Posted in COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, DEVELOPMENT, ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS

CHANGING THE NARRATIVE FOR PEACE AND POSITIVE DEVELOPMENT

If you’ve witnessed war, you will never underestimate peace. I have lived through some crises, like my people. I have seen Zaki-Biam and Wukari, small wars but even in those “little numbers” and events of red that darkened our sun, I experienced a full eclipse. Have you seen people cut down in one breath? Intestines hanging out, destinies flushed away with the wiping out of whatever we are today? It might seem far-fetched but close your eyes and imagine the person you love the most –your father, mother, sibling or lover. Imagine that person raped. Imagine that person shot… Cut down. This is not even half a description of what war is…
This isn’t a fear narrative or a graphic building of fiction. It’s a telling of what may come. It is a simple simplistic rendering or what may be for us, and indeed what is, for others.
Read the stories of the Biafran war or hear someone tell you. Read the stories of the two World Wars or of the war in Sudan, the genocide in Rwanda.
It starts with words. It starts with actions. The actions of our inactions. We watch hate narratives grow and stare on as hate actions build to destroy. The actions or our building hate that surrenders us to an evil fate. No poem, no story, no word can do justice to the evils that await if we refuse to do something to create peace.
Under the auspices of Writers and CSOs for Development, we – at SEVHAGE Literary and Development Initiative, Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI), Gender and Community Empowerment Initiative (GECOME), Women’s Right to Education Programme, Oyalewa Integrated Services Limited, ANA Benue, Mbachilin Development Foundation, Custodians Of African Literature of Jos and Sankofa of Ibadan, amongst other partners – did a full day literary and CSO driven programme across three cities on the 23rd of September to commemorate the 2017 International Day of Peace. Okay, and it was themed ‘Together for peace: respect, safety & dignity for all. That explains why we had to bring in so many of us and create that nexus between us writers and development workers.Peace
We had poetry, spoken word and fiction readings. We discussed the works and it was fun to see the CSO actors present react to the readings. There were some misinterpretations, some debate, some disagreements, general praise and all, done in good faith to bring clarity and better understanding. Otene Ogwuche, my chief co-planner read the UN Secretary General’s speech for International Day of Peace while I had the welcome note. We also rounded up the day’s proceedings later. Mrs. Elizabeth Jeiyol of GERI taught everyone the perspective game after a heated discussion on a piece, ‘Wahala’ by Daniel Iduh. The work is written from the point of view of a soldier agitating for war. The writers thought it was a cool story with fine imagery plus good language while some journalists and development workers thought it was hate speech and a flame blower for conflict. After our discussions, we reached a middle ground – these narratives exist and will always exist, how do we change the narrative? Terseer Sam Baki, a Civil Defence officer and poet shortlisted for the ANA Poetry Prize 2015 read some poems on peace. We had other readings from Aondosoo Andrew Labe (Benue ANA Publicity Secretary), Innocence Silas Katricia (who won the Korea-Nigeria Poetry Prize 2017) and Ene Odaba while Ciara Ogah and Michael Amedu had lovely spoken word performances. At the end, our compere, Oko Owi Ocho had to applaud everyone.
In the evening, we watched Beast of no Nation and discussed the movie – themes, ideas, style and the like. It was really enlightening for all us. We sure learnt a lot on the day. At the end of the whole event, we resolved that we would do more of such events, especially as the engagement was the start of a peace campaign aimed at peace and other development initiatives engagements. We resolved to start rewriting the tales of our places by living right and doing new things. The campaign continues and you can check by following us on Instagram and Twitter @sueddieagema @geri_initiative @Otenefrank @sevhagebooks

In conclusion…
It is amazing how a lot of us do not realise the power of stories to do a lot of damage and harm on the one hand, or building and healing on the other. I know the power of stories. I am a writer. I am development worker. I am a change agent. Who are you? What can you do?
Wherever you are, in what space you find yourself, be the change. Together we can change the narrative.

 

Happy Independence Nigeria.

We love you.

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Posted in DEVELOPMENT, ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS, LIFE

BIAFRA AND THE REST OF US by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

There is an eagerness for everyone to say something about Biafra, to blame somebody for the chaos that is about to unfold if care is not taken. This is not the time to say that IPOB had it coming. The issue here is that human lives are being wasted.
First, the killing of Biafran agitators by armed soldiers and the inhumane treatment soldiers have been metting out on Nigerians for decades now is not justifiable under the law and must be condemned for what it is – a gross abuse of the fundamental human right to life and human dignity. At the same time, the hounding of Northerners and other ethnicities in the Southeast, to be murdered in cold blood in the name of retalition by Biafran agitators should also be condemned in the strongest terms. These acts could lead to a cancerous spread of retaliatory violence in other parts of the country and in that case, no one will be safe. The anxiety in Jos should serve as a resounding alarm.
One would think that the lessons of history should serve to remind us that violence either by the authorities or by the civilian populace has never resulted in any meaningful accomplishment. The civil war and more recently the Boko Haram insurgency as well as the Zaria massacre should be enduring lessons for us.
But unfortunately, it would seem we are too anxious to repeat the same mistakes, perhaps on an even grander scale.
Since we are not savages, and I strongly believe we are not, both the government and the citizens must follow laid down laws to pursue their objectives, hence:
1. All acts of violence by all parties in all parts of the country must stop at once. We simply cannot have our soldiers turning their guns on us at the slightest provocation, neither should we take laws into our hands.
2. All those, soldiers and civilians, who are found culpable in killing or maiming persons or destroying property or otherwise causing a breach of the law must be subjected to the laws of the country. Peace can only be sustained by justice and fairness.
3. We must recognise that not every Igbo person subscribes to Nnamdi Kanu’s suicidal ideology the same way that not every non-Igbo hates the Igbo and should therefore avoid generalization and stereotyping people as well as spreading hate.
4. That if some people no longer wish to be part of the country they should be allowed to pursue this within the framework of the law. If the constitution does not recognise a referendum then IPOB, which I understand has the ears of some senators and political leaders from the Southeast, should push for it through constitutional means (via the National Assembly) and if this succeeds, a referendum could be conducted within the framework of the law. But until that is done, the Nigerian constitution maintains that the country remains indivisible and the president is sworn to defend the constitution and the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
5. IPOB must recognize that forming a parallel government with a “Biafran Secret Service” is a treasonable offense as well as Mr. Kanu’s hate speech and calls to “burn down Nigeria.” Regardless, there are lawful ways of dealing with this issue. If a court of law believes that Mr. Kanu has violated his bail conditions and issues a warrant, he should be re-arrested lawfully and prosecuted. And the last time I checked, these is not the duty of armed soldiers.
6. Muhammdu Buhari is the duly elected president of the country. He is human and admittedly could have handled this issue with more tact through considerate words and actions (that 5 percent talk was a grave error of judgment). And Igbo leaders as well could have played a bigger role in curbing Kanu’s excesses. This is the time for leaders, not rulers, to step forward and appeal for calm, for anxious gladiators to sheath their swords and for reason to prevail. That which hate cooks will always leave a lasting bitter aftertaste.
The sanctity of human lives must be prevalent in our minds at all times. Overhead, the vultures of doom are circulating and for the young ones eager for action, remember what is said: when surrounded by vultures, try not to die.
May reason and peace prevail.

 

 

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is a multiple award winning writer and journalist who lives in Abuja.

Posted in ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS, EVENTS

FOR OUR TEACHERS – THANKS!

For 5th October…

Today is World Teachers’ Day. All over the internet, different individuals and organisations celebrated various teachers. What can we do without them? Really, who are we without them? It doesn’t matter if we are talking of our non-formal teachers from mothers to the man in the streets who taught you a lesson or two; or those who taught us in various classes, they all deserve to be celebrated. If you can read what I have written, thank a teacher!

I could write of a million teachers; from Mr. Mbatsavde Emmanuel who tested my composition and became a big brother who I will never forget, to Mr. Atile Godwyns, my uncle and guardian through the high school years; Mr David and Suleiman, Aunty Joy, Mr Ukor Ayem (my primary school proprietor)… The list is endless. I have my parents to think of too; my father and mother, Mr. Charles Ayede, now even Belle, Professor Hyginus Ekwuazi and so many others. I thank the Almighty for each of them.

I spent some good months teaching in a secondary school in Taraba state, teaching Literature-in-English and English to students, some of whom couldn’t speak English! It was fun. The experience of my teaching inspired a short story of mine! I have had cause now on and off, to lecture and supervise some university undergraduates and give lessons to some of my fellow writers who I have also learnt from… What am I saying? Seeing both sides of the coin, I am most honoured that at least today, if only for one day, I can say THANK GOD THERE ARE TEACHERS!

For every one of you has ever taught me a thing or two – either privately or publicly, in class or out of it, I am deeply grateful and even if I don’t get the chance to say many times, I never took it for granted. For those of you, others who are teaching elsewhere, and impacting lives, enduring pain to ensure that students learn and get better, you are the real champions. I remember now Mrs. Marie Aduro, a fair proprietor who sweats it out every day in Minna for her students, fighting demons and policies to kill the illiteracy that looms large in that part of the world. I also remember Jennifer Aduro working hard to develop programmes to help aid in teaching. You are a star girl!

Kukogho Iruesiri Samson keeps on doing what he can to impact lives and today, he is also asking that you nominate a teacher to win 10,000 naira! Yaaaay, isn’t that cool? You can check the link HERE. Kudos to Dr. Emman Shehu, BM Dzukogi, Aidee Erhime, Debbie Iorliam and all the other amazing teachers there too.

Make a teacher happy today…

May the times celebrate and the world treat you kind.

Happy Teachers’ Day!

Teacher.jpg

Posted in BOOKS, ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS, EVENTS, LITERARY MISSIONARY, SEVHAGE

MENTORING NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT THROUGH TEEN AUTHORS (ANA CONFERENCE IN OWERRI) by Su’eddie Vershima Agema

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.

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Tourist shots…

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.

Cheers!

Day 1…in pictures up and Day 2 down…

Posted in BOOK THOUGHTS, ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS, RAMBLES

HEY WRITER, STEP OUT OF THE VEHICLE AND PRAY IT IS OKAY! (RAMBLES) by Su’eddie Vershima Agema

Life is one big contradiction in every field but it is more so when you are a writer—or so I think. You think you are there, you think you have the right words. You are in the moment and you bask as Mother Muse slowly pours herself unto your pages through the medium of creativity.

Depending on the time, you push yourself to the end or just rush it to a stop. Finally, you smile at seeming perfection. Ah! For the conscious writer, something pricks you to note that the work might have flaws here and there. So, you might decide to getTagxedo disorder editors or throw the work away. If you get the right editors, your headache begins. Have you ever noticed how those folks always seem to find faults here or there? Some of the faults are so obvious you have to hit yourself in the head! Ouch! How could you have missed that? This is the beauty of patience and seeking counsel. (Yes, if you miss the editorial seat, you might miss a lot of good stuff that might have made your work better.)

Anyway, you do your rewrite and maybe feel the work is okay… Or you keep editing till you tire out. I have been known on occasion to keep editing right up to the door of the final proofer and printer doors! Anyway, finally, you push the work out, hoping that someone will like it somehow and it will be the ticket to giving you something good. Some of us, and I am a front man in this group, edit and refine our work tying as many screws as possible.

In most cases, you get your work or book published and the feeling, for most, is indescribable. It is like a baby given to a parent. The looks of wonder at the new you is something the adjectives of the universe will not dare present. You hold that book close… Yes, I know there are a few who would look at their own book with bad eyes especially if it didn’t come out the way they like. Talk of all those parents who discover that their children are disfigured or not of the sex they want! But no, we are not talking of those sorts of parents. We are talking of the proud ones and yes, I didn’t derail. We are still talking about books.

It is easy to find authors who pick their published books and see things they wish could have been done or written differently. Many times have authors been caught reading what they hoped they might have put. Some would take a pen and correct a few lines shortly before reading at a festival or something. Sometimes you begin to see things that might best have been removed or something that might have been added for effect. It gets to the case of seeing your grown child not being the perfect baby you had once viewed. The hope is that with the next book, you will take extra precaution and have your heart more expressed.

Usually, the ideal thing that most writers come to discover is that a work is best left to fallow for three months or maybe a year… just enough time for you to have become a stranger so that you will edit your work through fresh eyes since looking at the same thing over slowly makes it seem perfect. But time is not on the side of anyone and how long can one really take? Tagxedo disorderThe changes and all might never be enough and we usually have to just halt. Much like what poet and scholar, Hyginus Ekwuazi says echoing older writers of yore, no true work of art has ever been truly completed. You simply have to get the maturity to let it go, and pray that point was a time worth your imperfection.

So much to writing, so much to reading. Oh well. In the end, who knows what I might want to edit from this piece… I will be mature and let it fly. Wherever your writing and reading takes you this week, make it worth the time. Cheers!

First published on the SEVHAGE Reviews website.

Posted in BOOK THOUGHTS, BOOKS, ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS, EVENTS, INSPIRATION, LITERARY MISSIONARY, POETRY

THE SEVHAGE FLOOD COVERS

Yaaaaay! So, ladies and gentlemen…

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,

without further ado, find here then, the covers…

The Rainbow Lied eCover2

The Promise e-cover (1)

Posted in ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS, EVENTS, LIFE, LITERARY MISSIONARY, MEET THE POETS

IQUO EKE: PERSONAL NOTES AND THOUGHTS by Su’eddie Vershima Agema

‘Say my name?’

And the refrain goes on and on as you are sweetly drawn either by the sweet smiles or the sonorous sounds pouring from the lips of the artist…

Iquo
Iquo

Then, you either hear the answer said by an accompanying artiste or the lady herself: ‘DianaAbasi’… You must have heard her perform or perhaps, read her book? You haven’t? But you know Iquo na… Of course, you do.

Iquo DianaAbasi Eke is a poet, fiction writer, performer and mother whose presence fills a place with warmth that can easily leave you marveled. She has the face of a friend who you think you must have seen before. I was fooled once. Seeing her for the first time, I searched the catacombs of my mind, through the maze of a million memories seeking where I had lost the knowledge of this one… When later, we spoke and she mentioned that she was sure she knew me, I smiled thinking: ‘I knew it! Yes…’ The next question was ‘From where?’ Turns out, we were siblings on the social scene who had crossed each other’s paths a couple of times. Thinking, I discovered today, the first place I came across her was on this a post (click HERE for it). Turns out SEVHAGE was releasing the second edition of my first collection of poetry, Bring our casket home: tales one shouldn’t tell at the same time as her own book. NOTE: Iquo’s book went ahead to be longlisted for the NLNG Prize in 2013 and also the Association of Nigerian Authors’ Poetry Prize (read on that HERE).

symphony of becomingIquo’s Symphony of Becoming is a collection of easy flowing poems that would capture the spirit of any reader. It is told in free flowing verse that is simple to the eyes, sweet to the tongue and an easy glide on the mind’s plate. Iquo has performed her poems in different cities of Nigeria and not a few ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhhs’ have punctuated her offerings.

Iquo can easily be found in any literary gathering (and notably belongs to the Lagos Chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors), especially if it would be somewhere in the Western part of our lovely Nigeria. I should know! Last year, I caught her at three events in succession from LagosIquoo to Abeoukuta and Ibadan – from the Lagos Book and Arts Festival to the Ake Festival and finally at the Association of Nigerian Authors’ convention (respectively matched to the cities mentioned). Trust everyone to be singing her name at these places. I guess it wasn’t just because of her works and performances, plus her warmth. There’s that warmth that I am sure is punctuated by her being a mum. Yup! Two great kids…

Hmmm, I should probably not start this paragraph with her name … but again, oh well… Iquo has a blog (click HERE for it) where she writes prose, poetry and does some good reviews too! I didn’t know she did reviews too – but she does. And hopefully, we will get to feature her on our SEVHAGE reviews.

In our interview of the week at SEVHAGE Reviews, we speak to Iquo on a lot of things including her writing, her life and much more. Click HERE for the interview and do leave a comment. More, spread the word and let’s get talking about our writers and people who matter to us. If we don’t celebrate ourselves, who do we expect to? So, say her name…and read that interview!

Elias Ozikpu, Iquo, Amu Nnadi (in the back), Saddiq Dzukogi, Su'eddie V. Agema, the head of Jennifer Emelife hiding, and Remy Binte ... (ANA International Convention 2014 in Ibadan)
Elias Ozipu, Iquo, Amu Nnadi (in the back), Saddiq Dzukogi, Su’eddie V. Agema, the head of Jennifer Emelife hiding, and Remy Binte … (ANA International Convention 2014 in Ibadan)
Posted in AWARDS, CALLS FOR SUBMISSION, ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS

Call For Submissions: 2015 ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIAN AUTHORS Literary Prizes

For Release: April 7, 2015
The Association of Nigerian Authors [ANA] hereby announces a range of prizes for its 2015 literary competitions. These are:
1. ANA Prize for Poetry (published & unpublished) – N 100,000.
2. ANA Prize for Prose Fiction (published & unpublished) – N 100,000.
3. ANA Prize for Drama (published & unpublished) – N 100,000.
4. ANA Prize for Literary Journalism – N 100,000 (Deadline: August 30, 2015).
5. ANA\NECO Teen Author Prize (prose) N 100,000.00 (published & unpublished works).
6. ANA\Mazariyya Teen Authors Prize (poetry) N 50,000.00 (published & unpublished works).
ANA is pleased to introduce two new prizes, endowed by Mrs. Maria Ajima and Dr. Wale Okediran, respectively:
7. Maria Ajima Prize for Literary Criticism (Focus on African Literature) – N100,000
8. ANA Abubakar Gimba Prize for Fiction (short stories) – N200,000.
Nigerian writers, home and abroad, desirous of entering their works for the Annual Literary Prizes, may now do so. Works entered should have been published between March 2014 and March 2015.
REQUIREMENTS
1. An entry fee of N3,000 per entry,  paid by the author or the publisher, in favour of:
Association of Nigerian Authors
First Bank of Nigeria Plc
[Bodija Market Branch Ibadan]
Account No. 2020543538
Please Note 
[a] The entry fee is for the purpose of prize administration only.
[b] A photocopy of the appropriate Deposit Slip[s] MUST accompany Requirement #2 below.
2. Six copies (6) of the book or manuscript to be entered, specifying the Prize being entered for, alongside a covering letter and the photocopy of the Deposit Slip used in Requirement 1 above, should be sent by post to:
The General Secretary,
Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA),
c/o Suite 63,
National Theatre Complex,
Iganmu
Lagos.
The covering letter should contain accurate contact details of the writer or/and publisher of the work, including email and surface mail addresses and telephone numbers.
Please Note
[a] The Association will NOT take responsibility for entries sent by post nor will it claim registered parcels in cases where it has to pay for such entries or parcels.
[b] Multiple entries, where applicable, are allowed but a work must not have been entered for the same prize prior to the present entry and it must have been published between 2014 and 2015.
SPECIFIC GUIDELINES for Teen Authors Prize (published and unpublished works). 
1. Entrants must be students in any secondary school in Nigeria.
2. Entries must be a collection or a single story of between 35 – 40 pages or above for prose or poetry.
3. Illustration (optional).
4. Accompanying documents are:
(i) Signed letter of identification from school principal on school letterhead.
(ii) Two passport photographs, name, and copy of birth certificate of the entrant.
(iii) Entrant’s school admission letter (photocopy).
(iv) Current cumulative record of entrant’s academic performance (junior or secondary school).
(v) Letter of consent from parents.
(vi) Entrant’s or their guardian’s email, surface mail address and phone number.
5. Unpublished entries (in four copies) should be properly bound.
6. Teen Authors are NOT required to pay an entry fee.
SPECIFIC GUIDELINES for Maria Ajima Prize for Literary Criticism (published and unpublished works) 
Length: Between 25-30 pages of A4 paper size following format of academic essays.
 1. Type double spaced using MS Word. Use Times New Roman Type face 12 point font size.
2. The essay, if published in a journal, book or as electronic text, must be within the valid dates indicated on this call for submissions.
3. Referencing style is either the latest MLA or APA style.
4. Five hard copies as loose sheets or as a bound monograph are to be submitted to ANA, plus a soft copy sent by email to okoduwatanko@yahoo.com
 5. The competition will be rotated annually in areas surrounding poetry, drama, prose fiction and theory.
6. The essay should not be of generalized survey, but should rather be focused on specific texts of a few selected authors at a time.
7. The essay should state where the texts or performance analysed can be accessed or located.
In addition, all other rules pertaining to ANA competitions are applicable.
Copyright: The copyright to every winning entry is to be held by the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Maria Ajima Trust, and the author of the work. The winning entry will be published in subsequent ANA Reviews.
SPECIFIC GUIDELINES for ANA Abubakar Gimba Prize for Fiction [Short Stories].
1. Only published work are accepted.
2. Seven [7] copies of each entry are to be sent in.
3. Entries must have been published no earlier than twenty four months BEFORE the date indicated on the call for submissions.
In addition, all other rules pertaining to ANA competitions are applicable.
DEADLINE
Deadline for the receipt of ALL entries, excepting the Prize for Literary Journalism, for the 2015 ANA Literary Prizes is Friday, May 22, 2015. A shortlist will be announced in September, 2015.
Winners of the prizes will be announced by the judges at the Awards Dinner during the 34th International Annual Convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors in October/November, 2015.
Richard Ali
Publicity Secretary [North]
Association of Nigerian Authors
Posted in ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS, FICTION, FLASH FICTION, INTERVIEWS, LIFE, LITERARY MISSIONARY

DUL JOHNSON: PERSONAL NOTES, SHARED MEMORIES AND A SUBTLE INTRODUCTION

As with most of my friends especially writers with whom I have grown a deep bond, I cannot exactly say the first time I met Dul Johnson… There’s been this contact for some time. One of my first memories with him was when he had a reading with the Abuja Writers’ Forum; he was to be a facilitator at their workshop and also a guest writer. I told my father where I was going and he smiled. He said he had worked with Dr. Johnson in NTA and that the man was a rascal. I smiled… I passed the greetings of my father to Dul and he took it with good humour and yabbed my father back. Since then, there were different meetings including a memorable talk at the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) convention in Minna in 2009. Other areas and yup, I attended his reading at the Abuja ANA where he read from Why Women Wouldn’t Make it  to Heaven alongside 2013 Caine prize shortlister, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. IT was a fun read and the joyful noise in the air was testimony…

I remember when he became my client…The link was another good associate of mine, Salamatu Sule. She gave a referral and voila, I was in Dr. Dul’s office trying my best to sell our work. He had a work that had

Dul Johnsonbeen done, Deeper into the Night, which needed some rework. Well, long story short, SEVHAGE published the novel (Deeper into the Night) and a play of his, Melancholia (which was shortlisted for the Association of Nigerian Authors’ 2014 prize for Drama).

Dul Johnson is a man easily spotted with his huge beards, which sadly have been trimmed. With a rich voice and a joyful personality, he is almost always noticeable in any crowd. Did I mention his glasses? He has written much across the genres but there’s some history to him…

He started early life as a farmer, then apprentice blacksmith, something he carried to his school where he succeeded in at metal works. He was meant to go to a polytechnic but providence played its hand differently… Well, he ended up in the Abdullahi Bayero College, the Kano campus of the Ahmadu Bello University (which is now the Bayero University, Kano). Now, by 1976, Dul had started writing plays, with radio plays for a radio station in Sokoto called Rima Radio. It would take two years before his first play was performed on stage. In 1978, as an undergraduate, his first play was performed in the Abdullahi Bayero college. [I tried getting the title of the play from him many times but the man’s memory decided to play a game that didn’t produce it… So, we can be resigned to the fact that it is a title lost in the archives of forgotten memory] He wrote and produced many television plays for NTA Jos in the 80s and 90s before turning his attention to film.

The last time we had a major event together was the twin launch of Deeper into the Night and Melancholia. Professor Hyginus Ekwuazi — a mutual friend of ours who is a great poet, academic and film person – was meant to present the review for Deeper into the Night. For a million reasons, Prof Ekwuazi couldn’t make it and asked that I help him. So, I wore two caps; as reviewer and publisher. I presented the piece while tweaking some parts. I got positive reviews for the presentation and I was all smiles. I can’t remember now, but perhaps I thanked the heavens that Professor Ekwuazi couldn’t make it J

The launch was not as well attended as I would have thought – which is not to say people didn’t come, we had over a hundred people… But it was a great event. There were more than enough chops. People got free copies of the book in the benevolence of the Dul, and *coughs* his publisher. After the whole event, we had time to chat on a whole lot of things… I also got the chance to meet the Dul family; Chalya, the guy Duls and Mrs. Ruth Dul Johnson.

Dul Johnson
Dul Johnson

We laughed as I left that day, but I couldn’t forget the warmth that I felt in the office with Dr. Dul and his family.

But this isn’t about us or mushy stuff… Oh! I didn’t mention part of his creative writing publishing history:

Dul has published to his credit, two collections of short stories, Shadows and Ashes and Why Women won’t make it to heaven; a novel Deeper into the Night (SEVHAGE, 2014) and a play, Melancholia. Dul Johnson is also a seasoned scholar and academic who has taught at the University of Jos; the National Film Institute, Jos; the Television College, Jos and Bingham University, Karu.

I did an interview with Dr. Dul Johnson last year shortly after the shortlist for Melancholia. The deep man had much to say… His interview marks the first of our now to be regular SEVHAGE Reviews Interview that can be found at http://sevhage.wordpress.com…Specifically, find the interview by clicking HERE.

Enjoy him and please drop a comment… Many thanks and cheers!

Posted in ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS, LIFE

Another Writer Gone: Abubakar Gimba (1952-2015): A Tribute by Su’eddie Vershima Agema

I got to note this morning, like many others, that Abubakar Gimba, the talented writer, economist and former Executive Director of the United Bank for Africa and Union Bank, died on 26th February, 2015 at the Minna General Abubakar GimbaHospital (in Niger state, Nigeria), at about 11:50pm, after a prolonged illness. He was 63 years old.

I came in contact with Abubakar Gimba first through his book Witnesses to Tears which we had to read for our pre-university JAMB examination. It was a fascinating book and I enjoyed the twist to it. I got to read some of his other works too; ah, I enjoyed them too. I read a book of essays of his, which title I can’t remember. The book made me realize the depth of this man who I only knew as a writer then. At different national Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) annual conventions, I got to see the man, a one-time President of the association. He was a humble man and never walked up to any platform or high table until he was invited. A friend of mine always insulted this attribute of the man which he called ‘false modesty.’ His simplicity was easily noticeable and not once did I have to ask: ‘Is this really Abubakar Gimba?’ For what it is worth, I think Alhaji Gimba was a fine man, quiet, reserved, and not much like all the other ‘big men’ who would want everyone to notice them.

Alhaji Gimba was born on the 10th of March, 1952 in the Nasarawa town of Lapai Emirate. He earned a BSc in Economics from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in 1974. He proceeded to the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, in the USA 1976 for a Master’s degree, where he obtained an MA in Economics. He subsequently attended the University of Bradford for a UK’s Project Planning Course on Infrastructure in 1982. He attended other courses professionally and in 2000 took part in the University of Iowa’s writing programme sponsored by the United States Embassy in Nigeria.

He is a past National President of both the Association of Nigerian Authors (1997-2001) and Ahmadu Bello University Alumni Association. He served as chairman of the Concern Foundation and Savannah Publications Ltd and was the pioneer chairman of IBB University, Lapai. He once served as Permanent Secretary in Niger State when David Mark was military Governor. He joined David Mark as a special adviser to the Senate President on Politics and Economics.

Abubakar Gimba was a fine writer with novels that include Witness to TearsTrail of SacrificeInnocent VictimsSunset for a Mandarin, and Golden Apples. Abubakar Gimba is a recipient of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR), a prestigious merit award from the federal government of Nigeria. He is survived by three wives and many children.

Oh well, I tried contacting other writers online and physically while calling others. His news had spread fast and the tributes are pouring: from the Association of Nigerian Authors, Chuma Nwokolo (who prayed that Gimba’s pages will ‘rustle endlessly, evermore’), Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, B. M. Dzukogi, Maria Ajima, and many more including the Benue Association of Nigerian Authors. The most popular post on the 27th February around our literary parts and if it were to have a hash tag just might have been #RIPGimba or so… Not surprisingly, his burial conducted today, according to Muslim rites, was witnessed by top government officials and public figures including past Presidents Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar, Senate President David Mark and the acting Governor of Niger state. They all had good things to say about him; he was a good man.

I had my lady call me this evening in shock: ‘So Abubakar Gimba is dead! Just like that?’ and I said ‘Yes, buried.’ I guess the burial thing puts a finality to it that we can’t deny. Where we would have said ‘Maybe it was a different person’…the sands falling leave us without doubt. I find it quite disheartening that I have to delete the phone number of another person I admire greatly… Never will we hear that voice in wisdom or note him try to transact a deal for his books as he loved to. It reminds one of the ticking tock and the falling grains of time.

 The stars put out their lamps
leaving the grey sky
the moon compensating, smiled meekly
a clear ball
different from yesterday’s banana
I stayed an eternity with you
but just as my heart counted a second
the night rolled its mat
bringing in the harsh reality of day.

(‘Life’ from Su’eddie Vershima Agema’s Bring our casket home: tales one shouldn’t tell (Makurdi: SEVHAGE, 2012)

In the words of my friend, the lovely poet Hyginus Ekwuazi, may the sands lie softly on him. Amin.