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Nigerian writer, journalist, Okafor marks 28th birthday

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By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu

The award-winning young Nigerian writer and journalist, Izunna Okafor has clocked 28 years old, with laudable feats, goodwill and achievements.

In an interview with newsmen, Okafor, born January 9, 1994, said his life had indeed been a testimony looking back to his background, 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 down memory lane to narrate how he studied in 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 (in rivers), among other things.

It was from these, which he said he was doing after school hours, that he saved money to publish his first book, ‘Ikem’s Adventure’ back then in 2012 during his secondary school days —a single act 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 an award-winning young Nigerian 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 best-selling author, Izunna’s 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 ‘Ajo Enyi’, he became the first person to win the Nigerian Writers Award 2015/2016 as the Indigenous Writer of the Year. Also, with Ajo 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.

His other books include ‘Nzúzù M Egbuo M’ (Igbo novel), ‘Educated Illiterate’, and ‘Teach Me Grammar’.

He has been published in many anthologies, nationally and internationally; has thousands of articles/essays as well as poems and short stories published online to his credit.

A diglot writer, Izunna 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 includes: The Nigerian Writers Award/Indigenous Writer of the Year 2015/2016; Pita Nwana Prize for Igbo 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).

Others are: 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, 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, ACORP/Awka Diocese Media Personality of the Week (November) 2021,
South East Media Award 2021.

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, Izunna 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, Izunna 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 of 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, Izunna 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.

Izunna 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 the 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)’, and ‘Achebe: A Man of the People’, ‘There Was a Man’, among others.

In April, 2020, Izunna 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.

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