By Henry Akubuiro
A year after a lull, the national body of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) has kick-started its 2021 reading campaign with a visit to Yusuf Ali (SAN), sponsor of the nationwide reading campaign, at his law firm in Ilorin, Kwara State capital.
Coming just three months after the writers’ body met in Ilorin for the 39th international convention of the association, Ilorin played host to chairmen and secretaries of state branches of the association, who had converged to take the association forward.
ANA President, Camillus Ukah, thanked the chairmen and secretaries of different chapters for making it to Ilorin, while also commending ANA National Exco members for making the trip. He was highly impressed with the ANA Yobe chairman for taking the two-day journey to Ilorin and ANA Kwara for working tirelessly towards the restoration of ANA.
“God has called us to do great things. The point of beginning needs commitments. Thank you for all your commitments,” he told the audience at the Mustapha Akanbi Foundation Knowledge Platform, Ilorin, even as he thanked them for making sacrifices since the botched 2019 Enugu convention, which was unprecedented in the history of the association. Ukah emphasised there was no need for controversy in the “family meeting”.
A regular face in ANA programmes since leaving office, former ANA President, Mallam Denja Abdullahi, noted that the meeting of ANA chairmen and secretaries had held consistently for nine years. He credited Prof Remi Raji-led ANA executive for initiating the annual meeting. He also traced the history of the ANA/Yusuf Ali reading campaign to Dr. Wale Okediran, former ANA President, who impressed on the senior advocate to sponsor the reading campaign, though he was an opposing counsel in an election case involving him ( Dr. Okediran), which led to the first grant in 2012.
“At the same time, the Mustapha Akanbi Foundation, where we are, also keyed into it, providing support for this kind of gathering,” Abdullahi recalled. The idea behind the meeting, he said, was for chapters to have a way of meeting with the national executive council beyond the national convention. It also provides an opportunity for us to plan for the association.” He admitted the grant had always been maximised by different beneficiaries for workshops, readings, etcetera.
Hence, “It has been a wonderful succession of programmes and activities since 2012 till now. Chapters were giving directives on what to do with the money. The money may be too small for each chapter, but they have always matched it with personal efforts, and we have been able to carry out these mass readings nationwide.”
Addressing the gathering on the progress of work on the ANA land in Mpape, Abuja, Ukah said the massive conference building would be ready for the 40th anniversary of the association taking place later in the year, as the land developer had sped up work due to his intervention, bragging, “There is no writers’ village that is as big as that anywhere in the world. It is going to be the biggest and most ambitious writer’s village in the world when completed.”
Describing ANA as a noble association, he commended the elders of the association for showing utmost responsibility in managing its crisis arising from the Enugu convention. He said the judgment in favour of his exco against the other group in an Abuja high court in January was an affirmation of its legitimacy.
He informed the house that the legal luminary had to withhold the 2020 grant to the association due to the crisis in ANA, as the matter was in court then, but decided to restore the grant when “the coast was clear”, having studied the judgement by the court regarding the legitimacy of Ukah’s executive.
Ukah was dismayed that some branches of the association were yet to identify with the national body, notwithstanding the judgement in his favour. “We should call to order some branches that are erring. We have started doing that. Some branches, even after the judgment, decided to back the wrong horse or sit on the fence. We cannot allow that to continue. That’s why we have started the measures, first, with the Edo Chapter,” he said, assuring there would be full sanity before the 40th anniversary of the association.
Ukah reiterated that “ANA is one registered body, and you cannot have a republic in a republic. Power flows from the centre down. Why we must encourage branches to grow, we must rise up against branches standing aloof. Part of what makes a system healthy is discipline. If we allow indiscipline to fester, it’s going to create a monster. What is wrong with Nigeria today is still that monster, and we are not going to allow it. So we are going to move in and take care of other branches not on board. We also have the power to set up sole administrators in such branches.”
State branches represented in Ilorin presented reports of progress made so far, to the cheers of the national body, after which money was disbursed to the twelve qualified chapters to assist in financing their reading campaigns. Beneficiaries included Kogi, Imo, Bayelsa, Yobe, Abuja, Kwara, Ebonyi, Rivers, Abia, Nasarawa, Kogi and Enugu. The president charged them to make good use of the money and also scout for additional fund to make the reading bigger.
The ANA team visited Prof Olu Obafemi at his residence in Ilorin before proceeding to pay a courtesy visit to its benefactor, Yusuf Ali (SAN), at his sprawling law firm, who received the team with senior members of his firm. He thanked ANA for quickly settling its leadership crisis, affirming that, serving ANA, should be a selfless service, and wondered why there should be a leadership problem.
He enjoined writers to use their pen to unite the nation given to bickering over frivolous issues. “You can weave stories around the problem of insecurity surrounding us to promote the best and things that can benefit our society. You can turn them around with your writings,” he said, hinting that his relationship with ANA would be in perpetuity as long as resources were available.
Maik Ortsega, ANA General Secretary, and Farida Mohammed, the Vice president, were among some of ANA key Exco members on the entourage.