By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu
Nigerian writer and journalist, Izunna Okafor, on January 9, 2023, clocked 29 years of age.
Announcing this on his social media handle on Monday, Okafor said he almost forgot that today is his birthday, having been obsessed with the activities of the burial ceremony of his father, Mr. Josephat Okafor Udeze.
The award-winning literary figure and journalist had, in a recent interview with this reporter, described his life as one filled with testimonies, looking back to where and how he started.
Recalling and recounting how hideous it was for him in his early years, particularly in his teens; he appreciated God for His marvelous work and infinite mercies.
He went memory lane to narrate how he studied his primary school (at the Community Primary School, Ebenator) and some parts of his secondary school (at the Community Secondary School, Ebenator) barefooted, and with tattered school uniform, to the credit of his family's background.
According to him, being a son of a palm-wine tapper, hunter and electrician in a rural village; he started struggling his way out early in life, precisely during his secondary days when he began to do some handiworks, such as cutting palmnut, hunting, clearing bushes for farmers, tilling the ground/farmland, packing/dumping sands at village rivers, among menial jobs.
It was from these, which he said he was doing after school hours and on non-school days, that he saved money to publish his first book, ‘Ikem's Adventure’ (a novelette) back then in 2012 during his secondary school days. This, he said, was a single feat that did not only pave way for metamorphosis in the taste of his life story, but also eventually landed him on the track of greatness where he rides and resides till date.
A second son and third child in the family of Mr. Josephat Okafor Udeze and Mrs. Susan Okafor Udeze in Ebenator, Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State, Izunna Okafor, is a novelist, poet, essayist, journalist, editor, translator, publicist, Igbo language activist and an administrator.
He graduated from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, where he studied Public Administration. He also holds O.N.D in Public Administration from the same school.
A published and international best-selling author, his books include 'Ikem's Adventure' (his first book) published in Nigeria in 2012, during his secondary school; 'The Curse of A Widow' (his second novel), published in 2013; 'The Faithful Children' (his third book), published in 2014 (which received outstanding recognition in the Ezenwa Ohaeto Prize for Young Nigerian Novelists 2015); ‘Ajọ Enyi’, his debut Igbo novel and fourth book, published in 2015.
With 'Ajọ Enyi', he became the first person to win the Nigerian Writers Award 2015/2016 as the Indigenous Writer of the Year. Also, with Ajọ Enyi, he won the Pita Nwanna Award for Igbo Literature in 2015; and also got shortlisted for The 2015 Young Nigerian Writer of The Year, and the 2017 Nigerian Writers Award.
He has edited and co-edited over 25 books and anthologies (published nationally and internationally).
He has been published in many anthologies, nationally and internationally; has thousands of articles/essays as well as poems and short stories published online and on many platforms, to his credit.
A diglot writer, Okafor writes perfectly in Igbo and English languages, and has published widely in both languages.
He has won and been nominated/shortlisted for a number of awards, which include:
Nigerian Writers Award/Indigenous Writer of the Year 2015/2016
Pita Nwana Prize for Igbos Literature 2015
Society of Young Nigerian Writers Award Nigeria
Heritage Icon Award/Young Writer of the Year Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2016
Merit Award from the Society of Young Nigerian Writers (2016)
Award of Recognition from Students Union Government, Unizik (2017)
Nigerian Writers Award/Young Writer of the Year 2015/2016
N.Y.S.C. Essay Competition 2012
SLAM Hero Youth International Award/Innovative Youth of the Year 2016
First Prize Winner, NAPAS Essay Competition, 2016
The Future Award Africa 2016
Anambra Exclusive Youth Choice Award/Youth Writer of the Year 2016
Award of Academic Excellence from National Association of Public Administration Students (2016)
Inspire Award /Outstanding Youth in Academics 2017
NAPAS Academic Icon of the Year 2017
Anambra Campus Award 2017/Campus Writer of the Year 2017
Award of Excellence from the Society of Young Nigerian Writers 2016
Anambra Exclusive Youth Choice Award/Outstanding Youth of the Year 2017
Youth Writer of the Year 2016
Starlett Entertainment Award/Creative Writer of the Year 2016
Young Author Award, 2018
Creative Crew Africa/Young Talent of the Year 2018, among others
Campus Best Writer of the Year, 2018
Campus Best Journalist of the Year 2018
Young Achievers Award/Best Young Writer of the Year 2019
National Light Staff of the Year 2019
Anambra Media Excellence Award/News Reporter of the Year 2019
Recognition Award, Anambra Through A Lens, 2020
Amazon Masterclass Award/Most Resilient Male Student 2021
Anambra Media Excellence Award/Best News Reporter of the Year 2021
ACORA/Awka Diocese Media Personality of the Week (November) 2021
South East Media Award 2021
Ebedi International Writers Residency (June) 2022
AMEA 2022/Outstanding Indigenous Language Media Content Creator of the Year
He also has some certificates of award, recognition and participation, the most recent of which include:
Certificate of Recognition from the ImpactField Global Initiative (2018)
Certificate of Award from the Applex Art and Creative Crew Africa (2018)
Certificate of Participation (War Against Fake News 2019)
Certificate of Completion for the SprinNG Advancement Fellowship, 2020
Certificate of Participation, Naija Haiku Poetry Workshop, 2020
Wikimedian Certificate from Igbo Wikimedian Hub 2020
Certificate of Appreciation from International Human Rights Art Festival 2020
Amazon Masterclass Certificate, 2021, among others
At the age of 21, Okafor was nominated for The Future Award Africa 2016/African Prize For Education, which is one of the biggest and most prestigious African youths awards.
Aside being a creative writer, Okafor is also an Igbo language activist who has played and continued to play great roles in sustaining and promoting Igbo language and culture. He preaches and takes the 'gospel' of Igbo language and the need for its sustenance to every nook and cranny, ranging from schools to churches, radio/television stations, and to other public places, being part if his own contribution and strategic measures to ensure that the language does not go extinct as predicted by the UNESCO in 2012.
He has also been featured in many radio and television stations across the country on this mission.
In addition to these, Okafor is also a renowned journalist and columnist currently working with Anambra Newspaper and Printing Coporation, the publishers of National Light Newspaper, Ka Ọ Dị Taa (which is the only Igbo Language Newspaper in Nigeria) and Sportslight Xtra.
He also writes for Igbo Radio, which is an online Igbo language news hub headquartered in Canada, and also freelances for other media/publishing houses, both the online and print media.
Okafor is the Coordinator of Society of Young Nigerian Writers, Anambra State Chapter, which is a literary body that hosts Chinua Achebe Literary Festival, an annual literary event held in memory and honour of Late Prof. Chinua Achebe, since 2016.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Chinua Achebe Poetry/Essay Anthology which is an international anthology annually published in honour of Achebe. The most current editions of the anthology include 'Arrows of Words (for Chinua Achebe)', 'Achebe: A Man of the People', ‘There Was a Man’, ‘Achebe the Soul Brother’, among others.
In April, 2020, Okafor was appointed the Project Coordinator, Writers Against COVID-19 Movement. He is the Editor of the COVID-19 Poetry/Essay Anthology, titled 'Ripostes of Locked Down Voices', which is the first international anthology of poems and essays on COVID-19.
He has served as a judge in many national and international writing-related competitions.
He is also an alumnus and 2020 Fellow of the SprinNG Advancement Fellowship, being championed by the SprinNG Literary Movement.
He edits and publishes an annual Special Valentine Poetry Collection, which are all available online for free download.
During his undergraduate days, he was also an Editorial Board member of the FAMASSA Magazine.
He is Ambassador of TFA Africa in Nigeria; and Ambassador of Read Across Nigeria in Anambra State.
An alumnus of Unizik, he is also a former Secretary General of the National Association of Public Administration Students (NAPAS), as well as the current National Secretary General of the Society of Young Nigerian Writers.
Today, Izunna Okafor marks his 29th birthday.
Congratulations to him.