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Dramatic Breaking of Okigbo’s Birthday Cake

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Dramatic Breaking Okigbo's Birthday CakeThe activities marking the second day of The Return to Idoto, a poetry festival in honour of Christopher Okigbo began with the breaking of a posthumous birthday cake

in the poet’s compound in Ojoto. 

The six Nigerian poets (Iquo Diana Abasi Eke, Tade Ipadeola, amu-nnadi, Uche Umez, Chuma Nwokolo and Nduka Otiono) who travelled all the way from Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Owerri and Asaba and Abraka arrived to a sunny welcome from the large Okigbo family who had gathered to commemorate the day. 

They all looked excited and happy as they appeared in the T-Shirts that were customised for the occasion with the iconic picture of the late poet taking a drag from his pipe. 

We spent a few precious moments relieving the lingering memories of the night before when words caught flame over a smoldering bonfire. 

Once again, Uncle John served his tasty palm wine. Everyone had a red disposable cup filled with it as the mood got underway. Poets flocked around Christopher’s tomb for photographs that they would treasure for a long time. 

I took a few remarkable shots with Obiageli and her half-brother Onyebuchi beside the tombstone. 

Excitement hung in the air as Okigbo’s famous bonhomie spirit took over the scene. Poets pranced around in the Okigbo T-Shirts, proud to be part of the rare moment of a fitting memorial for their fallen hero.

Soon, the birthday cake arrived and we gathered in the open for the ceremony of its breaking. The sun cast a benign beam down on the Okigbos as they flocked round the table bearing the cake. 

Then in a husky voice, Odili Ujubuonu (Pregnancy of the Gods, Pride of the Spider Clan) began the countdown by spelling the name “Christopher.” 

Uncle John Okigbo beamed with smiles as he held onto the knife with Obiageli and others. The knife sliced cleanly through the thick layers of the cake at the mention of the letter “r”. Shouts of hip, hip, hip, hurray rent the air. 

Then we descended on the cake and hacked it apart and tucked its tinniest fragments nicely away. 

We needed that for strength…The Return to Idoto is an intense test of endurance. 

We left immediately after eating the cake, treading the very footpath that young Okigbo trod in his countless childhood journeys to his river of memory… 

James Eze

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