Zaharaddeen Kallah with a Member of ANA Rivers
The 33rd Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) International Convention was held at the University of Ibadan (UI) from 11-14 November, 2014. The Association which is the largest Africa’s national authors Association coincidently had the convention in Ibadan, southwestern Nigeria, and Africa’s largest city. It was the same venue where the talents of African literary icons such as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Elechi Amadi, Christopher Okigbo and Mabel Segun were nurtured.
As part of the Nigerian Writers Series authors, I was specially invited to the convention in order to engage in a Book Chat, which was slated in the programme of events. I had a tedious long journey from Kano to Ibadan. I was not able to inhale the earth of the historical city until after 10:30pm. By the time I arrived UI hotel, the traditional Opening Cocktail was over. It was scheduled to be a Night of Palmwine and Poetry under the direction of PEN Nigeria General Secretary and actor, Rope Ewenla.
The next day, after taken my breakfast I rushed to the Lecture Theater of Faculty of Arts. It was the venue where the opening ceremony was held. The programme of the day began with the introduction of the special guests, among which was the President of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who was represented by his Special Assistant on Documentation, Ms. Molara Wood.
In his opening remarks, ANA President, Prof. Remi Raji said the failure to host the convention by Rivers State nearly breaks the history of the Association. River State bided to host 2014 convention, but it was canceled few days to the initial date. According to Raji, it was a miracle that the convention was hosted in Ibadan. Because, even the Executive Council of the Association had given up hope to have the convention in 2014.
The Keynote Speaker, Prof. J.O.J. Nwachukwu-Agbada of the Abia State University delivered a lecture on the topic “Literature, Languages and Diversities: How Has Nigeria Fared Since 1914?” The Professor looked at the contribution of Nigerians towards the development of literature over the one hundred years of existing of the country. The presenter was able to trace literature in Nigeria before 1914 with reference to Hausa, Yoruba and Ibo languages. He linked up with the series of literary development in the history of Nigeria from 1914 to date.
The next interesting activity was a book chat on the Nigeria Writers Series, which featured the nine out of ten Authors of the maiden edition of the series. The series had its editors as Tanure Ojaide [U. North Carolina], Chuma Nwokolo [African-Writing Journal] and Unoma Azuah [Lane College, Tennessee, USA], who selected ten manuscripts based on merit. The chat was moderated by the Association’s Vice President, Malam Denja Abdullahi, and Evelyn Osagie, a journalist with The Nation Newspaper. During interaction with audiences, people like Chike Ofili commended the Association for making a giant stride to publish new writers under Nigerian Writers Series. .
After the book chat, I interacted with other writers especially the Secretary of ANA Lagos on the status of the Northern Nigerian Writers. In particular, the Secretary complained to me of non-availability of northerners’ works. He told me that he was compiling works of poets across the country, but found it difficult to access that of northern poets. I reasoned with him, but I told him that publicity is the major problem of northern writers, and majority of them doesn’t want to attend writers’ events like convention which would avail them the opportunity to showcase their creative works and even interact with other writers.
Based on the aforementioned challenges, it is a high time for northern poets and writers to engage themselves seriously. In Kano, writers like Prof. Yusuf M. Adamu, Ismail Bala, Aisha Zakari, Sulaiman Zailani and Khalid Imam had made their names as promising talents from Kano. So, I am appealing to the old and new budding poets like Isa Muhammad Inuwa, Faruk Sarkinfada, Tijjani Muhammad Musa, Almustapha Musa Ilyas, Bello Sagir Imam, Yaseer Kallah, Nabila Ahmad Rufa’i, Safiyya Ibrahim Abdulhamid, Aisha Umar Sanusi, Gwa Dominic Doohemba, Ahmad Salisu, Balarabe Nigerian Man, and Tahir Mahmud Saleh to learn from ANA Niger. It is hardly in any ANA convention without at least seven of their members in attendance, no matter how far the venue is. I think it is time to move our creativity beyond our locality.
In the tradition, the evening of the second day holds live drama. But on that very day, a film play by top director Tunde Kelani was featured. The drama was translated from English’s work of Femi Osofisan, “Who is Afraid of Toi Solarin” to Yoruba language.
The third day of the convention began with excursions to the University Zoo and the Adeyipo Village. The village is forty minutes journey from the University, and it hosts the African Heritage Research Library and Cultural Centre. I was only able to visit the zoo, and it amazed me to see such park runs by the University. Though I came from Kano, where our former Governor, late Audu Bako built one of the largest zoos in the country. But it interested me to see UI maintains such internal revenue generation scheme. I wish to see similar project in other Nigerian Universities.
After the excursions, the Annual General Meeting was followed. It was a business for the bona fide members of the Association. At the event, the national executive council presented various reports to the congress. So also issues arising from the State Chapters were deliberated. The last important issue at the annual general meeting was the State to host the next convention. Three states bided to host the 2015 convention. But unlike the other conventions in the past, when the state to host is announce, this time around the state to host the convention would be announced next year. The riffle is now between Anambra, Enugu and Kaduna. The readiness and commitment of any of the chapters would determine the hosting state.
The last event of the day was a dinner at the Glory View Hotel. It was a breath taking event, simply by announcing the winners of 2014 ANA prizes. The prizes were announced by Professor Nelson Fasina and Dr. Salisu Baffa. The winners are as follows: Su’eddie Vershima Agema for Poetry (jointly won) with Ebi Yeibo; May Ifeoma Nwoye (ANA/Chevron Prize for Environmental Writing); Soji Cole (ANA/Esiaba Irobi Prize for Playwriting), prize for ANA Prose went to Immanuel James. ANA Prize for Drama won by Tunji Ajibade.
Zaharaddeen Ibrahim Kallah works with the Directorate of Academic Planning, Bayero University, Kano.