The ANA 2017 Literary Prize Winners were announced by one of the judges, Dr. Owojecho Omoha of the University of Abuja at the ANA Convention awards dinner on Saturday 28th October, 2017 held at Royal Choice Inn, Makurdi, Benue State. Only three categories (Drama, Poetry and Prose) were awarded out of the six contestable ANA Literary Prizes. The judges did not find any work worthy enough to merit the ANA/Maria Ajima Prize for Literary Prizes, ANA/Abubakar Gimba Prize for Fiction (Short Stories Collection), and ANA Children’s Literature Prize (for ages 7-13 years). However, an ‘Honourary Mentions’ list (for commendable works not strong enough to merit the award but worth mentioning) were announced alongside the shortlist release in September 2017.
ANA 2017 LITERARY PRIZES WINNERS ANA Prize for Drama Winner: Magnetism by R. C. Ofodile 1st Runner Up: The Masked Crown by Tunji Ajibade 2nd Runner Up: General Ologbosere by Dickson Ekhaguere
ANA Prize for Poetry Winner: For Every Homeland by Obari Gomba 1st Runner Up: Of Waters and the Wild by Ebi Yeibo 2nd Runner Up: A Child of Smell by Seyi Adigun
ANA Prize for Prose Fiction Joint Winners: Across the Gulf by Dul Johnson What It Takes by Lola Akande 1st Runner Up: Devil’s Pawn by Kukogho Iruesiri Samson 2nd Runner Up: Goodbye Tomorrow by Ike Utuagha
The Honourary Mentions and their categories as announced in the list released in September are: ANA /ABUBAKAR GIMBA PRIZE FOR SHORT STORIES • A Tiny Place Called Happiness by Bura-Bari Nwilo
• Gates of Dawn by MSC Okolo
• Tales From Our Past by Lucky James.
ANA CHILDREN’S LITERATURE PRIZE
• The Adventure of Three Wild Boys by Wale Adewale
• Sodality: A Tale of Friendship by Chioma A Diru
• Dancing Tree by Stanley Okeke Oji
ANA/MARIA AJIMA PRIZE FOR LITERARY CRITICISM
• ‘Radical Theatre and Criticism of anti-People’s Culture: A Study of Esiaba Irobi’s Hangmen also Die’ by Nwagbo Pat -Obi
• ‘Vicarious Idiosyncrasies: The Mother-Daughter Ligament in Ernest Emenyonu’s Listen, My Momma Pays Your Taxes’ by Fynest Elvis
ANA 2017 LITERARY PRIZES JUDGES
1. Prof. Nelson Fashina – University of Ibadan
2. Salihu Mohammed Bappa- Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
3. Dr. Ismaila Bala Garba – Bayero University, Kano
4. Dr Owojecho Omoha- University of Abuja
5. Dame Joan Oji – Educational & Literary Consultant, Abuja
For a detailed review of the 2017 Literary Prizes Shortlist, check here.
There is something about writing and capturing young hearts, young people, teaching, relearning and making things better. It has been a passion for me. Fortunately, in 2012, I was made a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors’ National Teen Authorship Committee alongside three other fine people.
WE had our first official conference from the 27th to 30th September, 2016 at the Logos Secondary School, Awommama, Imo State. That school is as big as a university! It should be one soon. Well, I will not bore you with the story of my journey from Makurdi to Owerri though I can tell you it was an amazing adventure. I joined public transport and had to take the Bayelsa bus, to drop in Owerri. Believe it or not, fellow passengers from Makurdi included live fish put in water, loads of yams, cassava, rice, orange and all you can talk of. We stopped in Aliade and Otukpo to get more passengers – and load. By the time we were set to fully hit the road, we also had live chickens on board and humans behaving like wild baboons! Oh, but I said I wouldn’t bore you with the journey so let me pity you. Maybe I will write a travelouge on that one at some point.
All delegates were lodged at the Disney hotel, where mobile network bars were shorter than a midget. Members of the Association of Nigerian Authors (from 20 chapters) were represented in addition to members of the National Executive and the National Committee. We went to the School for Day 1 of events on Wednesday 28th. We had heavy brunch in the Senate room of the school – I skipped though. IT was a lovely table with people like Denja Abdullahi (ANA President), Professor J. O. J Nwachukwu-Agbada, Professor Sam Ukala, BM Dzukogi (one of Nigeria’s most ardent Teen author activist), and Usman Nurain Muhammad (a teen author from Gombe who schools in ABU Zaria, who I quickly made friends with).
We walked to the field where we were to have the welcome ceremony and stared the sun in the eye as we introduced ourselves to wild applause by the gathered students and other guests. Professor Nwachukwu-Agbada (who was the Chairman) and Denja Abdullahi gave their speeches, then Professor Ukala (who won the NLNG Prize for Literature with his Iredi’s War) took the stage delivering a powerful keynote address ‘Mentoring Teen Authors for National Development’. I was working on my laptop and paying passive attention but soon, I had my head up. Ukala’s message mainly stressed that the artist is the visioner who sets the pace and redefines thinking, setting a course which humanity should take. He said that if our country is to grow and become the land of our dreams, then teenagers need to be groomed to think different, write better and redefine the orientation of our society. He got a standing ovation and I had to get my books to him quickly. BM Dzukogi spoke on the testimony of the Hilltop Arts Centre in Minna. BM was one of the originators of the National Teen Authorship scheme in Nigeria. As General Secretary of ANA, he also inaugurated the Logos School Arts Centre in 2012 which has now published three anthology for students and teachers. BM spoke of his son, Saddiq Dzukogi who has published three books and more (Saddiq has been shortlisted for the ANA Poetry Prize twice and is an editor to many fine poetry journals online). He spoke of other alumni of the Arts Centre which have continued to triumph because of their early start. He urged other states to go and start their versions of the centre and do their creativity campaigns.
John Sarpong (a 69 year old Ghanaian writer who was a part of the conference) gave a speech after ensuring that everyone danced. When he stood up to talk, everyone wondered what the Baba was going to say. Then, we were all dancing, then laughing and when he left, we were sober. So, what did he really say? A lot. Bottom line, with children, you have to entertain and in that moment, also teach. More like what literature should do, no? (He would later recite a million poems from his head to me; largely sound poems. Ah, Sir Sarpong is a funny man!) Then the Principal of the school spoke, with the occasion rounded up by the Director of the school, who in his vote of thanks gave another speech! Well, don’t worry, we will give small details at some point, hopefully.
We had dinner and went back to the hotel, where I was greeted by the death of the Israeli statesman, Shimon Peres on CNN. I pondered on his life, 93 fruitful years of service to teh earth. And now, he had gone the way of memory. What would time say of us all? I thought as other news items passed including that of OPEC nations trying to work a deal for better oil sales. We had a small writers meet in the lobby. Aha! I also watched a movie, The Walk. (Oh! That’s not meant to be part of this post… But I learnt much from the movie and was inspired. The movie is about Philippe Petit, a high-wire walker who walked a line between the two Twin towers. You should watch that movie. I even picked up some French and Mathematics from there. C’est la vie… C’est la vie!)
Day 2: Well, to save time, we had a fast meal in the hotel and waited, then waited, and waited… till we left for the school late. By 12, we had barely started. Then, we had to wait again. What were we waiting for? Maybe Samuel Beckett would help there. 🙂
But we started at some point, and the Director gave us an opening speech speaking on the value of writing and learning. He told us he had some manuscripts and he had declared to use the conference to learn writing, then finish his work. President Denja Abdullahi gave his speech and then it was time for the main workshop. BM Dzukogi was the first facilitator with his engaging ‘Mentoring as a Strategy for Creative Writing: Perspectives on the Hilltop Arts Centre, Minna.‘ (Click to read all about it.) After his paper which was well received, Professor Joy Eyisi, a Professor of English stood up to deliver her paper (without a paper!) She gave a talk on teaching English and drilled us on grammar. Ah! Most of us learnt we didn’t know how to speak English at all! There are some common errors in English that are so embarrassing! She told us she had been commissioned by the World Bank to teach teachers of English (teach the teacher) in a workshop to hopefully better the grades of students that have kept on falling! The first question she had asked was ‘What is the reason for the falling standard of English performance in examinations across the nation?’ Trust the teachers to give answers like ‘Dying reading culture.’ ‘Facebook.’ ‘Poor home manners.’ etc etc.
Professor Joy had presented 20,000 Naira and a new dictionary to the various participants, at each of the various areas she had taught across the federation. The deal was simple, if anyone could get up to 45 spellings right out of the 50 simple common words she was going to dictate, the person would get both money and dictionary (she added that any strange word she dictated would be withdrawn if they protested). Sadly, the highest result was 17 (or was it 20) out of 50! She kept her money and dictionary, and the teachers kept their shame! We all learnt from the fair professor.
Workshop over, Mr. Anaele Ihuoma gave the vote of thanks. Then, we went on a tour of the Arts Centre of the school. We were impressed. We took shots, smiled, made noise and headed out to Owerri town for a meal. It took us an hour or two to get there but the food was worth it. When we were through, our bus got caught under a live wire from an overhead electric pole! Don’t ask me how it happened. It took us time for the agberoes there to clear everything. When they were through, they asked for 7,000 Naira! We settled after much pleading and moved on. We got to a short cut and after a small traffic jam, found out the road had been closed. So, we took another route and finally arrived at our Disney hotel.
We refreshed and came down to the lobby to talk. Mr. Thompson Abutu (from Kogi chapter), David Onotu (from Plateau chapter), Moses Oginni-Momodu (from Oyo chapter), Richard Inya (from Ebonyi chapter), Okechukwu Onuegbu (from Anambra), Anaele Ihuoma (the national auditor) amongst others, all had one tale or the other. I walked from one side of the lobby to the other, sharing a laugh where necessary, frowning deeply alongside anyone who needed it and just being a comrade 🙂
It was soon time to drag a tired body upstairs and I did. I checked on Usman Nurain to be sure he was fine and headed to my room. I tried writing but ah, as one of my aunts would say a million times; you can’t cheat nature!
Friday morning. Farewells and I headed out to find the park. Now, instead of heading straight to the place I had been directed, I decided to sightsee and made a friend at the Cathedral of Assumption! The Igbo man swore that he would soon sell his blood – or anything else – so that he would go abroad and make money! He laughed a lot and agreed to be my photographer. When I was leaving, we shook hands and he smiled his gratitude.
The Owerri people on the streets were really nice and kept rushing me to the park, some a bit irritated if I stayed a second too long. Well, I made it to Benue Links, got a fair seat while my fellow passengers were a bit squeezed behind. We had no chickens, fish or baboons but I am sure some people would swear that the driver was an ass. What was my business? I enjoyed what I could and headed back to Makurdi, thinking of how best to write better stories for children, inspire others and be my best, working with all the people I can to promote literature, development and the ideals I believe in. I know I wasn’t alone in that thought. Owerri was that inspiring.
Thank you Camilus Ukah, National Teen Authorship Coordinator for the experience, BM Dzukogi for pioneering much and Denja Abdullahi for all the work you have done and are doing.
Whatever demons we have, may time exorcise them and life give us the opportunity to make every second count.
Prof Sam Ukala, Denja Abdullahi, Prof J. O. J Nwachukwu-Agbada
Professor Sam Ukala, giving instructions. I am sure I am somewhere there. I was working, always working! 🙂
Professor J. O. J Nwachukwu-Agbada (Chairman of the Occassion)
Camillus Ukah (ANA Vice Chairman and Teen Authorship Coordinator) showing Anaele Ihuoma … (?) Then, that’s John Sarpong looking down.
ANA President Denja Abdullahi (giving his speech)
Usman Nurain Muhammad (ANA Gombe), Thompson Abutu (ANA Kogi) and John Sarpong (ANA Ghana! 🙂 )
Otitodirichukwu (ANA Enugu) giving a short talk while the MC and I look on, waiting for the chance to talk too. It was her birthday too. Much later, the next day or so, she lost her money on the way home. Wasn’t a funny experience.
Standing up to hail our fatherland. We always do. (Day 1)
Sheriff Olanrewaju (ANA Kogi and author of Sambisa Squirrel), Su’eddie and Usman Nurain Muhammad (ANA Gombe and author of the chapbook, High School Verses)
Day 1…in pictures up and Day 2 down…
A Cross Section of Participants at the beginning of the second day.
ANA President Denja Abdullahi giving conference materials to Logos’ Principal (The school provided logistics for the materials in conjunction with the association)
BM Dzukogi delivering his paper
ANA President Denja Abdullahi giving a gift to the School Director,
Professor Joy Eyisi giving her lecture
At the Creative Arts Library
In front of some of the classes. With Richard Anya (ANA Ebonyi Vice Chairman), Nurain Usman Muhammad (ANA Gombe), Denja Abdullahi (ANA President), Okechukwu Onuegbu (ANA Anambra), Su’eddie Vershima Agema (National Teen Authorship Committee Member)
Craft from the Arts Centre
The second day of the event. Representatives of the various states with the National Executive, before heading to the venue of the conference. (Morning)
Cross section of participants and facilitators Day 2 (Evening)
I am not ashamed to say that I have found the greatest pleasure under covers. Being intimate with just one soul, usually one. But there are those days when there are a number of us. It is always fun. Lovely…lovely, books.
Books are amazing and have done so much for a whole lot of us. Where would we be without books? It has continued to grow from those few papyrus pages of yore.
Take a minute and think – where would we be without books today? They have come together to form the tales that are our lives. We are almost like books in some form of the writing stage.
Today, I think of all the various books that have shaped my life from the great books of Literature, the Bible, other books of religion, my development books. More than these, I am thinking of the Kobo reader that gave me a vista to new books that I never might have read. I remember fondly now that I read Khaled Hossein’s The Kite Runner and other titles from him plus Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Angel’s Game there. The same reader gave me the chance to share with loved ones, Belle, Debbie Iorliam and a few others. Wait, have I told you of the people I met from books? Kunta Kinte? Okonkwo? Dr Zhivago? Gabriel Van Helsing? Ah! The writers? From Achebe to Hemingway, Habila to Aristotle 😉 Okay, the comparisons aren’t coming out too well 🙂
But before I sound too nerdy and some people start talking of how people are no longer reading or all, let me say that I am also grateful for the gift of the world’s most famous and used book now: no, not the Bible. No, not the Koran or any top book you want to think of. Wait, did Ikhide just say ‘Facebook’? Top marks! Who else would have gotten it? Well, that is one book that we can’t do without, no? I have met so many lovely people after reading from that book.
Books have come to hold a more special meaning for me considering I have had four out and am working on more. As an editor and publisher, there are more that I am playing with too. There is nothing as beautiful as finding life in books. Really, where would we be without books?
Lest I forget, it is also Shakespeare’s birthday! Yaaaaay! I celebrate him as well as my friend, Ozioma Izuora, the amazon that keeps fighting. You don’t need to hear that she is from UNN to feel her lioness roarsShakespeare taught me much and I still remain mesmerised reading him. It is sad that his works are hard to enjoy on stage since the beauty of the words of the maestro are lost while one tries to look at the actions of people. But we will manage. Reminds me of that movie, Shakespeare in Love? Have you seen or watched it? Ah! You should if you haven’t. That is if you appreciate romance, thriller, adventure and the grace of verse. Should I start quoting some Shakespeare now? When it comes, it just feels like speaking in tongues: ‘There’s no art to finding the mind’s construction in the face…’ So, let me hide what else I have in mind.
Okay, two last lines: think of many romances books have brought…why don’t you spark life up some more again with a book or two. Happy World Book Day, Happy Copyright Day and Happy Shakespeare Day!
Special dedication to all those who books blessed me to find, amazing friends: Belle, Hyginus Ekwuazi, DaMore, Servio Gbadamosi, Omadachi Oklobia, Xikay, and the one million and whatever number else of the people on a dial that make my life worth it every day. Thank you, really much. I shall write some tales on books and love found from covers, maybe plus some shared between covers. Aidee thinks that we can be really cliche with our telling but maybe if I do just a few more cliches that come from the heart, we will all be fine. Love it or hate it, the books will still rule! Cheers.
Did I tell you that I now do reviews for that lovely website, http://wawabookreview.com? I do, and they are great guys there. Somehow, Belle got to be reviewing after getting the contract from the editor, the deeply intellectual Biyi Olusolape. I decided to join the train and it has been fun. My first book of review was The Road to Mogador. I named the review there ‘Of Transitions, Agendas and Bad Balls.’ You can go take a look.
Now, I was given two books to review for December and yes, don’t envy me. It was Elnathan John’s Born on a Tuesday and A. Igoni Barrett’s Blackass. I have known ElJo since the early Abuja days and he has remained one writer that leaves me smiling, always – whether he’s criticising, lashing his satire or just writing. Only problem with my affection for him came in the person of Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, another talented writer who has come to be a friend and troublemaker who I respect and honour. Abubakar and ElJo write alike such that sometimes when I read one, I feel like I have read the other. Their lives also seem to be going in the same circles. Any surprise that they have been to a lot of workshops together? Okay, you didn’t know that one, abi? How come they were first shortlisted
for the Caine Prize in the same year? And read the Caine collection, A Memory This Size and tell me where one’s story starts and the other ends. Any surprise now that Born on a Tuesday and Season of Crimson Blossoms came out at the same time? Wait for the next one. Cassava Republic is also publishing the UK version of Abubakar’s books. Ah! But let me not talk much about their similarities; a scholarly paper will be better than this my plenty grammar abi? Na you know. Sha, the thing is, when I read Abubakar first – and I get to do that usually, him being closer and all, then I get to read something similar in ElJo’s hands, I feel like I have read the tale before, so it feels one kain. That’s the feeling I got with ‘Bayan Layi’, the Caine 2013 shortlisted tale. My friend, Pever X, wouldn’t let me be because of the tale. He was head over heels for that tale. I like it, but I had read a similar one in Abubakar’s book. There are times when I am lucky to read Elnathan John first and wow! If you have read him, you know… but…
Now, Bayan Layi has been turned into a book and I have been forced to review it! Chai! What do I do?
I started reading the book with some fear… There was no need for the fear! It is as if, finding its spirit into a book, Bayan Layi transformed into something else. I enjoyed it this time around. By the time I got to Chapter Two of the book, the stress of the road overcame me. I was on the sixth leg of my journey. I had gone for the ANA convention in Kaduna, then gone to Nasarawa, then Abuja, Lagos and to Abeokuta for the Ake festival with Belle. We were on our way to Benin from Ibadan. There was road stress, work stress, and they played with my emotions too. 😉 I decided not to let the book waste. Haba, such a fine book. Oh! I should mention that at the festival El Jo and Abubakar were given 200k for their books alongside three other fine Northern female writers.
At some point, I decided to pick Blackass after an encounter with Igoni, the author at Ake. The guy is cool sha. I didn’t like his other book, Love is Power or Something Like It (a collection of short stories) which most people especially Belle think is all that. So, I was wondering what lay behind the covers of this new one. When the book sold out thrice at Ake, I had to go like ‘Wow! Okay o!’
Long story short, I read the book and I can say it is one of the quickest books I have read. The 300 or so pages melted away as my thumb pushed one page over the other in sharp succession. I laughed and laughed and laughed.
Summary of the story is this: a dude, Furo Wariboko wakes up on the day of his interview to discover that he is now a white man. He has some adventures and gets to meet Igoni (the author o!) and a lovely lady who takes him in and discovers his black bumbum. A lot of adventures happen and we see Naija proper. Igoni takes us on a tour of Lagos through the eyes of a white man who has a Nigerian soul. We see the way Nigerians behave towards their fellow blackies and to the whites. A lot of people have this set view that we all behave in one way towards the fair skinned guys but going through this book gives you an idea of how it really goes. Igoni also takes us to Abuja and gives us a tour. In several instances, we are introduced to certain aspects of our culture gaining grounds that we might not readily read or know about: transgender, the use of whites to our whims, the feeling of helplessness that lies within a lot of people who we think great and the like.
I will be reviewing the book shortly and yes, I will share the link. With this tale, I think Igoni has found a space in my heart. I will try to read past those few ten pages of that Love is Power book again. Whatever feeling I get from there, I know that the guy is truly gifted. If you get the book, please read it. It is one I will recommend over and over again. How many books can take your mind away from your boo? Okay, don’t answer that. Even your boo geti boo! Hee hee hee.
Have a lovely week ahead and in all you do, make every second count.
After a loooooong wait, here we have our FLOOD collection covers… It has been a long wait since 2012 when we started the project but here we are. We have over a hundred poems in the poetry collection with entries from Niyi Osundare, Hyginus Ekwuazi, amu nnadi, Aondosoo Labe, Servio Gbadamosi, Jennifer Emelife, and a whole lot of beautiful people. Ah, trust me, it is a book worth waiting for. The Tale book has Pever X, Seun Odukoya, Sibbyl Whyte, Sewe Leah Anyo, Dotta Raphels, to mention a few…
Schedule for the full release online or rather, talk on that, can be found HERE…
We are working on the SEVHAGE Women Collection too, we had far more submissions than we bargained for… But we will soon get to that. Anyway, we were talking about the flood… So,
These days it is very easy to find anyone and perhaps, everyone, say they are writers. It gets really yuckish… You go like ‘I am a writer’ and discover, you could easily have said ‘I am a human’. But that isn’t our talk for today. Question is simple: Why are you writing?
The question has been on my mind for some time as I work on new endeavours in poetry and yes, my prose. You know, the famous poet, Christopher Okigbo once said ‘He writers poetry for poets’ and so had his verse in tangles that till date are a bit more difficult than untying the Gordian knot with one’s hands. For some of us too, we simply just write without giving a thought to what our words are saying…
For a few there is the pressure to write in a certain way especially because some awards have been placed on one’s shelf… Others need that award and just write in certain ways… Recently, I was working on a few pieces and discovered some writer buddies speaking oddly. So, you see someone say: ‘I have had my chattels purloined by bandits who have left my existentialist preoccupations exacerbated.’ And you wonder… Eh? Say what?!
But it gets worse with poetry. And that is where the major issue comes… Poetry can be a tough bone to chew. It doesn’t help matters when some people decide to simply just jumble lines and throw them at you…
So, I bring this question to you today: simply, why do you write?
If I were to give my own answer as I have come to realise it more and more, I would say we should try to be as more open as possible. There’s much to say and a lot of people will love to hear our thoughts… Who knows, your words might be the soothing to get someone out of a particular pain: and it doesn’t matter if you are simply ‘rambling’ about your day like my sister, Yemie, or flowing with the spirit like DrSwag…or even Topazo… who knows…Izza with her poetry…Anoosha? Whoever you are, don’t underestimate those words or what they could mean… So, why waste them?
These days it comes to me more often, the value of our essence. The beautiful essence of our presence in words, art or just living… Each moment counts, every word relevant… would you make yours worth it?
The collection is made of twenty-five exciting short stories from award winning, emerging and intriguing writers including Unoma Azuah, Hyginus Ekwuazi, Maria Ajima, Pever X, Iquo Eke, Sibbyl Whyte, Victor Olugbemiro, Jennifer Emelife, Myles Ojabo, Agatha Aduro, Enajite Efemuaye, Aondosoo Labe, Joshua Agbo and Kenechi Uzor. The stories cover a lot of grounds from humour to thriller, magical fantasy to realism…etc. There’s a slice of something for everyone.
A Basket of Tales is an anniversary project of the current Association of Nigerian Authors (Benue State Chapter) Executive Committee of the association led by Su’eddie Vershima Agema in collaboration with SEVHAGE Publishers and SEVHAGE Literary and Development Initiative. It the first of a series of quality e-books of literature covering various…
The following creative works are shortlisted in alphabetical order (by titles of entries) and not necessarily in order of merit. The eventual winners will be announced at the Award Dinner of the 32nd International Convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors in Akure, Ondo State.
ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIAN AUTHORS 2013 LITERARY PRIZES LONGLIST
The following creative works are long listed for the 2013 literary prizes. They are longlisted in alphabetical order (by titles of entries) and not necessarily in order of merit. There will be a shortlist, which will be announced on the 14th of October, 2013. The eventual winners will be announced at the Award Dinner of the 32nd International Convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors in Akure, Ondo State.
Through the Window of a Sand Castle by Amu Nnadi Chijioke
Embrace of a Leper by Isaac Attah Ogezi
Beyond the Dark Clouds by Joshua Agbo
Shadows on Arrival by Osita C. Ezenwanebe
The Playthings of War by Opeyemi Dedayo
Oduduwa by Jude Idada
ANA/NICO Prize for Short Stories
ANA/Esiaba Irobi Prize for Playwriting (Shortlist)
Coma by Jude Idada
Under a Darkling Sky by Isaac A. Ogezi
The following creative works are short listed for the 2013 literary prizes. They are short listed in no particular order. The eventual winners will be announced at the Award Dinner of the 32nd International Convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors in Akure, Ondo State.
ANA/Lantern Prize for Children Fiction (Shortlist)
We had had a full meeting in the day and now…
That was Samson’s good night call on Friday. Say what? Why hadn’t I seen this coming? It had been some time since I had worn that garb and coming out of some small forced retreat, I wondered what the event would entail. Well, first thing to do was clear wardrobe issues. I had ordered some fresh wear for this author and when I had them delivered, I couldn’t help smiling at the choice of black or ash trousers, to accompany my black shirt. I decided to do a suit too so that meant simply that the corresponding black pants won the show. I searched around for my anger – the Tiv black and white muffler you would find me with every time. It occurred to me it had been a parting present a week earlier. I hit my head in the ‘Oh no!’ fashion of remembrance.
Well, I got into a bus with my main bro, Gabriel, by some 10:00. I had it in mind to go spend the night in town somewhere special so I packed a bag. There was the indecision of where to put this or that, what to leave or take… That was some exercise. In the end, though, like I said by some 10:00am we were moving to town for an event that was meant to start by 11:00. Of all days, Abuja decided to have its traffic jam in full – groan! With each stop, each trudge and each slowing turn, I groaned once more wondering aloud like in many movies: ‘Are we there yet?’ Choi! Samson had told me the event would start on the dot and I was shaking… Then our bus hit a small car and I silently began to question the evils of my forefathers who were bent on making me lose face and perhaps, friendship. Meanwhile, my phone had gone off of its own volition, I guess, 😉 … Samson kept calling Gabriel… Eventually, though, we arrived Area 3 and met Samson himself who came to usher us in. Can you beat that? Being ushered in by the celebrant himself! You don’t get that everyday. Well, he looked a bit concerned and relieved almost as if he had thought we weren’t going to come again. There was no anger which made me note one thing: the event was far from starting. I went to the hall and discovered a trickle of people. I went to pay my compliments to Dike Chukwumerije, poetic performing wonder and Chinelo Chikelu, Abuja Literary Society secretary. Mr. Eriata Oribhabor, Chairman of the Abuja Association of Nigerian Authors soon came in. There was Mr. Kaniko Uduagbon representing Denja Abdullahi, the Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, and standing in for the Chairman of the occasion, Femi Fani-Kayode whose break lights we didn’t see, somehow…
There were a few more things to set right which we did. After that, we set the event in top gear.
2 MAIN EVENT…
12:30 and lots of spaces empty, guests still trickling in. Barrister Ahmed Maiwada came in, looking his usual self with his grey suit, dark shirt and the dark glasses… I got the mic and called everyone forward. I forced a shy Ms. Chikelu to say the opening prayer. She started with the first sign of the cross but somehow forgot to close her prayer with same… National anthem and then, the dignitaries were called to the high table. Mr. Kaniko gave a brief speech which helped us move fast… Prof. Gbenga Ibileye of the Federal University, Lokoja gave a beautiful review of the book. The review went round the power of poets and poetry in changing society and creating a beauty through their words and acts. Naturally, Kofi Awoonor got into the conversation. Ibileye confessed that he hadn’t opened the parcel with the book till after some calls by the author. He expected some rubbish or roadside thing, the don continued, but was shocked to find out the top quality that the Origami published book had… Reading through was the second shocker. What can words do? Much and far more. When put right, when crafted in such a way as to delight and raise the weary, when structured and garbed in rhythm to sing easy notes understood by even the simple, words can do a lot and far more. ‘The collection might have been written by a small man in stature but it is Samsonic in might… This is aesthetically profound.’
The review went on and on, almost as if the good Prof was trying to write his own book J … it was fun though. It brought to mind the difference between prose and poetry. In trying to explain some little poetry, so much prose flew. Well, we came to the end of that and the Prof sat to some applause which I had to re-echo.
Dike-ogu Chukwumerije took the stage next with a performance. It was part of a deal both of us had reached – either perform or sit on the high table. I have to think of better bargains in the future to get people do more… Well, Dike performed a short piece in his usual captivating style and though the audience sure looked like they would have expected more, he took a bow to get to his seat. I guess he didn’t want to steal the show or something. It was enough to raise the mood in the hall. At this point, some other writers had strolled in from their offices; Mrs. Chinyere Obi-Obasi (who tries to be there always for us writers once we are in her town), Gimba Kakanda, Salamatu Sule, Oye Ololade…
It was time to unveil the book. I must confess I was a little confused here… Unveiling a book, what does that entail? (I had always missed this part at book presentations, including my very own book launch. I think I had only come in after my book was unveiled and joined in the pictures! If only I had watched the video of the occasion – ouch! Well, no one was going to shame me). The dignitaries came down and all stood by while I asked the author and his mother, Mrs. Victoria Kukogho – yeah, she was there. Sorry, I didn’t mention earlier. They opened it and showed to the public. With that, I declared sales open at the cost of one thousand naira, though the smart business poet-author of the book had been long selling his book and had done off with a whole lot of copies before the event.
Mr. Eriata Oribhabor, the Lead Presenter made his presentation speaking on the dedication of the author and his being an inspiration to many including himself. He moved to go back to his seat but trust me na, I asked him to drop something. He smiled and apologised and properly presented the book with something. The rest of the high table did their bit from Mallam Haruna Haruspice publisher, DCP Ojukwu, Mrs. … , Kaniko on behalf of Denja Abdullahi and Fani-Kayode, and even the reviewer. I was touched when the reviewer made his own contribution. We got a seat at the front for the author and had him recite three poems. After the recitation, just for the fun of it, we did an auction of five copies of the book – the first to be autographed by the author and the main ones for the occasion. We had fun trying to get them to one person. The offers kept pouring in from the first Three Thousand Naira I staked. Of course, I wanted the books too so I had to put in my money at some point. Imagine the high table people oh! After contributing at different points and losing my bucks, they – Mr. Oribhabor – mainly, told me that I was the anchor and wasn’t meant to be part of the game. The rest of the group supported him. Indeed! I asked if my money could be given back to me. The resounding ‘No!’ could really have brought down the roof. Grrrrrr! Well, the auction went well on to ten minutes and was continuing. Everyone wanted that collection of five copies and the stake for it was tempting. Add a simple amount, maybe just a thousand or even a hundred naira and get the five books. There was the video and historic aspect. In addition, I had said I would make the author do a chicken dance for the winner of the books. Thirty thousand naira going… going… someone else there raising a hand up. Thirty-one thousand naira! Thirty-one thousand, forty naira. Thirty-one thousand four hundred and forty naira. Thirty… Thirty-three thousand naira… And on and on and on… I had to be begged by the author to close it in at Thirty-six. Well, if he was okay with the bucks, who was I? After all, he had been saying I stop since before Twenty. Hmmm. Kai… Oh well.
The next segment was an interview session with the author that I had anchored. This was meant to be my only part in the original plan before I became the impromptu anchor – fortunate that I do it as a hobby. Well, we did the interview and he answered well narrating how he was inspired to put the collection together emphasising that he was not inspired to write ‘the book’ but rather the poems within. Each poem had its story. He spoke mainly on ‘Beggar without a choice’, a poem he had written after a discussion we had had earlier in the year. The poem talks about that person staying on in an abusive relationship. That amazing beauty that man, nature and divinity admires who stoops to be a slave to someone unworthy. It turns out that a friend of his had read the poem on Facebook soon as it came out and confronted him. That friend was in a beer parlour (bar) and called the author to say that he was drinking to go and give his fiancée a proper beating. Turns out said fiancée had been caught by her man in bed with another. The poem had eventually given him a rethink. Talks by the author and the mother of the fiancé also put sense. Eventually, the marriage held. The power of words. Holding on to his first comments, I asked Samson if he was an advocate of divorce. He said he wasn’t but that in the event of someone being bashed with no hope of change, and in a situation where the children would be adversely affected either psychologically, physically, or any way, then the partner being hurt had to leave. In a relationship before marriage, there’s no bargain. The person being bashed should leave. I asked about his near overt rhyming [in his book] wondering if it didn’t distort meaning in some poems, the choice of sound over meaning. I personally think that in some poems, poets lose the beauty of what would have come in an insistence on rhyme. The author said it wasn’t all his poems that had that touch. Some were left without rhyme. He however put rhyme in a lot so as to appeal more to people’s appreciation of the art. He always strived to ensure that the rhymes weren’t cosmetic but on point which made his writing difficult sometimes as he had to find an apt replacement. He
The audience had their chance to talk and ask questions. There were compliments here and there. Someone asked the author if he wasn’t deterred by the ‘fact that Nigerians don’t read’. Dr. Emman Shehu, President of the Abuja Writers’ Forum took that guest on stating that Nigerians read and that largely we have a problem of book distribution in the country amongst other publishing inadequacies. About his mentors, the author mentioned people like Shakespeare, Hardy (for prose) among others. His leaning towards foreign writers doesn’t really take out the African component of his writing (I know this for sure). It was simply due to a childhood exposure to largely foreign literature. The reviewer, Prof Ibileye asked if some of the poems were autobiographical. What do you expect? Of course!
We had to leave so I called on Kukogho Elijah, the author’s uncle who gave the vote of thanks. I added something, I think, something about letting everybody know that the books were still available and would be in bookshops nationwide soonest. Support can be made to the author who can be reached very easily on Facebook. To get a feel of his poetry, you can Google his name, check on Naijastories, Facebook, Word Rhyme and Rhythm blog (which he curates) and so. You can spread word of the book or simply, send word to show you support his writing.
We all recited the National Pledge and soon after that, had Mama Author, Mrs. Kukogho say the closing prayer which was offered traditionally. To the sweet presentation, the goodwill of everyone present, the good health of those that would eventually read a long post on the launch and all… We could only answer traditionally too; Ise.
Thanks to Victoria Bamas, Dorcas Bitrus, Tonia Jessica Okefe, Sarah Opara, Opeyemi Kehinde, Moses Opara and the entire supporting team that made the event a success. To those behind the scenes and everyone who said a prayer, well done. May the future be kind and life, give you far more than you can ever hope for. To those of you who read, or who have supported this Kukogho, myself and us all writers here and everywhere; thank you. May the future be kind.