Posted in COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, LITERARY MISSIONARY, PRESS STATEMENT

WOLE SOYINKA POSTPONES BENUE VISIT

Nigeria’s Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka has postponed his visit to Benue for a reading and to see flood victims. The visit to Benue was scheduled for 12th and 13th of September, 2017. The laureate has been forced to reschedule his visit to a future date to circumstances beyond his control.

The Association of Nigerian Authors (Benue State Chapter) announced this, rising from a meeting of its Local Organising Committee for the National Annual Convention in Makurdi, yesterday, 11th September 2017.

The Chapter regrets the postponement and has promised to keep members of the public abreast of any related information in this regard.

Relatedly, members of the National Executive, led by Mallam Denja Abdullahi have arrived Makurdi for a pre-convention visit as well as other state activities.

 

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Posted in DEVELOPMENT, EVENTS, LITERARY MISSIONARY

WOLE SOYINKA TO VISIT BENUE FOR READING AND TO SEE FLOOD DISPLACED PERSONS AHEAD OF ANA CONVENTION

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
Posted in EVENTS

LITERARY BUZZ: PURPLE SILVER OPEN MIC SESSION (25th May, 2013): DISCUSSION

DISCUSSION BUZZ: The Symbols Cuisine Gallery. 7pm.

We walked in, Maik Ortserga (Executive Editor with Aboki Publishers and Secretary of Benue Association of Nigerian Authors) and I. There was Anselm Ngutsav, Apine Kenneth and Stephen Aba. I was still wondering if I had made the right choice of forfeiting my Abuja trip for this session – and something else ;). Well, seeing the guys made me know that I was in the right place – home. Purple Silver, the growing voice of literary flow and camaraderie in Makurdi, Benue that I am proud to be part of… Okay, to the point.

The event started with the discussion aspect and after some debate, we agreed to discuss Wole Soyinka’s interview with the Daily Post that Achebe is not the father of Modern African Literature. A few of us had not heard about it so it was nice that it came. I moderated the session and we all had a swell time. There were two primary voices that took the debate, Stephen Aba who supported Soyinka’s stance citing history as his strong point to show Achebe wasn’t really the father of modern African literature and Maik on the other hand who said that Achebe truly was through the validation and reinvention of African literature that had come through Achebe. The argument for was that though there were other people afore, Achebe had deeper vision and caused a revolution in African writing. He made English to speak Igbo, brought new styles and invented a new course that a lot of people followed. Through him finally, a new African literature was born. People started paying proper attention to the literature due to Achebe’s intervention. The argument against still continued that one couldn’t really say the Wright brothers were the fathers of aviation. It would be more appropriate to say it was Da Vinci… At various points, we had to define what African literature was, where Achebe was given the title first e.t.c. Wow! It wasn’t some small argument to and fro. Fortunately, the two chief proponents were cool speaking people so there were no flairs in the air. Just lots of not letting go. Kenneth, Anselm and Ode Attah put in their contributions too but there was no agreement. Well, we put it to the vote – a casual vote, and several people present decided not to cast their ballot. Achebe won though 🙂 Someone asked why Soyinka hadn’t said so when Achebe was alive. The reply was simple: ‘Blame the journalists! Why didn’t they ask Soyinka when Achebe was alive?’ 🙂
We disagreed on some points but we agreed that Soyinka wasn’t being sentimental. Achebe had contributed a lot and changed the course of African literature forever. The debate of fatherhood is one that has too many factors involved that we need to properly work and debate to make a proper conclusion.

Next, we moved to discussing Northern Nigerian Literature in a broad sense. We made it clear that we weren’t politicizing the term or brand and were only using the name for convenience to cover the literature from this side of the country. With two of the shortlisted writers from this side, Elnathan John and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim being shortlisted for the Caine Prize, what does that portend for the literature of these parts? Furthermore, why has the literature from these parts being silent for so long? What can we do to enhance our literatures here? All these with thoughts of how we can reinvent ourselves so that someday perhaps we might be called the mothers or fathers of Modern Northern Literature…

The consensus was there is a thriving Northern Nigerian literature that hasn’t been promoted enough or exploited. There is more tugging towards the established voices – voices established by other critics and/or media. The literatures of our part need to be given more attention. We have to learn to read far more of ourselves as of others to be more rounded. There’s a need to celebrate ourselves too through prizes, criticisms and the like. We need to believe in our own.

(Okay, we could hear our voices though and don't mind the flash wahala :) )
(Okay, we could hear our voices though and don’t mind the flash wahala 🙂 )

There was a performance session and we just had to cut the talk though there was far more to say…

Well, the performance continued

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in BOOK THOUGHTS, ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS

THE PARTICULAR AND THE UNIVERSAL: A CONVERSATION ON THE UNIVERSALITY OF ART

Conversants: Ada AGADA[i] and Su’eddie Vershima Agema[ii]

Contributors: Maik Ortserga[iii] and Samuel Okopi[iv]

Ada AGADA: A famous European critic once correctly argued that both Achebe and Hardy are particular. While Achebe is a literary denizen of his Igbo environment, Hardy is domiciled in his Wessex (or Dorset) environment. Both wrote about village life. Both missed (if you like) out on the Nobel prize although eminently qualified for it. While Achebe studied English and is simple and eloquent, Hardy studied Architecture and wrote awkwardly. Both have attained literary immortality. I think Hardy is more universal than Achebe because he thought more deeply and expansively than Achebe. Hardy dissected, without being boring, such profound issues as pessimism, fatalism and the question of evil in relation to God’s existence. Achebe’s little philosophical striving remains bound to mythology. Hence I encountered him in African Philosophy as a mytho-philosopher. The Eagle on the highest Iroko himself acknowledged in an interview with Ezenwa Ohaeto that he wished he had done more in his works by way of philosophizing. Wole Soyinka thought more deeply than Achebe. I have not read most of the great contemporary authors yet due to lack of a library, but from what I read in papers Gunter Grass, Salman Rushdie, V.S. Naipaul, and others paid their debts to thought. Why is Goethe so sublime? It is on account of the quality of his mind and his ability to make intellect serve art. So Mr Agema, in my opinion all writers reflect universal concerns but only those intelligent enough to produce sublime thoughts and feelings are called universal regardless of their deficiency in craft. Tolstoy was regarded by some as technically deficient. Hardy wrote awkwardly. Yet one is the world’s greatest and the other England’s greatest (arguably). They were not the best craftsmen but they had great visions, made possible by their great minds.

 

Maik Ortserga: With due respect to the literary giant of Africa, I agree with Agada that Achebe is not deeply universal in his thought. I strongly believed it is what has kept the Noble Price inching away from him over the years. Although his ‘Things fall Apart‘ and other works have contributed in changing the perception one race had of another entire race, that is not enough to project a universal vision of life. His latest work ‘There was a Country: A personal History of Biafra’ shows how personal Achebe could be in his feelings and thoughts.

 

Ada Agada: You spoke my mind Maik.

Su’eddie Vershima AGEMA: I have been in talks with friends. Ada over here via this means, Joshua Agbo in the university and Maik all through our journey, the stay and return from Uyo. Now, I am not raising comments about the writer, Achebe -many times, I try to leave them in some cases- but the work in question. Ada,you have raised some concerns in ur query, mainly that philosophy is d stomach of universalism. From what I infer,you mean that a story on its own cannot be that of the world unless shrouded in deep philosophy

My stand on the issue is that more than just the deep thinking &all, there is the story told. I view universality from asking – is this applicable everywhere? Is this story human, realisable and near attainable in its setting &actualisation in any given place? Yes. No. Judge from that parametre and you have my views.

Saying this I realise that various critics have their viewpoints to judging universality such that some would even mention a ‘standard ruling scale.’ My view is that which I just mentioned.
I make it clear here that my argument is not of Achebe as a universalist or being more universal than Hardy (a comparison I fault by the way..You’re universal or you are not) but to point that stories can be universal in themselves devoid of the parametres we put them.

Friends, think of our folklore of old quickly dying. Remember our forebears telling these tales of what was & what came to be. Of the legends &myths. I remember talking with my big sister, Unoma Azuah & her reminiscence of tales told by her grandma. I remember those told me by our relations from the village, by my father… I have come across these stories severally in various literature across the world in different formats with little change or none. What is so mythological or local about these all?

If I derive a tale from my life & infuse all these with people from various world parts recognising them & even embracing them, would that be a pointer to universality or locality? What is the line between myths & history? What forms the difference between our ‘myths’ & those taken as fact (i.e. the Bible, Quran e.t.c)? How is the story of the Igbo different from that of the Red Indians &other such people? Of course, give a few minus and additions but you would get to the heart of what I mean.
GET to the thrust of this all &you would understand the universal picture painted in my thoughts.

 

Ada AGADA S’, you belong to the group that denies universality to art. For them art is simply culture-bound.

 

Su’eddie Vershima AGEMA: Hmm, do I sound that way? I think differently in my mind though. Note what I have said thus far… that there is a universality but it is found in the particular that can be expressed and accepted everywhere…. Does that find a string to culture?

 

Ada AGADA Maybe! Particularists also have a strong case.

 

Samuel OKOPI I think that the particular is in many ways connected to the universal. It’s what makes one read a book from another time and place and connect with it on so deep a level. Because in the end, whatever we may think, believe or live; it can all be broken down into constituent parts shared by every human in some way: eating, dressing, singing, being happy, experiencing sadness, loving mystery, needing someone etc. And yes, deep thinking that succeeds in reaching pages in a way that is accessible to it’s intended audience on a deep level, yet reaching many more outside this sphere, on some level, is to me the stuff of masterpieces.

I should also say, beautiful piece here.

 

Ada AGADA: @Samuel. Great comment. Well done.

I don’t see our culture withstanding the onslaught of Western liberalism on its own. We are going to lose a lot that makes us Africans and become increasingly like black Americans. The signs are there. Western liberalism is decadent and therefore alluring. To me only intellectual pride can stop the tide by masterminding a rebellion against Western excesses.

 

Samuel OKOPI Exactly Ada. Exactly. I keep telling people that our culture will not rise from seeming obscurity to the limelight if we treat it as it is; in its romantic and frozen form (yes frozen because the ‘onslaught of Western liberalism’ and popular culture has prevented any coordinated growth of our own cultural aesthetics; what we see instead is a ‘presentation of culture.’). I strongly believe that we must think deeper, investigate more to find the basic sauce of our culture that can be drawn out and transformed to a magical beauty that provides a strong identity for us and a strong allure for other peoples.

 

CONCLUSION

Su’eddie Vershima Agema: When it comes to our concepts of universality again, I think of it in this way: you being a philosopher look more towards it in terms of elevated thoughts. I being just a lay man look at it from the view of expression – an expression that can be felt and owned by people everywhere. Our very stands are created based on our personas, learnings, and thinking. Would we ever agree? I wonder. We would argue based on our various thoughts and leanings… We have read much to support our stance and would easily argue to that effect. Would we reach a compromise? Can we agree to disagree?

 

Ada AGADA: @S’. I think we have already reached a compromise although our core beliefs stand. The agreement is that there can be no universal without the particular. We only disagree about the dimensions of universality. In fact I suspect you are a particularist, one who believes the universality thing is superflous.

 

Su’eddie Vershima Agema: The talk continues man. We would discuss more. For now, let’s write.

 

 

 


[i] Ada Agada is the author of the novel, The Anxious Life (Aboki Publishers, 2011). He is also a poet. He holds a Masters in Philosophy from the University of Nsukka, Nigeria.

[ii] Su’eddie Vershima Agema is the Vice Chairman of the Benue Association of Nigerian Authors and author of the poetry collection, Bring our Casket Home  (Karu: SEVHAGE imprint, 2012)

[iii] Maik Ortserga is the Secretary of the Benue Association of Nigerian Authors. He is currently working on an M. A in Literature from the Benue State University. He is an Executive Editor at Aboki Publishers, Makurdi.

[iv] Samuel Okopi is an Editor on Naija Stories (a leading site on contemporary Nigerian literature) and a computer whiz.

Posted in BOOK THOUGHTS, BOOKS, REVIEWS

A GLIMPSE OF NIGERIA’S COMPULSORY SERVICE YEAR PEN-WISE: THOUGHTS ON JOSHUA AGBO’S BEYOND THE DARK CLOUD

The story of the Nigerian compulsory one-year graduate service is one that means different things to different people. The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) – the name of the service body – brings memories to everyone who has undergone the service. Now, I wouldn’t bore you with the long history of its formation but let us just say that it was created by the General Yakubu Gowon administration as a way of rebuilding the nation by sending tertiary institute graduates (under thirty years old) to different parts of the nation to practice their studied course. Now, these graduates are first posted to states where they undergo some military and civil orientation in an ‘Orientation Camp’ for two to three weeks. At this time you would find lots of people from different ethnic backgrounds mixing together, many for the first time. In those few weeks, a lot happens – friendships are made, love groomed … The air there is like only what you would see on some of these survival shows like Big Brother, Survivor and the like. That time like the whole time in service varies for different people. The experience is different from camp to camp where some people enjoy themselves greatly while for others it turns out the opposite. So, to say, it is the fun time of camp for most people and the most horrible for others – depending on the way the camp officials (made up of civilian NYSC staff and military personnel) make it.

This is where you find the most of Joshua Agbo’s Beyond the Dark Cloud (a fifty-four page play) set. The Corp members have just reported to camp in Kebbi state and seem excited. It takes just one night for a complete metamorphosis. They exchange rants on the usual troubles of the camp so far. For some, it is the right of equality expressed in the motto of the state ‘The Land of Equity’ where humans and animals have equal rights. For others it is the distance of the state. Somehow, several other issues come up, everyone with his or hers. With time, we are introduced to the State Coordinator of the programme, a professional and graduate of Constitutional Corruption (1st class) from the Institute of Strategic Stealing, and Masters from the same field. He is the author of two best-selling books, Steal the nation if you can and Crime without Conscience that have earned him the OON, MOON, GCN. The State Coordinator makes life unbearable for the Corp members on camp and they revolt. As a result, the soldiers are made to deal with them. Somehow, these Corp members pass out of the camp and move on to society and by extension their various places of assignments. The story concentrates not on these places of assignment but their place of abode, in particular the family house of the Nigerian Christian Corper’s Fellowship – which is something of a religious setting headed by the Dado who is the leader of the fellowship and his secretary, the Uncle. Over here, the Corp members live by biblical rules which of course are somehow not adhered to completely in some hypocritical stances. While others rise to complain, Najite (one of the main characters in the play) urges them to concentrate on the good and work to be better. End of story.

The play is deeply satirical. It follows the tradition of plays like Soyinka’s The Beatification of Area Boy and Hyginus Ekwuazi’s Morning yet on Judgement Day (a book which is based on Corp members after service). The book has philosophy forced into its totality through the instrumentality of the character, Najite (who as we mentioned earlier is one of the main characters). You find the words of several philosophers flying through the pages from Liu Xiaobo to Fidel Castro, Philip Randolph, Bertolt Bretch and Amilthrar Cabral. Most of the words are vibrating ones to inspire people to action in the spirit of unionism and protests reminiscent of the student protests (do remember that the members of the camp are recent graduates from the university). These sharply bring to mind Helon Habila’s chapter ‘Bola’ in Waiting for an angel.

Horace prescribes that the role of literature should be to instruct and entertain. Joshua seems to have this in mind. He tries to fill his play with sparks of humour to keep the reader entertained. For instance, we note an area where we are told of a certain pretty lady Corp member who faints during one of the military parade rehearsal. A fellow corp member from the Red Cross goes to save her but is pushed aside by a faster military officer who goes to ‘rescue’ the victim. The story changes when a Corp member not so pretty collapses. No one – not a Corp member or military – goes to her rescue. As a play, there’s no gainsaying that the author tries to inject a spirit of advocacy and forthrightness in his readers. His aim seems to show the side of the NYSC not always shown. It would seem that Joshua also hopes to create character change and urge people not to always criticise in every situation but also ponder on certain issues in some areas and give correction especially when they are in such capacities. Better put, Joshua urges people to challenge the leadership where only instituted leadership can bring change as in the instance of Najite in the orientation camp. On other hand, there is the push for people to live exemplary lives and be their best while contributing their best as put forward by the same Najite to his colleagues in the NCCF family house. At many instances, constructive traits towards development as opposed to disastrous vengeful actions without motives are advised.

Writers write for different reasons; some strictly to entertain and others for different reasons. The traditional Nigerian writer largely writes with a message which many people have come to identify as being sociological. Joshua’s Beyond the Dark Cloud would fall between these as with several plays from our parts. While these sorts of texts, which also largely constitute the ‘literary text’ canon do not move the ordinary man, it is beneficial and instructive to several people who hitherto might not have had an idea of the subject matters they cover. In here lies certain strengths and weaknesses of such texts. While they would be ordinarily boring as in the complete renditions of some things in the play including the NCCF Family Song, Prayers, rules and regulations and the like, it would throw light to the camp experience as well as bring memories to those who passed through. Characterisation in the play might prove an issue to some people with the lack of lots of females. Maybe the setting in Kebbi, a Sharia state is to blame. A few other technicalities might come up…

As said, Joshua’s Beyond the Dark Cloud is an instructive literary piece. For whatever shortcoming the play has in print, there is the task of the director to correct for the stage. That said, the play has the material that when translated by a good director would give a sour unromantic idea of the Nigerian National Orientation camp to any audience. It becomes pertinent at this point to remind us that this tale is simply a single story, an integral one but one not to be taken as a whole in itself but just a side to something bigger.

Posted in BOOK THOUGHTS, BOOKS, ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS, LITERARY MISSIONARY, POL TALKS

LITERARY ASSOCIATIONS, ADMINISTRATION AND WRITING

Now, what really is the difference between the two? You might not have paid attention to it but trust me, there is a big one.

Ever been in charge of any literary organisation anywhere? I have. That is literary administration. The thing about literary administration especially when you are truly committed to the cause of literary promotion is that you find out that you do not have so much time to focus on building your career. Trust me, I should know.

Many writers in the spirit of literary evangelisation have tried their best and found out that one has suffered – your writing or your organisation. It is particularly worse in a country like Nigeria where we are only learning to promote our writings.

Literature is one of the most neglected aspect of the Nigerian entertainment scene and why not? Most writers would rather not entertain but write in the usual style of commitment that many African write-ups have come to embody. Do we need to mention the Achebe, Aidoo, Ngugi, Soyinka and other calls that literature should be in the service of humanity and the society afore anything else? Yes, yet, they had a way of writing that would catch a reader’s interest. Most of our writers these days have turned their focus to writing pamphlets and booked journals that can easily pass for newspapers if read to you with your eyes closed. Whether it is in poetry or in prose and yes, plays, you find the same thing. When the average Nigerian has had his/her fill of that on NTA and the newspapers or the reality of time that stares them in the face, why would they want to patronise that? Again, when the writers would have most of their publications done shoddily with either covers that are not attractive or jobs that are badly edited, who would want to read such?

Sadly, even those who do the job well have to contend with the issue of prices made exorbitant due to production costs. This leaves the reader going for the easiest or cheap pick… Many times too the reader would rather go for a renown name to one unknown…

Literary administrators come in here. No matter the forum they head or the medium through which they do their administration, they have the chance to correct most of these wrongs. They have the chance to bring some publicity to writers and introduce them to a wider readership. Through membership of their groups or magazines, or whatever, they can create some serious fellowships that writers would key into. These administrators can also hype the literary field and make it bigger. How? Celebrate writers more. Make events elaborate. Colour them and make writers and writings to look like it is the best thing in the world. Seriously, if you don’t make yourself look real good or take yourself and what you profess seriously, who would?

There was a time when literary associations especially had their administrators come in to change such bodies into new political parties. It would seem that most of these organisations were created because most of the members had decided that it would be safer to come together and create such a forum than run to those violent parties. By the way, writers are easily bullied than the real politicians – especially if you are a Nigerian. J This would be the reason why most literary organisations would have many members not attend readings, critiques or other literary events for a long time and only appear when the election bells are ringing… Reminds me of the story of a certain man who lost out in a contest for leadership of a certain organisation. HE lost and left with most of his friends. He never attended any events of the organisation till the next election when he came to recontest the leadership of the same organisation. Interesting part? He was the crown prince anointed to take over. Hmm…

There is a whole lot to all of these and a certain fusion can be brought to create better writings and fellowships all over. Passion and a mind to create literary growth should be underlining any single writer or administrator. Sure, in better places the writer has the chance to be aloof and all. We really do not have that ‘luxury’. We have to ensure we all do some literary missionary work. One way or the other, we need to encourage people around us to read more literary works. We need to ‘up our game’. We need to meet up and strategise on how to make literature work. That is the only way we can do it.

Better days call to us all. Then, even the literary administrators would be able to relax a bit and write their works more comfortably. Till then, it’s back to work. Which reminds me that I have to go back to organisation of an election. Phew!

PS: for all those who asked for a few links to literary sites and associations, I drop three each from Nigeria

http://naijastories.com http://sentinelnigeria.org http://sarabamag.com

The organisations: Association of Nigerian Authors, Abuja Writers’ Forum, Abuja Literary Society. Google them but the best way to get to them is on Facebook.