Until Babangida Aliyu, former Niger State Governor, left office in 2015, Minna, Niger State capital, used to be a Mecca for Nigerian writers, especially those from the north, as the state government facilitated a number of literary activities, including the Northern Nigerian Writers’ Summit, annually.
The good old days are here again with a new patron of arts. The latest edition of Northern Nigerian Writers’ Summit was convened by the governor of Borno State, Hon. Kashim Shettima, from Friday,20th – Sunday, 22nd July, 2018,at the Command Guest House, Maiduguri, the state capital, with a promise to support the staging of an international literary colloquium in Maiduguri this year. The conference, which attracted writers from a;ll parts of the north, was meant to draw up a blueprint for the development of literature in the region.
The blueprint will contain practical ways and strategies as the roadmap for governments, individuals, institutions, communities, art organisations, donor agencies, corporate organisations, students and parents in the region in the development of literary arts.
Governor Shettima, who is the Chairman, Northern States Governors’ Forum, served as the Special Guest of Honour at the opening ceremony, while the Keynote Paper was presented by the literary scholar from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Prof. Abubakar Tanimu, with the Kogi-born President of Nigerian Academy of Letters, Prof. Olu Obafemi, chairing the occasion.
The Chairman of Northern Nigerian Writers, B.M. Dzukogi, stated, in his remarks, that time had come when literary artists in Northern Nigeria would reorganise their activities to attract the interest of government to institutionalise art administration in the region.
He told the governor, “As northern writers, we are not at war with anybody. But, the dormancy associated with us in the region for lack of structures, is a war that is probably more devastating than a physical war. In our case, we have no fear, we have no death but we have no life since we are incapable of attaining the fullness of our arts.
“Today, as northern Nigeria writers, our production is far below our capacities. Any society that does not document herself, does not exist. This is what we want to change. And this is what you have encouraged us to do by sponsoring this event. We appreciate your mark of understanding and sense of responsibility.”
He explained that the outcome of the conference would be published in two documents, to be presented to the Northern States Governors’ Forum at a later date. He stated that the theme of the conference is“Developing a Blueprint for the Growth of Literature in Northern Nigeria: A Roadmap to Book Development and Distribution in the Region”.
Papers on various aspects of literature were presented by writers, academics, booksellers, publishers, art administrators and parents. Two of such papers were on the prevalent situation of Northeast: developing reading strategies and supply of books for internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and Encouraging IDPs to tell, write and publish their stories.
Highlight of the occasion included the donation of a bus and inauguration of Gov. Kashim Shettima Teen Authors’ Class for secondary school student writers in Borno State, as well as the inauguration of a board of trustees for Northern Nigeria Writers’ Summit, with Prof. Olu Obafemi as the Chairman and Prof. Yusuf Adamu as the Secretary. Other members include: Prof. Zainab Alkali, Alhaji Yahaya S. Dangana, Alhaji Baba Akote, Teresa O. Ameh, Hadiza Isma El-Rufai, Prof. Moses Tsenongu, Prof. Dul Johnson, Prof. A.K. Babajo, Ado Ahmad Gidandabino MON, and Prof. Tanimu A.N. Abubakar.
In his keynote address, Prof. Tanimu highlighted the profound status of Bornu Empire as a prime place of knowledge in Africa, and dismissed the notion that writing in Northern Nigeria was not developed. He urged the writers’ body to aspire to create a national and continental profile for itself in the years to come.
Gov. Shettima,in his remarks, applauded the group for stepping out to define a system of growth for literature in the region. He stressed that arbitrariness will take nobody anywhere. He promised to build the national headquarters for the association and offered to support the group to hold an International literary colloquium in Maiduguri, this year. He was happy that one of the philosophies of the group was to accommodate all Nigerian writers residing in the north.
Mal. B.M. Dzukogi stated that a strategic committee meeting would be organised where the blueprint would be extracted from all the papers presented and published into a document that would be presented to the Northern Governors’ Forum for institutionalisation of the recommendations therein. The document, he said, would also be circulated round the region for popularisation and independent operation by units of society.
Northern Nigeria Writers’ Summit was formed in Minna in 2008 as an umbrella organisation for writers resident in northern Nigeria, irrespective of their identity, with the aim of setting agenda and plan of action for the writers’ community in northern Nigeria.
Besides, it strives to bring together academics and intellectuals, book lovers, publishers, booksellers to fashion out ways and means of enhancing literary and educational developments; pursue the implementation of ideas generated from her activities; resurrect reading programmes, school literary competitions, publishing and marketing teen authors, among others.