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The Asaba Memorial 50th Anniversary

October 11, 2017

From: Liz Bird

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Book reading , with Ed Keazor (left)

Oct. 7, 2017, marked the 50th anniversary of the Asaba Massacre, and the people of Asaba came out in force to commemorate this dark chapter in Nigerian history. We were honored to be part of it.

Our latest journey to Nigeria started in Lagos, with a book reading at Quintessence, a wonderful bookstore and art gallery in Ikoyi. Historian and writer Ed Keazor arranged the event, and he was a terrific MC and interlocutor. I had got to know Ed through social media, and was delighted to finally meet him in person. It was a lively evening – we read from the book, and then fielded questions from Ed and around 30 people who attended.

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Welcome from Asaba ladies

From there, we went to Asaba, where several days of commemoration were underway. First there was a gathering of people from all five quarters of Asaba, who met to dance and offer traditional burial rites. I was pleased to see so many familiar faces, and to receive welcomes and greetings from old friends like Renny Nwosa, Richie Omo, and Martina Osaji.

Group with Soyinka

At the Palace with Wole Soyinka; the Iyase of Asaba (to Soyinka’s right), and Alban Ofili-Okonkwo, Chair of the Memorial Organizing Committee (to my right).

 

The next day we made a courtesy visit to the Palace of the Asagba of Asaba, where we were thrilled to meet the great Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, who had come to participate in the weekend’s events. He keynoted the Memorial Colloquium on Friday afternoon, where Fraser and I also spoke.

 

 

The next afternoon (Oct. 7) was highlighted by more brief remarks from Soyinka, who reminded us that “there is no statute of limitation on memory.”  The Governor of Delta state, and many more dignitaries spoke on the importance of recognition and acknowledgment of the wrong done to Asaba.

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Book Presentation: Wole Soyinka; Gov.  Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta State); Former Nigerian Vice-President Alex Ekwueme; Former Gov. of Cross River State

We were asked to say a few words about our book, and this was followed by the official presentation of the book to the Asaba community – a great honor! That evening, we thought about the journey we’d been on for more than eight years – we couldn’t remember how often we’ve been to Nigeria, but agreed it must be close to 10 times. It has been quite an adventure, and one we couldn’t have done without the friendship and support of so many people. We’re hoping this trip won’t be our last!

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