The Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) concluded its 2015 International Convention in Kaduna recently, and there, a new leadership emerged after writers cast their votes, which brought Denja Abdullahi to power. The new President is known to be a grassroots national executive officer in the association, who had served in different capacities since 2001.
Even without looking at his manifesto, it is expected that his long term in the executive council and experience he gathered over the period if put into practice would no doubt help in reviving the association.
After writers decided, what else remains? I think it is time to come together to put things in order. There are a lot to be done, because writers in Nigeria are not where they should be. The association is the largest writers’ body in the whole Africa, but its impact in the continent is not as big as its name.
The new president, while campaigning, outlined the agendas he has for the association. In one, he intends to develop an Eight-year Strategic Plan (2016-2023) for the association by setting up a technical team of experienced members to bring up a blueprint for the running of the association.
To me, this is very important agenda that needs to be considered urgently. It is a starting point that will guide his leadership towards achieving the goals and objectives he set to achieve. I commend the foresight of the president for considering Strategic Plan as one of his agendas. Today, modern organisations in the world are guided by the Strategic Plan, which is a road map to development, by considering the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the organisations. I hope the president will put this into practice by forming the technical team to develop the plan and also ensure its implementation.
His next agenda is to run an all-inclusive administration where every member, at home and abroad, will be given the chance to contribute his or her quota, talents and expertise to the development of the association. There is need for the president to put his words into practice. I am sure if he runs an inclusive administration that would accommodate every member; he achieved a lot, because it will give an avenue for every member to give his contribution in the area he knows best.
There is also agenda to cooperate and advocate with other creative associations for the establishment of the national endowments funds for the Arts, so that the creative sector can access funds for viable programmes and projects. This agenda came up when people like Senator Shehu Sani of Kaduna Central are planning to support Arts endowment Bill. Sani during the recent International Convention of ANA assured his intention to push the bill. He also invited the association to send its representatives for a meeting with him in order to discuss and strategies the proposal. This is an opportunity that needs to be taken very serious by the association and work hard towards making it reality.
For long, the Federal Government has been releasing funds to the creative industry, but writers are always neglected. I think this could be the right time for the endowment to be largely for writers. During a parley with the senator, a member cautioned both the association the senator on the tendency of high-jacking the endowment from them. I hope the team that would work on the bill will put that at the back of their mind, and also design a bill that will promote creative writings and writers in the country.
The issue of workshops, seminars, conferences was part of the objectives in the Denja Abdullahi’s manifesto. This area is equally crucial to writers, by helping to develop their capacities. A number of opportunities are swinging up, but it was not made very clearly for writers to grab. The few ones that benefited from these opportunities have not given needed training by their chapters. It is time for the new leadership to repackage the programmes in such a way that will benefit every member, directly or indirectly.
At this juncture, I will link up with enhancing effective programming of the association’s activities at both chapters and national levels. For the state chapters to work effectively there is a need for the national body to support them, more especially, the new chapters that lack personnel and capacity to organise events or seek funds. If the new leadership will harness the potential of its branches, the whole continent will definitely benefit from huge creative works endowed in these states.
Advocacy is one of the areas the association is underutilising. As the largest writers’ association in Africa, it deserves to be respected and welcomed in every organisation it intends to pay a visit. It is time for the new leadership to package the needs of the association and pay advocacy visits to governments in the country and other organisations for the benefit of the association.
At this point, one of the objectives in the new president manifesto of creating a working relationship between ANA and other educational institutions could be harnessed. If our members’ books could be accepted on the syllabuses of Primary and Secondary schools and tertiary institutions, there is no way the programme would not empowered our writers. Literature is generally reflecting the happenings in the society, and the new books are mirroring what is actually happening on contemporary lives. Most of the old books on syllabus reflected what had happened decades ago. To me, new writers deserve to benefit from this opportunity by allowing them to showcase their talents.
There is also an agenda by the president to review the administration of ANA Literary Prizes with a view to beefing up their profiles as well as seeking for the establishment of new prizes. Of course, winning prizes are the highest wish of every writer, no matter how little the monetary it is. But it is important to review some of the prizes so that they can tally with hard work put into the works by writers and the economic situation on ground. Similarly, some of the prizes were seize to exist because it founders refused to continue with the funding. Establishing new prizes would boost the writers’ morale. I strongly welcome the idea of reviewing the administration of these prizes.
Building Mamman Jiya Vatsa Writers’ Resort in Abuja is a dream of every true writer. I have never attended ANA Convention without witnessing a discussion on ANA Land. The current president in his manifesto outlined an objective to establish writers’ village development and management committee to make the project reality. The land has been lying there for decades facing many court cases and sabotages. It is time to act and put structures on that land. In the last two years, the executives of the association were given mandate to sale some portions in order to develop the other part, which is quite understandable than to lose the land entirely. Let’s see what will happen in the next four years.
As one of the ten Nigerian Writers Series (NWS) authors published by the association, I will like to see an independent ANA business concern to continue with the publication of more titles. This is because I happened to be a victim of poor coordination of the publication. Unfortunately, before the publication of our books under Jemie Books, we lost our publisher. The three of us under this company were not treated fairly. Our books were not marketed properly as our other colleagues enjoyed publicity. Almost all the books were published and dumped without someone to continue from where the publisher stopped. Even though some of the colleagues published by other publishers made similar complaints, but their books were seen at various literary gatherings. Full incorporating of ANA publishing company can solve our problems, and at the same time, give room for new writers to get published under the programme. For the Nigerian Writers Series (NWS) to serve the purpose of African Writers Series (AWS), we need serious promotions and proper coordination.
The new president also outlined his intention to internationalise the operation of the association by collaborating on projects and programmes with other writers’ union, groups and association across Africa and the world. Of course, there is no way such an organisation like ANA could survive without collaborating with sister organisations. In this world of globalisation, no one can survive comfortably in isolation. I do hope the team will work towards ensuring this objective is achieved and maintained.
In conclusion, I will like to use a quotation by the new president, Denja Abdullahi, who said: “To me, arts and literary administration is not a hobby or a side-kick, it is a career, which must be managed with all indices of professionalism.” By this quotation, there is no need to remind him the challenges ahead. As a professional who sees the duty as a career, he is expected to deal with setback. In every organisation, there is a need for a team work, because the leadership comprises of various sector. If the leadership lacks team players, it can cause obstacles to the journey, which at the end of the day may affect the end result. But professional administrators find a way to deal with such challenges. The time of politicking is over; let the new leadership join hands with others to move the association forward; let them listen to advises of elders that achieved in their journey. May God bless ANA and its members!