The news of Prof. Jerry Agada’s death was received with shock by the country’s literary community on December 22, 2020.
A former National President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Agada was said to have died on Tuesday after a brief illness at the age of 68 in Makurdi, Benue State.
Prof. Agada contributed in no small measure to Nigerian literature and is known to have been a board member of both ANA and the Nigeria Prize for Literature sponsored by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) company.
He was also known for his works such as ‘The Successors’ (2004), a collection of essays, ‘The Secret Deal and Other Stories’ (1998), ‘Rage and Tears’ (2002), ‘The Magic Year: (A Poetry in Prose and Rhymes)’, ‘The Secret Deal’ (2003) and ‘The Honourable Chairman’ (2003).
Recalling the time Prof. Agada was ANA President, Professor of Literature and Gender Studies at the University of Abuja, Vicky Sylvester, said he tried to bring in people in government to contribute to the development of ANA.
He wanted government ministries to be involved and always encouraged high ranking officials to write.
“We will miss him. We were expecting a lot more from him, especially in terms of mentorship. We have young people who need to be mentored,” she added.
A children’s literature author, Salamatu Sule talked about how Prof. Agada loved to listen to ideas about literature.
“I once called him and asked if it was okay to apply to the NLNG Literature Prize as an observer.
“I wanted to know if it was a good idea for me to obtain the observer status and he agreed it would go a long way to hearing external views about the award, but argued that I may not get it as the award itself had been designed by the host, NLNG.
“He also argued that I may not have the opportunity of entering my works for the awards.” They never talked after that.
A recipient of the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2016 for his debut novel, ‘Season of Crimson Blossoms’, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim expressed his sadness upon learning about Prof. Agada’s death.
“He was a fine gentleman and I dare say, friend,” he said.
“In the last week, he had been on my mind. I kept making mental notes to pick up my phone and call him but never really got round to doing it.
“I had no idea he was battling for his life then. Journey well, sir. A great loss for our country and our tribe of writers.”
Mallam Denja Abdullahi, the immediate past president of ANA, described Agada as “archetypal father with a lot of children and an overseer of a great compound where all sorts of beats will find ready dancers, as said in one of Achebe’s books.
“Many of us encountered him in the Association of Nigerian Authors(ANA), an Association he was very proud of; publicly proclaiming that pride before the Senate in a ministerial screening years ago and which he served practically to the very end of his life; garnering well deserved positions and accolades, culminating in becoming its President, Fellow and a member of the National Advisory Council.”
Malam Abdullahi concludes with these words: “Adieu to Prof. Jerry Agada, a man of many words and intriguing locally-flavoured witticism in public oration.
“May we be there when the canons will be fired to herald the real beginning of your journey to join your ancestors.
“May God give your immediate and extended family, the Benue State Government, your community and members of ANA in Benue State and nationwide the fortitude to bear your departure.”
Nigeria LNG Limited, sponsor of The Nigeria Prize for Literature, expressed shock and sadness over the loss of one of the prize’s Advisory Board members.
A release signed by Eyono Fatayi-Williams General Manager, External Relations and Sustainable Development, stated that Agada joined the Advisory Board in 2011 where he contributed significantly to the development of The Nigeria Prize for Literature into a global brand and one of the most prestigious prizes in Africa.
“He supported the transition of the Prize to a new administration and governance structure, driving improvement initiatives that impacted positively on the administration and adjudication as well as the integrity of the prize,” it said.
The late professor was described as a well-rounded professional who stood by the excellence and integrity of the Prize, and who animated deliberations with his witty remarks.
“He will be sorely missed by the Prize’s Board and secretariat.”
NLNG extended its condolence to the family of Prof. Agada and the literature community in Nigeria and prayed for their fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
Before his death, late Professor Agada, alongside Professor Emeritus Ayo Banjo and Professor Emeritus Ben Elugbe, was a member of the Advisory Board and was the Chairman, Benue State Civil Service Commission.
Before then, aside being President ANA, he was a patron of its branch in Benue State.
He was the Vice-Chairman of Fidei Polytechnic, Gboko and former Minister of State for Education of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
A seasoned public servant, he served as the Permanent Secretary, Benue State Ministry of Information, Youth, Sports and Culture; Benue State Ministry of Education; Benue State Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs; and the Benue State Bureau of Political Affairs.