Umar Yogiza Jr.
I: Obunseh, First Footpath
Where do memories go when a writer who lived in myths and actual events dies? A writer faithful with anything fate throws at him? Where do all his thinking go?
There’s unpredictability, crabbiness, gentility, chimerical, but Hyacinth (Dada) Obunseh stood gracious between them – a maze-hybrid of safety and danger.
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With his right-hand Hyacinth Obunseh held a piece of Nigerian Literature and white kolanut. On the other hand, he clenched a bottle, half filled with friendships and red wine, then with an elegant gesture, tumultuously he walked out into the sun.
Hyacinth Obunseh occurred on the clouds, on thunder, he’s the script of lightening, a signboard on the hill along the Mamman Vatsa Writers Village Mpape, Abuja. For, no one can see his stand in the midst of general hypothesis, but you, Hyacinth, my teacher, my friend, because you’ve made me recognize my stand’s apparent countenance.
Hyacinth Dada Obunseh, I eulogize you through the untaught hold which you used to defeat those who challenged your nature, you who created a religion then converted to another faith because the God is not fit to be worshipped. You who revered everything that’s progress. You who worshiped everything that’s good, but your God is humanity. In glow of facts, ‘He was a beautiful piece of human furniture,’ keeper of the righteous wits.
He was a chalkboard of knowledge who practicalized theories in words and numbers like science.
Oh! Prince of Oko Ogbele, Lion headed gods of the Delta! Your anecdotal skills that forged your humour of steel, in the body full of benevolence cannot be buried away with you from the world, you trained me to dig till I find what’s right, to dig mindless of distractors till I am satisfied.
Oh! Deity of Nigerian Literature, gold became gold around you, I saw colour of literature takes its form hand breadth away from you. My gratitude to you Hyacinth Dada Obunseh is a river’s journey, no words is strong enough to describe it. You are not dead Sir. You only walked away into the sun to burrow the earth in search of gems for us.
The day ANA gave me the task of interviewing ten literary masquerades: Professor Femi Osofisan, Odia Ofeimum, Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, Odili Ujubuonu, Toni Kan, Professor Remi Raji, Professor Olu Obafemi, Dr. Wale Okediran, Pope Pen, Dr. Ebi Yeibo and Professor Joe Ushie, as part of ANA’s 40th anniversary interviews, I was naive. We were together at World-Class Hotel, Mpape -Abuja, abandoning our paid hotel room, sitting in the closed bar, facing each other on the table of four, talking about art and humanity till 5 o’clock in the morning. “Where do I start? “I said, I remember how you stared at me briefly and fixed your gaze into the distant wall, maybe imagining a utopia or seeing some distance future that only you can see. And you said, “let the conversation grow naturally, don’t sound too impressive in the interviews” and that’s how I accomplished the task
II: Obunseh, Second Footpath
When inimitable footpaths extend beyond eternity, there is no interpretation, definition or calculation. My Oga Hyacinth, when even the so-called real men couldn’t keep or maintain your friendship for long, how can ordinary friends understand your rules of courtesy. My Friend, my brother, my critic, my editor, my reader, my family member, Hyacinth, my infallible love for you can only invocate more love. You came and wrote your stories on rock and leaf of time, and went back celebrating others’ works more. I have a gratitude for you sir, my gratitude for you is like grain of dessert sand, like powder of gravity, like pieces of ocean water. You held my hand like your equal, you held it with dignity like money, I walked from reverence to reverence with arrogant exuberance.
I saw the face of your benevolence, the real one! She’s a tall black woman, with glowing spotless skin, arrogant breasts and hard nipples. The hugeness of her beauty is immeasurable, inimitable, infallible, palatable, incomparable. You sprinkled out of a burning star with your novel “Valley of Decision” (1998). You came to the African literary scene and ANA, when now literary giants where still in diapers. ‘Valley of Decision’ won the ANA/Matutu prize for Children Literature 1998. And the following year, it was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize. It was you who initiated the idea of celebrating Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart @50 in 2008, and it was a success, and the JP Clarks celebrated in 2010, and it was a success.
Hyacinth Dada Obunseh! You were the lyrics that rose from raw love back into the air, naked as guileless staff and sincere enchantment. Oh! Crown in the palace of Kings of letters, oh staff that gives prestige to the Kings of Literature. Only you sewn and wore the regalia of eccentricity made out of fabric of knowledge comfortably without tailor’s stitches.
Literature sky, ANA Sun
Hyacinth Dada Obunseh “died like a dragon breaking down a wall”… these eight words were plucked and ribboned from Michael Ondaatje’s “Handwriting”
Your fond memories are the greenery trees foresting the mangroves of Nigerian intellectuals. Your death makes death vulnerable; death can never celebrate you, you who counteracted with it for nine years and came out victorious? You whose going is coming back, your memories have transformed into the pale patches in the face of the moon.
Prince Chief Hyacinth Chukwuwike Dada Attah Obunseh, it’s I, Umar Yogiza Jr. called your name in full, I stretched it the way you loved it, you always smiled whenever I called your names in full without break. Go Ijele, because you have the largest mask, take your rest Mmanwu, you who embodies the spirit and human worlds, be Izaga in the heaven’s gathering of the intellectuals, it’s your birthright.
“Prof, I don’t think I would survive this time around” you said, “it’s as if undisciplined squads of little little needles are pricking every part of my kidney and liver open without closing it. But, don’t worry, don’t worry Prof, I am used to raising every step with death following it, don’t worry Prof, don’t worry,” you said these words and smiled that day, as if you didn’t say anything worth worrying.
We befriended the clouds and light but you journeyed out into the sun alone. Kullu Nafsin Zaikatul Maut, ‘Surah 3: verse 185’ (Every soul shall taste death)
III: Obunseh, Third Footpath
Hyacinth Dada Obunseh, born April 2, 1966 in Oko Ogbele, is an award-winning novelist, poet, critic, renowned publisher, literary administrator and a businessman. He graduated from the Department of English, University of Lagos, class of 1991, attended Government College, Ughelli, Delta State and Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State.
He founded Hybun Publications International on March 2, 1996, with headquarters in Lagos, a publishing outfit which published notable books from renowned writers in the early stages of their literary careers, such as: Maik Nwosu, Toni Kan, Moses Tsenongu, Kudo Eresia-Eke, E-E. Sule, Ebereonwu, K.K. Iloduba, Ahmed Maiwada, Sumaila Umaisha, Odoh Diego Okenyodo, Yahaya Dangana, Halima Sekula, Orvel-Dio Vershima, Akeem Lasisi, Emeka Agbayi, Majebi Oricha, Mature Okoduwa Tanko, Adolphus Amasiatu, Patrick Oguejiofor, Uthman Ladipo Akanbi, Alex Maiyanga, Enwe Azubuike , Majebi Oricha, Omale Allen Abdulljabbar, Awal Gata, Nkeiru Obi, Awal Idris Evuti and many more.
His first novel, Valley of Decision (Hybun 1998) won the ANA/Matatu prize for Children Literature. He was elected into office as ANA PRO (South) 2003-2005. Assistant Gen. Sec. 2005-2009 and General Sec. Between 2009 to 2012 and walked out into the Sun around 12:58 pm, at the National Hospital Abuja, July 26, 2021. Aged 56.
Umar Yogiza Jr., a writer, sent in this tribute from Abuja