By SYLVESTER ASOYA
Dike Chkwumerije is a complete Nigerian. He fits the bill by virtue of his birthplace, socialization, education, exposure, temperament and his strength of will.
When he discovered the power of poetry and the spoken word many years ago, he decided to use it as a tool against injustice, hate, discrimination, exclusion, persecution, misgovernance and ineptitude. Today, Chukwumerije is connecting his fellow countrymen and women and creating space for understanding. He is also uniting people, engendering hope, healing his country in his own way and bearing witness to our common humanity in a special style through writing, poetry and performance.
Aside from seeing Nigeria differently with his poems and creative canvas, he is also using the power of poetry and drama to inspire change and bring hope to a people desperately in search of the ultimate purpose of life. It is therefore not surprising that regularly, Chukwumerije renews his commitment to creating a better world. One other interesting thing about his work is that there are signs that draw attention to his obligation to the idea of a just, free and progressive Nigeria; and he is working tirelessly, through his unusual art to achieve his goal.
At the moment, he is travelling round Nigeria with his production crew, telling the exciting story of his country with dance, music, drama and poetry.
It is obvious that this performance poet has a clear vision for his writing and performing career. Interestingly, at the centre of it all is his agenda of reaching the next generation through knowledge, education, engagement and dramatic encounters that endure. “My motivation is to leave to my children and their generation, a nation that can keep them safe… and we must lay foundation in something deeper than politics. To do this, we must also lay the foundation in the heart”, he says.
But he believes that to transform Nigeria, everyone everywhere must look beyond infrastructure, well paved streets and all the glittering things and fantasies of this age. And he was once quoted as saying, “Our redemption does not lie in fine roads in Abuja. It lies in building our rundown schools, filling up our libraries and exciting our minds”.
The subject and range of Chukwumerije’s writing is as varied as his art and his many interests. They range from culture, activism and ideology to love, class struggle, egalitarianism and harmony. His most popular books are:
Ahamefula: The Cultural Significance…; The African American; On My Way to Azure Shores; The Revolution Has No Tribe; One Nigeria: The Birth and Evolution of an Idea; Strategic Love: Simple Rules That Make Love Work, and he is still writing and performing.
Many years ago, the artiste had the opportunity of a new life in the UK, away from Nigeria’s never-ending crises and contradictions but he chose to remain in his fatherland. “I am not trapped here. No. Every single day, I choose it, to identify with this conflicted nation. To help find herself, her feet, her place, her purpose. To shine the light of love—for love alone can make things grow”, he writes.
And he is also noticeably living his name. In Igbo, Dike means warrior and this is instructive. Clearly, this uncommon performer is undeniably, a hero on stage as an actor and director. His heroism is also evident in his writing, activism and his belief in the dignity of man.
In 2016, Chukwumerije was named as one of the top 100 hundred Most Influential Africans by African Magazine. Today, he is doing a great deal of work with his influence and multiple competences. And no one is in doubt about what tomorrow holds for him and his country he regularly challenges to change for the better with every performing opportunity. Made in Nigeria, his creation, is a familiar production that is already going places. It is the interesting story of Nigeria’s convoluted journey from colonial and post-colonial experience to the present day, told with songs, dialogue and performances. Usually, the presentations are scripted but there are also elements of situational and improvisational acting.
It is clear that literary activism runs deep in this adventurous and self-motivated dude from Abia State and son of the famed Senator Uche Chukwumerije: activist, persuasive media content producer and a highly believable political conscious character who left quite an impression during the Civil War and in the 5th Senate as an active member. Dike may have chosen a different path in life for himself but his family tree remains a reminder for his extraordinary life and career in his works as a writer, activist and performer. Today, the younger Chukwumerije is appreciated by many for living his life to the fullest. And by working with themes of identity, peace, culture, togetherness and love to awaken his country’s consciousness in nation-building, peaceful co-existence and solidarity, he will be in hearts of many for many years to come.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub, Dike had his early education in his birthplace before moving to Abuja where he obtained a law degree from the University of Abuja. But this extraordinary poet and writer is a product of many influences. However, his family and those closest to him remain the most influential people in his performing arts, creative writing career and life. Senator Uche Chukwumerije, his effervescent father who pushed the boundaries with nearly everything he did on earth, including publishing and activism, remains his greatest influence. Dike also gained valuable knowledge and experience as an up-and-coming poet working with Nwoyibo Iweka, his creative mother; Che Chukwumerije, his equally talented elder brother and his childhood friend, Onesi Dominic. This lawyer who is already gaining a reputation as an exceptional author and performance poet of remarkable literary gifts, is also meeting entirely new and more people in the creative world that offer fresh insights.
For choosing to pursue his passion, one is tempted to believe that Dike would not have had a spring in steps on his way to work as a lawyer. Those close to him say the feeling of joy and job satisfaction he experiences daily on stage, supersedes large amounts of money. Perhaps he may have also read the immortal lines of Confucious, the great Chinese poet and philosopher who says: “Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life”.
No doubt, Dike is having a good and enjoyable time working as an artiste despite the challenge of travelling and performing in a country with serious security challenges. The good news however, is that he is highly appreciated by many people for recording and documenting Nigeria. And that should motivate other patriotic young Nigerians who are also inspired to change their country and our common world.