According to Cambridge Dictionaries, the word mentor is a person who gives a younger or less experienced person help and advice over a period of time, especially at work or school. Therefore, mentorship is a process that involves communication and necessary relationship between mentors and mentees in an effort to build their capacity.
Mentorship has played a significant role in moulding first and second generations of writers Nigeria. Many of the first generation writers started from schools, and enjoyed adequate mentorship from their teachers. In northern Nigeria, an icon in indigenous literature, Abubakar Imam was discovered and mentored by Rupert M. East, following the first Hausa literary competition in 1933, which he won. His bestselling book ‘Magana Jari Ce’ was written under mentorship of Rupert East. I read an interview with Abubakar Imam who recounted his experiences while writing ‘Magana Jari Ce’. According to him, he had to rewrite some of the stories from the book to suit suggestions made by East, which at the same time made the work too boring for him. But at the end of the day, ‘Magana Jari Ce’ emerged as one of the best classical indigenous (Hausa) books in the world.
Based on the above, the best way to produce good writers is through constant mentoring. In this day, young writers are not enjoying adequate mentoring and support. At 2014 Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu (MBA) colloquium that was held in Minna, Professor Pius Adesanmi delivered a pre-colloquium lecture which generated debate on the kind of mentoring their generation enjoyed by foremost writers such as Achebe, Soyinka, Elechi and co. Some of the audiences at the event such as Richard Ali, challenged the speaker and his generation for not helping in mentoring the upcoming generation of writers that came immediately after them. According to Ali, most of them left the country in look for greener pasture or exile. Some of them that stayed didn’t give what was expected from them. Even though, Adesanmi denied the accusation, but it is a fact that the contemporary writers didn’t enjoy enough mentoring and support the first and second generations of writers enjoyed.
By this, I can say we are under-utilising the potential we are blessed in the country. I have interacted with many students who have interest in creative writing. What I came to understand from these young people was that they are eager to emulate established writers if they can mentor them. So, if they can get a little push, it can help them swim in the stream of literature. Today, only few organisations like Farafina Trust are rendering free workshops for Nigerian writers. In recent years, when British Council was active in Kano, we enjoyed a number of workshops led by good facilitators from UK. Today, such services are not at our doorstep for the younger ones to enjoy.
Therefore, in order to overcome the problem and promote new writings and writers in Nigeria, there is need to revive mentorship, and the best way to do that is to reach secondary schools where young talents are lying untapped. By the time these students graduated from schools, they would be exposed to critical world of literary writings.
A good example is HilTop Art Centre, of Minna founded by B.M. Dzukogi. Many of its students who were properly mentored are now multiple awards writers. So also, the Annual Schools Carnival of Arts and Festival of Songs (ASCAFS) created by ANA Niger is another initiation that helps in mentoring aspiring writers. Today, ANA Niger is proud to have writers from these initiatives. e.g. Alkasim Abugi, Sadiq Dzukogi, Maryam Bobi and Halima Aliyu among others.
In Kano, Khalid Imam has done a similar work to his students who got published and won a number of literary prizes. Imam also set up a club, ‘The Arts, Culture and Media Club’ at Girls Science College, Garko in Kano when he was teaching there. Such an effort is a good example to create a platform where young one can be mentored.
The Creative Writers’ Forum of ANA Kano is another platform where young minds especially students are meeting to discuss about creative writings. A good number of writers in the state have passed through the programme, and they have benefitted a lot. Today ANA Kano is blessed with promising talents such as Safiyya Ibrahim Abdulhamid, Yaseer Kallah, Bello Sagir Imam, Zahra Tabiu, Gwa Doohemba and Ahmad Salisu Bilkisu Ado Zango among others.
This development has to go beyond that level; innovations like that of Dzukogi and Imam has to be adopted in all our schools. The Federal Ministry of Education in collaboration with writers’ associations and other cultural bodies have to revive literary reading, cultural and reading clubs in an effort to produce good writers. By doing so, it will create a platform for mentor mentee relationship, which at the end of the day be good for both the students and the education system.
Literature is known to be a slice of history that passes from one generation to another. This has made literature to be a life sperm of the whole universe. Therefore, it is paramount to mentor the upcoming writers for them to carry out this duty inherited from forefathers. The duty to mentor and support these young writers is upon the government, established authors, writers’ association and relevant stakeholders.