The Mamman Vatsa Writers’ Village at Mpampe, Abuja, reminds one of the biblical Promised Land offeredß to Abraham and his Descendants. The promise was first made to Abraham, confirmed to his son, Isaac,ß and then to his son, Jacob. It was a territory from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates River, a land of milk and honey.
But it wasn’t until Moses led the Exodus out of Egypt that a glimmer of hope appeared on the horizon. Even at that, the land had been controlled by different empires, and it took Moses’ successor, Joshua, scores of years to get to the fabled destination.
Recently, the ANA President, Mallam Denja Abdullahi, led a team of journalists and stakeholders on a media tour of 36.9-hectare Mamma Vatsa Writers’ Village, Mpampe, Abuja. Located on Mpampe hill, a 10-minute drive from the upscale Maitama area in the FCT, it was a sight to behold as a number of buildings doted the landscape in the middle of nowhere.
Like the biblical Promised Land, the ANA land has diminished over the years. In 1985, when the then Minister of FCT, Major General Mamman Vatsa, a poet himself, commissioned the land in the presence of the founding fathers of the association, it was spread across 61.20 hectares.
No thanks to land grabbers and other allocations, the land withered to the present 36.9 hectares. But, then, it took a series of legal battles to even salvage what it remained at the moment.
Abdullahi told newsmen, “Since that period of Vatsa’s leap of faith till now, a lot has happened to the writers’ body and the land on which we are standing on today. It has been a tale of flight away from here, hotly pursued by maximum rulers; it has been a story of lack of capacity, failed promises, betrayals, revocation, re-allocation, long-drawn litigations and brazen trespasses.”
After surviving a long-drawn four years court battle over the land with the former developer (Home Securities Limited), the association, said ANA President, on the 24th of January, 2013, did a ground breaking ceremony and a turning of the sod, under the auspices of the Remi Raji-led ANA and the current developer, KMVL, to signify its determination to get things going.
When the Abdullahi-led ANA Executive Council took over in November 2015, the Abdullahi-led National Executive Council, quickly constituted a land development committee. The activities of the committee culminated in the Foundation Laying Ceremony on Friday May 26, 2017, which announced the period of actual development on the vision of Vatsa, Chinua Achebe, who founded the association, and a legion of Nigerian writers.
It wasn’t until August 2017 that actual development took off with a view to realising the projects as laid out in the MOU between ANA and KMVL entered into in 2013. The agreement was for the developer to develop for the association, on a 5-hectare land, a national headquarters complex, a 50 Room Hotel, residency chalets, 500-Seater Auditorium and a conference centre.
The project will also house E-libraries, ANA State Offices Complex, archives and depositories and many other facilities befitting a writers’ resort. Developments on the five hectares are already at an advanced stage, with multiple story buildings springing up. The chalets, which will serve as residencies for writers, will house at least five writers at a time in different apartments. Blocks will also be named after legendary Nigerian writers, said the association’s president.
The idea behind the hotel blocks was to generate money to run the association. Until now, ANA was being run with handouts from patrons of arts and establishments sympathetic to the cause of writers.
There was an enthusiastic atmosphere as the ANA President, Abdullahi, conducted newsmen and ANA members round the facilities being developed. Senator Shehu Sani, a writer, told The Sun Literary Review, “This is a great initiative by ANA. Seeing is believing. This is a pride of place befitting an association like ANA.”
Abdullahi shed more light on the ongoing development, “Our strategic plan for 2017-2022, which this administration developed in 2016 with buying-in from ANA stakeholders, has the development of this land as a priority project and appropriately phased.”
That wasn’t all, his administration also produced a documentary film entitled Dancing Mask: The ANA Story in which the ANA land and its development was given a prominent feature. Also, another 15 minutes film focusing mainly on the land and its initial developments of 2017 was shot and with the main documentary were hosted on ANA website www.ana-nigeria.com for public viewing.
No doubt, Abdullahi wanted everything about the ANA land to be documented to tell a moment in history when fantasy morphed into the fringes of reality. In order to keep an eye on progress made on the land and fast-track possible developments, the National Executive Council, from the donations received at the foundation laying ceremony in May, 2017, from some friends of ANA who attended the event, gave out some money to the developer for the building of a temporary national secretariat for the association to enable it move the national headquarter from Lagos to Abuja.
The National Secretariat of ANA has since been moved from the National Theatre Complex Iganmu, Lagos, to the building in March, 2018. However, it was the dream of the present National Executive Council of ANA to complete this project in its entirety, at least, the first phase or commission some structures would have been full functioning.
“It was a commissioning ceremony we had thought we would do before we quit office in November, 2019. Based on this and, in agreement with the developer, we set out well thought-out developmental timelines in black and white, which the vagaries of climate, Abuja land development bureaucracy, engineering hitches and general harsh economic environment have made impossible to meet.
“However, our unwavering commitment to see this development to its end has taken us this far which we have deemed necessary to showcase to the ANA public and to our friends in the media,” said ANA President.
He commended both successive ANA leadership the association’s legal team for contributing in no small measure to the successes recorded in securing the land and making the writers’ village a reality.
“The struggle since 1985 has been a collective one, and so should it remain if we are to one day gather here soon to commission in a grand manner this on-going project and move into the next phase of an association with properties that will generate the much needed income to power literary developments in our land,” said Abdullahi.
Seeing the massive structures on ground, one cannot but agree with Abdullahi that “we have stepped into the fringes of the Promised Land”. What’ more, “The period of being romantic about a land bequeathed to us by a benevolent poet-soldier is long over; we are in an age where a hard-nosed business option has to be continually taken to fully build the land and realise the vision behind the giving.”
From Professors Femi Osofisan (third president of the association) to Jerry Agada (ninth president of the association), it was a show of gratitudes to the present leadership of the association for persevering against odds to make the dream of a writers’ village a reality. Similarly, Doc. Wale Okediran and Professor Idris Amali expressed the same sentiments.
….Plans big for 2019 ANA Convention in Enugu
Enugu, the coal City, is set to host this year’s ANA Convention holding between October 31 and November 3, 2019, with the theme “Literature, Nationalism and the Poetics of Integration.”
The Convention, which is tagged “ANA Homecoming 2019”, is the first of its kind in the Coal City since the first ever convention took place in the university town of Nsukka in 1981 when the association was established by the patriarch of Modern African Literature, Chinua Achebe, and others.
Earlier in June 2019, after Enugu State Chapter of ANA was granted the hosting right after a competitive bidding process with the Edo State Chapter, members of the National EXCO of ANA, including the President, Mallam Denja Abdullahi and the Vice-President, Camillus Uka, visited Enugu to inaugurate the Local Organising Committee (LOC) headed by Hon. Ndubuisi Ene.
The Chairman of ANA Enugu State Chapter, Zulu Ofoelue, in a press conference, on Monday on October 14, 2019, stated that the convention had the backing of the state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Gburugburu), as Chief Host, who would also declare the convention open.
Said Ofoelue, “Over 400 of Nigerian’s best and foremost creative writers, literary critics, journalists, members of the academia and other stake holders have registered to attend the convention in Enugu State.”
While Professor E.E. Sule of the IBB University, Lapai, Niger State, will serve as the Keynote Speaker, the Special Guest to the Convention will be the US-based scholar, Professor Ernest Emenyonu, a Trustee of ANA and Editor, African Literature Today.
Three new fellows will be inducted by the association at the opening ceremony, including Professors Zaynab Alkali, J.O.J Nwachukwu-Agbada and Remi Raji, all distinguished writers and scholars and members of the association. The Ekiti State Governor, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, will also to be conferred a patron of the association at that same opening ceremony.
Activities for the national convention are scheduled as follows: Thursday. 31st October, 2019 –Arrivals, Welcome Cocktails (An evening of Palm-wine, Poetry, Folklores & Festival of Life) by 8 pm at Sunshine Hotel and Guest House, Plot 8/9 Ebe Ano Estate, New Haven Junction, Enugu.
After the Grand Opening Ceremony at 9 am on Friday, November 1, 2019, at the International Conference Centre, Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Independence Layout, Enugu, there will be a tour round Enugu for sightseeing 2 pm – 5 pm. Later in the evening, at 7 pm, the Convention Play/Cultural Night will hold at the International Conference Centre, IMT, Enugu, featuring Death and the King’s Grey Hair by Denja Abdullahi.
The AGM/Business Meeting of the association will kick start activities lined up for the convention on Saturday, from 10 am to 2 pm, at the International Conference Centre, IMT, Enugu. The annual convention will come to a climax later in the evening with the award of prizes and a dinner night, from 7 pm – 10 pm, at Justice Umezuluike Auditorium, JC Ugwu State Court Complex (by WAEC Junction), Independence Layout, Enugu.