Despite prevailing tight economic conditions in Nigeria, writers across the country and beyond found time to converge at Markudi, the Benue state capital for the 36th International Convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).
Makurdi is historic in the sense of having hosted the writers for the third time, 1988, 2003 and 2017. This re-affirms Benue state’s unceasing commitment to literary and cultural creativity.
No wonder the state has within its fold, great literary and cultural icons, too numerous to mention.
More so, for three eventful days, the writers were treated to memorable get-together sessions, literary brainstorming, lecture, prizes and awards. And each moment was interluded by the rich Tiv and Idoma cultural displays and drama to the amusement of all.
The convention, which was well attended had in attendance a member of the House of Representative, Hon. Jerry Alagbaoso; Benue state Governor, Samuel Ortom, represented by the state’s Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Dennis Ityavyar; two former Presidents of ANA, Prof. Gerry Agada and Dr. Wale Okediran and a host of other dignitaries and literary enthusiasts.
In his welcome address, the Benue state governor pledged commitment towards promoting literature and education as a whole.
“We accepted to host the convention in spite of grave financial challenges because of our conviction that ideas rule the society and solutions to our problems lie with the propagations of ideas which is the preoccupation of writers.
“We also believe that the event will add value to the development of the state as indigenes would interact with literary icons who would mentor, encourage and ginger them,” Governor Ortom said.
Earlier in his address, the President of ANA, Malam Denja Abdullahi, pointed out that his administration worked tirelessly to bring innovation to bear, break barriers and push the frontiers in order to deliver on campaign promises.
He added: “We have achieved these through improving the internal governance of the association, documenting the association’s history, improving the corporate image of the association, laying down a blueprint for its strategic development and putting in place the much-needed infrastructure that will ensure the sustainability of the association activities well into the future.”
Abdullahi stressed his commitment towards ensuring that ANA overcomes the challenges of its times, stating: “We shall not waiver in our continuous demand for good governance, quality education and social justice.
“We shall not withdraw from our role as the conscience of the society and we are committed to doing our bits in the building of a stronger and prosperous country.”
A book, A child campaign
ANA president flagged off ‘A-book, A-child’ nationwide campaign in which three books published under the Nigerian Writers Series II were distributed to all the state chapters of the association for onward delivery to the target pupils.
In the words of the president, “the books are aimed at changing the thinking and mindset of Nigerian children towards becoming better and productive adults.”
Of canons, prizes and boundaries
Keynote Speaker, Prof. Saleh Abdu Kwani of Federal University, Gombe, did justice to the theme of this year’s convention: ‘Canons, Prizes and Boundaries: African Writers and African Writings in World Literature’.
In his presentation, Kwani admitted that canon, accepted principle or criteria in the award of prizes or recognition of excellence, exist in the world of literature.
He said: “I am aware that most literary prizes on offer today tend to be awarded on the basis of some set of culture-specific criteria. Some, however, operate with undisclosed, even suspect criteria and motive. So, often, Prizes tend to have strings attached, perhaps the more prestigious the longer and tighter the string.”
He said there is European literature and African literatures, this is because there resides a large number of language medium and cultural differences.
He, however, said that for acceptability across the world, there is need for African writers to adopt a single ‘front’.
Keynote speaker further pointed out that the existence of canon brings about the so-called boundaries and limitation in the African literature.
He said: “The appellation ‘African Literature’ in the conference theme, especially its plural ‘s’, side by side with ‘World Literature’ (not World Literaures), inevitably recalls the reluctance, if not outright rejection by the Western world, which forerunners of the concept, such as Wole Syinka, encountered in the UK back in the middle of the 20th Century.
“Although the concept ‘African Literature’ has come to stay and to be widely accepted and used, one wonders if there is something left out or not included in its referential scope each time the plural ‘s’ is added to the name.
“When in 1966, just a year to his sad demise, Christopher Okigbo was awarded the prize for The Best African Poet in Dakar, he was reported to have declined with the remark that he was simply ‘a Poet’.
“Yet, it can be asserted, with little contradiction whatsoever, that Chritopher Okigbo was of full African descent.
He therefore advised writers to strive to write good literature which easily comes with faith in what they do with a dose of fidelity to their cultural base.
Denja’s second mandate
Denja Abdullahi successfully secured a second mandate to lead the writers’ body for another period of two years. Apart from the president, half of the executive were returned unopposed to run the affairs of the association for another term.
The returned executive are: President, Denja Abdulahi; Vice President, Camilus Ukah; General Secretary, Ofonime Inyang; Financial Secretary, Ikechi Owabie; Auditor, Anaele Ihuoma and Legal Adviser, Issac Ogezi.
However, the positions of Assistant General Secretary, National Treasurer, PRO North, PRO South and ex-officio members were keenly contested won.
Maik Ortsega emerged National Assistant Secretary; Mrs. Farida Mohammed as Treasurer, Col. Oladele Babajamu as PRO North, Wole Adedoyin as PRO South, Isah Dan Musa, Lambert Ototo and Ernest Onuoha as ex-officio.
In his acceptance speech, the president thanked members of the association for their support assuring them of his team’s commitment to lift ANA to an enviable height in Nigeria and Africa.
He said his first major assignment would be to empower members through educative programmes as highlighted in the association’s Strategic Plan as well as ensure that every member of the association occupies strategic position in the country’s creative industry.