Convention Keynote Speaker Prof. J. O. J. Nwachukwu-Agbada of the Abia State University in eastern Nigeria speaks
Convention Keynote Speaker Prof. J. O. J. Nwachukwu-Agbada of the Abia State University in eastern Nigeria speaks

Author Richard Ali gives us a run down of the Association of Nigerian Authors convention that ended last weekend.

Africa’s largest national authors Association, the Association of Nigerian Authors, concluded its 33rd Convention on Saturday 13th December 2014. The annual three-day write-fest was held at the historical city of Ibadan in southwestern Nigeria, formerly Africa’s largest city, which started as a 19th century war camp during the Yoruba Civil Wars. The Convention was hosted at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ibadan where eminent African writers including late Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Mabel Segun and the late Christopher Okigbo were educated. The Association was founded in 1981 by Chinua Achebe.

Some members of the National Executive, which is led by Prof Remi Raji-Oyelade [President], arrived on the 10th of December to test preparations in the run up to the arrival of delegates from the Association’s 28 State Chapters. The very first set of delegates to arrive was a five-man delegation from the Kaduna State Chapter in Nigeria’s northwest who arrived at about 10:30 am. The rest of the 11th saw the arrival of delegates from various states, arriving according to the distance between their capitals and Ibadan—Kebbi, Kano, Plateau, Rivers State. . . Accreditation went smoothly as most delegates had already pre-registered online and it was just a matter of checking the master list, handing over the Convention bag (including the official tee shirt, a copy of the 2014 ANA Review and others documents); the very last delegate was accredited at 11:24 pm. The traditional Opening Cocktail held on the first day of the Convention was dubbed a Night of Palmwine and Poetry under the direction of PEN Nigeria General Secretary and actor, Ropo Ewenla. Poets including 2014 Glenna Luschei Prize winner, Amu Nnadi, as well as newer voices including Uthman Ajibola and Saddiq M. Dzukogi read and performed their poems. Buses then conveyed delegates to their hotels.

The 2nd day of the ANA Convention, also known as the “Convention proper”, was held at the Large Lecture Theatre of the University of Ibadan Faculty of Arts. The Convention proper is always headlined by a public intellectual or Academic of stature. The present National Executive Committee invited historian Prof Toyin Falola of the University of Texas at Austin in 2012 and Prof Pius Adesanmi of Carleton University, Canada was Keynote Speaker in 2013. The 2014 Convention Keynote Speaker was headlined by Prof. J. O. J. Nwachukwu-Agbada of the Abia State University in eastern Nigeria. The Professor competently delivered a 45-minute lecture on the topic “Literature, Languages and Diversities: How Has Nigeria Fared Since 1914?” The topic is particularly relevant, this being the year of Nigeria’s centenary and the Language Question of Africana studies remaining a very live one. A spirited discussion followed with a wide range of questions thrown at the Lecturer by the gathered delegates and the dons and students of the University of Ibadan.

The lecture was followed, after light refreshments, by a Book Chat on the Nigerian Writers Series also known as the NWS. The NWS is a direct intervention in the publishing industry by the Association. Following a grant of #10,000,000 ($55,000) by the Governor of Niger State for the purpose, a call for submission was made and well over a hundred entries were received. The Editors, Tanure Ojaide [U. North Carolina], Chuma Nwokolo [African-Writing Journal] and Unoma Azuah [Lane College, Tennessee, USA], selected 10 manuscripts of merit. These were in turn edited and published under the NWS. 8 of the 10 authors were around for the Book Chat, which was chaired by the Association’s Vice President, Mallam Denja Abdullahi. There was then an evening screening of Yeepa, a filmed play by ace director Tunde Kelani, who was in attendance. Yeepa is a Yoruba language filming of the play, Who Is Afraid of Tai Solarin, by Femi Osofisan [English, 1979] which was translated into Yoruba language in 2010 by Dotun Ogundeji. The original play by Osofisan, one of Nigeria’s premier dramatists, is an adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector.

The high point of the Convention was the Annual General Meeting, which is always held on the 3rd day—13th December, 2014. The day, however, started with excursions—the options were the University Zoo and the Adeyipo Village. The Adeyipo Village, 45-minutes from the University, hosts the African Heritage Research Library and Cultural Centre which at 100,000 volumes is the largest library of books, film and music on Africa and the African Diaspora on the continent. The only two collections larger than Adeyipo Village are in the United States and in the United Kingdom, a sore point for Yeye Akilimali Funua Olade, the Chief Librarian, a naturalized African American citizen of Nigeria. The Centre was founded in March 1988 by Dr. Dayo Adebowale, who welcomed the Association’s leadership and delegates personally. It comprises the Music of Africa Library [10,000 + collection] and the Africa Heritage Research Library itself. There is also the African Talking Drum Museum and a guest chalet. A residency building, in honour of Wole Soyinka, is also being built though halted now for funding constraints.

The Annual General Meeting, the AGM, commenced immediately after delegates returned from the excursions and it lasted 4 hours. In the course of the AGM, the National Executive Committee tendered reports to the Congress of Delegates, the Association’s most powerful organ. The most important of these reports was the Treasurer’s Financial Report, read by the Treasurer, Ms. Joy Esuku. The Association collected receipts of N21,256,969 [$127,000]in the current year and presently has a budget surplus of N3,079,403 [$16,000]. Issues arising from the State Chapters were also dealt with as were the modalities for the hosting of the 2015 Convention.

The 33rd Convention ended with a Dinner at the Glory View Hotel during which the Judges of the Association of Nigerian Authors Prizes, led by Professors Nelson Fasina and Salisu Bappah, read their reports. The Dinner was opened with an address by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, read on his behalf by his Special Assistant, Ms. Molara Wood, who had also read the President’s opening remarks on the 11th. The winners of the premier prizes received their plaques and cheques amidst appropriate cheers and congratulations from the delegates and guests.

The winners of the 2014 Association of Nigerian Authors Prizes are Su’eddie Vershima Agema [Poetry, joint] and Ebi Yeibo [Poetry, joint]; May Nwoye [ANA/Chevron Prize for Environmental Writing]; Soji Cole [ANA/Esiaba Irobi Prize for Playwriting] while the ANA Prizes for Prose and Drama were won by Immanuel James and Tunji Ajibade respectively. The Dinner was ended with a Closing Speech by Publicity-Secretary [North], Barrister Richard Ali.

Departures from Ibadan commenced from 6 am on the 14th of December, 2014.