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At conference, participants identify literature as catalyst for national development

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Speakers at the last international convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), which held in Ilorin, Kwara State with the support of University of Ilorin and the Mustapha Akanbi Foundation, have canvassed the need to deploy literature as a weapon for social development, arguing that creative literature and its intellectual capital are vital to the socio-economic development of any nation.

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With the theme, “In Search of a Better World: Literature as Catalyst for National Development,” the literary experts said literature grooms the mind for novel thinking, adding that every breakthrough is a product of novelty.

ANA president, Camillus Ukah, in his speech at the event, said, “creative literature is a very important tool for national development.”

He added, “development, of any sort, begins from the mind. Even experiments that are performed in physical laboratories are derivatives of the ones performed in the laboratories of the mind. Thus, literature occupies a cardinal position in the advancement of the human cause. A better world is the product of development and it is the role of literature in development that advices the conviction that the subject can catalyze the realisation of the better world that we all desire.”

In her speech, Kwara State’s Commissioner for Communication, Mrs. Harriet Afolabi Oshatimehin, who was also the chairperson of the convention, said the importance of literature to the growth of any society couldn’t be over emphasised.

She observed that culture is nose-diving in the country and associations have critical roles to play in bridging the gap.

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The keynoter, Prof. Raheem Adebayo Lawal, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor of University of Ilorin, noted that literature in Nigeria has contributed to the fostering of unity, development and addressing eradication of poverty in the country.

There was a panel discussion with the theme, JP Clark: The Resonance of Writer’s Songs, which featured Profs Olu Obafemi, Femi Osofisan, Sunny Ododo, Remi Raji, Akachi Ezeigbo, Sam Ukala, Mabel Evwiehoma and Dr. Wale Okediran. Some of the panelists were present, while others joined via Zoom. Celebrated poet, Dr. Obari Gomba of University of Port Harcourt moderated the panel.

The panel described JP Clark as a great literary icon, whose indelible legacies would linger for a long time.

The second panel was themed, “Writers and their Writings: The Imperative for Institutional Collaborations.” The panel included a former President of (ANA), Mallam Denja Abdullahi and Director-General of Nigerian Copyright Commission, Mr. John Asein and Mr. Ademilola Adesiyun from NHRC, Abuja.

Asein observed that authors are very instrumental to the early campaigns against piracy. “They are key stakeholders. We must enforce the institutional support. We need ANA in policy formulation, information sharing dissemination and as our strategic partners in our anti-piracy work. We all cherish Nollywood, but before the movie comes out, the literary writer works on the script.”

He also said that this year, there would be enforcement of the relevant copyright laws to ensure that pirates are flushed out of business.

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The last panel discussion, tagged: Literature of potency and power: Beyond aesthetics and narratives, how can Nigerian writing become potent tool for mental change and blueprint for innovation? was anchored by Prof. Raji.

Some of the panelists were Chief Press Secretary to Anambra Governor, James Eze and Prof Moses Tsenagu of Benue State University.

Eze said the Nigerian writer must be given his due place in the country. According to him, “every inauguration of American president, a poem is read. It is not for reading sake but they set the tone for presidents. Nnamdi Azikiwe was a poet. Leopold Senghor was a poet and we saw the great things they did. We see writers exerting their influence on societies that want to move forward. But in Nigeria now, it’s a different story. It’s time the Nigeria polity takes cognizance of the place of the writer as a major player in the political future of the country.”

Prof. Moses insists that writers must portray good narratives about Nigeria in order to change the societal ills. According to him, “in the beginning, you write literature, in the end, literature may likely write you. Let us project our culture positively. It is about time we refocus. Let us recognize that the word we use has power and at the end, what we write may come to past. Every great nation has writers that do not dwell on the country’s shortcomings.”

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