* ‘Guerrilla Post’ foresaw govt’s desperation to gag opposition
OBARI Gomba (PhD) who teaches Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, is the 2021 Global South Visiting Professor at Oxford University, United Kingdom. Gomba is an Honorary Fellow in Writing of the University of Iowa, U.S. He is a recipient of Rivers ANA Distinguished Writer Award, Halogen Award for Poetry, and Kangaroo Poetry Festival Poet of 2018. He is a two-time winner of both the Best Literary Artiste Award and the First Prize for Drama of the English Association of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. His works include Guerrilla Post (winner of ANA Drama Prize 2018, shortlisted for The Nigeria Prize for Literature 2018), For Every Homeland (Winner of ANA Poetry Prize 2017, shortlisted for The Nigeria Prize for Literature 2017), Thunder Protocol (winner of ANA Poetry Prize 2016), Length of Eyes, shortlisted for ANA Poetry Prize in 2013, shortlisted for The Nigeria Prize for Literature 2013), and Pearls of the Mangrove (adopted as ‘Book of Garden City Literary Festival 2011 and Festival Poetry Calabar 2019. He curated an anthology featuring 35 writers from 33 countries, entitled A Piece of Daily Life for the International Writing Programme of the University of Iowa, U.S. in 2016.
Gomba’s poetry has been featured in Re-Markings: A World Assembly of Poets and The Second Genesis: An Anthology of Contemporary World Poetry. His poetry has been published in international journals such as Prosopisia, Sentinel, Maple Tree Literary Supplement and Eleven Eleven (which listed his ‘Gun Policy’ in the 20 Best of the Net for 2016). He has read his poems in the United States at Shambaugh House (University of Iowa), Dubuque Museum of Arts, Oaknell Retirement Centre and Kirkwood. In Nigeria, he has read his poems at Alliance Franciase in Enugu, Lagos International Poetry Festival, Lagos Book and Art Festival, Abuja Writers Forum, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Port Harcourt Book Festival, Art Republic/Art-in-My-City Exhibition in Enugu, History Concourse in Port Harcourt, and CORA Book Party for The Nigeria Prize for Literature, etc. He has also read his poems and discussed literature (and politics) on media platforms such as Radio Rivers FM, Nigerian Info FM, Rhythm FM, Radio UST FM, Garden City FM, Unique (UNIPORT) FM, NTA, and CCTV Africa.
His poems have been performed by the Portland Stage Company in Maine U.S. in 2016. His other writings have also appeared in Matatu, African Review, Africa Oil+Gas Report, Tydskrif vir Letterkunde, Oja, Third Text, Jeltan, ANA Review, Culture Digest, Crucible, Working Papers, The Muse, Mgbakoigba , New Age, Lagos Review of Books and Society, ThisDay, The News, etc. There is a chapter on his writing in Masterpieces of African Literature, and his works have been reviewed/mentioned in 234 Next, The Guardian, The Guardian Life, ThisDay, The Sun, National Life, The Punch, Nigerian Tribune, The Nation, Ago, etc.
The author of The Gorilla Post play, as a teacher at the University of Port Harcourt, has deepened his interest in human capital development. Beyond teaching in the classroom, he also offered service as a moderator for Christopher Okigbo Foundation/Conference, facilitator/resource person for the International Writing Programme’s MOOC, panelist for Iowa Book Festival, LOC Chairman of the third International Conference on Tanure Ojaide, Festival Coordinator of Gabriel Okara Literary Festival, moderator at Lagos International Poetry Festival, moderator at Lagos Book and Art Festival, writing workshop facilitator for Port Harcourt UNESCO World Book Capital, Port Harcourt Book Festival, and Niger Delta Creative Writers’ Workshop, judge for Port Harcourt Carnival and Bayelsa State ANA, book reviewer and editor for Hornbill House of Arts, and as a resource person on advocacy to the Ministry of Economic Planning of Delta State in conjunction with ODA/UNDP. Gomba understands that a knowledge-based society is crucial to development in the 21st century.
Gomba is a prolific writer whose creative works have deepened conversation around minority discourse in the troubled Niger Delta while his social commentaries and play Guerrilla Post are scathing takes on incipient dictatorship and how security operatives snoop on social media posts of activist writers with a view to gagging them. In fact, Gorilla Post, published in 2018, foresaw coming efforts of the Muhammadu Buhari government to gag both citizens and the media (social media inclusive –aka Twitter ban) with anti-democratic policies including hate speech that are punitive of open expression against an inept government.
Gomba’s Guerrilla Post play actually foreshadowed Buhari’s planned ‘Big Brother’ intention in the dangerous manner of George Orwell’s cold war novel 1984 that details how a government, suspicious of the activities of its citizens to undermine it on account of poor governance and to cover up for its ineptitude, orders its security agencies to monitor conversations and eavesdrop on them in a bid to fish out those it deems subversive elements plotting against it.
#EndSARS protesters last year were accused of plotting to overthrow the Buhari government, even though no proof has been put forward since then. With the Buhari regime budgeting over N4 billion to monitor what Nigerians are saying or chatting on their phones and social media platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp and SMS messages, it’s clear government’s desperation is high hence its intention to silence all opposition. Importantly, the desperation to gag opposition voices shows how the Buhari regime’s ineptitude has made it an anti-people government that would rather resort to anti-democratic tactics to cling onto fading relevance.