I don’t come here too often but don’t worry, I am still around. So, I will be reading from three of my multiple award winning collections of short stories and poetry at the Abuja Literary Society Book Jam on 31st August 2018. Venue is Sandralia Hotel, Jabi, Abuja.
You must have heard it somewhere that today is Wear It Pink day in Nigeria, yes? No? But it is! So, we are working together – all of us – to try to emphasise early detection of cancer as a means to save lives. Have you heard of cancer? Of course, you have. You think it is farfetched and can’t come near you or yours? Nice joke!
I have seen it first-hand. Only last year, I lost a dear dear loved one, Mr. Peter Aduro to cancer. I still don’t know how it happened and till the end of time, I am sure we will trade different stories about how it happened. Bottom line? Cancer. I have had friends talk about it too, how cancer affected their loved ones. In December last year, an elder friend of mine who is like a big brother, lost someone dear to him too. And the sad part is the cancer just springs on you like that thief in the night…
But I digress much from what happened today, and I hope the digression was it… Today, in collaboration with Nigerians all over the world, we met as partnering Non-Governmental Organisations and Civil Society Organisations to go GAGA PINK! We decided to go beyond a touch of pink to ensure we let the message we heard. We had an activity, discussed cancer – shared thoughts on the way forward, prevention, partnering and conquering. We took lots of pictures that we have shared across different platforms and which I present to you now…
Otene Ogwuche, Gift, Elizabeth Jeiyol, GERI, Su’ur Su’eddie Vershima Agema
Otene Ogwuche and Su’eddie
Debbie Ogwuche, Debbie Iorliam and Su’eddie Vershima Agema
Ikape James and Gift
Partners at today’s event included the Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative team represented by their ED, Mrs Elizabeth Jeiyol, Otene Ogwuche, Tine Agernor, Gift, Caroline Bako; Sewuese Mary and Debbie Ogenyi from Angel’s Foundation and Ikape James from Elohim Development Foundation. Of course, our SEVHAGE Literary and Development Initiative was represented by Su’ur Su’eddie Vershima Agema (me) and Debbie Iorliam. We had discussions on the day of the Girl Child coming on October 11th, 2016. We will work to have an event and also build strategies to help in the management of data to help in uplifting the girl child in line with the SDGs. Read up and see what you can do on that day too… Again, back to our talk on cancer…
Early detection saves lives…so much as you can, spread the word and depending on which type, find ways to test. Trust me, it is more expensive to treat cancer than prevent it. If you detect early you can have just a small part of you chunked away or get some cure… If it reaches a terminal point, you will degenerate and wither like a candle aflame. Trust me, never a pretty sight.
May the times be kind and may we be filled with the wisdom to do those things that would keep us alive, and healthy enough for ourselves and our loved ones. Amen.
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.
Professor Sam Ukala, giving instructions. I am sure I am somewhere there. I was working, always working! 🙂
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.
ANA President Denja Abdullahi (giving his speech)
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)
Standing up to hail our fatherland. We always do. (Day 1)
Usman Nurain Muhammad (ANA Gombe), Thompson Abutu (ANA Kogi) and John Sarpong (ANA Ghana! 🙂 )
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.
Prof Sam Ukala, Denja Abdullahi, Prof J. O. J Nwachukwu-Agbada
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)
Hey, you know about Niyi Osundare? He is one of Nigeria’s finest poets and someone whom we have sipped many creative thoughts from. Well, the news is he is going to be reading at ARTMOSPHERE in Ibadan by 3pm on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The venue is at the NuStreams Conference Centre, KM 110, Iyagunku Road, off Alalubosa GRA, Ibadan, Nigeria.
But let me tell you a bit more about Professor Osundare…
Poet, dramatist, critic, essayist, and media columnist, Niyi Osundare is a Professor of English at the University of New Orleans, USA. He has authored over ten volumes of poetry, two books of selected poems, four plays, a book of essays, and numerous articles on literature, language, culture, and society. His works of published poetry includeSongs of the Marketplace (1983), Village Voices (1984), A Nib in the Pond (1986), The Eye of the Earth (1986),which won both the Association of Nigerian Authors Poetry Prize and The Commonwealth Poetry Prize in its year of publication. He was also a recipient of the prestigious Folon/Nichols Award for ‘excellence in literary creativity combined with significant contributions to Human Rights in Africa’. Other published volumes of poetry include Songs of the Season (1987), Moonsongs (1988) and Waiting Laughters which won the 1989 ANA/Cadbury Prize for Poetry. He is a literary figure per excellence and the sole recipient of the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) award in 2014.
For those of you who want to have a feel of good Naija poetry, come for a feel from Niyi Osundare, and others who will be there… It will also be a cool relaxation place…
ARTMOSPHERE is a fascinating monthly literary platform curated by the poets, Servio Gbadamosi and Femi Morgan among other really cool literary folks. I was there as a guest in 2013 with Reward Nsirim, and before then, with Professor Hyginus Ekwuazi, the amazing poet. They have brought a lot of amazing people from Tade Ipadeola, Chuma Nwokolo, amu nnadi, Ahmed Maiwada, Remi Raji, Akin Bello, Rotimi Babatunde, Atilola Moronfolu, Emmanuel Iduma, Dami Ajayi, Efe Paul Azino and phew! A whole lot of others.
Curated by WriteHouse Collective since July 2011, ARTMOSPHERE has consistently incorporated the classic ideals of artistic erudition with the innovations of performance practice and contemporary culture. The event offers an eclectic mix of creative dexterity from leading and emerging culture practitioners in Nigeria. Book readings, poetry performances, panel discussions, music and art exhibitions are creatively fused together to make each edition a memory to be relished.
The June Artmosphere evening comes up on Saturday June 20th 2015 will commence at 3pm with readings from Professor Niyi Osundare’s numerous poetry collections. This will be followed by an interactive session centred on the backstories behind his works, the creative process, literature and political as well as social issues confronting our nation and people today. Tade Ipadeola, author of the award winning poetry collection, The Sahara Testaments will moderate the session. There will also be music performances by D’Jazz Band as well as a book signing session. There will also be lots of amazing authors, writers and the like… Maybe I might be there too. First five people will get complementary gifts from SEVHAGE Publishers and Su’eddie Vershima Agema (me) ANA Joint Prize for Poetry 2014! Yaaaaaay! Well, I think we are giving books or something else but please, come early. I should add there will be free refreshment and if you aren’t okay with that, you can buy some too! 🙂
Remember: ARTMOSPHERE for June comes up by 3pm on Saturday, June 20, 2015 at the NuStreams Conference Centre, KM 110, Iyagunku Road, off Alalubosa GRA, Ibadan, Nigeria and features Professor Niyi Osundare, amazing poet and beautiful scholar.
Additional information about the event, together with details about how to get to the venue are available on our fanpage: www.facebook.com/writehouseng. Ciao!
The winners of the Association of Nigerian Authors’ Prizes for the year 2014 were announced on the 13th of December 2014 during the course of the 33rd National Convention. The winners are—
May Ifeoma Nwoye [ANA/Chevron Prize for Environmental Writing] with Oil Cemetery;
Su’eddie Vershima Agema [Joint Poetry] with his Home Equals Holes: Tale of an Exile and Ebi Yeibo [Joint Poetry] with his The Fourth Masquerade;
Soji Cole [ANA/Esiaba Irobi Prize for Playwriting] with Maybe Tomorrow;
Immanuel James [ANA Prize for Prose] with Under Bridge;
Tunji Ajibade [ANA Prize for Drama] with The Sacrifice.
There was a presentation ceremony and dinner in their honour at the Glory View Hotel, Ibadan.
Honourary prizes were also given to Dr. Maria Ajima and other individuals for their contributions to literature. The ANA Prizes for literature are usually open for submissions in March and are among the premier prizes in Nigeria due to the prestige of the association and its members.
The Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) convention was slated for Thursday 11th December, 2014 to end on the 14th at Ibadan, the capital city of Oyo. The ground for the event was the historic University of Ibadan. You can imagine my excitement to be there. I could not wait to have my feet stamped, fully registered where most of the pioneers of African literature like the great Nigerian three–consisting of Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and the poet, Christopher Okigbo—had done theirs. It was nice to note that this visit would be an opportunity to acquaint myself with contemporary writers from around the nation. Oh! It was also my first time of visiting the town. It was like a pilgrimage, because I was also longing to engage myself in what has become my hobby looking admiringly at creative and educational books and telling myself: “If I had money…” Ah! I knew I would storm the large bookshops and look up everything until the end of time!
We left Makurdi by seven o’clock. I was among the delegates from Benue State chapter of the association attending the convention. Some other delegates included the state Chairman and secretary, the poets Su’eddie Vershima Agema and Maik Ortserga; Vice Chairman Paul Ugah; Pever X (author of Cat Eyes); my colleagues at SEVHAGE Publishers, Debbie Iorliam and Ene Odaba; Sunday Aduma and the playwright, Doobee Dorcas Targba. Three other delegates; Celina Kile, Anselm Ngutsav and Damian Terkaa Jam, were to join us at the convention from different parts of the country.
I thought of Ibadan and of how I would be registering my presence at the Ibadan university, sighting the old rusty town and going book-window-shopping. My curiosity of what awaited blinded me to the slow pace of the Benue Links bus that took us some thirteen hours from Makurdi to Ibadan. I personally regarded the bus as a jealous one; jealous of the multiple joys I would be experiencing soon. Instead of blaming the bus and its driver, like most of my fellow passengers, I let my imagination take me to great halls I had no idea of, where I shared intellectual meals with the great three, amongst others. Only my body found presence in the bus as my spirit flew away. Thus started my convention.
We arrived town and found our way to the University which was directly opposite the bus park. Despite the lateness of the time, the presence of the ambience of the great three was unmistakable. It was that day that I really knew the functionality of my sense. I touched spirits, heard them and felt them. We got to the faculty of Arts where we registered ourselves and waited for further details of what would follow. We got a lovely ANA Review of great quality in publication, as well as other registration materials which included full color magazines on Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. We were served a meal. My desire now was for dawn, so that I could locate the feet marks of sojourners long gone, the great three too, if possible.
Time passed slowly. By this time, there was a literary party in full swing. The ANA President, Remi Raji and his EXCO among other members of the Association were already there, being thrilled in the opening ceremony tagged: ‘Night of Palmwine and Poetry’ under the mouthy direction of the actor and PEN Nigeria Secretary, Ropo Ewenla. It was thrilling as many poets like Chijioke Amu-nnadi, I call him a man of small letters since he writes all his poetry in small letters; Saddiq M Dzukogi; Uthman Ajibola, amongst others read their own poems. There was also a dramatization of the terror in the North as led by the Boko Haram champion Abubakar Shekau, by one of the spoken words poet. Though I was worn out, the thought provoking presentation evoked in me an unexpected flood of pity, hopelessness, insecurity that tears almost filled my eyes especially as the un-rescued Chibok girls were gradually sinking into oblivion. Just when I thought my patience would wear out, our Chairman, Su’eddie Vershima Agema came out and led us to the hotel where we would stay for the night; the U.I. Hotels. The Boko Haramic presentation kept echoing in my mind: “Walahi, talahi, I wili kilan por you, all of you. I am coming por you.”
Most of the events of the second day of the convention were held at the large lecture theatre of the University Faculty of Arts. It was actually a life fulfilling moment for me, in as much as Soyinka did not grace the occasion as I expected. The public lecture complemented me as I finally set my eyes and felt a physical interaction with the man who had been talking to me in diverse critical books and papers, Professor J. O. J. Nwachuckwu-Agbada–who presented the keynote address. Before his address, there was a speech by the President of ANA, Professor Remi Raji, who is the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and also, a speech by the representative of President Goodluck Jonathan, Ms. Molara Wood (the author of Indigo and Special Adviser to the President on Documentation). From the speech of both, it seemed the President had given the Association a donation to support the convention. The President promised to put writers in the scheme of things and properly establish his efforts through the Ministry of Culture and Tourism! Remi Raji said Ibadan was a salvage host of the convention while Port Harcourt was the honourary host of the convention. He made a promise hinged on a promise; that by next year the ANA convention would hold in Abuja at the ANA Writers’ village.
Anyway, the MC, Mrs. Chinyere Obi-Obasi invited Camillus Ukah, to come and do a citation in honour of the keynote speaker. He did well using traditional nuances to say that the honoured Professor was a tall tree of great magnitude. Sufficiently introduced, Professor Nwachukwu-Agbada presented a brilliant and mind-lifting paper titled: “Literature, Languages and Diversities: How Has Nigeria Fared since 1914?” In it, Agbada gave a concise history of how what came to be regarded as Nigerian literature emerged, and the language issue surrounding it. Questions followed the presentations and Professor Agbada again demonstrated his scholarship by swallowing them up and vomiting appropriate answers. After the refreshments that really relaxed my nerves, there was a Book chat on the Nigerian Writers’ Series, headed by Mallam Denja Abdullahi, the ANA Vice Chairman. The Nigerian Writers’ Series is the Nigerian equivalent of the African Writers’ Series. In summary, 10 books were published by ANA with support from the Niger State Governor, Aliyu Babangida. One of the authors on the list is our very own Pever X with his Cat Eyes. Pever X is the Publicity Secretary of our state branch of ANA and a talented writer. The book chat went well and people like Chike Ofili, Chinyere Obi-Obasi spoke well in the session.
We retired after that session and I found my way to the university bookshop in the company of Paul Ugah and Sunday Aduma. We met Su’eddie at the bookshop with a friend of his, Servio Gbadamosi. Su’eddie later served as a tour guide as he is a regular to Ibadan and a patron of its many bookshops, particularly this one. When we were leaving, he packed a whole bag of books! I packed a whole bag of looks for the way I went about moping at the books. I was enthralled! I love books and this was book heaven! I heard later from Su’eddie that the glory of the library had really depreciated but what on earth was he talking about!
In the evening, there was a show of the Yoruba version of Osofisan’s play Who is Afraid of Tai Solarin? as translated into Yoruba by Dotun Ogundeji and directed on stage by Tunde Kelani. Though it was difficult grasping the English wordings that were hardly staying for long on the screen, the highly comic aspects infused in the movie-stage rendition sent me beaming from ear to ear as I walked to U.I. Hotels.
Dawn sneaked in on us on the third day. We were scheduled to have a tour of Ibadan but we didn’t come out in time, and only our fellow delegates—Debbie Iorliam, Ene Odaba—went for it. They went to the African Heritage Research Library and Cultural Centre. They had much fun that left me wishing… IT was after missing that event due to the incorrect time I was keeping that I discovered the goodness of having an accurate time keeping device.
There was ANA Annual General Meeting which took place at the Large Theatre Hall. However, this took place after returning from ANA City Tours which were at the University Zoo and the African Heritage Research Library and Cultural Centre. In the A.G.M. of ANA, the president gave his speech, then the treasurer presented her report which was commended for its quick readiness and accuracy. Other issues as it concerned ANA were also discussed. The beauty of the AGM was how one does not know that he sits with a professor until he/she stands up to make a point. I left at some point but heard that there was a heated discussion on the suspended Secretary of the association, Tanko Mature Okoduwa who was absent on the day. There was also the issue of the authenticity of which Executive was in charge of the Edo State chapter of ANA…
The convention ended that day, with an enthralling Dinner Night Awards Ceremony at GloryView Hotel Bodija. I did not regret sharpening my teeth and putting on my eye glasses because I ate and I saw things that will forever remain memorable to me. The high table comprised personalities such as Emeritus Professor Femi Osofisan, a one-time President of the Association; Molara Wood (author of Indigo and Special Adviser to the President on Documentation); Professor May Nwoye; Professor Remi Raji – the ANA President to mention a few. The representative of the President of Nigeria, Molara Wood gave a speech after the welcome speech of the ANA President (after hailing the high table members, he simply said ‘Welcome’). There were also some presentations, the best of which was Iquo Eke’s performance of her poem, ‘Say my name’ with an actor/performer. Then it was time for the award presentation. The awards started with the general category which included awards to people for contributions to literature. Our Benue ANA matron and my lecturer, Dr. Maria Ajima was awarded for her contribution to the growth of literature and the association. My boss, our Chairman, Su’eddie was up for two prizes after being shortlisted in the prose and poetry categories of the ANA awards with his books, Bottom of Another Tale and Home Equals Holes: Tale of an Exile respectively. We had interest in two awards too—Damian Terkaa Jam’s Sounds of a Metal Gong and Dul Johnson’s Melancholia, both books published by SEVHAGE, where I work. The hall went quiet as the awards started with the general awards.
The award for playwriting was announced; winner Soji Cole. The ANA/Chevron Prize for Environmental Writing (worth Two Thousand Dollars) went to Ifeoma May Nwoye. Next, the ANA Prize for Drama was announced. Dul Johnson’s play was shortlisted in this category. He lost to Tunji Ajibade who took the prize. The ANA Prose Prize was the next category and I held my breath. Su’eddie’s book came second runner-up while Immanuel James took the prize on account of the long length of the book or so the judges said. Our delegation was saddened. It was the last category next, the Poetry category. The judges announced that the competition was tough and that in the end, even out of their shortlist, a joint tie had been drawn. The winners are—Su’eddie Vershima Agema with Home Equals Holes: Tale of an Exile and Ebi Yeibo with his The Fourth Masquerade! We jumped up in smiles as we celebrated. Of all the winners, only May Nwoye and Su’eddie were present to receive their awards. The other awardees had their awards collected on their behalf by people in their chapters except for Immanuel James who no one seemed to know.
Soon, Richard Ali gave his parting speech. We trooped out, smiling. We got back to the hotel—Sunday Aduma and I—and before we hit the bed, probably slept.
The next day, we were up by 5:30am to head back to Makurdi. It was another long journey, and our delegates discussed all the 13 hours of the way. The weekend behind and a lifetime of experiences to hold on to, I looked forward to whatever literary adventure lay ahead.
Terese Uwuave, writer and critic, lives in Makurdi and Sokoto state, Nigeria.
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 33rd International Convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
ANA/CHEVRON PROSE PRIZE ON ENVIRONMENT
Among the Survivors by Million John
Oil Cemetry by May Ifeoma Nwoye
The Fall of Silence by Inyang E. Ekwo
ANA POETRY PRIZE
Home Equal Holes: Tales of an Exile by Su’eddie Vershima Agema
Silent Whispers by C. P. Christopher
Sound of a Metal Gong by Damian Terkaa Jam
Sunbeams and Shadows by Saddiq M Dzukogi
The Fourth Masquerade by Ebi Yeibo
ANA DRAMA PRIZE
Maybe Tomorrow- by Soji Cole
Melancholia – by Dul Johnson
Sweet Taste of Shame- by Elaigwu Ameh
The sacrifice- by Tunji Ajibade
Trafficked- by Phillip Begho
ANA/ESIABA IROBI PRIZE FOR PLAYWRITING
Erimma – by Ikechukwu E. Asika
Makwada – by Sanamo David Lagwampa
Maybe Tomorrow – by Soji Cole
ANA /LANTERN PRIZE FOR CHILDREN’S FICTION
(FOR HONOURABLE MENTION ONLY)
The Empty Cage by @Nma Hassan Mohammed
Three Strange Stories for Children by Jide Ogunlana.
Johnny Just Come by Phillip Begho
Prof. Nelson Fashina
Assoc. Prof. Emmanuel Sule Egya
Dr Salihu Bappa
Mrs Joan Oji.
Combining the oral literary form with the sophisticated style bestowed on the world by the ancient Greek poets, Mr Agema has described for us a lyrical universe in BRING OUR CASKET HOME: Tales one shouldn’t tell. The collection is so enjoyable that I went through the over sixty poems in about three hours. The poet deploys all the usual poetic devices to good effect even as he constantly unfolds a menacing world where evil is the ‘unchangeable’ and yearning the burden of mortality which is after all nothing but a mere casket.
The poet does not renounce the world like a grieving Arthur Schopenhauer, but like that majestic German thinker he sees the possibility of
some consolation in the endeavour of loving. Superb poems like Down Pathos’ Path, Concealed Mysteries, Bring Our Casket Home (the greatest poem in the collection) and Journeys to After (possibly the most beautiful poem in the collection) invite us to wonder at what lies beyond life.
Like the Spanish poet Unamuno, Agema shudders at the thought that memory may be lost in the silence of eternity, when the physical casket of the body is abandoned by something in man that surpasses this casket. The relentless questioning of the poet with the subtle suggestiveness of the possibility of answers in the active living of life is often reminiscent ofLangston Hughes.
In the poem Grave we find remote echoes of Hughes. ‘Where do our dreams go? In what transit/do they jump out leaving us?/Does the reality of now/ indeed our dreams drown?’ The collection is an ambitious one from a young man who has his finest years of productivity ahead of him. A number of the poems are world class, holding your attention from begining to end with the force of sublimity. Yet Agema does not sustain this sublimity in many of the poems, such that we often find very ordinary stanzas cohabiting with inspired stanzas. But then such inconsistency is a sign of growth. The poet is fond of using double exclamation mark, a wholly unnecessary linguistic rascality. Mr Agema, one exclamation mark will carry the whole weight of this sad world that you have admirably painted on the canvas of the poet’s soul. From here we believe you will go further and add several feet to the height you have now attained, when you offer the literary world a second collection.
Ada Agada is the author of the novel, The Anxious Life. He is also a philosopher, poet and critic. He is currently researching on a philosophical work that would leave a mark in the world. Ada is a leading voice and moderator of the online forum of the Benue ANA (Association of Nigerian Authors).
My first encounter with the name Reward Nsirim was on a book cover, Fresh Air and other stories. It was at the selection stage of covers for the book. Lovely covers but the very particular and artistic Azafi (Co-Publisher of Parresia books) didn’t find any of them good enough. We shared ideas. Well, true, they had issues. Finally though, a cover – a really beautiful one – was got. The concept was using leaves to write ‘Fresh Air’ then a breezy field of grass. The concept was simple but cool. We celebrated and I forgot the fascinating name on the cover, Reward Nsirim, but well, not the book.
My first reading of my book, Bring our casket home: tales one shouldn’t tellwas at the Abuja Literary Society/Silverbird Book Jam at Silver Bird Galleria in Abuja. The regular host was not available. I was introduced to the host for the evening by Chinelo Chikelu. I didn’t catch my host’s name but since I heard ‘Host’, trust me to think he was the sponsor, the Oga and everything. I prostrated well and smiled broadly when my host beamed at me. He wondered if I was truly the writer of the book. He showered enconiums on the book saying he didn’t believe someone of our generation could write that deep and stuff like that. Na wa o. It set the tone for the reading. Well, we had the reading and the host, who was actually simply the anchor for the evening, not the owner of Silverbird or the event (hee hee hee), did well moderating, cracking jokes and giving hot yabbis. My family was impressed and they laughed. Long story short, he introduced himself at the end as Reward Nsirim and said his book was going to be the next book on the Book Jam! I was pleasantly surprised and told him the history of how I ‘met’ him.
Before the next month, I had got loads of Fresh Air and other stories to market and distribute in our regular deal with Paressia. I read the book and from the first page, I was caught…
Fresh Air is a collection of sixteen engaging and quite diverse short stories. They mirror the Nigerian life home and away. From the experiences
of Nigerians living abroad to those coming home and all, there is a whole lot explored. ‘Funeral Arrangement’ is the story of Bekwele whose father has passed on. Being the man abroad, there are huge expectations on his neck. He comes home to Nigeria to do the funeral arrangements. He notices that his brother is doing very well wearing the latest designers, living large and generally enjoying himself. This is puzzling to Bekwele who has been living a stringent life to ensure his people at home do well. Everyone expects Bekwele to give his father a grand funeral fit for a King. No one considers helping with anything and one demands after another keeps dropping. The young man gets into a spot and soon makes some transformations that would leave readers smiling. The hall mark of this story as in others that go on is Reward’s use of humour to colour a near bleak situation. Still, there is only a slight hint of humour here. It is when you get to ‘Diary of a Troubled Traveller‘ that you find the humour fairy dashing fair sprays of laughing dust into the air. The traveller in that tale takes a wrong combo of a meal while in transit and the journey to the toilet becomes the centre of the tale as opposed to that of the communal road to Lagos where the bus is headed. ‘One Champion’s League Night’ tells the tale of a thug turned born-again who has to become unborn just once to set things right. Tale after tale, you find yourself laughing and laughing and laughing. But it isn’t a clown affair all through. There are touching tales in the collection like ‘The Conversation’ where a man thinks about his late wife and how he might have saved her. ‘Keeping Mum’ is the tale of a young girl whose guardians beat her in an effort to find out who impregnated her. The revelation comes at the end and the abrupt surprise is such as to leave you wondering at people.
Reward’s stories are diverse and in many cases, deep. He captures reality on many fronts and does not hide the tragedy of life. He mixes his tragedy however with a healthy dose of laughter here and there. His stories have this Niger-Delta feel to them much like Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s Northern Nigerian feel in The Whispering Trees. Fresh Air and other stories shows the roundedness of the Nigerian story. It visits the tales of the poor, the rich, the local, the exposed, the expatriate, the loved, the hated, the cared for and even the forlorn. The characters are realistic and you can almost feel them. The book demonstrates the well-travelled nature of author and his rich experiences in life. There are memorable characters from all works of life spanning some three or so continents. Reward is not afraid to tell the Nigerian story but he does not make it as pitiful and one-sided as most other African writers would of their own societies.
I noted all these as I headed to Silver Bird for the Book Jam after mine. It turned out that the host for the evening was not present. That meant I had to host a part of the event. Award winning poet and novelist, Dike-ogu Chukwumerije hosted the second part. Reward and his wife were all smiles. Why not? We had a record attendance of over a hundred guests at the reading. Over seventy Fresh Air books were sold. I had to keep getting new chairs to place alongside Chinelo Chikelu, the ALS secretary. There were so many Doctors on ground. Oh! Did I mention that Reward Nsirim read Medicine? These Doctors who keep stealing our literary glory and doing it really really well… Hmmm…
Reward’s next reading was to be at the Artmosphere in Ibadan. By some coincidence, I was headed right there on my next reading too. So, we were paired. I read my poems to a highly intellectual and welcoming audience. Reward however took the day reading his ‘One Champion’s League Night’ and ‘Diary of a Troubled Traveller’.
In our first SEVHAGE Reviews interview, I have a conversation with this lovely writer whose stories, multiple award winning writer, Chika Unigwe says ‘resonate long after the experience of reading them. His prose is vivid and unsentimental. A welcome new voice.’ We also have excerpts of his stories for your reading pleasure. Please, join us in the conversation and put your comments in the box. You can be sure we would respond to each. You can read three great stories from the collection, ‘The Testimony’ and ‘Diary of a Troubled Traveller’ (discussed above) in full. There’s also the beginning excerpt of ‘Forensic Investigation’ here. Find Fresh Air and other stories on Amazon here.
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.