Award-winning Poet, Essayist and Culture Technocrat, Denja Abdullahi, is the National president of the association of Nigerian Authors ANA). In this interview with the Director, National Council for Arts and Culture, Abdulhafeez Oyewole, he talks about ANA’s programmes for the year, Senator Shehu Sani’s Art Endowment Bill, among others.
What activities/programmes does ANA haver for Nigerian authors and writers and how do you intend to go about them?
We have already started implementing our activities for the year. We started with our inaugural National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in January where we came up with a communiqué and a memo directing our chapters on what they should focus on this year.
We have started implementing our A-Book-A-Child Project nationwide.
We will be having a workshop on innovations in literary awareness campaigns/our meeting with chairmen and secretaries of chapters next month.
In May, there will be the Authors’ Groove at the Nigerian International Book Fair in Lagos and in June, we will hold our maiden National Conference on Criticism of Emergent Nigerian Literature with Federal University, Ndufu- Alikwe Ikwo in Ebonyi state, now Alex Ekwueme Federal University.
In October, we will have our convention in Lagos entitled Literature: Mega Cities and Mega Narratives. All these are aside from our routine programmes and projects at the state and national level.
And most importantly, we are concentrating on the development of the Writers’ Village in Mpape, Abuja. Note that we had moved our national secretariat from Lagos to Abuja on March 1, 2018.
What activities are you doing with the Yusuf Ali grant?
We will use the grant for the workshop on Innovations in Literary Campaign programmes involving 15 chairmen of ANA chapters, who have been outstanding in the implementation of the Yusuf Ali grant since 2012.
We will also use the grant to do a media supplement on the Yusuf Ali project implementation by our Chapters since 2012.
What do you intend to achieve with the workshop?
The workshop, which is going to hold in Ilorin, Kwara state, is like a review of the implementation of the project since 2012. It will empower participants with tools to use in creatively re-designing and re-focusing the implementation of the ANA/Yusuf Ali Literary Awareness Campaign in later years.
We want the workshop to help us mark up the execution of the project in line with contemporary trends of ‘selling’ literature to schools and the larger society.
What’s the future of the A-Book-A-Child project?
It will continue, and we will continue to source for funds to provide books enmass to schools across the country. We are in the first phase of distribution of the Nigerian Writers’ Series children’s titles to schools.
We are going to print more of those books to continue the nationwide distribution.
What’s the criteria for awarding Annual International Convention hosting right to states?
We have a template with which we measure a state’s preparedness to host our conventions. Host states are expected to be very vibrant and with quality membership, that can harvest support from all sectors for the convention. It is either the state can mobilise financial and other kinds of support from the private or public sector.
Hosting conventions have become very expensive in recent times because of the subsidy we extend to participating members in the areas of accommodation, convention materials among others.
So, to host a convention, a state needs to mobilise a minimum of N20 million. That is, apart from what we spend at the national level.
In the near future, the subsidy will be removed and much of the burden on host states will be reduced and transferred to attendees.
What should Nigerian writers and authors expect from this year’s convention?
We should expect a smart convention in which there will be some form of load shedding of the traditional activities to make room for a totally writerly convention in a mega city such as Lagos. A female scholar will be the keynote speaker.
Since, the 2002 convention in Asaba, Delta state, Lagos state offers a lot of new inputs into the convention and we will test some new things we will bring into the convention there.
Apart from Yusuf Ali grant, how does ANA fund its projects and activities?
We rely on dues paid by members which is insignificant in comparison to our activities. We get funds by designing good projects and writing to sponsors for grants. Most times we do not get good response but we relying on our private resources and earned expertise in the creative management of men and material for maximum impact.
How does ANA protect interest of creative writers/authors, especially its members?
ANA is basically an association set up in 1981 to protect the interest of writers and enhance the business of writing they do. All our programmes and projects over the years have been geared towards that. We wade into the violation of our members’ rights, the freedom to write and the copyrights to their works.
In January, we established an intellectual property protection and advancement committee to crystallise how we are going to robustly protect and advance our members’ rights.
What is ANA doing for upcoming writers and authors?
The Nigerian Writers Series was set up to publish upcoming authors. Ten titles of fiction were published in 2014 and three children’s literature were published in 2017 under that series.
We also have a scheme called Young Writers Mentorship, which caters for nurturing young potential authors in aspects of literary empowerment and productions.
We have other routine projects such as literary workshops and outreach programmes for upcoming authors.
What’s your take on Senator Shehu Sani’s Arts Endowment Bill?
The country is overdue for an endowment fund for the arts which the bill is all about. The Endowment Fund when enacted will be a warehouse for funds that will be mobilised to facilitate creative activities in the arts sector.
It will surely benefit every constituent organisation in the arts and culture sector. That is why we will give our full support to the bill and be part of the lobby towards its passage and enactment by the Nigerian government.
What is your advice for Nigerian writers and authors?
As writers and thinkers, we must not abdicate our duty to our nation to write ennobling things and be part of those contributing to the reformation of our society.