A revolution has taken place in ANA – Maiwada

Ahmed Maiwada, a lawyer, poet and writer, was elected as the National President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) last week. Some members of the association are, however, saying that the election was illegal. He tells AWAAL GATA why it was constitutional and how he is going to ‘revolutionise’ ANA as its National President.

It was not in the news that an election of the national EXCO of ANA was going to hold, but last Saturday we saw a list of new EXCO that is headed by you; how did it happen?

You cannot get the full picture without going back to last year, particularly on November 1 and 2. The Association of Nigerian Authors held a convention in Enugu and delegates from, I can say, 28 chapters were fully on ground.

The hurdle started when it was declared that there was no going to be provision for accommodations for delegates. ANA decided, for the first time, that anybody that was coming to the convention had to provide their own accommodations. That was part of the rigging process we saw facing us. But with the grace of God, we were able to overcome the challenge. The number  of people that the Denja Abdullahi-led executives saw from the various chapters from Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, etc. they were so shocked because they did not expect those writers to rally themselves up and come to the convention in faraway Enugu.  That was when the panic started because they thought it was going to be a walkover. Therefore, they started scheming. In any election, it is natural that people should know who the voters are and how many are they. But nobody knew. Nobody had any information concerning the list. Then they said every state chairman of ANA should send their lists and send N10,000 for every delegate.    At the time of screening people to get into the hall for the election, they screened so many genuine members of ANA out. That was when the fracas started which eventually led to the suspension of the election. 

With the election suspended, at the Convention Dinner a Five-man Electoral Committee was constituted with the mandate of ensuring that the election holds within 180 days.  We had gone just a few months when suddenly we saw a list of an Electoral Committee which Prof.  Femi Osofisan, who was not part of the Electoral Committee constituted at the convention, released. He does not have the power of conducting an election. As a former president of ANA, he does not have any power. He claimed he was acting under an Advisory Council of ANA.  I have challenged everybody if we have an Advisory Council, is there any ANA member that is aware of their constitution? When were they constituted?  Which congress constituted them? I asked for the minutes, nobody could provide it. 

This prompted the chairmen of state chapters to sit down and agreed that their tenures were elapsing, and there were no ways they could constitute State Executives without the supervision of the National Executives. With the situation, many believed if something was not done, ANA was going to die. This led to the decision that they needed to meet in Abuja. The Chairman of Osun first offered to play host but due to lack of centrality they later agreed on Abuja. Invitations were sent and about 24 of the chairmen agreed to come. The purpose of the meeting was to call the five members of the legal Electoral Committee for a talk. But as we were waiting for the Abuja meeting, the illegal Advisory Council conspired and decided to announce a date for an election in Benue. Prof. Jerry Agada released a notice to that effect and urged all chairmen to submit their lists, whereas the lists had been submitted to the authentic Electoral Committee. I understand only a few of the chairmen submitted. Majority of them did not. Over 20, I think.

Coming to Abuja was not for the purpose of holding an election; but when they came, about 21 chairmen and their secretaries, they saw the situations and decided to move from the meeting into have an emergency general election, which is provided for in ANA constitution in Article 31:3. The Article was read. People understood it. What was the contingency? What made it inexpedient? It was the illegal notice released by Agada. People said and agreed that if the illegality is allowed to take place, ANA is dead. Arguments went back and forth. It got to a point that a vote had to be taken on whether the election should hold or not. There were three ‘votes against it. The rest, over 30 people, voted in favour of the holding the election. After that resolution, we looked at the provision of the constitution that talks about quorum. Article 32:2 gave us the nod, and the election went on.

How many candidates contested in the presidential election?

All the presidential candidates were invited. Only one was present. The second one sent a representative. In law and even in equity, once you are aware of something and you choose not to participate, that is your business. We had only one presidential candidate and vice-presidential candidate.

So, right away, you see yourself as the authentic ANA president?

Absolutely! I have no doubt about it. I am the current president of ANA, and I have started exercising the powers that that has bequeathed on me.

Don’t you think that these developments have torn the associations apart?

With due respect, no. I don’t think it has torn the association apart. It is all about the majority and we have it. The number was unprecedented but they were denied and frustrated. Then you have the majority of chairmen and secretaries… nothing is torn apart. Anything that anybody is willing to say they can go and say; the majority has had its way.

What if senior members of ANA decide to distance themselves from the association?

I don’t care about senior membership. In my opinion, if you join ANA today you are the same with someone who joined ANA 30 or 20 years ago. As president of ANA, I don’t see myself superior to any member of the association. Forget about the elders. Claiming to be an elder in ANA is in the past. We are all equal. Nobody will take privilege of what belongs to everybody any longer. It is a revolution that happened in ANA. Every year, they collect money from the poor to service the so-called elders. People were charged N10,000 each but got nothing at the conventions but the so-called elders got special treatments.  There is no justice in that. As a former president you get free accommodation, whereas that is sponsored by one poor, miserable writer somewhere.

It is now being said that Ahmed Maiwada illegally declared himself ANA president. Are you saying that your presidency is no an illegal self-declaration?

I was legally elected. The Chairman of the electoral committee, Yemi Adebiyi, declared me elected. The records are there. The videos are there.

You said you have started exercising your powers as ANA president; what have you done so far?

I have chaired the first meeting of the national executive council where we took some decisions. There are mandates that we have; first, we want to do everything to make sure that ANA is not broken.  We have already taken control of ANA secretariat.

What if the election Agada is proposing in Benue holds and ANA gets a parallel EXCO?

If it holds, it is illegal. If you are a leader, you are nothing if you don’t have the power to enforce it. I can assure you that anybody who might emerge as ANA president will not have the power to enter its secretariat.

What do you want to achieve as ANA president?

They are so many. My manifesto has mentioned a lot. We will empower the youth. We will make sure that they are well-groomed into becoming great writers that the world recons with. They form the largest part of my support base. We will do something exciting for them. There will be residencies for which the youth are prioritized. We are going to re-organise ANA reporting system; anything that drops into the account, everybody would know. We are going to start the process of approving budgets. We will present budgets for discussions at the general meetings and we are always going to abide by it.  

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