James Ngwu Eze; An Ensemble Of An Artist With A Midas Touch

By Ifeanyi Ndukwe 

A first meet with the person of James Eze sends a message of hope, brilliance and passion. These qualities distinguish him from others in the field.

The former banker turn journalist has etched his name in the sands of time as an astute literary giant.

His work, 'Dispossessed' has earned him several awards for literary appreciation.

Dispossessed was officially launched in December 2019, providing the public an opportunity to engage the creative writer more intimately as he journeys on the path.

The debut poetry volume, Dispossessed won several awards including the 2021 ANA Poetry Prize.

His second book project which is a collection of speeches by Governor Willie Obiano titled in appreciation, ' I Touched A Dream.'

Eze is also fondly remembered for his ceaseless striving to animate the Anambra cultural space with literary activities; curating annual poetry evenings entitled “A Flutter in the Woods” in Anambra. He also featured as a co-host of Nigeria’s first full-fledged poetry festival in honour of Christopher Okigbo known as 'Return to Idoto' which is held in the poet’s hometown of Ojoto.

Dispossessed has been reviewed in The Cable, as well as by Mike Jimoh of The Sun newspaper. Canada-based academic and former Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Dr. Nduka Otiono, also reviewed the debut collection.

Eze's passion for arts is unarguably deep. His style of writing is exceptional. Little wonder the writer extraordinaire, Nduka Otiono in his opinion eulogized him;

"... James, to me, was an unusual literary artist reporting Business. How he managed to get often figures-driven execs used to speaking in tongues of money and profit to talk in lively, sometimes philosophic, manner that drew me into following his Business column in ThisDay is now apparent from his poetry debut. It is worth noting that James’ next professional station proved that the Business news chapter of his life was akin to field clearing before seed-planting. His journalistic ship therefore soon berthed at The Sunday Sun newspaper where he served as the pioneer Literary Editor. The appointment brought James closer to his dream of becoming a literary artist."

Dispossessed, has continued to grab attention for its literary merit and its attempt to annex new frontiers for poetry.

Worthy of particular mention is a poem, Rainbow, which has been set to song. An accompanying video was posted on YouTube. Performed by the poet, the video features a new talentful singer, Diva Steels.

"I wasn’t doing the job of a chief press secretary alone, I was doing the job of a speech writer, which is like wearing two different hats and combining them seamlessly. It can be very demanding and difficult if you don’t have the temperament, and it’s so easy not to have the temperament.. ". This was Eze response to an interview with a Lagos based newspaper house.

As a Press Secretary, James ensured free flow of accurate information to the public.

As the chief press secretary, I have tried to communicate these dreams in my own way — in my language. As his speech writer, I try to articulate his dreams, visions and desire to make things change... Many people may never see the leader, but they hear him..... In my position, as the one who interprets his thoughts, and presents them as his speeches, I feel fulfilled that so many things he has communicated to me have finally crystalised, and people can see them in living colour. In his inaugural speech, he made reference to being “sons of your fathers” and “heirs to the pioneers” (of a new Anambra).

During his stint with Fidelity Bank, Eze collaborated with literary giants, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Helon Habila to organise the Fidelity Creative Writers Workshop for almost a decade,

“I have always felt that, if there’s any sphere of endeavour where Nigeria can stand shoulder to shoulder with people from other parts of the world, it’s in the field of the imagination, the field of literature, writing and the arts. No Nigerian can feel inferior when he or she stands with any other person in the world in the arts. I think Nigerian music is coming up but literature and the creative arts have always been there, have always stood us out,” he maintained.

Recently, Eze’s is the founder and patron of Udala Nation. The Udala Nation is a group of singers and writers and composers who discovered themselves in Awka. It recently released a new album, Daybreak. The 12-track album epitomises Eze’s trajectory as a late bloomer, contains interesting tracks, such as, “I found Love”, “Dance in the Sky”, “Love Song”, “He Say, She Say”, “My Truth”, “The Colour of My Skin”, and many more.

Love Song video is making the airs in the internet. It features mathematics graduate, Masthamind and Zoologist, Dallie.

The song has a sprinkling of rock and RnB, yet fusion.

Explaining the choice of Udala as the group’s name, Eze noted: Udala fruit in the Igbo socio-cultural setting “is a symbol of innocence, because udala trees in the traditional Igbo society used to be a place of gathering and play for children. Innocence in the sense that children would gather under the udala tree and play all kinds of games. And then they waited for the precious, ripe udala fruit to fall. When it falls, the children would race for it, and whoever was fastest would pick the udala, and, if the fellow was kind enough, he or she would share it with his or her mates.”

Eze is interested in winning new audiences for poetry. He said: “Today, we want to present our first EP, and we want to share. My aim is to find new audiences for poetry, and in my last reading at Nsukka we had that broad heading: what’s the difference between a poem and a song? At that event, we tried to answer it: there’s really no difference between a song and a poem.

“What is clear for any discerning mind is that certain kinds of poetry can make a more smooth transition to the ears than typical poetry as we know it, in the sense that poetry has always been very isolationist, very eclectic, very selective of its audience. Music cuts through to reach wider ears and wider audiences.”

While James Eze functions as the composer and spirit of Udala Nation, Masthamind (Michael Chibuike Chinedu) and Dallie (Deborah Chiamaka Nnabuife) take the vocal responsibility.

“Udala Nation is about pleasantness, a kind of entertainment that is wholesome, that anyone who encounters our offerings will absorb in. Besides, these are not just songs as we know them, but poetry couched in songs.”