Henry Akubuiro, Lagos
There is something about a habitué that always find us in its warm embrace: not exactly its grandeur but its charm. We easily connect with it and take solace visiting it over and over. Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, has turned out to be such a habitué to Nigerian writers.
Since the ANA/Yusuf Ali Literary Campaign started in 2012, the leadership of the Association of Nigerian Authors has always thronged to Ilorin to brainstorm on the future of the literary enterprise.
This year’s convergence, a two-day programme, in Ilorin, was a capacity building workshop for national and state executive council members on innovations in contemporary literary awareness campaigns. There was a cameo appearance by Justice Mustapha Akanbi (Retd).
To facilitate the workshop sessions were Dr Wale Okediran, former ANA President; Izuchukwu Okeke, writer and scholar based in South Korea; and Funmi Olori, who runs a popular mobile library in Ibadan, Oyo State.
The president of the association, Mallam Denja Abdullahi, set the ball rolling, reminding all that the meeting was organised as part of the ANA/Yusuf Ali Literary Awareness Campaign and making a judicious use of the fund. The two-term president of ANA paid encomiums on the association’s benefactor, Yusuf Ali (SAN) for sustaining the annual 3 million naira grant.
“His gesture has done a lot to stabilising the association. These days, it’s difficult to get financial support, even from government. But, for somebody to be consistent in providing 3 million naira to an association like ours, it calls for commendation.”
Of course, his remarks were greeted with plaudits.
Elaborating further, he said the association embarked on a media campaign to call attention to what the Senior Advocate of Nigeria had been doing for Nigerian writers for seven years. He, therefore, called on public-spirited individuals and corporate bodies to emulate the generosity of the renowned lawyer.
“This is the time for public-spirited individuals in Nigeria to support literature, which impacts on the reading public at all levels. We want corporate organisations to do the same for the growth of reading and writing,” he said.
Mallam Abdullahi said the essence of the workshop was to chart a new way of doing things, especially relating to carrying out literary campaigns nationwide. He expressed optimism that the array of resource persons invited to talk to the gathering were seasoned.
Dr Okediran was the first to do his presentation, which centred on “Managing and Financing Literary Projects and Programmes for Optimum Results: The Practical Realities”.
The Award-winning author said, for an NGO to be healthy, it had to generate sufficient income to ensure stable programming, engage in income-based, rather than budget-based, spending, among others.
He noted that monthly readings by ANA state chapters were a good avenue to keep writers busy, as well as have their works critiqued and edited. It could be sustained by using notable personalities in the state as hosts and guest of honour. He said it would also serve as a source for chap books and anthologies.
Dr Okediran encouraged the publication of anthologies by state chapters, which would spur both published and unpublished writers. The novelist said such publications could be sustained with adverts from local publishers and bookshops.
Seminars and workshops, said the former ANA president, would also help discover new and aspiring authors, especially from secondary and primary school levels. Funding for these, he said, could come from state/local governments, publishers, bookshops and corporate organisations.
He believed that organisations, such as PAWA, Abuja Literary Society, Abuja Writers Forum, Poets in Nigeria, Northern Writers Forum, among others, were meant to complement ANA’s works, and should be appreciated.
“Focus should be on literature and writing, and not on politics or financial and personal self-aggrandisement,” he submitted.
The second presentation by Job Izuchukwu of the Pukyong National University, Busan, South Korea, was entitled “Digital and Literary Culture in Nigeria: Surmounting the Challenge of Disruption and Enhancing the Reach of the Story”.
With the digital media came a plethora of interesting offerings, he said, especially in the social media, which competed with the time of, especially, young people. He explained that, “The digital intrusion into the creative economy is not all about Nigeria. In fact, it is everywhere. All over the world, the digital is forcing change in the creative economy that are positive and negative, depending on how each industry has developed.”
Izuchukwu affirmed that, in the last two decades, the web had changed the world and revolutionalised the culture industry. Thus, “The ripple effect is felt across the spectrum of the creative industry from content production to business approach and consumer behaviour.
“Since the internet is innovation driven, new ideas, programmes and apps become almost daily experience. Among the changes already seen include: the rise in social networking in the digital environment, shift in content creation and consumption. The era of a tribe of writer who write specifically for their audience is gradually phasing away.”
The young scholar argued that “it is the story that makes social media possible, not algorithm”. According to him, “social media is a market of short stories and narratives of everyday experiences”, which could come as short as a word, a phrase, a short sentence, or a long paragraph of even a book-length. It could also come as a text, audio and/or video.
However, for creative writers, however, the problem of the digital/social media age was not the paucity of writing/storytelling, but paucity of the quality of writing “we define as story”. He pointed out, nonetheless, that there were millions of people in the world who would choose Facebook and Twitter any day than read a novel.
Among the problems associated with the digital environment, said Izuchukwu, was the creation of much distraction for reading, for reading demands great discipline. Sadly, social media had become a new hobby, gradually displacing literary activities of reading, writing and debating. “Young people find emotional satisfaction reading their timeline than book,” he said.
The third presenter, Funmi Ilori, spoke on “Innovation and Creativity in Child-Centred Literary Campaign”. The founder of 1st innovative mobile library for children in Nigeria said, “Activating communities to improve access to literacy certainly takes manpower.” Hence, her outfit, “iRead engages youth volunteers to lead the mobile libraries and build advocacy efforts to private schools and communities.”
For iRead, “the key to activating communities is to mobilise resources from business community…We also work directly with non-governmental organisations who support with expertise and their network.”
She added that ‘iRead’s E-library “aims to enhance reading, blend learning and leverage on educational technology.”
ANA President briefly commended Justice Akanbi (Ret) for providing a free venue (a resource centre) for the workshop. He commended his foresight in equipping the resource centre, thereby making the youths to be engaged and trained.
Justice Akanbi, in his response, encouraged Nigerians to form the habit of reading, for reading was an easy route to make an impression on the world. He was delighted that ANA had been able to attract funding from Yusuf Ali to run the annual reading campaign.
Sequel to the presentation of certificates to participants, ANA’s Vice-President, Camillus Ukah, said the pilgrimage to Ilorin was made possible because of the generosity of Yusuf Ali and the goodwill of Justice Akanbi. Above all, “Books are very important, and those who write books are also important.”