Denja led ANA neglects writers, published 3books in 2 years – Dzukogi
BM Dzukogi is a former Association of Nigerian Authors’ General Secretary. He is also the founder of the Hill-Tops Art Centre based in Minna and a facilitator of numerous literary initiatives including the annual MBA Colloquium and the Nigerian Writers Series. Dzukogi, who is presently vying to lead the Nigeria’s apex writers body, was recently made pioneer chairman of the Northern Nigeria Writers. In this interview with IBRAHIM RAMALAN, Dzukogi discusses among others, his quest to nurture young generation of Nigerian writers.
You are vying for the presidency of ANA for the second time. What has kept you determined or motivated over the years to lead the writers’ umbrella body?
Many things. First of all, I think I can do it better than whoever that is there now. Secondly, no serious person abandons his vision because he lost an opportunity to lead in the past. That would be childish and unserious of a person like me who has come this far. I am at a point that my duty is to pursue a vision. I believe can add great value to the Nigerian writer, especially the young ones, and to the Nigerian society. In a way, this quest; this sacrifice is for the younger writers and other young Nigerians. My life appears to be about them. They need somebody to push for their growth in a formidable manner. I shall keep contesting till I get to prove myself. In fact, there is little to prove seeing how far I have come with programmes and events in arts administration but I need this final chance to provide one huge direction for Nigerian writers. The motivation is the child; the young people who are never taken serious. For us, we have seen that they are capable of great things. So, I am on. I am a sports person, I don’t surrender just like that.
What is your assessment of the Danja-led administration?
He tried in the face of recession. However, there was little book production in the past two years facilitated by the national body of writers. Maybe they don’t know how to go about that. ANA ought to have facilitated many book productions for younger writers. But this didn’t happen. What is ANA without book production? A lot of young writers have many scripts waiting to be published. ANA can create a big platform for the realization of those dreams. It is the reason why I took the idea of the Nigerian Writers Series to the national body in 2011 when I became the national secretary. Now, at that first edition, we got the Niger state government to publish ten titles with a balance of cash. But Denja’s administration could only publish three books in two years. And he ended up publishing established writers. At the art centre, we published eleven books in those two years. And we are not the president of ANA yet. I can do better than that. Capacity building should be the number one priority of a writers’ body instead of the usual jamborees here and there.
What would you have done differently and in what ways will it impact the writers positively?
Like I said, since the last election two years ago, we have published eleven books. We inaugurated a national festival; Nigerian Festival of Teen Authors (NIFESTEENA) which had about seven states attending. We introduced Naija Book Hunt and Harvest to celebrate 2017 World Book Day by gathering books around the country and distributing them to schools that came for NIFESTEENA. We have opened Art Centres in Sokoto and Kebbi states. We have coordinators in twenty-five states of Nigeria. We are not president yet. If you have my 2015 manifesto, there are lots of programmes in there where our difference will come up. The centre of our activities will move back to state chapters in a genuine way. We shall seek the institutionalization of creative writing through the establishment of book agencies in states. Issues of mentoring and teen authorship will become the focal points for growth. We are operating these things successfully in Niger state. There is no state that is bringing up new writers deliberately like ours. We shall do many things.
What happened to the Teen Authorship you initiated, because it seems to have been facing one imbroglio or the other, as no more teen authors are being churned out as before?
I am not sure you are following our activities at the Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation otherwise the question shouldn’t have come up. This assertion is terribly strange. Where did you get this notion from? I think I have answered you with what I just said we did in the last two years concerning teen authorship in the area of books we have published and the art centres we have opened and the festival we launched in April this year. I think that this question is a grossly misplaced one. I advise you withdraw it because no chapter or organisation in Nigeria has done more in this area than Niger State except if you are talking about the teen authorship scheme Niger state exported to the national body when I was the national secretary of ANA. The only thing I can say about it is that nothing profound has happened in that area by ANA national since I left. Maybe they don’t believe in it. At the Hill-Top foundation, it has been a period of roses.
There have been some frantic efforts here and there at reviving literary culture in the North but to little or no avail. In your opinion, being one of the finest literary promoters in the north doing it at your own level, though with support from some spirited individuals, where do you think we are getting it wrong?
We just rose from the Northern Nigeria Writers Summit where I was appointed the pioneer chairman. The summit has identified a programme of action in which literature would be promoted in Northern Nigeria. We need more art NGOs in the country. Government must make statutory allocations for arts annually. Book Development Agencies should be established to further institutionalise creative writing in the country. So, it is going to be a new fever of activism because we shall be walking to the Northern governors’ forum to lobby for these. As ANA president, our destination shall be the federal and state governments to support book development on a higher scale. We shall present them with our blueprint. That’s why my administration will be more visible at state chapters. On the whole, my programmes are what I had already published in a manifesto in 2015. It is still alive.
Are you now calling on the Northern governments and other spirited individuals towards supporting literature and creativity as a whole?
It is not a call; it is a notice that we are on our way with a blueprint on the way forward for the development of literature in Northern Nigeria as well as book distribution, marketing and publishing. We shall go to them on advocacy visits and create a spot for writers as citizens who should enjoy state resources for the growth of their arts. I can see that the Kaduna state government has shown interest in the arts so we shall go to them to join us in taking our case to Northern governors’ forum. Even the wife of the Kaduna state governor should be a good partner to us in developing creative writing in Northern Nigeria. She is already bringing forth teen authors too. We shall join hands with any willing group or individual to develop art in Northern Nigeria.
When the NLNG long-list was announced months ago you voiced out your disappointment over the judgment, long-listers and what have you. What exactly was your grouse about?
First of all, my grouse is on the quantity of the prize for one writer when we face all sorts of challenges in the art. We crawl to get support to publish young writers. Therefore, splitting the prize into three would be more productive. There should be the prize money, a part for mentoring/ workshops/festivals that will benefit young writers. Then lastly, there should be another part as grants for publishing young writers. But to dump hundred thousand dollars for one of us when many could draw from it for functionality, is illogical in the midst of many collective challenges.
Well, it has been awarded. So, this year’s own is settled. We congratulate the winner. We at the Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation are particularly happy for Ikeogu Oke because he is one of the patrons/sponsor of our foundation. He donated a big trophy for poetry this year for NIFESTEENA.
Then some books didn’t make the list when in my opinion they ought to be there. Maiwada’s adventurous book and Amun Nnadi’s book ought to be there because I saw one ‘Garri Book’ on the longlist. These are my thoughts on the NLNG prize. They should balkanize the prize for greater impact on literary development of Nigeria.
Now that the winner has been announced, what is your reaction?
Happy spending to Ikeogu. However, NLNG should create another fund for art administration or other should emulate them by doing something in another area like teen authorship. We actually made a proposal to Globacom Limited twice on teen authorship but they refused to reply. Imaging having fund down to publish five or even one teen author per state annually, you know what that can translate to in Nigeria and Africa in the next ten years.
It has been a while you publish a work. What is taking away your time?
Indeed, I am writing essays, aphorisms and a book on environment; about a stream in Bida. But I published a book of aphorisms (Seclusion) in 2014. However, I must admit that our concentration on publishing teen authors, running the foundation, introducing NIFESTEEN, establishing branches of the Hill-Top Creative Arts Centre in some states is truly taking a precious time out of writing. I think what one should do is even to publish some of the already written works that are unpublished.