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Patrick Naagbanton –Friends memorialize the poet’s message

 By Menidin Egbo

Scores of friends and admirers of late Patrick Naagbanton, representing various callings in life, gathered at Visa Karena Hotel in the GRA Phase II part of the city of Port Harcourt in Rivers State on Thursday, December 3, 2020, to honour the man and his poetry life prowess.
It was one thought-provoking memorial event, organized to mark the first anniversary of his demise (and burial) about a year earlier. Mr. Naagbanton died on September 21, 2019, and was buried on November 23, 2019 about two months later, at his home town of Bodo of Gokana Local government Area of Rivers state.

 The event, tagged, “Patrick B. Naagbanton First Memorial Lecture”, was characteristically inspiring on the one score that Patrick, a poet that he was, touched the lives of so many friends and associates. He reached out to many to make a difference for those under various kinds of challenges. He worked to uplift those people he met that needed his help one way or the other. 

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Patrick B. Naagbanton

  The gathering itself, was characterized by mixed feelings, of those still grieving over his death, and of those expressing joy of still associating with the course he lived for, which he also promoted across national boundaries and through various climes. By his mission, he impressed the need for advancing equity, justice and fairness far above personal commitment level, and through living a life for others by bringing to them some measure of hope.

Close friends of Mr. Naagbanton at the event laboured to memorialize the poet’s message of the man they used to know for years before that fateful day of Saturday, September 21, 2019, when death took him away from his cream of friends. He died a very natural poet, and many of his associate poets joined other of his admirers at the event to express solidarity messages to his honour.

Eloquently expressed at the event were messages depicting Mr. Naagbanton’s dreams, passions, principles and character. Among the speakers were those that struggled to paint the core matters of life that Patrick believed and lived for, just as Mr. Naagbanton himself had struggled to capture on the imagery canvass of poetry the various meanings of reality as he could make out of the ordinary and turbulent journey of life.

Rev. Nnimmo Bassey, currently head of Friends of the Earth International, delivered the memorial lecture as the key presentation of the occasion. Titled, “The life of Patrick B. Naagbanton: A Reflection on the State of Human and Environmental Rights in Nigeria”, the presentation more or less raised critical questions over the contradictions currently experienced across expanding and heightening campaigns for environmental justice, ecological sustainability and human rights protection in Nigeria. Unarguably, there is virtual mess that is apparently felt to be a telling case of mind-boggling irony hanging over citizens’ unrelenting campaigns, one that lies in the character of responses by the state. State performance is largely being viewed as contra-constitutional by way of commissions or omissions that are not helping matters to improve welfare for citizens, nor enhancing conditions for attaining sound environmental management to ensure enrichment of ecological resources.

One thing about Mr. Naagbanton, his poet-mind foray did not spare critical scrutiny of nature-care, and related benefits of life itself. In memorializing his poetic thoughts and social justice actions, the book, Night Has Come Again –An Anthology of Poems in Memory of Late Comr. Patrick Naagbanton, was publicly presented at the memorial event. Edited by Orike Ben Didi, with contributions of 41 poems by about 18 poets, the volume was “written to capture the legacies and preserve” memories left behind by Mr. Naagbanton, according to Prof. Nenibarini Zabbey, coordinator for Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD).

It must be mentioned, that Comr. Patrick Naagbanton (as fondly called by associates) founded CEHRD in 1999. This effort was to help concretize a formidable non-governmental organizations (NGO) front for strengthening needed mass campaigns for good governance, environmental justice, and human rights’ promotion in Nigeria.

Mr. Patrick Naagbanton was born in 1970 and died in 2019. His friends saw in him a life that etched out a kind-hearted dedication to advance goodwill through a sacrifice of poetic ‘human milk’ (that can, in some way, nourish and sustain the soul of humanity, and assuage or heal life’s social ills). He lived to be reckoned among passionate people who are ever exploring philosophical explanations for proffering social solutions to life’s many challenges.

No doubt, the burden that Mr. Patrick Naagbanton was confronted with, by life’s downright nature of paradoxical realities of existence, kept him a busy man. His dogged response to this challenge probably defined the many parts that manifested through his exhibited wide spectrum of skills and talents, which he mustered to change a daunting world situation.

Mr. Patrick Naagbanton’s many friends will continue to remeber him for his courage to bring sundry human talents to advance the course of numanity. Among such frineds (including Dr. Orike Ben Didi) who admire Mr. Naagbanton as human rights activist, an investigative journalist, environmental justice campaigner, researcher, writer, a poet, and a man of ideas.

Yet, Mr. Patrick Naagbanton’s life and times itself was a poetic message, one that left behind him a cause for memorializing life’s reflections over the nature of social contradictions. Indeed, many of those touched by his many contributions will keep sustaining strong passions and actions for addressing the forces that bothered his mind: those very factors that keep preventing realization of the good things that abound in nature for the comfort and good pleasure (or common good) of humanity. Patrick fought hard until death, to surmount those very forces -believing that those good things of life will ultimately prevail.



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