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Azuonye: ‘The Creative world has lost a great soul’

  • January 27, 2024
  • 6 min read
Azuonye: ‘The Creative world has lost a great soul’

By Editor

TRIBUTES have continued to pour in as the literary world mourns the sad and untimely passing of one Nigeria’s emerging voices and mediator of the literary craft through his many interventions as a publisher and platform creator for emerging voices, Nnorom Azuonye. From President, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Dr. Usman Akanbi, to Prof. Obi Nwakanma of University of Central Florida, US, and Chiedu Ezeanah, Azuonye’s passing is like a meteor – brief but streaking brightly on the creative firmament.

Nwakanma remembers him from his secondary school days at the famous Government College, Umuahia, when he wrote, “Nnorom – we called him “Tombo” – was my high school classmate at the Government College, Umuahia. He was the editor in his last year of the Nile House Magazine, while I was the editor of The Dewar, the Simpson House magazine. I was made editor of the college magazine, The Red Star, and Nnorom was called into office the same day by the college Principal and classicist, J.E. Nworgu (JP) as Assistant Editor.

“Unfortunately, we did not produce the magazine that year because of the school strikes, and it was often a quiet joke between Nnorom and I that our legacy of the tradition of the college magazine in Umuahia, that had a history of past editors including Sam Epelle, Chinua Achebe, Chris Okigbo, Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike (who were joint editors in their year), Kelsey Harrison, Beredugo, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Nnorom’s own elder brother, Ike Azuonye, now based in London, as a very renowned psychiatrist, down to the poet, Obu Udeozo, and right down to us, was that we did not produce anything. It signified for us the beginnings of The Trouble with Nigeria (title for Achebe’s famous treatise on Nigeria).

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Nnorom Azuonye

“At Umuahia, Nnorom was very active in the Dramatic Society and had acted on the college stage as a woman once, in one of Ene Henshaw’s plays, staged during the famous Umuahia Drama Week. It was no surprise to me that he went to Nsukka to study drama after his A-Levels in London. Nnorom and I had plans to start a very serious publishing company with offices in London, Enugu, Owerri, Accra, Nairobi, New York and Cape Town. We had plans to meet in London this summer to put the dots on the Is of that plan.

“He called me in November when my younger brother died. That was my last conversation with him. I knew he had some lingering health issues. In fact, after the Covid-19 scare, we talked and accepted that we should henceforth cease all manner of ‘bloviations’, and begin to do real work of restoration, because our mortality was now clearly contingent. But it did not reduce the shock of his death, which I got to know, in exactly two hours after it happened, through his brother, Dr. Ik Azuonye. Nnorom now joins his eldest brother, the poet and critic, Professor Chukwuma Azuonye, who went ahead of him, two years ago. It is very sad and it is worrying to me that death now hunts me, and has harvested so much from my field in the last year alone!”

In a condolence note titled ‘The creative world has lost a great soul: Condolence message from the Association of Nigerian Authors on the death of Mr. Nnorom Azuonye,’ the association’s president, Dr. Akanbi, said, “We received with deep sense of loss the news of the demise of Mr. Nnorom Azuonye (July 12, 1967 – January 21, 2024). The news was as devastating as it was shocking to learn of the passing of the perfect gentleman.

“Nnorom Azuonye was a lover and promoter of literature. He was an author, poet, playwright, editor, essayist, and Publishing Director, SPM Publications, London. He was as well a preacher in the Methodist Church. As a talented and enterprising soul, Nnorom gave his best towards the advancement of literary creativity and more.

“He provided Nigerian literature and writers enabling platforms to showcase their art, and the Sentinel was one of such. Following his activities while he lived, Nnorom’s demise is a big blow on his family, friends, the Methodist church and writers’ community. The world has lost a great soul.

“Thus, I, on behalf of the Executive Council and the entire members of the Association of Nigerian Authors herewith convey our heartfelt condolences. We pray the Almighty God to grant his soul an eternal rest. May the good Lord console his people. May his soul rest in the peace of the Lord. Amen!”

Ezeanah waxed lyrical in mourning Azuonye and writes him a poem, but this is after explaining their near-publishing project that would not now come off as planned: “Dear brother Nnorom, you warned that you would sue me to court if I gave the manuscript of my debut collection to anyone else but you. That was almost a decade ago. Just about when we were set to release it in February, you had to answer to the call of mortality, after several surgeries on both of your eyes arising from diabetic complications, as you confided in me many months ago. But you recovered to say this was still doable. Alas, some cosmic elements are beyond our control. I am still processing this. I will surely do you a deserving eulogy to extol the extraordinary human you were and you will continue to be for me and my family who were looking forward to meeting with you last year in Abuja as we discussed.

“Certainly, more to come from me to testify to how simple and sagely you were as a person and as a poet. You remain so in the rose-tinged memory of mine… Bye for now…”

TOIL ~ For Nnorom Azuonye
(12 July,1967, Eastern Nigeria — 21 January, 2024, London,UK)

By Chiedu Ezeanah

Outside is darkness
Darkness is home
Dreams and fears flare between the two
Eyes toil between the two
It’s with the eyes the body shields its head
It’s with the eyes the heart betrays its longing
You eyes full of light who blacken light, halt
the return of light, blacken rays of new eyes…
You do not ask for light anymore, you
toil for blacker darkness,
you do not recall what light means…
Night is not so dire it does not hum
This night hums for a home in new eyes
Night-gashed eyes see
with cry-cleansed eyes
They cry with those who cry
They see for those who do not see…

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