Debbie Iorliam and Jackson Odeh
“You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have to say something.”- F. Scott Fitzgerald
In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, a famous poet who dedicated his life lending his voice to the human cause, every poet bears a responsibility that goes beyond the ability of stringing beautiful words. It embodies the human life that seeks to focus on the issues that make or break us; the consciousness of talking and writing about prevailing issues in the society with the desire to finding solutions.
Splendors of Dawn Poetry Foundation is one of the many platforms giving poets, especially the youths, the needed spring to be more vocal about the problems facing the Nigerian society and beyond. The organisation was established in 2011, by Dr Ayo Ayoola-Amale in Ghana and incorporated in 2013 by Odoh Diego Okenyodo in Nigeria, with the objectives of promoting positive social change through peace education, peacebuilding, violence and conflict prevention, and conflict resolution by employing the use of arts. The organisation has focused its antenna over the past one year on an anti-corruption and accountability campaign, intent on having conversations around leadership and the role of the society in having their leaders accountable for their decisions. Good governance can only thrive when there is a consciousness of action and accountability for every action taken.
Every month Splendors of Dawn Poetry Foundation makes a call for entries on themed topics around anti-corruption and accountability and have had social media users, mainly on Facebook and Twitter, send in their entries of poetry and short-short stories. In the last one year, the NGO has had over one hundred and fifty (140) entries from participants and eleven winners have emerged from these monthly competitions. The high points of these competitions are not in the numbers of the winners but the interactions and conversations that present poetry as a means through which changes can be made in the society. The arts and artists have proven over the years to awaken consciousness in the people that has spurred changes in the society. Such examples are Christopher Okigbo, Gabriel Okara, J.P. Clarke, Tade Ipadeola, Odia Ofeimun, just to mention a few.
“I felt so excited because poets are using their poetry to create awareness for something that is very vital in our country. Reading those poems, I saw that we could do more with poetry on anti-corruption and other social vices in our country Nigeria.”
The high points of these competitions are not in the numbers of the winners but the interactions and conversations that present poetry as a means through which changes can be made in the society. The arts and artists have proven over the years to awaken consciousness in the people that has spurred changes in the society.
These were the words of Funke Awodiya, one of the judges for Splendors of Dawn poetry competition.
“As poets we are charged with the responsibility of writing things that can benefit the society,” added Ms Awodiya, herself an author of book of poetry titled The Farmer’s Daughter. Some Notable names in the Nigeria’s vibrant poetry scene like Efe Paul Azino, Benjamin Ubiri, Su’eddie Agema, Saka Aliyu, Salamatu Sule, Dike Chukwumerije, Halima Usman and B.M. Dzukogi have judged for Splendors of Dawn competition. Some of the winners that have emerged from these monthly competitions are: The January edition had Godwin Awunah emerge a winner with the poem Thinning the Soil, Nengak Daniel for his poem titled The Nigerian in October, Orakpoghenor Ese Gift for the July edition, with the poem titled The Cost of Silence, Mc Yunus for his poem called Son’s Father in the August edition, and others.
Splendors of Dawn Poetry Foundation founder, Dr. Ayo Ayoola-Amale’s stance on poetry remains unflinching. In her words the organisation seeks to “use the power of poetry to bring together artists around the world, to advance human rights and respect for the fundamental human rights of all persons.” She also added the organisation will “promote democracy and excellence in leadership and workplace; to promote cross-cultural understanding, and love for humanity and world peace.”
In furtherance to this statement, the organisation is already using social media to generate a discourse on anti-corruption and accountability and will continue so with other discourse.
Some of Splendors of Dawn Poetry Foundation’s successfully completed projects over the years have been: The Sun Project, The Light Project, Splendors Performance Poetry team, with more projects on the way. The unrelenting support of organisations both locally and internationally, such as the Global Harmony Association, Montreal Poetry Prize, Global Coalition for Conflict Transformation, World Poetry Movement, Poets of the World, European Union Peace Network for Africa, CITAD and MacArthur Foundation have gone a long way in promoting poetry for positive change in Nigeria and Africa.
Other areas of involvement by the Splendors of Dawn Poetry Foundation in Ghana are the Growintopeace project, the Annual Global 100TPC (Thousand Poets for Change) reading/poetry performance in Ghana, the Write to Learn project and several others.
Collaborations with other organisations on conflict resolution will be paramount, with focus on intercultural dialogue to engage those affected by the Boko Haram insurgency using the medium of poetry will be looked at in the future.
The writers of this piece are activists based in Abuja, Nigeria. They can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com .