FEMI OSOFISAN BLOSSOMS IN WRITERS’ VILLAGE
June 10, 2022
By EDOZIE UDEZE On May 29, 2022
The secretariat of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) at the Mamman Vatsa’s Writers Village, Mpape, Abuja has been dedicated to Professor Femi Osofisan. The unveiling of the Centre named Professor Femi Osofisan Secretariat was performed in Abuja last week. Authors, old and young, converged in Abuja from different states of the federation for the event. EDOZIE UDEZE was there.
In history, there are many remarkable events that can never be forgotten. The history of the writers’ village at Mpape, Abuja, is one of such stories. It was with the goodwill of the late General Mamman Vatsa, the foremost soldier poet that the journey began in 1986. That year, shortly before he was arrested and later executed on an allegation of coup plot, he had bequeathed some plots of land to the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA). That parcel of Land, large enough to really form a writers village, was fallow for years. At a point it seemed ANA had foregone the land.
It seemed no one even remembered that remarkable and unraveled gesture by Vatsa. Then suddenly the Denja Abdullahi – led executives a few years ago rose to hold the bull by the horns. Thus began the development of the writers’ village. Before too long, elegant and imposing modern structures took over the esplanade. The masterplan was put to use after several moments of lacuna, disputes, troubles. Today, ANA is a landlord, and no longer in want of a centre for its programmes, more so, the yearly conventions.
Last week, the president of ANA, Camillus Ukah deemed it expedient to gather the writers clan one more time to unveil one of the spectacular structures at the centre. It was the Professor Femi Osofisan Secretariat, dedicated to one of the association’s most visible, vibrant, resourceful, resilient, consistent and reliable leaders.
Osofisan is one of the former presidents of ANA. He was at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1981, when ANA was formed at the behest of the late Professor Chinua Achebe. Osofisan’s presence and fatherly role has helped to steer ANA away from nihilists and those who planned to antagonize the writers body in the years past.
So, the occasion was well-intended. The turnout of guests was massive given the general fear and insecurity in the land. All around the arena people wore glorious looks. Authors, big and small, converged. You could see smiles of triumph on their faces. Short of being an open street carnival, it was wonderfully put together by the organizers. Everywhere you looked writers bestrode the Writers’ Village in droves. Books littered the stands. Everyone was treated to a big fanfare, yet the main issue of the convergence was never watered down or lost on the story tellers whose state of minds showed glamour and splendor and aplomb.
After the library was dedicated, it was time to unveil the Femi Osofisan Secretariat. It harbours the offices, the terrace, and then, the hall of fame. All showed the high taste of the person behind the project – retired Col. K.K. Shaw who handled it. Inside the hall of fame are images of past presidents of ANA. Twelve in number and done in pencil, charcoal and with their portraitures glittering, the concept also depicted deep and iconoclastic artistic conceptualization.
The hall also serves as a mini conference hall. This is away from the mainbowl, big enough to host any large conference of writers. The hall of fame therefore became home to authors as they used the place to do justice to all the literary programmes during the event. The unveiling was done by Professor Shamsudeen Amali, the Amirul Muslimeen of Idomaland. Amali was a former Vice-chancellor of the University of Ilorin. He was also the Vice-chancellor of the Nasarawa State University, Lafia. His fatherly role and presence ignited the arena. He displayed his royalty with splendor. He gave his fellow academics and authors enough reason to continue to rise to the occasion.
Amali said, “We thank God. He has been able to bring all of us safely to this place even when there is fear in the land. We all pray for peace. All human souls should be respected, for life is good. I do not see any reasons why kidnappers or bandits should be on rampage in our society”.
He went on, looking around the arena as he held the tape in one hand, “peace is all we need”. Then he turned to his right, looked Professor Osofisan straight in the face and said “this Femi is a great Nigerian, famous and illustrious. A great writer in almost all the genres of literature, God has been wonderful to him. And then I say to Colonel K.K. Shaw, the developer, congratulations for this great feat you have achieved for all of us. It has not been easy for you, but you have overcome the odds to come this far. For this, I am proud of you, your level of professional dexterity and more”.
Amali was thrilled to see ANA basking in the euphoria of progress where the teething problems of disunity have been defeated for good. He said thus: “ANA is a great instrument for peace, to prosper Nigerian literature. Keep the light ever aglow. Ensure the association is always on the part of renewal, being well organized as it is today. God in His infinite goodness will continue to make all of you greater writers for the sake of humanity. With these, I now cut the tape and declare this centre commissioned”. The applause was deafening.
An elated Osofisan responded thus: “well, I am overwhelmed, overjoyed. I don’t even know if I deserve this big honour bestowed on me by ANA. I didn’t expect this. Therefore, it is a great moment for me. For me this dedication is for ANA, for all of us who have risen to this clarion call to always tell our stories. I am happy the young ones have consistently kept ANA going.
“I admonish you to keep writing, keep the flag flying. We are in the position to write to correct the wrongs in the society. Our writings can equally solve problems. So, ANA will live forever. We as writers do not die, our works do not die. What we live for also live on and on. I thank the president Camillus Ukah, the whole body of writers for this rare honour. Yes, we will rise greater and bigger than this”.
Osofisan, an academic, a foremost dramatist, playwright and poet drew inspiration from the ANA of old to situate his remarks. “Yes we knew where we left ANA many years ago. Now, we also know what has happened in the recent past. So, as writers we can draw inspiration from anywhere, any situation. On and on, we need literature to help our society. It is our role to write to strengthen our stories. There is much to be seen in creativity and we are the ones that create stories. We condemn violence of all forms. Let us then always write about all these things for the sake of humanity”.
ANA president, Ukah, also excited said that they have been able to prove cynics wrong. “Even while the odds point against us we went on to erect these structures to keep ANA afloat. Today is a remarkable one. Professor Osofisan and some older members of the association that I always prefer to describe as our living ancestors and legends have given us the best legacy ever. Their tireless efforts at the UNN in 1981 brought us to this level we in today. And we have vowed to keep the legacy greater and stronger. In spite of squabbles and bickering of the past, we have been able to do this. And we hope to do more to elevate writers and make literature bigger”.
Professor Olu Obafemi, formerly of the University of Ilorin and a former president of ANA said “Ukah is a cautious man. He handles issues with great care. He is a leader to be emulated so that we avoid troubled waters or know how to handle such in the future”. Professor Tanure Ojaide and Col. K.K. Shaw were conferred with honorary fellows of ANA.
Present at the occasion were Professors Tanure Ojaide, Idris Amali, Chima Nwankwo, Akachi Adimora Ezeigbo, May Nwoye, Maria Ajima. Others were Doctors Greg Mbajiorgu, Obari Gomba, Tunde Olusunle, Professors Mallam Al-Bishak, Razinat Mohammed and a host of other prolific writers, authors, academics and students. On the whole, it was a day well-spent and spiced with many literary events that kept guests on their toes.
ANA was able to treat everyone to enough doses of entertainment. The outing proved that the next meeting at the venue, guests may no longer have accommodation hiccups. The hotel rooms are almost ready for use. A visit to the place was enough eye-opener.