‘African writers should write our stories, prevent distortion of facts’
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has called on the new Secretary General of the Pan-African Writers’ Association (PAWA), Dr. Wale Okediran, to strive to revive the golden age of African writers, who actively worked for the unity, development and decolonisation of Africa.
The minister, who made the call when he received Okediran on a courtesy visit to his office on Friday, said the main challenge that confronted African writers in the pre-decolonisation era was the struggle for political independence.
He, however, said today’s crop of African writers have to contend with economic challenges and the inculcation, in the youth, of pride in African culture.
“I will urge Dr. Okediran to do his best in his new position to revive that golden age of African writers, that age where African writers collaborated with our politicians to attain independence. The challenge before our writers today is not about political independence but it is about how we take Africa out of the morass of despair and how we take Africa out of the economic challenges we are facing
‘’It is about how we instill in our young ones pride in their culture, pride in their tradition and how we use technology to promote our rich culture and traditions,’’ Alhaji Mohammed said.
The minister, who paid tribute to African literary giants such as Chinua Achebe, Ayi Kwei Armah and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, said they did not only serve as role models but were also beacons of hope for the continent.
He, therefore, urged the Secretary General of PAWA to encourage African writers to continue to tell the African story in order to guard against distortion of facts by foreign writers.
“I want to appeal to Okediran to please use his exalted office to ensure that African writers continue to tell our stories in the best African tradition, because if they don’t do it, others will do it in a manner that will not be pleasant to us,” Alhaji Mohammed said.
He said African culture and traditions provide enough materials for any writer to explore and advised PAWA to work with the private sector to ensure that some of the books written by African authors are adapted into films in order to reach out to the young population.
In his remarks, Okediran said the African Union had since recognised the power of literature and it’s using it effectively to promote unity on the continent.
He said PAWA recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with some international organisations to leverage literature for the promotion of African cultures.
Okediran appealed to the Federal Government to support the Accra-based PAWA through the payment of yearly subvention as approved by the African Union.
Okediran succeeded the late Professor Atukwei Okai, founding Secretary-General of PAWA, who passed away on July 13, 2018. He resumed work at the PAWA Secretariat, Accra, Ghana on August 1, 2020.
Okediran, who has published 14 novels till date, many of which are on the reading lists of a number of Nigerian universities, including the highly acclaimed novel, Tenants of the House, which is a fictional account of his years in the House of Representatives, was the 2011 co-winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature.
Together with a few friends, Okediran, in 2010, established the first writers’ residency in Nigeria, the Ebedi International Writers Residency in Iseyin, Oyo State. This is an initiative that is building and motivating teams of writers across Africa and the world at large.
Okediran is a fellow of the General Medical Practitioners of Nigeria and the Public Health Physicians of Nigeria. He is a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), prior to serving as its National President between 2006 and 2009. He is currently the Deputy Secretary-General (Africa) for the Union of Writers from Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The writer’s body, in collaboration with the Women’s Organisation of Resources, Knowledge and Skills (WORKS), Lagos, is currently empowering women writers across Africa through its Female African Writers Empowerment Project.
“The aim of the project is to empower two female writers in each PAWA member country free for the eventual take off of their entrepreneurship careers, which can supplement their writing careers,” he stated.
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.