ANA 35th Int’l Convention: Living up to its hype

Posted: November 1, 2016 in general
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(From Left): Mrs Lizzy Iheanacho, Director, National Council for Arts and Culture, Prof Akachi Ezeigbo, Prof Femi Osofisan, Dr Jerry Agada, Hon Wale Okediran, Mallam Denja Abdullahi, Mrs Nneoma Okorocha, Senator Shehu Sani, Prof Isidore Diala

The 35th Anniversary International Convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) could well be said to have lived up its hype as being one of the most attended and in relative terms a better organized convention of the body, in a country mile.

This is all the more remarkable, as despite the present economic recession in the country, Abuja’s central district, for the entire duration of the ANA International Convention came alive for a literary, not political event.

Re-visiting Abuja, the country’s administrative and political capital and emerging M.I.C.E hub on the sub-region of Africa, for the second time (the first being in 1997), this 2016 edition’s four-day programme gathered over three hundred of the country’s finest writers as they thronged the National Centre for Women’s Development’s expansive complex for the opening ceremony and also for the grand finale of the landmark annual event which spanned from October 27 through to 30.

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The packed National Centre for Women Development, Abuja

The opening ceremony which held at the jam-packed centre’s main hall gathered hundreds of authors, students, literary enthusiasts, public government representatives, and those from the private sector, in an event that had wife of the Imo State Governor and a member of the state’s chapter of the association, Mrs Nneoma Okorocha, in attendance as Special Guest, as well as serving senator representing Kaduna state Central Senatorial District, Mallam Shehu Sani, as Host, in addition to three past presidents of the association; Hon. Wale Okediran, Dr Jerry Agada and Prof Femi Osofisan.

Also, to add to the international colour of the event, the Ghana Association of Writers (GAW) was fully represented by its scribe in reciprocation of an earlier visit by an ANA delegation led by Mallam Denja Abdullahi, its president.

The 35th International Convention which held under the theme; Re-Contextualizing African Literature for the African Renaissance: Emergent Trends, Realities and Strategies for the 21st Century,” had its events spread across the National Centre for Women Development, National Universities Commission (NUC) Auditorium, Thought Pyramid Art Gallery, all in Abuja.

Remarking, in his opening address, Abdullahi, who was elected president of the association at the 34th edition of the convention, while thanking members and guests alike for honouring the invitation, reiterated his administration’s commitment to repositioning the over three decade-old body.

According to him, this has informed decision to embark on projects like the documentation and digitalization of data on the association, which he noted, was aimed at providing a proper historic background for the body as well charting a veritable platform in the way-forward for the association.

In addition, Abdullahi stated that the plan informed the constitution of a National Advisory Council for ANA, which he said includes past presidents of the body, in a bid to ensure a higher level of continuity in the association’s administration.

While officially launching the 2017-2022 ANA Strategic Plan Document, which was produced by a committee inaugurated by his administration and included Prof Sunday Ododo, as chairman, Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo, Prof. Anthony Alichie, Mr. Eriata Oribhabor, Mallam Al Bashak and Dr. Ofonime Inyang, the president noted that such a material was intended to set the records straight on activities and plans of the association.

On his part, Senator Shehu Sani expressed worry over the declining level of academic and literary activities in the country, which he noted was also a concern for the quality of discourse by politicians on the floor of the House of Assembly. This, he noted, had become a challenge to literalists, even as he decried the disinterest towards academic exercise by public officials in the country.

“In time past, a politician had his own personal library stocked with materials from across all genres and this showed on the floor of the House during plenary as the quality of discourse was elevated. Today, however, the opposite is the case. It is such that a politician is too lazy to even read the manuscripts of his own ghost writer. All because he does not have time,” Sani said.

He, however, urged Nigerian authors to strive to swim with the current of public discourse and not against it and also strive to add value to issues of public discourse in order to better the Nigerian society.

Describing the 35th International Convention as a testament of hard work, Sani maintained that hardwork had its own reward both in and outside the literary circle.

Also remarking, Mrs Okorocha described the theme of the convention as ‘apt’ adding that the changing times in the society meant that writers needed to explore other themes away from the colonialism, imperialism and neo-colonialism subject matters of the independence and post-independence era in the country.

According to her, social-economic realities of the times had thrown up issues such as terrorism and economic conditions into the Nigerian literature as writers continue to explore themes for their works to affect their audience.

Keynote speaker, Prof Isidore Diala of the Imo State University, Owerri, Imo State, noted that though contemporary writers may have assumed freedom of expression to mean a freedom to confront cultural and even religious values of the society, terrorism, corruption, sexuality, civil rights have, however, formed the preoccupation of present-day Nigerian writers.

For him, that successive administrations of ANA have preserved the tenets of the association which is to platform freedom of expression and literary excellence as envisioned by its founding fathers like late Prof Chinua Achebe and others, is worthy of commendation.

Prof Diala, a renowned literary scholar and critic of African literature won 2015 NLNG Prize for Literary Criticism. He was also on the judging panel for the prestigious 2016 NLNG Prize for Literature.

Other major programmes which were on the card at the convention was a guided tour of the Writers’ Village in in Mpape, Abuja, a trip that afforded members the opportunity to assess progress of work being done on the property owned by ANA, as well as a tour of the Art & Crafts Village.

The ANA documentary which marks a huge milestone in the history of the association also premiered during the convention courtesy of a collaborative effort by the Pan African Writers Association (PAWA) and the Box Office Studios Ltd.

With the traditional book exhibition also on show at the event, past president Okediran and former Executive Secretary of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation, Dr Barclays Ayakoroma, all presented their works in the course of the convention.

Highlights of the grand finale was the formal investiture of a Fellowship on three deserving members of the association; former Member of the House of Representatives and past president of ANA, Dr Wale Okediran, a former Minister of State for Education and now Head of the Benue State Civil Service Commission, Dr Jerry Agada; as well as late Captain Elechi Amadi (post-humous).

This is in addition to the installation of the Justice Mustapha Akanbi Foundation as an Honorary Corporate Member of the association, and that of Senator Shehu Sani as Patron of ANA.

Okediran, Agada, Amadi all join other literary icons like late Prof Chinua Achebe, Prof Wole Soyinka, T.M Aluko, Prof J.P Clark, Mabel Segun, Prof Kole Omotoso, Prof Femi Osofisan, late Ken Saro-Wiwa, Odia Ofeimum, Abubakar Gimba, late Gen Mamman Vatsa, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, late Prof Dora Akunyili, and Prof Olu Obafemi, as Fellows of the body.

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