by Su’ur Su’eddie Vershima Agema and Sarah Egbo


The discourse of development is complex but often seen from the point of view of a messiah coming in to save a people. Many times, the people who should own projects are neglected. But is development really about help? Is it about handouts? Is out about painting people as needy while showing others as benevolent angels? Again, is development a function of organisations, a society or of individuals?

These formed the crux of the event ‘Development as Dignity: A Conversation with Dapo Oyewole’ which was the theme for the African Writers Development Cafe organised by the African Writers [Society] of the University of Sussex, Falmer, United Kingdom.




It isn’t always one wakes up in Oxford or to a day when you would attend Kwame Dawes’s poetry workshop. But that was the case on this fine Saturday, 1st December, 2018. The clouds were gloomy but that was the least of my concerns. I had spent the night in the town after coming in from Brighton the previous day. Kwame had had a reading, followed by a showcase of the African Poetry Book Fund books. It was fun but that is story for another day.



Reading and a Free Workshop at Abuja Literary Society 31st August 2018

Hello Family…

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.

Continue reading “Reading and a Free Workshop at Abuja Literary Society 31st August 2018”



Nigeria’s Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka is to visit Benue ahead of the 2017 Annual International Convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors ANA, holding in Makurdi come October 26. The famous writer is coming for a special reading and to also visit the flood displaced persons, alongside other writers in the state and the country general.

Chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the planning of the Convention, Professor Idris Amali announced this when he led other members to pay a courtesy call on Governor Samuel Ortom at the Benue Peoples House, Makurdi.

He said, while in Benue,Professor Soyinka is expected to kick start a major pre-convention activity with his special reading to a body of intellectuals, creative writers, students and lovers of Literature.

According to Professor Amali, the visit of the Nobel Laureate is unique because it would not only add to the credibility of the Convention alone but also provide an opportunity for People of the State to meet and interact with him one on one.

The Don maintained that the World acclaimed Literary Giant’s visit to Benue this Month would mark his second coming to the State since Nineteen Eighty Eight.

The LOC Chairman equally told Governor Ortom that a five member delegation from the National Body of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Abuja led by the National President, Mallam Denja Abdullahi would arrive the State same day with Prof. Soyinka for a convention assessment visit.

Responding, Governor Samuel Ortom promised to support the State Chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors with the necessary logistics and conducive atmosphere for the reception of Professor Soyinka and the delegation from ANA National Headquarters, Abuja.

Governor Ortom noted that he looks forward to hosting Nigerian Authors who have made names across Nigeria and commended members of ANA Benue Chapter for helping to contribute to the development of the knowledge economy of the State with a view to showcasing its People and cultural endowments to the whole World.

The Governor urged the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Professor Dennis Tyavyar to anchor the two visits and the main ANA Convention from the side of the State Government to ensure that it does not renege on its promise.

Meanwhile,the Benue State Executive Members of ANA led by the Chairman, Mr.Charles Iornumbe at a meeting drew up an itinerary for the visits one of which is the Nobel Laureate’s interface with IDPs at the Makurdi Ultra-Modern International Market. The laureate’s visit alongside other distinguished writers from across the country adds to the list of celebrities around the world who have taken note of the plight of the flood in Makurdi and are supporting their might in various ways.

Benue ANA visits Governor Ortom Sept 2017
Benue ANA Convention LOC visits Governor Ortom with star writers including Idris Amali, Jerry Agada, Paul Ugah, Raymond Anumve, Wilfred Uji, Aondosoo Labe, Vanger Fater, Igba Ogbole, Tartule Tijah, Dorothy Abellegah, Doobee Targba, Abochenu, Otse Otokpa, and Su’eddie Vershima Agema


  • Written by Chivir Nyam

Documentary Review: Dancing Mask: The ANA Story by Carl Terver

I once learnt that the title to a piece of work is like an abstract, letting the consumer in on what the work is about. My head is still dancing around how the idea was begat that the title of this documentary should have anything to do with ‘dancing mask.’ Whoever thought up the idea it doesn’t matter, even if it is adapted from the words of the master himself, C. Achebe, in ‘The world is a Mask dancing. If you want to see it well, you do not stand in one place.’ But what can I say? The documentary is about an association with the name ‘Nigeria’ in it; a name itself that has been on a journey like that of a ‘dancing mask’ trying to understand itself. Either way, ANA – Association of Nigerian Authors – in its long years has decided to tell its story, and Dancing Mask: The ANA Story, a 54 minutes documentary straight out of Box Office Studios, directed by Tee Jay Dan (Mr Tukura), helps us see it, not standing in one place at all, thankfully.

Few seconds after 0:00 the story begins. Prof. Olu Obafemi starts it. The storytelling is batoned to Kole Omotoso, then to Mabel Segun, first generation writer, and then to Wale Okediran. The passing of the baton by the quartet is accomplished with such charm that the story flows, as if premeditated, from one narrator, or interviewee, to another. A technique the director will rely on for the rest of the documentary. It is perfect. The quartet handle the storytelling taking up to a quarter of the 54 minutes before other players, counting up to twenty-one (not specific), come in, prominent amongst them, Denja Abdullahi (ANA President 2015 – 17). Quite a number to tell ANA’s story in all its 30 years of existence; yet it is done leaving out almost nothing, apparently, if you ask. But this task – getting the story, putting the backstage work together, editing and all, to show that JohnBull is a speller of his name, relies largely on the intelligence of the director, to pull it off.

As it runs through the pages of Nigerian literature about the earlier times that a story cannot be told without the interruption of the military and their accompanying martial music so is ANA’s, formerly SONA (Society of Nigerian Authors), rattled at its birth by the coup of 1966. And martial music, too, interrupts the documentary’s soundtrack just when the narration of ANA’s story begins. This soundtrack effect is repeated at 10:25 as the story of Ken Saro Wiwa is told, and heightened at 11:49 towards a short rendition of the Ogoni struggle and demonstrations. Many things begin to come to light as the minutes read.

No minute wasted, The ANA Story (I decide to use only the subtitle of the documentary for our convenience) is unfolded. Those who have been in the Association long enough – your quartet – take the viewers (or now, listeners) to the history, the motivations, the spirit and the come about of ANA. They share their experiences too, which like a memoir, arrest the viewer, so that even only at the eighteenth minute before the introduction of new narrators the documentary will seem to have lasted for hours because of the weight of story covered, an element of compression deftly handled by the directing. (This is maintained throughout.) As this goes on, pictures, which narrate faster, lend subtextual and complementary consolidation to the documentary like some sort of album art, playing on the screen at intervals. For instance, a good number of book cover images are used to back-up where a narrator mentions the works of writers who had written out of ‘psychological distress,’ about dictatorship in their time, civil unrest, the Biafra War, and such. Same thing with the introduction of Mamman Vatsa, military General, whose literary history has almost been annihilated from our memory, an image displays beautiful lines of poetry (his’) hardly found today.

But with every good thing there are spoilers. The ANA Story begins to lose its mirth when it kindly left its more inspiring history of the eighties up to early 2000s and begins to brag about achievements in the years 2011 upfront. About its Teen Authorship Scheme at about 31:00; NWS (Nigerian Writers’ Series); Denja Abdullahi, becoming too sell-speak in his remarks about the strides of ANA, talking about how ANA ‘touched the grassroots’ and ‘carried the whole country along,’ reminding you of the pain of listening to our politicians speak. As if to continue with the spoiling an interviewee tells us about when she won the Best Literature Award in Africa (38:00) and you begin to think of coloured Sergeant Bombay.

In The ANA Story like its proverbial mother, Nigeria, it comes to light or officially known that it has bore the woes of experiment, sharing the pains of the limbo its mother is in. It has been suffering from lack of funds; ANA has no staff and no asset, per se; it has no secretariat; sometime in its past one of its president with a ‘sober’ hand had to curtail its excesses and ‘amorphous activities’; it has to tackle the atrophying culture of reading. But ANA has better days ahead. Someone should call Teju Cole because history is about to be contested: a Mamman Vatsa Writers’ Village is going to be built to immortalise the pen-comrade who fell by the hands of evil men.

Before the ‘shooting-devil’ at 45:35 (when the person behind the camera starts to be careless) the director, too, begins his own kind of creative carelessness: 38:00 to 45:00 and so on. the ANA story here is about the bewailing of the reading culture, the debate of the death or life of the book or libraries and about funding. The soundtrack seems out of sync, sounding more apposite for a clip where a scientist is studying the progress of a specimen in a lab, or reminding you of the underwater soundtracks in Nat Geo Wild, or even something to take you to the site of some ancient shrine. At 44:21, too otherworldly eliciting the wrong effect from the viewer. Not even when Mabel Segun gives the description of a piece of land property owned by ANA in Abuja as resembling paradise, the soundtrack again, too intense, relegates her rendition to the background causing an internecine effect. But the viewer is saved some minutes later.

Done in memory of Chinua Achebe, it features clips from Dike Chukwumerije’s Made In Nigeria (2017) show, courtesy of Box Office Studios, with the artist of the same name doing a tributary at the beginning and end – as the credits disappear at the edge of the pixels – of the documentary.

Doing just more than a cameo in the documentary includes, again, Dike Chukwumerije, Su’eddie Vershima Agema, Richard Ali, Khalid Imam, Charry Ada Onwu, Lola Bala Gbogbo and Ado Dangidan Dabino, a guy who speaks only his language. Save for a few peccadillos here and there the director, Tee Jay Dan, has done his best, so far as one can tell, earning a B with or without a plus, I leave the viewer the verdict.

After 52 minutes of screenplay Mabel Segun tells the viewer ‘ANA will live forever.’



PS: The documentary shall be premiered later this year (2017)



Carl Terver is a porer of the English sentence and a critic of pop-culture. He likes to think of himself as an imaginary grandmaster. He is a fan of contemporary writers, Oris Aigbokhaevbolo, Adam Gopnik, Hua Hsu and Teju Cole.He is a critic at Praxis. @CarlTerver on Twitter. carl terver


The PEN Nigeria/Saraba Poetry Prize 2013

Saraba is pleased to announce the 2013 longlist for the PEN Nigeria/Saraba Poetry Prize.

The PEN Nigeria/Saraba Poetry Prize 2013 shall be awarded to the writer of the winning poem selected from all poems published in Saraba in 2012.Saraba-logo-e1355435770738-300x89

The publishers and poetry editor of Saraba have made a longlist of five poems, from which Jumoke Verissimo will make a shortlist of 3 poems.

The shortlist shall be announced on Wednesday, November 27, 2013.

The winning poem will be chosen by Chuma Nwokolo who is the judge for 2013.

There shall be an award-giving ceremony on Saturday, December 21, 2013 where the winning poem shall be announced. The award-giving ceremony is planned as part of the December edition of the Artmosphere Literary Event, hosted by the Writehouse Collective in Ibadan.

The winner shall be awarded the sum of 60,000 Naira (endowed jointly by PEN Nigeria Chapter and Saraba) while the two other shortlisted poets shall receive the sum of 15,000 Naira each (endowed by Saraba). We hope that each year the prize monies increase.

All poems published in the magazine and chapbooks (print or electronic) are eligible for consideration. The works of the publishers, editors, the prize sponsors, as well as members of their respective families are however not eligible.

The Prize shall be awarded only to Nigerian writers living in Nigeria at the time of publication of the poem.

The decisions of the judge and the prize sponsors are not subject to review and questions as to the propriety of decisions shall not be entertained.

The Longlist:

  1. “Tales One Shouldn’t Tell Often” — Su’eddie Vershima Agema
  2. “Masquerades”—Frank-Ito Hilary
  3. “What Caused the Maiden’s Laughter?” —Joshua Osemenho
  4. “Intervention”—Uchechukwu Agodom
  5. “The Old Riverbank”—Tonye WilliePepple

Previous winners of the Prize include Omale Abdul-Jabbar (2011) and Kolade Ajayi (2012)



Why Su’eddie Vershima Agema Tells the Tales One Shouldn’t Tell in Bring our Casket Home… (An Essay) By Joshua Agbo


 Book Title: BRING OUR CASKET HOME: Tales one shouldn’t tell
Long list of Association of Nigerian Authors Prize for Poetry 2013
Long list of Association of Nigerian Authors Prize for Poetry 2013

Author: Su’eddie Vershima Agema
Publisher: Sevhage
Pagination: 83
Date of publication: 2012



Poetry being one of the vestals of art, punches the human brain hard in every attempt to study and to analyse it. But here is a volume of poetry made simple by Su’eddie Vershima Agema. It is rendered not in mystical language but in the vivid lexicon of poetics. Su’eddie makes the writing of modern poetry as easy as drinking glass of water. It is a supreme act of imagination and intelligence, the restoration of lost stories. This collection saves us of the danger inherent in the loss of tales and the longing for them elsewhere. This might quench our immediate thirst for why Su’eddie tells the tales one shouldn’t tell but it is not enough. Further exploration might  pose some helpful assumptions such as: it is either that the tales are bizarre to tell or they are too shameful to hear or a skillful artistry is required to tell them or rather an uncommon courage of a die – hard scribbler like Su’eddie’s is needed to narrate them in a grand style.

Whatever is the case and drifting away from the assumptions, this volume, however, reads ultimately as both testimony and injunction as it brings to the fore, an abiding sense of grief and disappointment. The tales powerfully show the weighting of life; the heaviness of heart. Su’eddie makes no mistakes in excavating the wounds of the past; a living manifestation of the catastrophe that was actually our past. This is an exclusive job of the ancient sage but the water needn’t be clean to quench a fire hence, Su’eddie needn’t the grey hair of the ancient sage or raconteur to weave his tales or connect to the wisdom of the old. This immediately makes him grow from a child – poet to an eminent poet of our time. We would have been stranded, no doubt, if not for Su’eddie’s courage and imaginative power to tell the tales one shouldn’t tell and also in the grand eloquent manner which he renders them. It is only when you are stranded in your own stories that you need a romance of origin. Remember, this ‘romance of origin,’ the longing to return to the old ways as a result of rupture or dislocation, is always the last resort of the defeated. This is typically justified in the lines below:

It comes to that day when we must all eternal dues pay

If that hour when we lose our way and don’t make it chimes today

Whether we fall in lands far as Rome

Please bring our casket home…

To join the pages of our ancestral tome (28).

It is sad that our defeat is marked even from the title: Bring our Casket Home… and as a shame, it becomes a tale one shouldn’t tell. The casket carries the remains of the defeated, lying idly silently in their lifeless bodies. Return is what one holds onto after he has been taken away from the origin lost. The promise of return is all that remains in the wake of exile. Come to think of it, why should we demand the dead bones to be returned when we know they can’t make any meaningful contribution to their original homeland? This ilk of return is absolutely not needed and we have no case to answer. However, the above lines in several ways, bear resemblance with other travel or emigrationist writings like, Harlem Sweeties (poem) by Langston Hughs and A Raisin in the Sun (play) by Lorraine Hansberry. The casket reminds us of a pain – filled memory, never to varnish. This totalizing claim is yet again evident in one of the poems entitled,Grave:

Where do our dreams go? In what transit [sic]

Do they jump out leaving us?

Does the reality of now

Indeed our dreams drown?

Do they stay with us

a strong force

telling of destinations unreached

in aging aches decaying (7)?


What is it that we are still in this quagmire of existence? Dreams never reached until we return in our lifeless bodies. In as much as stories open new possibilities of being, this kind of story cannot make our being hence shouldn’t be told. This is one layer that partly explains why the title reads: … Tales One Shouldn’t Tell. The poet, not a child of any race or nationality but an umpire of truth; tells the tales from an unbiased vintage point, however bitter they are.

There is another flip side of the above narrative that offers some shimmering light of hope and triumph. This gives us the balance scale of life as a marriage of sorrow and joy.

The sun is our smile

The moon our laughter


Our brother… (40).


In closing, no one goes to the river early in the morning to fetch dirty water; it must be clean water. Therefore, I encourage everyone to go for his copy as I declare this volume an all – time collection of poetry before it becomes too distilled by avid reviewers. It is still fresh and sweet like the palm wine. We know the palm wine tastes better while the yeast still bubbles.


However, no one needs to be told to discard the pot that can no longer boil water but as part of the job of the reviewer, I suggest that the grey areas in this present volume be looked at in the subsequent editions to make it retain the all – time relevance it has set out to achieve amidst several collections of poetry. Finally, we do not require either Fagg or Leo Frobenius or Ruth Finnegan or Benedict Anderson or even Frank Willet to tell us that this is fine a poetry. We know and indeed, it is.



Joshua Agboplaywright and literary scholar is the author of How Africans Developed Africa: A Forgotten Truth in History and the play, Beyond the Dark Clouds. He is a lecturer at the Department of Languages and Linguistics, Benue State University, Makurdi. He can be reached at his blog or via email at Joshua



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