Yet another Nigerian Star courtesy of the ‘I Know a Nigerian Star’ Writing Competition!!! Last week, it was Michael Oluwaseun Bangbade, this week it is Literary icon, Ogochukwu Promise. Enjoy and be inspired!!!
Since 16th July 1970 when she first breathed, Ogochukwu Promise has defied categorisation. If you call her a literary icon, a psychologist, or a humanitarian, you might just have succeeded in revealing one strata of her multi-layered self. She grew up as the only child. She was greatly influenced by her loquacious mother who always enlivened the house with her mellifluous voice whenever she is around. She refers to her mother as “a vast ocean, never drying up, restless, ever flowing…” Her loneliness as the only child made her hunger for companionship. This led her into a solemn romance with books—a journey she had never returned from.
Ogochukwu started school at a very tender age, showing intelligence all the way. After completing her primary school, she had her secondary education at Queens School Enugu, between 1980 and 1985. At Queens, she was highly respected for her intellectual profundity, voracity for written words, and unquenchable flair for writing. She proceeded to University of Calabar, where she studied English and Literary Studies. And later to University of Ibadan where she identified once more with greatness, when she emerged as the best graduating student in the Masters Programme in the Faculty of Art. She finally finished her studies at UI with a PHD at the record age of 27. Studies in Literature helped her immerse herself deeper into an ocean that has become her second half.
She had experimented with different careers before resigning full time into writing, and setting up the Lumina Foundation, based in Lagos Nigeria where she now lives with her family. The Lumina Foundation is a not for profit, non-governmental organisation which was established with the aim of “encouraging development through erudition and charity for the edification of man.” Her major aim was to inspire nations through reading. The foundation has succeeded in radiating this light of knowledge and divine wisdom through their programmes. The foundation awards the prestigious Wole Soyinka prize for Literature in Africa, also known as the Africa’s Noble. Through this prize, she hopes to discover, encourage and celebrate emerging literary voices in Africa.
Frustrated that not enough Africans savour the knowledge which books impacts, she established the Get Africa Reading Project, and also runs a mobile library with the sole aim of reviving the dwindling reading culture in Africa. Ogochukwu also edits and publishes a number of literary magazines, among which are: The Lumina, Children’s Classics and Teens. Her Oracle Books Limited discovers and publishes new writing talents in Africa.
Her zealousness goes beyond literature; she is a great humanitarian, who sees herself as an agent of change. She runs the Ogochukwu Promise Children’s Home—CAREGIVERS H.F; a humanitarian organisation established “for the purpose of bringing succour to little ones and loving humanity in concrete terms.” She has through this foundation sheltered and given quality education to little children; many rejected or from extremely poor families, thereby making them loved and valued.
Ogochukwu is committed to making a difference all the way. According to her own website, she “travels around the world, motivating and encouraging people to be the best they can be, discovering people’s dynamic potential for productivity and fulfilment and developing youth training programmes as well as strategies for social/community work.” One great thing young Africans can take away from her is that we can create the world we desire through reading. Like she said in 2008 address to young children, at the Nigerian LNG event, IF YOU REALLY LOVE BOOKS, YOU WILL HAVE COMPLETE SUCCESS.
She loves reading to a fault and wholly immerses herself in books. This also led her to writing. She started writing before she knew what writing means, and like Promise that she is called, she showed that she was a promising writer from infancy. Today, with her sixteen published novels, seven collections of poems, two plays and five literature books, she has carved a niche for herself in Nigerian literary circle and indeed the whole world as a thorough bred writer and success personified.
Ogochukwu has won numerous laurels. She was the winner of the year 2003 and 2005 ANA/Flora Nwapa Prize for Literature, first Pat Utomi book prize, 2005. She also won 2002 ANA/NDDC Ken Saro Wiwa Prize for Literature, 2000 ANA/Spectrum prize for literature, 2000 ANA/Okigbo prize for Poetry in Africa, 1999 ANA/Cadbury prize in poetry, etc. In 2005, her debut poetry collection; Naked Among These Hills, was among the three final shortlist for Africa’s most prestigious literary prize—Nigeria NLG prize for literature; a feat she achieved again this year with her collection; Wild Letters. This collection was valorized by NLNG panel of judges for its “high human relevance.”
She is also an Azikiwe fellow, a fellow of Stiftung Kulturfunds as well as the prestigious Iowa International writing program. She dares you to read if you wish to be great. She was just nine when Jacklin Powel spoke to her on a rainy night in her bedroom. Powel taught her that she need just two things to succeed in life—DREAM! ACHIEVE! This encounter with Powel led her to pour her heart in a resolution thus:
Here I am alone with books
Friends I made long ago
To fill my cup when it is empty
And keep me going all day long
They ask me who I am
I tell them my name is Promise
They tell me of the promises I bear
I know it is my job to fulfil everyone of me
I am an only child, but I shall be for myself,
Words that speak tenderly to hearts, to change
The night into day, water into sweet wine
And for my parents, I shall be nine sons.
This poem she said to a very large extent defines her. This same Powel’s “Who do you want to be?” told her that she had to “CREATE my own path, MAP OUT MY OWN ROUTES and learn from the mistakes of others.”
CORPORATE ADDRESS: Oracle Books Limited, Oracle House, 3 St. Finbarr’s College Road, Akoka, Lagos, Nigeria.
Expect more exceptional and life changing articles from the “I Know a Nigerian Star Competition”.
This “I Know A Nigerian Star” Story was submitted by…
Onah Chijioke Kizito a 100 level student of English and Literary Studies, with a minor in History and International Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is an upcoming poet, novelist and essayist. He is 21 and has stint for greatness. He can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.