March 24, 2022

By Henry Akubuiro It has become a yearly ritual. Each year, the national leadership and chapter chairmen of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) converge on Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, to deliberate on the future of the association and literature and also pay obeisance to Yusuf Ali, SAN, who has been financing the association’s annual reading campaign since 2012. But this year’s pilgrimage to Ilorin had a bonus. On the eve of the 10th ANA National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, the national body, last Friday, March 4, donated one-thousand (1000) books to Queen Elizabeth’s School, Ilorin. ANA President, Mr Camilus Ukah, handed over the books to the Principal of the junior section of the School, Alhaja Rihanat Sholagberu, who received them with gratitude. Addressing the management of the school, Mr Camilus Ukah said the 1000 free books given to the school were the works of thirteen different authors drawn from poetry, prose and drama genres. Mr Ukah, an award winning writer, specified that each student of the school was expected to read thirteen books in thirteen weeks, for thirteen weeks made up of a term in the elementary school. He stressed: “Each student is expected to finish a book in one week, four books in one month, and fifty-two books in one year.” He enjoined the students to use the books to better their lives and shine as stars always. Lending his voice, former Kwara-ANA Chairman and Founder, Imodoye Writers’ Enclave, Dr Usman Oladipo Akanbi, urged the students to cultivate the habit of reading good books, noting that “reading makes one a complete being.” The ecstatic Principal of Queen Elizabeth’s Junior School, Alhaja Rihanat Sholagberu, thanked ANA for the gesture, while promising that their students would make judicious use of the books to fulfill the association’s purpose of ensuring and promoting reading culture in foundational schools in the country. Accompanying the ANA President on the visit were Kwara-ANA’s Chairman, Mr Babayemi Opeyemi; Secretary, Mr Braimah Abdulrazak; Financial Secretary, Mrs Rofiat Abdulkareem-Seidu; and Auditor/Ex-officio II, Mr Abdulhafeez Oyewole. The doll-out books were part of the A-Book-A-Child project of the Association under the Nigerian Writers’ Series, powered by KMVL. Lest we forget, Yusuf Ali, SAN, last month, donated 3 million naira to the national body to prosecute its reading campaign, a gesture he has been doing to Nigerian writers since Dr. Wale Okediran, former ANA President, convinced the book-loving barrister to fund the annual reading campaign 10 years ago. Little wonder, the ANA entourage visited the legal luminary at his Ghalid Chamber, Ilorin. In his statement, Ukah qualified the senior advocate as a rare shining star, recalling that, as a young boy, he used to see the sky dotted with stars and also read a poem about twinkling little stars, which were hard to find these days. He thanked the SAN for what he had been doing for the association over the years, reiterating that it was a solid investment, because it was an Investment in development. “The development of the mind which the literary awareness campaign facilitates is the best development that can happen to us now. It also extrapolates to national development,” he said. He informed the legal luminary that, this year, the focus of the literary awareness campaign would be on A-Book-A-Child-A-Week project, and the fund donated by him would be utilised to that effect. He explained further, “The whole idea is that, for a child to develop mentally, a child needs to read one creative literature book every week, four every month and two every year, and, if a child is able to do that, the child will shine as a star, and not like a star, because it’s assumed a child would have become a star.” In his response, Yusuf Ali said it was a rare honour and privilege to partner with ANA, and was delighted that the association had thrown its leadership crisis behind it, and was moving forward. The famous lawyer joked that the crisis only went to show that writers were also humans with foibles. He commended the writers for getting over the problems as quickly as possible for the continuous existence of the writer’s tribe, stressing “that’s the only way our country will make progress.” He thanked God for helping him to meet up with his commitment of funding the annual reading awareness campaign all these years. He promised that, God helping him, he would keep on sponsoring it. The SAN said he was committed to developing young minds himself, given his investment in their education. He remarked that not everybody was gifted to be involved in money making businesses, and creatives should, therefore, understand that theirs was a major, important work they were doing for the development of the nation. This year, 14 ANA chapters benefitted from the 2022 Yusuf Ali Literary Awareness Grant, including ANA Kogi, ANA Osun, ANA Kwara, ANA Abuja, ANA Imo, ANA Abia, ANA Oyo, ANA Kaduna, ANA Rivers, ANA Benue, ANA Ebonyi, ANA Edo, ANA Nasarawa and ANA Niger. The NEC meeting, which was the major business of the day, was hosted by the Imodoye Writers Enclave (IWE), Ilorin. Flanked by Mrs Farida Lawan, the Vice CHAIRMAN of ANA, during the meeting on Saturday, February 6, the association’s president handed over cheques to all the beneficiaries. The convergence reviewed what the national body of ANA had done so far since last year’s meeting in the Kwara State capital, where it was resolved that the 40th anniversary of the association would hold in Abuja, which was successfully held; as well as the 10-city tour across the country, which was also done. The association, however, noted that what it wasn’t able to achieve among the set targets last year was tidying up membership data, which the meeting had taken as a new assignment this year before the forthcoming convention in Abuja. The NEC meeting stressed the importance of writers understanding their callings at a critical period like in Nigeria with mounting socio-political problems. The emphasis should be on creating a new state, as the readers had had enough of lacrimal writings. Writers, the meeting added, should concentrate on experimental writing, tales of how they want the country to be. The chairmen and secretaries of the chapters, who relate with writers in their domain, were charged to go back home and spread the news, for “this is the time for writers to take their art seriously.” It was echoed that science and technology depended on creative ideas, and those ideas stemmed from the exploration of imagination, so writers must concentrate on fruitful exploration of the imagination.