Several poets and activists organised a colloquium in Lagos Tuesday to celebrate the renowned environmental activist and poet, Nnimmo Bassey, as he marked his 61st birthday.
Mr Bassey is a recipient of the Rights Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize for works against oil pollution in the Niger Delta.
The theme of the colloquium was ‘Arts, Humanity and the Search for Social Justice.
The keynote speaker at the event, Odia Ofeimun, noted the importance of art in the quest for social justice.
“In human societies, we tend always to hurt one another,” said Mr Ofeimun, a poet.
“It is necessary to have groups of people who consistently defend those who are being hurt by society. There is always the necessity to fight for social justice.”
Mr Ofeimun said the security of human lives is dependent on the level of order in the society, adding that art could be used as a tool to maintain order.
“One way to ensure commonality between human beings is to follow ideals such as ‘Do to unto others as you will have them do to you.’ And Bernard Shaw’s version that states that ‘Don’t do unto others the evil you do to yourself.’
“Art creates a society in which people learn to relate in order to solve problems. This is important in the quest for social justice.”
“If we do not defend our environment, the environment will cripple us as much as whatever we are crippling in the environment.”
The celebrant, Mr Bassey, said the colloquium comes with deep reflection and understanding that he has a lot more to do.
“The time now that we live in is so complex and so vicious that a lot needs to be done,” said Mr Bassey, the director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation.
“This is not the time to get old, it is a call to action and a notice that it is not a time to rest.”
Mr Bassey said without art capturing the happenings in the environment, it cannot be well protected.
“Art is a tool for environmental protection and a protected environment ensures a vibrant workforce, a vibrant citizenship and a healthy nation and a nation with a future.”