Mr. Denja Abdullahi is the current Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA). In this article, he explains why he wants to be the next President of ANA in the forthcoming 2015 election of the writers’ body
I hereby make known my aspiration to serve The Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) as her next President. To me, aspiring to a public office, whether by appointment, election, as a career choice or by volunteering is all about service. Service is a sacred trust and demands total commitment from anyone aspiring to be given the people’s mandate. It is also my believe that those who offer themselves to serve at any level must be assessed by their antecedents to see what they have made of their previous engagements in similar circumstances. With all sense of modesty, I urge the members of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and the writing community in Nigeria to reflect and review my records of service to the Association ever since I became a member many years ago.
My Antecedents of Service to ANA
I joined ANA in the early 90s and became involved in its operations as a literary and cultural activist. That may be taken as a beginning built on the foundations of my previous engagements in similar activities in the middle 80s to early 90s as an undergraduate and postgraduate student of English and Literary Studies in two Nigerian Universities (Universities of Jos and Ilorin). I established a chapter of ANA in Kebbi State in the mid 90s while working as a lecturer in the Waziri Umaru Federal Polytechnic, Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State. The seeds of the Association I planted and nurtured then in Kebbi State, which germinated to encompass Sokoto and Zamfara States, have all transformed today into thriving chapters of the Association in those areas.
I joined the public service in 1998 and integrated myself into the FCT chapter of the ANA where I became one of those keeping the Association alive and well through a stretch of innovations and outreaches. The FCT chapter put me forward to the National Executive Council position in 2001 at the elective Convention in Port Harcourt in which I was elected as an Ex-Officio member. Since then, I have been in the National Executive Council of the Association without break, manning successfully and meritoriously the underlisted positions of responsibilities:
· Elected as an Assistant General Secretary in 2003 at the Makurdi Convention.
· Elected as the substantive General Secretary in 2005 at the Kano Convention.
· Returned unopposed as the General Secretary at the 2007 Convention in Owerri.
· Reverted to the position of an Ex-officio as constitutionally provisioned by virtue of being an immediate past General Secretary after the completion of my tenure at the 2009 Minna Convention.
· Elected as Vice President at the Abuja Convention in 2011 and re-elected unopposed to same position at the Akure Convention in 2013. I have been serving in this position since then till date.
In all these positions, I did not hold on to them just to answer to the appellations or to decorate my CV but I took them all as opportunities to serve in the real sense without angling for adulation or approbation. The peak of my service to the Association, apart from those executed in the various chapters I belonged to (Kebbi, FCT, Kwara and Kogi), and apart from those rendered at other positions I held in the National Executive Council as Ex-officio and Assistant General Secretary, came when I was the General Secretary of the Association between 2005-2009.
As General Secretary, considered the engine room of ideas and administrative live wire of the Association, I helped to achieve the following: Delivering well-executed Annual International Conventions with topical themes between 2006-2009 at Yenagoa(the Association’s 30th Anniversary, Owerri, Zamfara and Minna); National Workshop on Drama which held at the University of Lagos (May 2006); International Colloquium on 20 Years After the Nobel Prize, held at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, in honour of Prof. Wole Soyinka, (24th – 26th August, 2006); ANA/Chevron National Workshop on Literature and the Environment which held at the University of Lagos in March, 2007; ANA National Workshop on Travels, Tourism and Leisure Writing which held in Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State, July, 2007; ANA/Mobil National Workshop on Literature and the Environment which held in Eket, Akwa-Ibom State, March 2008; The National Celebration of 50 Years Anniversary of the Publication of Things Fall Apart in six cities (Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, Ogidi, Awka and Nsukka) and an International Colloquium at the University of Nigeria Nsukka which held between 12-26 April, Co-edited with Joe Ushie the Proceedings of the Things Fall Apart@ 50 celebratory colloquium into a book entitled Themes Fall Apart But the Centre Holds, published in 2009; Abubakar Imam International Colloquium on the Promotion of Writing in the Indigenous Languages which held at Kaduna State University, Kaduna, on the 9th of July, 2009; National Symposium on Writing in the Indigenous Languages: A Celebration of the Works of Adebayo Faleti, which held at Leads University, Ibadan on the 13th August,2009; and the ANA/Atiku Abubakar National Workshop on Children’s Literature which held at American University of Nigeria, Yola, Adamawa State, between 16-17 of October, 2009.
Beyond these milestone events, which made my tenure and the Executive Council of that period to be adjudged as the most active in the history of the Association in recent times, I ran an all-inclusive secretariat with rapid response to matters bothering on protecting writers’ welfare and interests.
Since my election as Vice President in 2011 and re-election in 2013,I have supported effectively the current President and all other Executive Council members without viewing my office as that of a ‘spare tyre’ as it is perceived in Nigerian popular political parlance. In a voluntary organization where every expertise and sacrifices are needed to pursue and sustain avowed objectives; there can be no spare tyre, as all 2008.
Tyres are needed to keep the vehicle running. With this philosophy in mind, I weathered the storm in being ANA’s sole and principal defense witness in the court battle to reclaim ANA’s land from Home Securities Limited between 2008-2012 when the case was finally decided in favour of ANA at an Abuja High Court.
Well into my tenure as Vice President, amongst all other duties carried out, I was part of the organization of these events: Member of The National Transition Committee that arranged the Burial Rites and Funeral Proceedings of the literary icon, Prof. Chinua Achebe, in cities across Nigeria, May 2013; Member, National Organising Committee, of the Arrow of God@ 50 National Celebrations across 8 Nigerian cities from March 21-April 28, 2014; and Coordinator, Nigerian Writers Series(an imprint of the Association of Nigerian Authors), a process that saw to the publication of ten(10) fictional titles that was presented to the public in Ibadan in November and Minna in December,2014.
My Agenda of Service to ANA if Elected President
With the foregoing track record of service to the Association and with much more unmentioned, I presently offer myself for further service to the Association in the capacity of President, to build on past and present efforts and also do the following:
Run an all-inclusive administration where every member, at home and abroad, will be given the chance to contribute his or her talents and expertise to the development of the Association in an atmosphere of sacrifice, integrity and conviviality; Cooperate and advocate with other creative associations for the establishment of the national endowment funds for the arts, so that the creative sector can access funds for viable programmes and projects; Internationalize the operations of the Association by collaborating with other writers’ unions across Africa and the world. I am already talking to the Pan –African Writers’ Association (PAWA) with headquarter in Accra, Ghana on how to galvanize Africa through the literary and cultural fronts as it was in the 60s but in line with the contemporary world.ANA under my watch will develop creative collaborations with other like international agencies such as PEN and major literary and cultural groups across the world; Return ANA fully to its fundamental objectives of being a writers’ craft union that will be committed without fail to the advancement of the interests of its members within the overall pursuit of building and maintaining an egalitarian society; Repackage the developmental objectives of the Association and make the staging of workshops, seminars, conferences, going on local and international residencies and hosting celebratory activities routine activities; Take the hard-nosed decisions that will wean the Association from over-dependence on government patronage with regards to funding of Conventions and other programmes and projects. We will do this by actively cultivating individuals, corporate bodies, local and foreign grant giving agencies and foundations for institutional supports. We will also ensure that members live up fully to their responsibilities of membership; Create platforms for the facilitation of creative support to the Association through payment of dues by members at all times and other voluntary financial contributions for the running of its affairs; Engage in advocacy in line with the founding objectives of the Association and its overall interests. We will also stake our claims to participation in the governance of the country at all levels within our areas of core competence.
Others include, review the administration of ANA literary prizes with a view to beefing up their profiles as well as seek for the establishment of new prizes that will be developmental and sustainable; Ensure that the Mamman Jiya Vatsa Writers’ Resort in Abuja is eventually built and operational with all the income generating facilities placed on it and subsequently run like business so that the Association will become financially solvent; Unbundle the annual international convention of the Association and repackage it to make it more of a writers’ affair where books, authors and creativity will be fully celebrated. We will pull out some activities within the annual convention to stand on their own as full-fledged events within the year; Seek out very creative and innovative ideas that will make ANA become a much-sought after brand that will continue to contribute to the intellectual and cultural development of the society. This will be furthered by engendering proactive relationship with our educational institutions at all levels and other sectors in the book chain and in the creative industry; Actively internationalize ANA Conferences and other literary events with the full complement of the participation of writers and literary activists from Africa and other parts of the world; Liaising with foreign embassies and cultural institutions to support ANA and promote the sponsorship of the participation of Nigerian writers in foreign writing workshops, residencies and summer courses; Make ANA a self sustaining organization completely freed from perennial funding deficits and over dependence on support from political office holders of our annual conference hosting states; and review the administrative structure and organs of the Association with a view to strengthening them for utmost service delivery and initiating new organs as provisioned in the Constitution of the Association.
Develop an 8 years strategic plan for the Association (2016-2023) by setting up a technical team of experienced members of the Association to work on that and bring out a blueprint for the running of the Association well into the future.
What I have outlined as the new areas I wish to add to the operations of ANA are achievable if pursued with tenacity of purpose and readiness of all to make sacrifices in ideas, time and resources for the general good of the Association.
To me, arts and literary administration is not a hobby or side-kick, it is a career, which must be managed with all indices of professionalism. I therefore call on all members of the Association and those admiring or contemplating us from afar to come join me in working towards delivering all these to the greater glory of our dear Association.
Why do you flip around?
You savage death that wastes brutally
When both young and old
Are afraid to kiss your yacht
But you are still inevitable
For all humans
Oh, death why not glue to your abode
And be at peace?
While you resist to stay still
You often open another phase of life
Which brings them to an end…
Copyright: Enitan Oluwatobilolba
(Witten July 10, 2015)