President of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Denja Abdullahi, is a man driven by passion and commitment to the arts. In this interview with Benjamin Omoike, he reasons that the literary culture of the nation, if properly harnessed, will play a pivotal role in shaping future generations positively and contribute to overall development.
Two years on since he took charge as President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Denja Abdullahi has good reasons to celebrate his achievements.
“Yes; the milestone achievements we have made include bringing into being, a five-year strategic plan (2017-2022) for the Association’s future development; conceiving and producing a documentary film for the Association titled “Dancing Mask: The ANA Story”; restructuring of the internal governance structure of the Association by creating strategic committees, panels and councils; fast tracking the development of the ANA land in Mpape, Abuja, by instituting a stricter monitoring process and doing a foundation laying ceremony.
“Also, we are bringing about the second phase of the Nigerian Writers Series by publishing three new titles devoted to children’s literature; internationalising the operations of the Association by effective collaboration with other writers’ associations in Africa and beyond; launching a project called ‘A-Book-A-Child’ project, to put an enabling general interest book in the hand of every school going Nigerian child of certain age ranges and generally making the Association receptive to creative and purposeful partnerships with like bodies, governments and individuals. I and my team have done much more than that and there are still more to be done.”
Not leaving out the proposed site for the headquarters of the body, Abdullahi informed that real development is ongoing at the moment.
“We instituted a proper monitoring process on the land by working closely with the ANA land development committee in which professionals pay visits to the site monthly and report back to us. We have also agreed on development timelines with the developer. All these have kept the developer on his toes and I can tell you that real development is on-going on the land. In a couple of weeks and before the next convention, the first completed structure, which is a prototype ANA Secretarial office, should be ready.”
Emphasising reading culture among children as the focal point of his organisation, the President revealed some processes towards publication of children’s literature has passed the manuscripts stage.
“The process towards the publication of those children’s literature titles started last year with a call for submissions after which we got 13 manuscripts that were taken through three experienced series editors who recommended three titles as worthy of receiving further attention towards publication. Co-incidentally, the three titles have something to do with promoting the girl child empowerment and the cause of the female gender.
“Oma, The Drummer Queen, by Salamatu Sule, is about the girl child’s ability to venture successfully into a domain
previously seen as excluding her gender.
“The Golden Girl of Galma, by Kabiru Abdullahi, emphasises the right of the girl child to chose her path in life and be educated.
“The Loyal Queen, by Chinyere Obi-Obasi, looks into how the female can act right in a seemingly patriarchal setting or negotiate existence within it.
“We are planning to get the book incorporated in the school system through a project we are launching with the books called A-Book-A-Child nationwide project. The books also have some very unique and peculiar cultural resonance.
On Nigerian literatures in the Diaspora, Abdullahi acknowledged that Nigerian writers are doing very well abroad.
“In ANA, we are presently advocating for the bringing into being – in a coordinated and professional manner, what we can call literary agency, which I personally believe is the missing link in the book chain. There must arise a crop of literary agency professionals who must be
devoted to editing manuscripts properly, advising the writers on
literary trends, negotiating deals for them and protecting their copyrights, etc.
“The Association as a body has been doing some of these for writers all over, but a crop of professionals must take this up as a trade to help the industry. I have personally nudged some young persons into this and I have been watching them grow with it and helping the field.”
Abdullahi lamented the failing of publishing houses in their responsibilities to the course. ”Even the very good publishing houses have been failing in this respect. All they are after is churning out books into the market and struggling to stay afloat. No one cares about having a properly edited book or preventing a badly written or ill-conceived book from getting into the market. Who cares to even research what the market prefers to read or getting writers who can write for some specific purposes or markets? That is the sorry state of the book industry, but we are working to correct all that,” Abdullahi said.