Late Prof. JP Clark – He was a legendary poet, dramatist, folklorist
Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra state on Wednesday expressed profound sadness over the passing away of Prof. John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo, popularly known as JP Clark.
His death was announced in the early hours of Tuesday, October 13. He was aged 85 years.
A statement signed by C. Don Adinuba, Commissioner for Information & Public Enlightenment, described the deceased as a legendary poet, dramatist and folklorist.
According to the statement, “JP Clark was in his lifetime an endearing friend to Anambra state’s illustrious literary legends – Prof. Chinua Achebe, and iconic poet Christopher Okigbo.”
Gov. Obiano extended his condolences to the great Clark family of Kiagbodo in Delta state, led by Elder statesman Chief Edwin Clark.
Born in Kiagbodo of present-day Delta State to an Ijaw father and an Urhobo mother, JP Clark was educated at the famous Government College, Ughelli before studying at the University College, Ibadan.
A precocious poet, Clark was among the prime-movers of the literary club, Mbari in Ibadan, alongside Christopher Okigbo, Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe.
Christopher Okigbo had given the manuscript of his poems “Path of Thunder” before he was killed at the beginning of the Nigeria-Biafra war, and Clark duly published the poems posthumously in the magazine Black Orpheus.
It was under the imprint of Mbari that Clark published his first collection of poems entitled Poems in 1961.
Clark then forged ahead to publish other collections such as A Reed in the Tide, Casualties, A Decade of Tongues, State of the Union, Mandela and other Poems etc.
Clark’s much-anthologized poems like “Night Rain”, “Abiku”, “Streamside Exchange”, “Ibadan”, “Casualties” etc. have been studied extensively for the West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations.
JP Clark made history as Africa’s first Professor of English, a coveted feat he achieved at the University of Lagos, Akoka.
Incidentally, a younger sibling of JP Clark, General Henry Clark, was married to Anambra’s celebrated scholar and public servant, Prof. Marian Ikejiani-Clark, whose father, Dr Okechukwu Ikejiani, was one of Africa’s foremost medical scientists and chairman of the Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC).
Gov. Obiano said that the “Anambra state government is in the end comforted that JP Clark left a celebratory legacy even in his demise as a world-famous poet, playwright, folklorist, and a dear friend of Anambra state.”