At ANA Convention, Nigerian authors in mega cities, mega narratives

Abdullahi, ANA president

Last week, the city of Lagos stood still for the arts community, as the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) held its 37th convention.

The yearly event, which is often marked by discussions about and around the book industry, attracted authors and publishers such as, Mabel Segun, matriarch of Nigerian Literature; Prof. Femi Osofisan, Prof. Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi and a host of other dignitaries.

With the theme, Literature: Mega Cities and Mega Narratives, the convention aimed at enumerating how story telling could affect the structure of a community. It also focused on different beliefs and notions people have had or are currently having based on the books they have read.

As part of events heralding the convention, a maiden colloquium with focus on the theme, Monetising and Globalising the Writing Craft, was held on Wednesday, October 24, 2018.

Led by Patrick Enahoro, the colloquium, which honoured the late Tayo Aderinokun, former Managing Director of Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB) and patron of ANA Lagos, had over 100 participants.

It featured assigned speakers addressing the theme of the colloquium from different perspectives according to their professional leanings.

Participants were introduced to digital publishing, as well as being informed of the various ways they could earn from their creativity via the Internet.

Among the resource persons was Felicia Otolorin, who spoke on how publishers and authors could maximise their income using the facility of Google adsense.

Okechukwu Ofili of Okada Books also took participants through the immense advantages of using digital publishing as tool to overcome woes of traditional publishing and how to sustain the tempo.

Other speakers include, Richard Okpor of Opportunity-to-see Ltd., Lari Williams, who educated participants on legal aspects of digital publishing, and Dr. Sola Olorunyomi, a writer and lecturer at the Institute of African Studies University of Ibadan.

In his speech, ANA president, Mallam Denja Abdullahi, said it was a thing of joy for the colloquium to once again hold in Lagos, as he described it as “a theatre of the struggle to free our country from the grip of despotism.”

Denja reminded them of the promise his administration made to restore the fortunes of the association, as he believed they were on the brink of accomplishing the desired goal.

“When my team came on board in 2015 with the mandate to lead this association, we promised that we would be pragmatic and deliver whatever is possible to change the fortunes of ANA for the better.

Today, I believe we have a more visible association, with a laid out plans and path, which we are unwaveringly following to achieve our intended of building a craft union that would be independent, consistent, progressive and self-assured in its given role of being the conscience of the society, while contributing to the literary and cultural development of the country.

“ANA has toiled all these years in numerous projects and programmes to protect the interests of Nigerian writers, nurture the innate creative potentials of Nigerian children and youths, preserve the cultural heritage of this country, serve as its truly patriotic ambassador-at-large, promote the reading culture and a knowledge-based society.

In this struggle and toil, our members have made huge sacrifices, occasionally assisted by benign state apparatuses and literary inclined individuals. We have realised that if our voice is to become stronger as an association, there is need for us to toe the path of self-sufficiency and the re-modeling of our working capacity. That is why our administration of this very important craft union has largely focused in the last few years on re-structuring our operational procedure by opening up to greater strategic partnerships and building a Writers’ Village in Abuja we could call our own.

The partnerships are already extending the reach of our association to heights hitherto considered unattainable and by the time the village being built is completed, hopefully in the coming year, we would have laid the foundation for a future for the association without the perennial leanness and muffled voices.”

He furthermore advised Nigerian writers to be objective in their submission especially issues concerning the forthcoming general elections.

According to him, “at this point, it will be apt for us to add our voices to commentaries on the state of the nation and the political conundrum we currently find ourselves in the country. Though, ours, as an association, is non-partisan and non-political, as individuals we all have a stake in going beyond the text to help shape this country into the path of rectitude and real progress.”

Prof Karen King-Aribisala, who was the keynote speaker, spoke extensively of how literature has set beliefs and agendas for communities where it is much regarded.

She believed that people tend to behave based on the doctrines contained in their favourite books as every individual has a different perception of what he or she considers to be truth and can do anything to protect the source of truth.

According to her, “each mega-narrative upholds a book; a physical manifestation of its ideological narrative such as, the Bible or the Communist Manifesto. ‘Believers’ deem these books sacrosanct.

Therefore, they seek to preserve and protect them physically, thinking that in so doing, they are protecting the ideas in them. Their opponents have the same mindset: they seek to destroy the books believing that in so doing they are destroying the ideas and ideologies in the books.

Literature is replete with examples of this human tendency.’ The book is deemed more powerful and influential than the spiritual and psychological.”

Karen, who is also a researcher and teacher, spoke on the negativities of mega narratives on mega cities and the larger society and how modern-day literature is helping to expose or rather propagate the ‘disgusting images’ of these stories.

“For people who have been historically subjected to colonialism, its mega narratives are particularly repugnant. This is because they emanate from the apparently dominant powers of Europe; whose theories of civilising ‘the other’ led to the brutalisation of body, mind and spirit of the colonised.

As such, under no circumstances should mega-narratives be trusted. Post-colonial writers see them as “weapons of mass destruction.

In Leye Adenle’s Easy Motion tourist, Lagos is a mega city that appears to sanction an ‘immoral morality’. This novel is replete with scenes of violence, mutilation of body parts and police brutality.

Fela Akinkulapo Kuti’s song, Shuffering and Shmiling, illustrates a certain acceptance of status quo. It also reveals the need ‘to smile’ in the face of suffering, evoked by mega city. These talented artists and authors highlight the travails of mega cities. They emphasise the danger, over-crowding, social stratification, corruption, injustice, poverty, violence, prostitution and crime. In their writings, the mega city is the place where everyone is either a criminal or has the potential to become one.”

The professor, however, bemoaned the less emphasis given to the rural community in today’s creative industry.

According to her, “mega narrative ideas are associated with rural locations where people live integrated lives; where they care for one another in friendship and where they are united in faith, culture and traditions.

But with the movement from rural locations to urban mega city locations, these communal ‘good values’ are destroyed.

Put another way, writers of mega city fiction seem to give credence to the mega narrative of ‘the community lost’, a narrative that features in virtually every culture and religion wherein a harmonious rural way of life is lost to the community.

She concluded her speech by expressing happiness that writers are now having a change in perception of mega cities and have begun writing positive things about them.
She urged the guests to be conscious of what they read and imbibe only the positive ones that would enhance cordial relationship with one another.

“Mega city fiction writers now promote mega narrative ideas such as love, brotherhood, justice, equality and social commitment to both indigenous and ‘universal locales’.

So doing, they tell the truth of our existence. They utilise ‘weapons of mass construction’ in the creation of a better mega city world.

She said, “the only mega-narrative worthy of our adherence is love, loving self and other no matter our differences in race, ethnicity, gender, religion, country or nation. So, in this mega city of our lives, if we do not love one another as ourselves, we die a mega death.”

In her good will message, wife of Ekiti State Governor, Mrs. Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi advised writers not to feel discouraged by the poor financial returns in the profession but to make their mark in the nation’s history.

Her words: “Whenever you write, you teach, learn and at the same time set agenda for people. Unfortunately, only a few writers make fortunes from this profession.

But we are atomically rich when it comes to the indisputable knowledge we possess; the passion, courage, creativity and language artistry with which we convey our messages are arguably the best.

“I therefore urge you all to not feel unappreciated especially when people mock your financial status. Keep on doing what you know how to do best and I assure you that the nation will remember you.”

Source: G Entertainment