Northern Nigerian Writers Summit can’t operate parallel to ANA –Denja

Denja Abdullahi is the National President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).
He is also an award-winning poet and literary essayist.
In this interview with IBRAHIM RAMALAN, he speaks on the forthcoming (ANA) convention
You were behind the first-ever ANA collaboration with a university to groom students and catch them young in their way to becoming better writers.
Can you share lessions from the conference? The conference ANA held with the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alikwe (FUNAI), Iwo in Ebonyi state, in June, was a fulfillment of my electoral promise of birthing an annual conference for ANA that will be devoted to the criticism of emergent Nigerian Literature.
It is also a realisation of our promise to unbundle the annual convention of the association by making some features stand on their own.
The seminar series, hitherto part of the annual convention, has now been isolated as a full-fledge conference.
The immediate take away is that FUNAI has agreed, going by the impact and success of the maiden conference, to host the conference annually.
The Vice Chancellor, management and staff of the institution were all involved in the conference and they expressed their happiness on the mileage the hosting of the conference gave their institution.
With the caliber of scholars, critics and writers that ANA attracted to the conference and those who delivered ground-breaking papers on the character and trends of contemporary Nigerian literature, the staff and students were appreciative of the outcome and we in ANA are determined to do it better next time.
Another very important take away of the workshop is that following the outline of a paper presented at the conference, ANA will publish a definitive anthology of contemporary Nigerian poetry before the end of next year.
And of course, proceedings of the conference will later morph into the first edition of an annual journal of the criticism of contemporary Nigerian literature.
There was a novel approach to the workshop component of the conference, which was open and led to the conversion of participants to newer art forms.
We are going to sustain that and build on it.
Lastly, our presence at AE-FUNAI was solidified with the planting of historic trees at the administrative courtyard of the university; and that is a metaphor that ANA relationship with AEFUNAI is going to be nurtured and long-drawn.
The 37th international convention of ANA is just around the corner, how prepared is the association? We are prepared as precariously as it has always been.
We are turning around ANA Conventions to become self-sustaining with this convention.
There are uneconomic practices we have been upholding in the past in the planning and the organization of our conventions.
The subsidy the association pays on each member who attends the convention is too heavy and we are reducing part of that at this convention.
It is a difficult decision but it was one of the hard decisions I promised to take when I campaigned for the office of President.
The association is over-dependent on the goodwill of those who lead it and state governments when it comes to hosting of convention and other matters and that model is no longer sustainable.
Members hardly pay their dues as at when due to the association and yet they demand for rights and accountability.
It is only in ANA that I know that members pay an insignificant token and get all sorts of fivestar treatments and freebies at conventions.
No one bothers to know how the association pulls that off each year and nobody bothers to do the mathematics of it.
The leadership of the ANA at state and national level is over-burdened with a lot of undue Northern Nigerian Writers Summit can’t operate parallel to ANA –Denja Inside books: sacrifices and it is time members live up to the responsibility of membership if the Association means anything to them.
We will, God-willing, do our convention in the megacity of Lagos with all the mega-intentions we have to do things differently and properly this time around.
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) is working hard and making a lot of progress.
For our members who have cried out when we released the payment pattern for this year’s convention, we will look into it and see how we can make it convenient for them to attend but that has to be based on the realities on ground.
How will this year’s convention be different? The LOC is working hard as I said earlier, meeting the right people and institutions.
The government of Lagos state has promised to support the convention and that support is crucial going by the closeness ANA has always maintained with the government of each hosting State.
Lagos state is aware of the cultural capital that will be moved there when writers from all over the world gather there for the convention
Moreof older writters :ll will be involved in ANA This year, we will be having writers from Nepal, South Africa, Denmark, Ghana, Senegal, among others, attending the convention.
The Oba of Lagos has given his royal blessings to the convention and promised to be there in person.
The LOC is exploring a newer model towards the hosting of the convention which is about cultivating the private sector.
All activities of the convention will take place in the Ikeja Area of Lagos except for possible visits to some other iconic parts of Lagos.
More of our older writers will be involved in this convention as we want a recommencement of conversation between the old and the young of our literary sphere.
Towards the convention the LOC has planned two major activities: a patron’s night and a colloquium on digital publishing in honour of Tayo Aderinokun, former MD of GT Bank who was a patron of ANA Lagos until his death some years ago.
The convention promises to be better organised and mem,orable in the tradition of Lagos as a city and cultural space.
The keynote speech for the convention would be delivered by a woman, what informed the decision? Having a keynote speaker being a man or woman is all the same, it is the stuff given out that matter.
We chose Professor Karen KingAribisala of the University of Lagos as our keynote speaker not because she is a woman but because she is a consummate writer herself that has immersed herself in the literary atmosphere of Lagos and Nigeria and can deliver well on the theme which is “Literature: Mega Cities and Mega Narratives.” The recent Northern Nigerian Writers conference was aimed at coming up with a blueprint to salvage the region from literary inactivity, would you say ANA has been marginalising the region? Books 38| Saturday 11 – Sunday 12, August 2018 BLUEPRINT WEEKEND Northern Nigerian Writers Summit is an off-shoot of ANA and cannot operate parallel to it if they want to go far.
All the members of the summit were first members of ANA and the evolution of the summit itself cannot be divested from ANA.
The attempt at positioning the summit as having nothing to do with ANA will not in any way help the good objectives of the summit.
That is my personal position.
…Con’td from previous page ANA exist in virtually all states of the federation and the idea of having state chapters is to tackle local literary or creative issues in each state.
Also, ANA annual conventions have been held in all parts of the country and some of the most memorable conventions have been held in northern states.
ANA in its programmes and projects has never excluded the northern states.
The Yusuf Ali literary grant that comes each year since 2012 has been enjoyed consistently by both the South and North.
No one can say with any iota of truthfulness that ANA has marginalised any part of the country.
The various state chapters are at liberty to look inward, devise projects and programmes to tackle their own peculiar literary issues.
That is the way ANA runs.
At the National level, we have even held specific colloquia and workshops on issues affecting the North such as The Abubakar Imam Colloquium held in 2009 in Kaduna and writing in the indigenous languages workshop held some years ago involving Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba writers.
The most recent is the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) Indigenous language writing workshops held in Abidjan, Cote Devoire in January this year and a follow up one in Abuja held in April which ANA facilitated which also involved writers from Northern Nigeria.
However, ANA welcomes any organisation or person that may want to exist to pay closer attention to any literary issue peculiar to any part of the country.
ANA as the original copy of any later literary organisation or group can never feel threatened.
A true and secure father cannot be envious or feel threatened by the ascendancy of his son or daughter.
That is what ANA is to most later-day literary Associations and groups in Nigeria.
It may interest you to know that the Northern Nigerian Writers’ Summit is a creation of ANA as much as ANA created the platform and space for some persons within ANA to start thinking of having a specialised forum for addressing peculiar northern Nigeria literary manifestations.
The summit was first held by ANA Niger in 2018 and as the General Secretary of ANA then I attended it with my then President and Vice President (Dr Wale Okediran and the then Dr Jerry Agada respectively).
I even presented a paper at that Niger summit which has made me an ideologue of sort on Northern Nigerian Literature.
The second summit in 2013 was held by ANA Kebbi (a chapter I founded in the mid1990s) and I attended as Vice President of ANA.
The third summit was held by ANA Katsina in 2017 and I attended as President of ANA and was part of the few who decided on the future of the summit in terms of its steering and operational procedure.
You may also wish to know that I sent in a paper for the just concluded summit in Maduguri when contacted but I was not able to attend for some personal reasons related to procedure regarding the organization of the summit.
Are you saying that the body is an off-shoot of ANA? Yes, Northern Nigerian Writers Summit is an off-shoot of ANA and cannot operate parallel to it if they want to go far.
All the members of the summit were first members of ANA and the evolution of the summit itself cannot be divested from ANA.
The attempt at positioning the summit as having nothing to do with ANA will not in any way help the good objectives of the summit.
That is my personal position.
Do we have similar bodies in other regions? Yes, similar bodies exist like South-west ANA, which at a point attempted having a body of officials and which we kicked against.
ANA is not against chapters cooperating to undertake viable literary ventures but what we are against is creating needless parallel associations with full complement of pseudoofficials.
Such groupings may be altruistic in the beginning but can be hijacked later by unscrupulous elements for political and all sorts of purposes.
There is another group called South-South Writers Union formed by some ANA chapters in the South-south lately, modeled after South-west ANA, which we also interrogated as to the expedient reason for such a formation.
The Eastern Writers Union, which my VP was penciled as an arrow-head years back, could not also fly for the same demand for its necessity.
People think been in ANA has no procedure.
Go and check, ANA constitution frowns at a chapter going beyond its boundaries to another State to seek for sponsorship or do programme without clearing from the other state chapter.
Are we not mining the same field? So, those in ANA who are going about forming unnecessary splinter groups and attempting to do programmes or solicit support without clearance from the affected states or the national body should know they are not following the right procedure.
Even as the president of ANA, I cannot wake up and go into any state to do programme or solicit for support without consulting with that particular state chapter.
In our last meeting with the chairmen and secretaries of ANA chapters, held in Ilorin in April, the issue of this groupings in ANA and beyond was addressed and our conclusion was that they are not known to ANA Constitution and that their existence, if they must be tolerated, will henceforth be regulated so that they do not end up weakening the unity of purpose in the Association.
What is the update on ANA land development? It is about 40 per cent completed and work is seriously on-going for the delivery of the project not beyond May 2019.
We will soon undertake a project media tour involving all stakeholders of ANA to showcase the scope and nature of work done so far for everyone to see.
It is a legacy project which we are not toying with.
Your book is among the 11 NLNG long-listed drama for this year, how do feel about this? I feel good for the validation that I am walking the talk I talk all the time.
Dr Wale Okediran does say it all the time, a writer should be known for what he or she writes.
I also do say that what makes one a writer is what one writes.
Leading a writers’ association or belonging to one is not what makes a writer.
We must continue to write to remain relevant.
The book also won you SONTA Award, what makes it unique? Go and read it and tell me what you think is unique about it.
All I know is that I have told a tale about power using a myth I found interesting

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