How ANA changed literary narrative in 2021 – Part 1
2021 is gradually winding down, and no doubts; literature has enjoyed the year’s best. Beyond books that came out in effulgent number compared to 2020 when it was all COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, it was a year of smiles for Nigerian writers, who now have a home of their home.
For literary enthusiasts, academics, writers and researchers at the Association of Nigerian Authors’ (ANA) 40th anniversary held in November at the Mamman Vatsa Writers Village, Abuja, literature could serve as a veritable tool for national development.
With the theme: Resilience and Nation Building: The Role of Nigeria literature, they also said literature could contribute positively in addressing current challenges confronting the nation.
In her keynote address, former Head of Department, English Department, University of Lagos, Prof. Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, said, “there is no end in ways literature can contribute to national development, apart from its other role of entertaining people and giving them aesthetics pleasure.”
Speaking on the topic: Creativity, literary Advocacy and Nation Building: The Role of Nigerian Literature, she said, ‘bad leaders’ are afraid of writers. She cited the military era in Nigeria as a good example.
She said, “the world has just entered the third decade of the 21st century and the future is beckoning on intelligent and rational individuals, groups and nations to come up with innovative ways of creating comfort and peace for people and nations of the world.”
Prof. Ezeigbo, who currently teaches at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike, Abakaliki (AE-FUNAI) Ebonyi State, said that Nigeria must not be left out in the race for progress “and disciplined, creative and imaginative people can drive progress, especially technological progress.”
Literature, she explained, could help people achieve the necessary discipline and creative impetus. Consequently, she advised that even as emphasis is laid on science, engineering and technology, “literature must be carried along in order to ensure that the nation is properly socialised and integrated into the finest ideals of our culture.”
The literary icon and Emeritus Professor of Theatre, University of Ibadan, Femi Osofisan, stressed the need to take “formation of leaders in the country seriously.”
Osofisan expressed concern over the present formation of leadership, which he said, “comprises the elite that have been at the corridors of power since independence.”
Quoting Chinua Achebe, he said, “Nigeria’s problem is failure of leadership,” adding that it is high time Nigerians began telling their stories.
While advising writers to write stories of heroes that have done great works, Osofisan identified other challenges “as lack of trust in our own people,” stressing, “we also have an attitude of arrogance, cultural issues and preference foreign literary works to the detriment our indigenous works.”
Also speaking, the ANA President, Camillus Ukah, said, “Creative literature is a very important tool for nation-building, it is the missing link between our nation and development.”
According to him, “the training of the mind to bounce back and forge ahead is the sine qua non for steady progress. This is what literature has offered our nation and continues to offer it. Thus, literature occupies a cardinal position in the advancement of the human cause.”
Ukah said, “we have concrete reason to rejoice celebrating ANA at 40 under our own massive roof. I’m grateful to the Almighty God for making this glorious entry into the Promised Land possible in my time. Gen Mamman Vatsa of blessed memory was, indeed, a generous man and ANA will always remain grateful to him for his uncommon open-handedness.”
He called for the promotion of creative literature in view of its importance to the nation’s security and development.
Citing the dogged efforts of writers like Chinua Achebe and Professor Wole Soyinka, the ANA President said creative literature and its intellectual capital were vital to the sustenance of nation building.
In his words: “The story in literature is symbolic because it guides, corrects and shapes your mind. It is a product of resilience and key to the security of any nation because it grooms the mind and a groomed mind cannot get involved in untidy violence.“
Ukah noted that the theme of this year’s ANA Convention, Resilience and Nation Building: The Contributions of Nigerian Literature, underscored the cardinal position of literature in the advancement of human cause.
He added that the association donated the 40,000 books, comprising different titles of its members, to serve as basic materials to set up 40 ANA literary creativity centres in secondary schools across the country.
According to him, the donation was part of ANA’s literary campaign, The Book-A-Child-A-Week Project, designed to encourage every Nigerian school child to read at least one general interest and character-defining creative literature text every week.
He thanked the NCC for its partnership and commitment to realising the objectives of the project.
MEANWHILE, the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) is set to revive its youth and schools programme with the establishment of more copyright and creativity clubs in schools to develop creativity and creative talents, promote respect for copyright and enhance the Commission’s delivery on its statutory mandates.
Director-General of NCC, Dr. John O. Asein, disclosed that, for a start, the 40 schools that recently benefitted from the donation of 40,000 books by ANA would form the pilot project of the Commission’s new enlightenment campaign as part of its collaboration with ANA to promote creativity amongst school children.
Asein said, “Nigeria’s investment in the creative and knowledge economy would ultimately define its future; hence, the campaign of the NCC slogan for the 40th anniversary celebration of ANA, ‘Our Creativity; Our Future!’”
He commended ANA for putting the 40,000 books in the hands of children in the 40 schools chosen and charged all stakeholders in the book sector to support the efforts of the Association and do whatever they could to help Nigerian children discover themselves. He also urged them to encourage the coming generation to better appreciate Nigerian values, restore hope where there was hopelessness and help them in contributing their best for the good of the country.
“We will work together with ANA and every other stakeholder who believes in the future of this country to rebuild the character, passion and vision of these children,” he assured.
The Secretary-General, Pan African Writers Association (PAWA), Dr. Wale Okediran, in his remarks, called for adequate funding and support for the operations of the NCC in view of the institutional and financial challenges facing it.
Okediran stated that the relevance of copyright at this crucial time in the creative sector could not be over emphasised.
“Most of the creative works are in the public space and available online which gives room for piracy. The Commission needs to be empowered for effective copyright protection and antipiracy measures,” he added.
Commending the ongoing review of the Copyright Act at the National Assembly and the renewed energy being injected into the operations of the NCC, the PAWA Secretary-General enjoined all stakeholders to support the commission for effective implementation of its statutory mandates.