Lights on at Abuja Writers’ Resort, Mpape by October — Denja

Posted: August 16, 2017 in general
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Malam Denja Abdullahi

President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Malam Denja Abdullahi, in this interview, says the first office complex at the eagerly-anticipated major destination, Abuja Writers’ Village at Mpape, in the Federal Capital Territory, will come on stream by October, this year. When completed, the village would house the national headquarters of the association, a 50-room hotel, residency chalets, 500-seater auditorium, archives as well as other facilities befitting a writers’ resort.

Abdullahi also sheds more light on his administration’s achievements with few months to the elective national convention, among other issues. Excerpts:

How have you been able to juggle your position as a Director at the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), with that of running the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA)?

I must say I have combined the two preoccupations perfectly well because they are about the same thing. There is no significant difference between administering an association of authors and administering culture. Both concerns belong to the same domain of the creative and cultural industries. My work as a public administrator of culture who must abide by statutory rules and display fairness and equity has greatly rubbed off on how i have been administering the affairs of ANA as its President. My precision, passion and creative propensity as a writer and manager of an NGO in which resources must be stretched and value gotten for every money or resources expended have all impacted on how I do my public service duties. There is positive co-habitation in the way I performed both tasks and my two “employers” are not complaining.

How would you rate government’s support for the literary arts, considering the rather unusual lull in the art sector in the country?

I have always advocated that all the various government interventions towards supporting the arts must be warehoused in the same basket or envelope if I may put it that way. Presently, such supports are scattered in this or that Ministry, agency or commission and there seems to be no coordination and that even makes it difficult for government sincere efforts to be noticed or measured. We in the arts sector have always advocated the establishment of the National Endowment Fund for the Arts which is that basket I refereed to earlier. The government of any society has a primary responsibility for supporting the arts the same way that education of its citizen is a primary function of government. We cannot push this primary responsibility to the private sector. The government must show its own coordinated effort first before the private sector can come in effectively. With all the noise being made now on the propensity of the creative and cultural industries in creating wealth and generating employment, we still need to get it right by being inclusive and designing peculiar support structure for each of the components of the arts and culture sector.

How has it been so far at the helm of ANA?

It is not modest to score oneself but if you go through our scorecard and conduct an assessment among our members, I am certain me and my team will not score less than 80 per cent out. I have reviewed my electoral promises with what I have done within a year and going to two years of my coming on board  and I have discovered that I have achieved nearly 80 per cent of what I set out to do and well on the way to accomplishing a few others left.

Your milestone achievements till date as ANA President

The milestone achievements are bringing into being a strategic plan (2017-2022) for the Association’s future development;  conceiving and producing a documentary film for the Association entitled; ” Dancing mask: The ANA Story”; Restructuring of the internal governance structure of the Association by creating strategic committees, panels and councils; fast tracking the development of the ANA land in Mpape, Abuja by instituting a stricter monitoring process and doing a foundation laying ceremony; bringing about the second phase of the Nigerian Writers Series  by publishing three new titles devoted to children’s literature; internationalizing the operations of the Association by effective collaboration with other writers’ associations in Africa and beyond; launching a project called A-Book-A-Child to put an ennobling general interest book in the hand of every school going Nigerian child of certain age ranges and generally making the Association receptive to creative and purposeful partnerships with like bodies, governments and individuals. I and my team have done much more than that and there are still more to be done.

What have been the major challenges confronting your tenure at ANA, and how are you tackling them?

The challenges are legion as always. There is the problem of lack of fund which is ever there in a situation where dues paid by members are insignificant and not paid in any structured manner or not even paid at all. This is an Association that has no capacity to network for grant nor the personnel to follow through any request for funding in a sustained manner. It therefore leaves you with a president who thinks and does most things for the Association. However, I must appreciate the contributions of members of the national executive council which I head and the state chapters executives and other well meaning members of the Association across the country. They all do their bits but it is still an association where everyone can go to sleep but the President must not or else he or she will be accused of failure. It should not be that way; that is why  I am working towards enthroning a system in which belonging to the Association means you must be responsible for its upkeep and well being by playing your part, paying your dues and staking your claim in its activities.

Considering the disquiet that reared its head at the last ANA National Convention in Abuja, last year, how has your administration been able to build bridges of unity among members?

You read the signs wrongly: there was no disquiet of any kind. It was the usual underhand politicking played in Nigeria all the time, where if you succeed too much, some people begin to wonder why you should have it so smooth. They therefore decide to rake some trouble for you so that you should contend with them and negotiate some of your successes with them. That convention was our 35th Anniversary and I must tell you it was one of the most successful conventions of the Association in the last 10 if not 15 years. A lot of members after that convention called back and wrote to me to commend our efforts. Remember that four years before in 2011 in that same Abuja, a raucous convention took place, in which delegates were held hostages in hotels over unpaid bills and me and the then newly elected President  went round Abuja hotels to sign undertakings for them to be released to go home. Even if I do not have any other quality, the one you cannot take away from me is that of being a bridge builder who relates with people with no prior prejudices and complexes. I have the spirit of inclusiveness in my dealings with people and it has helped me in keeping the Association united and progressive. Well meaning and objective members of the Association have been supporting me. There will always be naysayers, even if you are a prophet; you need such people to be focused and to test your strength and qualities on. I have always said one thing about the generality of ANA membership, you can never sway them with gimmicks and other such empty posturing. They can see through all that to decide on what they want for their Association.

What are your plans for the coming year? And by extension, what is the level of development at the ANA’s Village in Abuja?

If I am re-elected to serve again for a second and final term as President in October, 2017, the Association should expect an even more purposeful tenure from 2018. We already have a strategic plan covering five years, well on to 2022., what I will do is just to follow it through and do what is possible within my tenure of office. Someone else will always come later to carry it further. On the ANA land, a lot of development is on-going and we will deliver one of the first completed office structure before October, 2017.

How would describe the present state of literary arts in Nigeria, and what is the way forward?

The literary arts is in bubbles, exciting and new frontiers is being extended. That is why we were planning to do a symposium with the Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo in Ebonyi State on the 21st of August, 2017 on that, prelude to a major conference next year, before the almighty ASUU Strike aborted the plans. We will go ahead with that after the strike. The many book festivals, book chats and literary prizes we have all over tell you that the literary arts is a thriving industry. The drawback is that we cannot have a thriving literary industry where authors and publishers are still complaining of being unfulfilled.


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