Buhari, others mourn JP Clark

by Araayo Akande

President Muhammadu Buhari has paid tribute to eminent poet and playwright, Professor John Pepper Clark, who passed on Tuesday.

His family announced the news of the demise of the Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Lagos.

A brief statement jointly signed by Professor C.C. Clark and Mr Ilaye Clark read: “The Clark-Fuludu Bekederemo family of Kiagbodo Town, Delta State, wishes to announce that Emeritus Professor of Literature and Renowned Writer, Prof. John Pepper Clark, has finally dropped his pen in the early hours of today, Tuesday, 13 October, 2020.

“Prof. J. P. Clark has paddled on to the great beyond in comfort of his wife, children and sibling, around him. The family appreciates your prayers at this time. Other details will be announced later by the family.”

Reacting to his demise, President Buhari in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, condoled with the family while describing the author of famous poems including ‘Night Rain’, ‘Abiku’, ‘The Casualties’ and ‘Ibadan’ as one of Nigeria’s finest poets and dramatist.

The statement read, “On behalf of the Federal Government, President Muhammadu Buhari extends deepest condolence to the Clark-Fuludu Bekederemo family on the passing of renowned writer and Emeritus Professor of Literature, Prof. John Pepper Clark.

“President Buhari pays tribute to one of Nigeria’s finest poets, dramatist and recipient of the Nigerian National Order of Merit Award for literary excellence, whose repertoire of published works depicts the hard work of a great man, devoted to a lifetime of writing, knowledge and promotion of the indigenous culture of the Ijaw nation.

“Acknowledging that Prof. J.P. Clark’s exit has, indeed, left an indelible mark in the literary world, President Buhari takes solace that his body of literary works, which earned him recognition and respect both at home and abroad, would continue to inspire upcoming Nigerian writers to pursue literary excellence and flourish in their chosen vocation.

“The President’s thoughts and prayers are with the family of the departed patriot, the government and people of Delta State and the literary community in the country.
“He prays for the peaceful repose of the soul departed.”

Also reacting on Twitter, Pulitzer Prize winner and founder of the rested NEXT Newspaper, Dele Olojede expressed grief. He wrote, “saddened by the passing of playwright and poet John Pepper Clark, whose works formed part of the background music of my youth.”

US-based literary critic, Ikhide Ikheloa also wrote: “And John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo waves goodbye to Nigeria, their Nigeria and takes his seat with our ancestors. Good night. Warrior”

Born in Kiagbodo, present Delta State on 6 April 1935, Professor Clark gained his BA in English at the University College, Ibadan. He was an Information Manager in the Ministry of Information, old Western Region; Features Editor of the Daily Express and later Research Fellow at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan. 

His collection of poems were, ‘A Reed in the Tide’, ‘Casualties’, ‘A Decade of Tongues’, ‘State of the Union’ and ‘Mandela and Other Poems’. 

Professor Clark’s plays include ‘Song of a Goat’, ‘The Masquerade’, ‘The Raft’, ‘Ozidi’, ‘The Boat and a travelogue, ‘America Their America’ which critiques American society and its values.
He is survived by a wife, Professor Ebun Clark and children.

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