arukaino Umukoro
SPEECH OF HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE “CONVERSATIONS ON NIGERIA’S UNITY IN DIVERSITY: CHALLENGES, OPPORTUNITIES, BENEFITS”, AND PUBLIC PRESENTATION OF A BOOK, THE MEMORY OF SEASONS, BY ARUKAINO UMUKORO AT THE YAR’DUA CENTRE, ABUJA ON THE 12TH OF MAY, 2023
I am overwhelmed by the achievements of Arukaino, whom we call “Rukky.” I am completely taken by all he has achieved in such a short period of time, all the awards and there is quite a long list of them.
It is my pleasure to join you here today at the formal presentation and book launch of ‘The Memory of Seasons’, a collection of poems by Arukaino Umukoro, speaking of nationhood, faith, life and humanity.
There is a paragraph in the preface which says “these poems weave stories, reflections, imagination and love into an embroidered yarn.” The preface was written by the author himself, so when you see and hear the use of words and the excellent rhythm of the language, you’d know it could only have come from a poet of great talent.
It also says “they also navigate the seasons of love, the crux of humanity and the nuances that genuflect a genuine concern for society. At the heart of the poet’s codex is God, nation and humanity.”
You know sometimes, people say that Wole Soyinka is complex, you know, so when you read some of his poems, you know. But I think it is very good. You sometimes have to reflect when you read some of Rukky’s poetry, you have to think again and reflect.
I agree with his characterization of his poetry, because I have a read a few of them myself. I am also glad to see that the project, of which he spoke to me about two/three months ago, has so quickly come to term. I am proud of his effort and the creativity it took to deliver such a wonderful set of poems in such a short time.
The Chairman has already told us that Rukky started as a child poet. His father Mr. Godswill Dean Umukoro, also a brilliant poet and writer, encouraged him from a young age to harness his creative and writing gifts.
When he was still in primary school, his father helped him publish his first ever fiction story titled “One Good Turn Deserves Another.” It was published in the then popular, but now defunct, ‘Democrats Newspaper’ in Kaduna State where they lived. The Chairman has also very kindly offered to make a framed copy of the publication available.
Since then two of his poems, ‘Stillbirth’ and ‘Love Is’, have been featured on BBC Network Africa and West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR) respectively. But this would be his first full collection of poetry.
Rukky’s themes do not surprise me. He is a conscientious public intellectual and a restless social activist who believes in this nation fervently. That shows in practically everything he has demonstrated and talks and writes about.
The theme of this event “Conversations on Nigeria’s Unity in Diversity: Challenges, Opportunities, Benefits” Is one of his favourite issues. And I am glad that the esteemed members of the panel today spoke so thoughtfully on some of the salient issues.
We need to talk up our country. A big part of nation-building is talking up your nation, Tolu and Maupe a moment ago, asked what sort of narratives about Nigeria do we push? The stories of nations written by others focus on the agendas of the authors, the negatives of course sell more and much faster.
I used to attend a lot of conferences and I will soon be attending a lot of conferences and I have never found a conference where anyone is ill of their country or running down their country. If it happens, it is usually a Nigerian.
Everywhere you go, no matter how funny the country is, you will never hear anyone speaking negatively about their country. And that’s the truth; everywhere you go. No matter how funny the country may be, you will never hear anyone speaking negatively about their country, no. No matter how bad the country is.
Today, we know that in the US, between January and now, there have been well over 150 mass shootings, in schools, in malls, in car parks, in places of work, people are just shot at random, by one person, just shooting people. Yet you will never, well certainly, you wouldn’t hear an American attending a conference and say, “My country is not safe”, it’s insecure, people are being shot every day.” No, no, you won’t hear it.
People of every country talk up their own country. When we get home, we can criticize ourselves. Oh yes, we can say whatever we like, but we must talk up our country. We belong to one side, and that side is the Nigerian side. Someone was talking about Arsenal a few moments ago, and Arsenal, that Arsenal would win this premier league, they would win. Because that’s our side, we take the side. They may not be the best, they may not win all the time, but that’s our side, this country is our side.
We must talk up our country because we belong to one side, the Nigerian side. We must ensure in every way we can that we give the best impression of our country. Our country is not its politicians or religious leaders, it is not its business leaders, it is you and me. Our country cannot be defined by any group of people, it is defined by us, who are born Nigerians or become Nigerians by naturalization.
Own stories must be stories of our aspirations, dreams and our hopes, planted in the successes of our journey and a future of great hope because of the incredible talents, and material resources we already have. I think the poem “Imagine Nigeria” captures the story we want to tell the world. Let me read a few verses to encourage us:
“Imagine Nollywood movies winning Oscars every other year. Funke, Ejiro, Asabe, on the global stage.
Imagine Super Eagles winning the World Cup, finishing top five on the Olympics medals table.
Imagine food baskets all over the country, sufficient to feed 200 million people yet enough left for export.
Imagine the UN asking third-world countries to learn from the rapid development of the West only this time, South-West Nigeria.
Imagine the rise of groundnut pyramids like sphinx in the Northern deserts.
Imagine those cattle on a thousand hills and valleys, whose dairy products are sold in Europe.
Imagine Harvard in Jigawa, MIT in Kebbi; Almajiri a cancelled word.
Imagine the best resorts in Africa in the Niger Delta where children swim in clean water flowing from the creeks.
Imagine Hawaii in Akwa Ibom or Bayelsa, Disneyland in Warri. Architectural masterpieces, and a boat cruise in the Niger Delta.
Imagine one Naira to a Dollar.
Imagine 24-hour electricity in every city, village, a calm, bright night without the generators bleating like stray goats in the marketplace.
Imagine PHCN stories for your children, old tales, fairy tales, everyone laughing about it.
Imagine the first Nigerian astronaut taking off from Abuja Space Agency.
Imagine tuwo shinkafa, amala, and banga soup, on the regular menu list at the Waldorf Astoria.
Imagine that the over 250 ethnic groups understand their differences harnessing their diversity into strength to become a truly indivisible country.
Imagine the one ‘Nigeria tribe.”
Imagine a country with focused, selfless leaders and strong institutions.
Imagine a country where Boko Haram, kidnapping, Niger Delta militancy are forgotten tales
Imagine a country where the rule of law prevails. a country where there is dignity in labour; where justice is a meal both the rich & poor can afford.”
This Nigeria of our imagination is possible for as long as we have the likes of Rukky in whose hearts burn brightly the reality of this new nation.
Congratulations again Rukky!
Thank you all for listening.