Friday, August 19, 2011


So, Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo, supposedly two of Nigeria's most prominent elder statesmen, are trading insults like school children in a park over the size of their candies and people are making so much fuss about it? While it is a very juicy topic for news, discussion and debate, the big picture is whether their petty fight contributes in any way to citizen/national development. Or is this just a ploy by the Generals to humour Nigerians and so divert some significant attention from pressing national issues and President Goodluck Jonathan's efforts to grapple with presidential powers?

Imagine US Generals Colin Powell and David Petraeus or former Preeidents Bill Cinton and Jimmy Carter throwing insults at each other. Nigerians and the Nigerian media should also be raising questions about the perceived intelligence of these 'elder statesmen', former Nigerian Army Generals and Presidents/Heads of States; the core values they represent, as well as their controversial tenures; instead of simply magnifying this charade

Saturday, August 13, 2011


A beacon of light shone brightly on Nigeria’s literary scene as Heartstrings, collection of love poems by Sam Umukoro, was officially introduced to the public on Sunday, August 7. It was an evening of poetry, music, love, as well as the gathering of stars and celebrities at Bogobiri House, Ikoyi, Lagos. The event attracted household names such as Basket Mouth, Yinka Davies, Ade Bantu, Mudi, Wana Udobang of Inspiration FM, Emem Ema of KUSH fame and Nneka. Anchored by Dafe Ivwurie, the stars took turns in reading from the collection Jahman Anikulapo, Editor, Guardian Newspapers, described as a cross breed between metaphysical and romantic poetry.

Heartstrings has turned some of us back to that ancient process that really defines humanity, love really does make the world go round,” noted Anikulapo, who introduced the book to jam packed hall. “Sam is a lyricist. Love is something to be cherished, not abused. It’s a book that is dedicated to women,” he added.

This was also underscored by the celebrities who took turns to read from the collection. In his usual self, Basket Mouth made everyone laugh when he introduced his reading with a tinge of comedy. While he read Tribute to Mama, Emem of KUSH fame read You’ll Know. In a performance that emphasized her understanding of the beauty of performance poetry, Yinka Davies read Red Wine, to the delight of the audience. When renowned on-air radio presenter Wana Udobang, came up to read If, there was no doubt in the hall about the beauty of the Heartstrings poetry. It was further emphasized as the audience listened to a musical version of one of the love poems, where Sam Umukoro featured MOBO Award winner Nneka.

Music artiste Chinasa read Jasmine Flower. Ade Bantu read Firedrops, while comedian Bovi, followed in the footsteps of Basket Mouth as he made the audience reel in laughter before reading On Her Cross from the collection. “Even the titles of the poems are like a poem itself,” he joked. Just before the enchanting evening ended, there was time enough for Wale Ojo to pay tribute to the late Sam Loco Efe, whom he performed with in the 1980s. Then he read Catherina from Heartstrings.

Dennis Amachree, who was chief launcher, emphasized the beauty of love and the need for couple to continually revive their passion for each other. He also promised to read some of the poems in Heartstrings to his wife, whose birthday coincided with the book launch.

Umukoro thanked everyone who came and was involved in making Heartstrings book launch a success and noted that there was need to ‘take poetry to the streets’. While Dr Kolade Arogundade, whose company, Giants in the Land, published Heartstrings, in partnership with Epik Books (Nigeria), explained that he was motivated to publish and bring books to people who may not ordinarily read them because books shaped his formative years. Epik Books was the first to publish Helon Habila’s Prison Stories, which included his Caine Prize winning story. Arogundade, currently a university professor at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, also noted that more should be done to resurrect the reading culture of Nigerians. Heartstrings, which deal with a sensitive topic that cuts across age, gender and cultures, may have just begun that literary revolution.

Friday, August 12, 2011


On Sunday, August 7, Sam Loco Efe, legendary Nollywood actor-cum-comedian, may have decided to pull one final stunt on a stage he bestrode with ease or he caught a glimpse of heaven while sitting on a chair in his hotel room at Owerri, Imo State. It was not until hours after his reported demise that the controversies died and it was confirmed that the man, who came into limelight when he was voted best actor for his role in Langbodo - Nigeria’s only drama entry for FESTAC ‘77, was truly gone.

Justus Esiri, Nollywood actor, who first met Efe that same year, remembered his performance with fondness. “He was exceptional,” he said, while reminiscing on the over three decades of friendship, as well as Efe’s stellar acting career, that was borne that year. “I saw him last two months ago… I think he’s one of the best we’ve ever had from this country. He was so multi-talented,” Esiri said of arguably one of Nigeria’s most gifted actor for both television and stage drama.

Like the many Nigerian languages he spoke fluently, Efe could interpret different roles with ease. For every Nollywood, television soaps and theatre follower, he literally lit up every stage and screen with each role he played. For John Njamah, actor/director, renowned for his role in Amaka Igwe’s Checkmate and then Fuji House of Commotion, Loco Efe made acting easy for those who worked with him. “(Although) he jokes a lot, for him, work is work, fun is fun. There’s no dull moment with him. When he wants to be serious, he is serious. He enjoys what he does,” said Njamah, who holds fond memories of the man who played the role of his father in the 2004/05 Nollywood movie Wounded Apple. We had such as spark on set, it was amazing,” Njamah reminisced, while encouraging young actors to focus more on improving their art like Loco Efe did throughout his long career, adding that they should also learn from his ingenuity, discipline and hardwork.

President Goodluck Jonathan, Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola and Segun Arinze, President, Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), were among those who paid tribute to the late actor who got a post-humous award at the recently held City Peoples Award ceremony. Arinze, described him as an extraordinarily gifted thespian whose mastery of his craft on both stage and screen was unrivalled. Arinze, like many of his contemporaries, grew up watching the late actor in drama programmes on Nigerian television.

A versatile actor, script writer, singer and director, the Edo-State-born actor has featured in numerous television and stage theatre dramas. Efe, who was educated at the University of Ibadan, formed the Overamwem National Theatre Group which won laurels on stage plays in 1969. He won the Best Veteran Actor Award at the 2006 Nollywood Foundation for Excellence (NOFFEX) awards in Owerri, Imo, where incidentally he met his last days. 

“I’ve told people that anytime I die, in my epitaph, just write something there: this man lived so well that even in death, the undertaker is very sad,” the legendary actor reportedly said in an interview with some months ago.

Sam Loco Efe was aged 66.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Heartstrings, an anthology of poetry by Sam Umukoro, will be formally presented to the Nigerian public during a colourful launch scheduled for 4pm, Sunday, August 7, 2011, at the renowned Bogobiri House, Maitama Sule Street, South-West Ikoyi, Lagos.

The Lagos launch, expected to be anchored by Mr. Jahman Anikulapo, Editor, Guardian Newspapers, will also feature the reading of selected poems from a host of Nigerian celebrities, including the acclaimed King of Comedy Ali Baba, Delta state Commissioner for Culture and Tourism Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD), Ade Bantu, Nneka, Yinka Davies, Basket Mouth, Bovi, Emem, Mudi, on-air personality Wana Udobang and Who Wants to be a Millionaire host Frank Edoho.

Heartstrings is a collection of love poems, expressions of yearnings, of dreams dreamed, of desires thwarted and fulfilled. The author, Sam Umukoro, who has written for Vanguard and The Guardian newspapers in Nigeria, uses language elegantly to describe his soul’s longing in every poem. His unique voice as one of Nigeria’s new generation of poets also speaks through in every poem. Love in all its forms is recalled, relived and released into this delightsome collection both for recognition and reflection.  Sam has recited at Off The Wall and A Touch of Madness at The Book Lounge in Cape Town as well as locations in Germany. He has also been featured on Badilisha Radio.  The book, edited by Dr. Kolade Arogundade, makes for a more interesting read with eye catching illustrations by Jessicah Olivier.

First published in South Africa in February 2010 by Giants in the Land (SA) - a publishing initiative that seeks to dwarf all the problems relating to reading, writing and publishing, in partnership with Epik Books (Nigeria), Heartstrings was introduced to the South African public on Valentine's Day 2010 by Professor Harry Garuba at the Book Lounge in Cape Town.