BM Dzukogi, a former Association of Nigerian Authors’ General Secretary, is the pioneer chairman of the Northern Nigeria Writers Summit. He is also the founder of the Hill-Tops Art Centre based in Minna, Niger state. He is a facilitator of numerous literary initiatives. In this interview with IBRAHIM RAMALAN, he speaks on the forthcoming 3-Day Northern Nigerian Writers’ Summit (NNWSummit).
You are organising Northern Writers’ Summit (NNWSummit) to hold in Borno state, what is it all about?
At the last convention of the Northern Nigeria Writers’ Summit which is the umbrella body for northern Nigerian Writers, an executive council was constituted by the congress and appointed me as the Chairman with five other members. It held in Katsina in 2017. The organisation was formed in 2008 in Minna, Niger state. But, since its formation over ten years ago, we were only able to organize three events for lack of a standing executive. Therefore, to set the ball rolling for a renewed literary development in Northern Nigeria, we drew a ten point agenda spread over three years in which we will lay a concrete foundation for literary revolution. The first of the agenda is to draw up a blueprint; a strong document upon which the envisaged literary renaissance will take place. Hon. Kashim Shettima, the governor of Borno State is the Chairman of Northern States Governors’ Forum. So, we decided to visit him first, to intimate him about the resolve of Northern writers to create an institutional platform for the growth of literature in the region. He promptly understood with us and volunteered to host the conference where writers, publishers, academics, art administrators will brainstorm to craft the blueprint. The blueprint will enable governments, institutions, donors, individuals, art organisations, cities and towns to have a template for literature in Northern Nigeria. To ensure the setting of proper structures, the governor also promised to build the headquarters of NNWsummit in Maiduguri plus the donation of a bus during the July conference. These things we got from the governor of Borno, largely because of his great love for books. The first destination of the blueprint is the Northern Governors’ Forum. We are going to popularize our decisions in that document to the Northern governors and the northern audience for institutional support for literature.
The theme of the conference is: ‘Development of a Blueprint for Northern Nigerian Writing’, what prompts the need for such a blueprint?
Writers in Northern Nigeria have over the decades been left on their own as artists and citizens. All writers in the region who have made substantial success did so through personal efforts. Perhaps, the first generation enjoyed public support but today, we are just on our own. There are pockets of supports here and there but that is not how art is administered and promoted elsewhere around the world. Governments and volunteer donors bring in big money to set up funds, endowments and trusts where artists can access money to develop art. So, the theme is a trigger of our intentions for literature in northern Nigeria, in the coming years. The southern part of the country has more formidable structures for writers than here. So, the growth is faster in their region even though the north has a longer legacy of literary tradition. Each revolution in any sector of the society must first, define its concept and scope which must be popularized before implementation. This is why the Maiduguri conference is kicking off.
Don’t you think it would be another gathering for tokenism?
It will not be. We stated it clearly in our letters to over thirty writers, academics and art administrators that the conference is more interested in the practical ways which governments, individuals, organisations, educational institutions, communities, art administrators, volunteers and donors could apply their suggestions, ways and strategies to develop literature in Northern Nigeria. So, this is not about theories; it is about the application of ways to literary development in the communities of Northern Nigeria.
Writers in the North have peculiar challenges such as basic working knowledge and skills of writing, distance to publishing facilities and many more. Don’t you think that rather than getting yourself busy with such conferences, such energies should have been channelled towards honing the skills of northern writers as well as establishing support systems for them?
How are you going to horn talents without properly constituting the institutions and structures that will facilitate such? This is what we are trying to do. We are discarding the arbitrariness of art matters for organized platforms where writers could walk up to a structure and access facilities and funds based on merit and the right to do so as a citizen just like contractors, politicians do. Writers are part owners of the state resources, therefore, they are legitimate users of it. But, if you are north organized and professional, governments and individuals cannot just go on throwing money about just because you are part of the owners. We have art groups in Northern Nigeria that are not doing well because of a lack of these structures. Once the structures are constituted then we can now begin to horn talents, properly. This is what we are trying to design and popularized.
What is your definition of a northern writer, is it by the content or by writers’ origin?
It is none of the above. However, they could be elements that could feature prominently in the categorization. Northern Nigeria Writers’ Summit is defined by residency in any part of Northern Nigeria only. If you are a writer, and resident in Northern Nigeria you are a member after subscribing to the ideals of the association through financial obligations and regular participation in her activities. To develop a part of Nigeria has no business with tribe and identity. This is more with art. It has no boundary. Art is limitless. The governor of Borno State, Hon. Kashim Shettima was fascinated by this explanation and applauded the pan-Nigerian outlook of our membership.
By promoting a particular section of writers, don’t you think you are ‘partisanising’ creativity or encouraging negative cannon in the country?
We are encouraging the acceleration of literary development by simplifying the bogusness of its operation in Nigeria. Everywhere, development has been broken to pieces for easy access and reach. No doubt, in terms of success in the art, southern Nigeria has shot ahead of Northern Nigeria. Therefore, to push ours forward, deliberate steps must be taken towards growth. Little progress could be reached through arbitrary dwelling. In any case, life as a phenomenon is naturally in parts. Nigeria is in parts working towards the whole. All these political definitions is none of the business of NNWSummit. We just know that literature must grow here, especially in the indigenous languages of Northern Nigeria. And that is what we are setting out to do. The mandates of the last three conventions held in Minna, Kebbi and Katsina didn’t mince words as to the objectives of the organisation. As individual writers in Nigeria, we all belong to some tiny entities that doesn’t stop us from wider participation in larger outfits.
Lastly, what are your expectations for the conference?
Success! The signs came from the wholehearted acceptance of the Governor of Borno State at our first go. He fired our expectations to the skies which he is living up to because the facilitations he is giving towards this conference. It gladdens my heart to note that the Governors of Nasarawa and Kano states have also accepted the host the executive council of our organisation any time soon. Imam Imam who was an adviser to the Sokoto State Governor, before he died assured us of our meet with Hon. Tambuwal. Even Niger State that is slow at our request to see the Governor will open up, I know. What we have set out to do is a huge task which we are ready to pursue. The primary requirement for a revolution is popularization of the idea. After meeting some governors, universities will be our next target then prominent cities (Emirs) on and on.