One of Nigeria’s foremost writers, poets, and novelists, Dr. Gabriel Okara, is dead.
Okara, who is from Boumadi, Bayelsa State, died at the Federal Medical Centre in Yenagoa, in the evening of Sunday, March 25, 2019.
The deceased, who died at the age of 98, was the life patron of the Association of Nigerian Authors.
A family member, who pleaded anonymity, said Pa Okara was relaxing at his Yenagoa residence when he slumped at about 4 pm on Sunday and was rushed to the FMC, Yenagoa where he was pronounced dead by doctors.
Born in 1921 in Boumandi in present day Bayelsa State, Mr Okara was part of the golden set of pioneer African writers.
He was the first renowned English language black poet and also the first modernist writer on the African continent.
The Nigerian negritudist, as he was fondly called, began his writing career in Government College Umuahia.
By 1960, he became the first African to be published in the prestigious literary journal, Black Orpheus. That same year he also became part of its editorial board.
In 1953, his poem ‘Call of the river nun’ won the best prize in literature in Nigeria’s festival of arts.
In 1979, his collection ‘Fishermans invocation’ won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize.
In 2005, he bagged the highest literary honor in Nigeria, the NLNG prize.
In addition to his poetry and fiction, he also wrote plays and features for broadcasting.
Many of his unpublished manuscripts were destroyed during the Nigerian Civil War.