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Making ANA conventions serve writers better

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Ahead of the international Convention of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) holding in Lagos this week, preparations at advanced stage for the hosting of the biggest gathering of Nigerian writers. However, the continuing relevance of the yearly convention, which is in its 37th edition since the association was established in 1981, calls for a debate. Some have called it a mere literary jamboree that has little or no value addition to the lives of writers. But others have disagreed with this view.

With Lagos hosting the convention this year with the bold theme ‘Literature: Mega Cities and Mega Narratives,’ how has the convention positively impacted writers and what will writers take away from this year’s convention? Each year, the pattern is usually the same: arrival on a Thursday evening with Festival of Fire that comprises of readings, music, and dance drama. The next day will be the opening ceremony with a university don addressing issues in the literary space. One or another activity may happen on the same day. By Saturday, the annual general meeting holds either for election of a discussion of issues in the body of writers and ends with a dinner and prize award. Sunday is departure.

But observers are convinced that there should be more to the gathering of writers than these preoccupations each year. For instance, does the association hold writing clinics or master classes for its budding writers? How is the body engaging the polity at each convention? How did ANA’s voice get drowned in the noisy Nigerian political space? How is it leveraging on new media to help its members get ahead of the tide? What can the association do to rise above its current low status?

Former Executive Secretary, Nigerian Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Prof. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, said, “There is need to emphasise on mentoring of young writers by established authors. If we are committed to the arduous task of improving the reading culture of our youths, then ANA has to be more proactive. It is a veritable way to change the narrative that, “if you want to hide anything from a Nigerian, put it in a book!” I am aware that the last two years, the Denja Abdullahi-led EXCO organised two programmes in Nasarawa and Ebonyi States, respectively. I am also aware that funding is a major challenge. But I believe, with the national and international standing of ANA, it is possible to access funding from international donor agencies.”

Ayakoroma is also of the view that “There is dire need to carry out aggressive publicity on the programmes and activities of the association. I belong to a few other professional bodies and I know how we get updates on events. This is yet to be an organisational practice in ANA. I also believe it will be salutary if the annual conventions feature juicy intellectual components, like lectures, seminars, workshops, and creative writing clinics for cross-fertlisation of literary ideas. As a point of fact, people should think of what they will give out during a Convention (for established authors); and the dividends derivable for attending and networking (for young authors).” 

For an active member like Salamatu Sule, the association is on a solid footing as a place for writers to meet yearly and exchange ideas, adding, “Every chapter has mandate to bring programmes and activities that is critical to the development of the society but what most chapters do all the time is to come read and go.

“I had the opportunity of being part of the whole process of the ANA strategic document plan and I wonder how many chapters tried to review that document to see how they can boost their literary and creative economy. Most time we come just to discuss in-house matters at the AGM and everything stops there.

“ANA need a secretary that is independent of the Association and can market the Association and pull funding and bring in investors. The convention dues and chapter dues can never grow an Association that has been in existence for decades.  Sadly, this usually leaves the organisers to suffer debt issues after everyone is gone. This shouldn’t be so.

“Programmes that will attract investors and that has high level of critical issues that concerns the state and the world at large. ANA should also think of international partnerships and discourses that will generate international attention. It should also capture non-creatives because I personally think this has been an in-house affair. In all fairness, the restructuring has been well captured in the strategic documents. All chapters need do is to review and adopt module that best suits its interest.

To be fair to the association, it has helped younger writers to become established and many have won awards in that regard. The association still needs to do more by engaging these writers in the convention programming to bridge the gap. More books are being published by these younger people and the association must pay attention to them.”

For poet, Iquo DianaAbasi, it would be wrong for anyone to view the convention as a jamboree, saying the convention meets the aspirations of the association’s members.

“I’m not sure what led to the Ana Convention being erroneously viewed as a Jamboree, but I can guess that it is wont to happen when an event holds unfailingly for thirty six years, following the same pattern over tine, to deliver an event that doesn’t fall below certain standard,” she said. “Routine can quite easily become monotony. However, I can attest that in recent years there has been an injection of ideas and programmes geared towards snapping out of the monotony, which may have seeped into the annual gathering of Nigerian writers.

“Again I do not know when ANA steered from the “right path” (if there is any one such path), but I believe that for the association to grow it has to become and continue to be inclusive. This is achievable through the adoption of dynamic ideas, through creating programmes and interventions that will be appealing to young writers, and through organising discourses and fora where pertinent, contemporary issues are discussed, and solutions proffered.”

DiannaAbasi is delighted that the convention will be held in her city, Lagos, after 25 years, adding, “The ANA convention 2018 is being hosted in Lagos, for the first be time in 25 years, and this time around we have a lineup of events that will surely serve writers like never before. The theme for the convention proper is ‘Mega Cities, Mega Narratives,’ and discussions will centre around this theme. But in addition, we will also be hosting a digital publishing colloquium, with top actors in the digital media service industry. 

“A workshop is also planned to that effect. It’s the first of it’s kind and the hosting state, Lagos, is convinced that this issue is of paramount interest to writers— young and old alike— in this age where alternatives to traditional publishing are becoming more appealing. From the financial, technical, legal and academic angles, we intend to adequately dissect this juicy topic at this year’s convention.” 

She enumerated what young writers stand to benefit from the convention, saying, “Young writers can get the Yearly ANA Review (which has a public call for entries each year), the resurrection of the Nigerian Writers Series, the many discussions, spoken word and other poetry performances, the writing workshops, etc. As the years pass, the convention hopes and plans to keep getting more inclusive and forward-looking in thinking. I believe this will ensure that all participants get the best from the convention.”


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