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By Charles Iornumbe
Recently, members of the editorial board of the Association of Nigerian Authors ANA, Benue State, led by the State Chapter Chairman, Mr. Charles Iornumbe, met with the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, at the Benue Peoples House, Makurdi, in preparation for the ANA Convention.
In this interview, the governor spoke on his administration’s plan to host the 36th Annual International Convention of the association kicking off on October 26 this year. He also expressed enthusiasm to meet with Prof. Wole Soyinka.
Your Excellency, when you came on board, the leadership of ANA visited you, and we were so proud to make a request that you host the 2017 ANA the National Convention here in Makurdi this year, which you graciously accepted. Do you still keep to your words, sir?
Hmmn, so are you doubting me? I gave you my word, I am a man of integrity; I am a man of my word. I am very careful in making any pronouncement. Anytime I say a thing, I keep to it. My campaign promises after several years, I am still keeping to them gradually, despite the daunting challenges in funding. I am keeping to my promises, making adjustments to ensure that we keep faith with the people. So, I’m a man of my word. If I told you I am hosting ANA National Convention, I am still ready to do it, and we will work with that. I believe that those are things that will draw more people to come here and see what we are doing and, maybe, they will learn from us, and us from them. Life is complementary. I have always said it. We need everyone to be on board. We need to know what is happening in Sokoto State, in Lagos State, in Rivers State, in Enugu State and in Taraba State. So, when you have a convergence of people in the name of national convention to your locality, to me, it’s a blessing. So I still keep to that, I will look forward for that day.
We spoke with the famous Nobel laureat, Professor Wole Soyink,a and there are indications that we might have him in Benue for the event. How would you react to this news?
That would be great. I have never had the privilege of meeting one-on-one with Wole Soyinka, a great Nigerian, a great African, a great international personality. I appreciate him, I cherish him for what he is and his contribution to nation-building and for what it is. It will be a privilege to have and host him here in Benue State. I would love to have one-on-one interaction with him, face-to-face or to relate with him and tell him that he is a proud son of Nigeria and Africa.
You have shown a lot of interest on activities of ANA in the past so much that sometime ago you lent one of your places for us to be carrying out our readings.What can you say is the source of your inspiration for ANA?
Well, I believe that documenting human activities is very critical, not just for our contemporary world but for posterity and for people to take out their time, put some things in writing for history to appreciate and for posterity to know that this used to happen during so-so time, which is deeply appreciated. And, apart from that, having the inspiration to write, having the creativity to put some thoughts on ground that would serve as a guide to those who are not talented in that manner also sends very positive signals. And to me, I believe that ANA has the responsibility of ensuring creativity to be sustained so that those without such talent can also be beneficiaries of it. So, it is a good thing and for our own community here in Benue State; it is important to encourage such acts to continue, because there are several benefits that can be derived as a result of this. Our people, too, will have the opportunity of selling their culture, and thinking and creativity, too, to the rest of the world, rather than waiting to copy what is happening in other parts of the world.
So, that is my passion, and I believe that so many people have made it through these acts of creative writing and contribution to the society. Well, we should not be left out; we should be part of it. So, to me, it is a welcome development and, more so, that not many people are interested in taking or putting things like this on paper for others to learn from. Once you put something on paper, you are sending those messages to several other people –one, to serve as learning to them; second, to serve as lessons to them and also to pick inspiration too. So. it is a good thing and I will always encourage it.
Apart from the Holy Bible, which you have read and most times quoted off hand, which literature book can you say has influenced you?
Several books: The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Pill, and Amazing Power of Positive Thinking. These two books changed my life, turned things around; and I will always remember them. I read them more than thirty years ago. I still remember the content, the impact it has made on me. And, then, I still remember Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I will ever remember the lessons that were learnt from the story of Things Fall Apart, I cherish it, and I appreciate them.
With this passion for literature generally, do you hope to write a book yourself?
Yes, I have the interest, just to share my story, because everywhere I have been to narrate the story of my life, people are inspired. In fact, there are instances that people weep for joy to appreciate God for the story of my life. And I feel that I will not be doing justice to the contemporary world and to posterity without sharing my experience with the rest of the world. I am packaging a book, and I believe that, at the appropriate time, it would be released. And the whole essence would be to give inspiration to other people who may have found themselves in a situation that I found myself several years ago and the inspiration that led me out of frustration and desperation the way I am today. I believe that many will have to learn from it, especially when it comes to relating to faith to the Almighty God which has been my major source of power and inspiration.
When it comes to humility; when it comes to learning from others; when it comes to sharing with other people; when it comes to appreciating the fact that life is complementary, that no one is indispensable; when it comes to knowing the fact that life is about learning from one another and appreciating one another; knowing that no one has monopoly of knowledge, wisdom and understanding; that God has so done it so that we complement one another, so that we love ourselves; because, if you know that I have something that you don’t have, you appreciate me, and, if I know that you have something that I don’t have that one day I will need you; I will do everything to sustain a good relationship with you. And, so, these are some of those things that I have learnt and by the grace of God I have succeeded in all my endeavours.
There’s no single case whether in my family life, a father and a husband and to many and as also a businessman from the private sector, as a farmer, and also or as a Christian, and so on. Everything that I have undertaken in this life I have succeeded, because I have always loved to work with people. Everybody likes success, even those people who have failed, if you ask them they will tell you that they want success and since God has endowed me with wisdom, knowledge and understanding, I will love to share it with people, because, again, it is not about me making it; it is about the people making it and so the capacity to add value to people developing themselves and developing the society is what I desire. So I will like to share my story.
In other climes, there is this viable place for writers in government, for example, state poet laureates that perform to recite their works at State functions, as well as monetary endowments for the art. Now, what are your plans for the writing body in Benue State in this regard?
It will be to encourage them; you are doing a good thing; they should be encouraged. Let me know the challenges; let me know where I can come in to add value to make sure that what you are doing is sustained and, beyond sustenance, that you excel in Benue State, because I know, at my personal level and at the level of government, whatever capacity I have, I will always be ready to give support to ensure that we succeed.